How are you making money from your art?

As a gallery owner, my attention is focused on generating sales in our galleries, and helping artists learn how to get into galleries and build great relationships with gallery owners. As I’ve had the opportunity to interact with thousands of artists over the years, I’ve become fascinated with the many different ways artists make money. Some of those ways are by selling their art in unique ways, and others are art-related but not directly through the sale of art.

I will be writing more about some of the various ways artists generate cash flow, but I need your help.

Here is a list of seven ways that I’ve seen artists making money:

1. Selling artwork directly to buyers
2. Selling prints or reproductions of artwork
3. Selling products with artwork on them, such as t-shirts, mugs, or phone cases
4. Selling artwork through an art gallery
5. Selling artwork through an online art marketplace
6. Licensing artwork for use in commercials, films, or other media
7. Teaching art classes

How are you making money from your art?

Are you making money using the methods above? Which are currently most effective for you? What other ways are you making money from your art? Leave your experiences in the comments below. Your comment will help me with upcoming blog posts – thanks!


About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of, and founder of the Art Business Academy. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.


  1. I enjoyed the article. I think another very popular way artists are making money is by offering custom artwork to customers- it is my primary source of income and I’m sure others do this as well.
    Thank you for the article.

  2. My most productive days of selling art was when I was associated with galleries. I was in 4 different galleries they all closed for different reason other than lack of funds. Now I have a shop gallery and an occasional show. These formats are very slow for sales compared to my realationship with galleries. I found it exciting to be in galleries and interact with the gallerist about what people are saying and how I might present my work in a different way. It was a very much of a growing time for me in how I saw my work. But it was very frustrating to see a gallery close and then be on the hunt for the next one, really, it wore me out. I realize I need to jump on the horse again. It was a good time for me as an artist to interact with possible clients and the gallerist.

    1. Thank you for your honest feedback! It sounds like you really enjoyed being part of a gallery community and found it beneficial to your career. I’m sorry to hear that the galleries you were associated with have all closed – that must have been frustrating. It sounds like you’re considering getting back into the gallery scene, which is great! I would encourage you to reach out to galleries that you’re interested in and see if they have any openings. I’m always here to help!

  3. Hmmm – in answer to your questions above, I’m making money from my art by:

    1. Selling artwork directly to buyers
    2. Selling prints or reproductions of artwork
    3. Selling products with artwork on them, such as t-shirts, mugs, or phone cases
    4. Selling artwork through an online art marketplace
    5. Teaching art classes

    I’ve been exhibited in galleries, but have never managed to sell anything through them, although I have to admit that the galleries have been limited to local public galleries rather than commercial ones.

  4. Well, the question is addressing the best way I generate income from art.

    Not that I am getting much, well not enough to live on, that is, but the following are my ways in this order:-

    1. Online sales of paintings
    2. Sales of prints
    3. POD

  5. #1 Selling original artwork directly to buyers in person at art festivals. That leads to
    #2 Selling through my website mostly to people I have met at festivals who are now ready to buy.
    #3 Selling through art galleries, an area I want to increase.
    #4 Commission artwork through contacts made at shows and galleries.
    #5 Tiny bit of print sales.
    #6 An occasional workshop, they take away studio time so I don’t schedule them very often.
    #7 Zero dollars from selling commercial products or licensing.
    I am a full time artist and pay all the bills with my art income.

  6. My Open Studios is my best sales event–it’s a juried event in Santa Cruz, and very well publicized.
    It’s open for two solid weekends in Oct–over 100 people/weekend at my exhibit. I make a profit at this.
    (although very fun to meet so many people and talk about my art, it’s exhausting!)
    I also get follow up sales from this–and add all who come to my email list.

    However, Jason, what’s the best way to follow up with folks who are interested in a piece but didn’t buy at the time? I’ve not had much luck with my follow up emails, such as–“…you expressed interest in piece X, are you still interested?”
    Thanks, Susan Brown

  7. I make the bulk of my income from my art, through Plein Air Events. There are opportunities for cash awards and sales. I also, sell at artists talks and demonstrations at these events. And, I teach and sell at art centers and art museums. I sell online and believe it or not… by the side of the road. People seeing me painting outside and ask to buy. I carry a credit card reader on my phone. Maybe 15% of my income comes from galleries. I’m seeking to increase that. I have a truck and small RV trailer, which allows me to travel to plein air events around the country. It’s a constant hustle. I do my online marketing at night at the end the day.

