Collective Wisdom: Finding your Bread and Butter

In speaking with a number of artists who have built financially successful careers, I have observed that many of them have stabilized and strengthened their art business by creating a line of work that sells quickly and consistently.  This line of work may or may not be in the artist’s main artistic focus, but, for whatever reason, this work seems to resonate with a wide range of buyers.

Sometimes this bread and butter work is smaller in size and sells at a lower price point. Sometimes there is something particularly bold or unusual about the work that captures the attention and imagination of potential buyers. I know several artists whose bread and butter artwork was born in experimentation; artwork that was created out of curiosity ends up becoming a big part of the artists’ regular income. Often the bread and butter work sells as quickly as the artist can produce it.

The popularity of “daily painter” sites points to the growing prevalence and appeal of this type of work.

Wall climbers by Ancizar Marin

Wall climbers by Ancizar Marin | We sell many of these wall climbers every month, often in sets of 3-5 or more.

While these creations may or may not be of  the same caliber as an artist’s regular work, there is real business value in having a line of work that generates more predictable cash flow. While it is always nice to have large sales of significant artwork, having smaller, frequent sales can help smooth over slower sales periods.

Finding Bread and Butter

So how do you discover your bread and butter? In looking at artists who are generating bread and butter sales, I’ve noticed that they do the following:

  1. Experiment. Many artists discovered their bread and butter by creating something new – by doing something outside of their normal comfort zone.
  2. Create something bold. Artwork that displays a bold use of color or strong textures – something that catches the eye, often sells quickly.
  3. Create something quickly. Often, work that is created quickly will capture some frenetic energy that speaks to
  4. Work in series. Many artists generate terrific sales by having a large series (sometimes hundreds of pieces) of similarly designed pieces.

The Risks of Bread and Butter Sales

I already know that some of my readers will bristle a bit at the idea of creating work purely from a commercial motivation. There are very real, and very valid arguments against creating this kind of easily saleable, broadly appealing

Darien Series by Linza

Darien Series by Linza | These bold 12″ x 12″ inch pieces really catch the eye. Clients often buy multiples for niches or halways.

artwork. Some artists see this kind of work as breaking with their artistic integrity. Others worry they will devalue their main body of work or dilute their artistic brand. I’m concerned that sometimes the quick sale can sate a buyer’s urge to purchase and prevent them from buying a more significant work.

While these are all valid concerns,  for artists who depend on art sales, these kind of sales can be the difference between making a living as an artist or not. Many artists have to support themselves with outside employment, and I would argue that given the choice between waiting tables or creating more commercial artwork, creating the quickly saleable artwork will do more to advance the artist’s career.

What is your Bread and Butter?

Have you created artwork that generates consistent and reliable sales? What’s different about that artwork from your normal work? How did you discover your bread and butter? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

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  1. Linda Ursin
  2. Sue Furrow
  3. Chris Huber
    • Dei
  4. Lori Woodward
  5. Kassie
    • Lori Woodward
  6. Richard Wong
  7. Carolyn Osborne
  8. Alexis Moyer
  9. Donna
  10. Kathryn
  11. Robert Scopinich
  12. Ingrid
  13. Karen Richardson
  14. Monica Lee
  15. brian billings
    • Susan Klinger
  16. Stephen Carpenter
  17. Pat Bingham
  18. Manjiri
  19. Sea Dean
  20. Kari Lehr
  22. Brenda Salamone
  23. Georgia Donovan
  24. Julia
  25. Kelly O'Brien
  26. Alissa Siegal
  27. Cristina Del Sol
  28. Debbie
  29. Annie Coe
  30. Camille Olivia
  31. Julia Lesnichy
  32. Lee Pierce
  33. Jeffrey Stoner
  34. Melodee Martin Ramirez
  35. Amanda A Jonson
  36. Jenna Citrus
  37. julaine birch
  38. Noel Skiba
  39. Phyllis Tarlow
  40. Brian Sommers
  41. Marie K Lynch
  42. Andrew Knipe
  43. John Coker
  44. Michelle Lake
  45. Cricket Wells
  46. Rostand POKAM

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