    1. We’ve commented on each other’s stuff on Facebook. I thought you should have done your own version of Caillebotte’s “Les raboteurs de parquet” as you posted pics of your kitchen project.

  8. One thing I do that is sort of out of the ordinary is decorative painting for a national restaurant chain. It’s completely different than my usual figurative and landscape painting, but it does help my bank account.

  9. Here are my comments on your categories. I am a photographer so in terms of products, I think notecards deserves to be mentioned specifically over T-shirts or mugs.

    1. Selling artwork directly to buyers – Only occasionally to friends
    2. Selling prints or reproductions of artwork – 2-3 Matted prints a month
    3. Selling products with artwork on them, such as t-shirts, mugs, or phone cases – Note cards are my best sellers and are in galleries and gift shops.
    4. Selling artwork through an art gallery – About 1 framed photograph a month at each of the three galleries I am a member of.
    5. Selling artwork through an online art marketplace – Am on several sites but very few sales and usually only a card.
    6. Licensing artwork for use in commercials, films, or other media – None
    7. Teaching art classes – Have done some teaching of photography in the past

  10. Direct sales, mostly via eBay or Facebook and mostly local. I think posting work every few days on Facebook and having my entire inventory on ebay has made more of a difference than anything.

  11. Wonderful questions and good to hear what other artists are saying and the whys of it. Here are mine, and sorry it is long:

    1. Selling artwork through an art gallery has been the most successful. I am currently in three galleries in Georgia. I have been in many different ones over the years, mostly in my state, but one I miss was in Sedona AZ. The economy and retirement closed that one and many regional ones over the years.

    2. Teaching art classes, private lessons, and workshops for about 30 years

    3. Selling artwork directly to buyers (found me on my website, through Facebook or other online postings, newsletters, and my art students).

    4. Through (a) three solo shows hosted by wonderful art centers and associations, (b) group shows and art organization shows, (c) plein air events, (d) Earlier in my career, a yearly (one-day only) by-invitation show locally with another friend which was a very successful local event.

    5. Commissioned artwork: (a) individuals who found me through galleries, friends, and online has been pretty good in different years; (b) larger pieces for a restaurant through a friend with almost $30,000 of specific local landscape; (c) through a company that purchases for hospitals and medical facilities, commissioned in larger sizes specific to location.

    6. Selling artwork through an online art marketplace such as Etsy (earlier on Ebay). These are studies and older small pieces the galleries don’t really want. These pieces are unframed, and I also take a basket full with me to workshops for students… I know I wanted work from my instructors in my home to inspire me.

    7. I host a home show, only occasionally when overwhelmed with paintings I do not want to destroy. This is an invitation-only event for close friends and family. I held one private “sale” to help my subdivision garden club, donating money to help with the entrance maintenance.

    8. Twice I have traveled and created an event for my patrons, family, and closest friends to pre-purchase work from the trip. After returning with artwork from the trip, and a few weeks of producing more, a party is held and they were allowed to pick the piece they wanted in the order of opting into the pre-purchase. This was very successful.

    9. Starting and helping plan and administer a yearly show (about five years) of local artists at a historic city home used for events which was very successful until a few years ago.

    10. Maybe over my 52 years of painting less than 5 or 6 were reproductions of some kind.

    11. Selling products with artwork on them, such as t-shirts and mugs only briefly early in my career.

  12. I sell mainly in online galleries (Artfinder, Saatchi and more and that’s where I accept commissions from collectors). I also license my images. I may have more online presence than I realize because people find me and commission pieces from me. My latest is a mural for WalMart through a public art agency in LA. No idea how they found me. I’ve been contacted by others too so all I can say about that is put your work out there every chance you get. I believe it was Jason that planted that seed in my brain.

  13. Hi Jason,

    Thank you for the info and knowledge that you share with us artists.

    I am an Fine Artist, drawing Charcoal and Pastel Portraits. I have a passion for drawing portraits of people and animals. In addition, I make handmade portraits of clients.
    I think it is important to keep several possibilities open to earn money with art. If you commit yourself to only one possibility … and this source of income suddenly ends you have a problem.
    1. Selling artwork directly to buyers
    2. Selling prints or reproductions of artwork
    3. Selling artwork through an art gallery
    4. Commissioned artworks

  14. When just starting out I had a successful show in a small local gallery. This validated my qualifications to teach and I was hired to teach art at a local private school. That turned into a challenging and fun 30 year career during which I seldom painted more than 4 or 5 paintings a year, but I did keep my hand in. Retiring from teaching during Covid, I began painting again with a lot of catching up to do. The world is entirely different. The gallery that started it all is long gone as the owner moved away. I was surprised and pleased to post on social media and have people ask if I was willing to sell! For two years I was selling one or two per month, but I guess I’ve saturated my present market, although there are a few people who have become collectors. I tried a local gallery but although again it provides validation, it seldom sells. I am therefore studying with the social marketing insider group and learning a great deal. I plan to try social media advertising and to look for another gallery or two.
    I am wondering if signing up for a show at a local theatre is a good idea?

  15. Whilst I have not personally profited from my artwork this way, but a friend of mine has: she rents her artwork to stage homes for sale. When the home is sold, she receives the artwork back and a rental fee. Occasionally, the folks who buy the home fall in love with the art work, too, and buy it as well.

  16. Thanks for your question. I paint batik which is often considered a craft. My main market have been music festivals held at the ranch where I am
    a partner. I have collectors from these events.. I put art on Facebook and although I do not advertise the work is for sale, i sell to those who express interest. I did a yearly home sale pre covid. I have one gallery that has been selling my work for more than 20 years. They just reordered. I receive about half of my income from the batiks and prints of the batik images and digital art based on my drawing. I attended your pricing seminar and appreciated the offer to give pricing advice. As you might imagine, my prices are low, but at the festivals I have to compete with imports. And fabric is perishable. Thanks so
    much Jason. You are a real friend to artists.

  17. My art is wood sculptures – both relief carvings and 3D. I have a website. I am active on social media, and 95% of my sculptures are commissions that come to me via the web or social media. I used to sell a small number of pieces through a gallery, but I can’t keep up with the commissions so I haven’t the time to sculpt for galleries.

  18. Direct sales to clients are the result of doing major projects which are in some way associated to a cause or to an industry. For example my art was the presentations at the 1988 olympic winter games and the associated to further games in future years. Series on canadian history associated to various national galleries in europe and uk. These led to shows that were sponsored by large multinational corporations. In addition have owned several art galleries, art publishing house, art distribution operations, art restoration companies, etc etc. All the while doing my own art and getting associates to operate the various enterprises. ART can be both a business and an avocation.
    This approach is not for the light of heart as work loads are often excessive.
    The above encompasses within it all aspects of the various lists and adds quite a few more.

  19. My wife and I have worked collaboratively for about 25 years. In the beginning we sold through galleries, but the Great Recession disrupted that. Half of the galleries closed, and the rest really slowed down as far as sales. Around 2009 we put a lot of effort into marketing to designers, architects, and art consultants and were able to pivot to doing site specific commissions. That has kept us busy full time ever since.

  20. 1. Selling artwork directly to buyers – When I either have a lucky day or do small shows for my painting reproductions.

    2. Selling prints or reproductions of artwork – Lots of small $30 prints, postcard sets, and greeting cards.

    3. Selling products with artwork on them, such as t-shirts, mugs, or phone cases – Other than my successful experiment with magnets, no, but a local gallery who commissioned a painting of their shop sure did.

    4. Selling artwork through an art gallery – Yes, my most desirable method for glass art.

    5. Selling artwork through an online art marketplace – Once in a blue moon I’ll get an Etsy sale for a small print.

    6. Licensing artwork for use in commercials, films, or other media – No.

    7. Teaching art classes – No.

  21. The biggest chunk of income that I receive from my art business is from commissioned portraits of people and pets. One thing to remember about commissions is that they can add a degree of pressure to produce a quality piece. Here’s something I’m experiencing right now…I was approached by a friend to do a painting to be gifted to his mom. The painting is of his sister. His sister is dying. He has only been able to provide a cell-phone picture of a glamour photo of her that was taken years ago. That picture had something spilled on the bottom half, so the bottom was cut off. (I’ve always said, and not jokingly, that I can’t turn crap into apple pie.) If he wasn’t a good friend, I’d decline the project. As such, I’m looking forward, with dread, at the approaching deadline. Worse yet, is the fact that it has killed my motivation to begin other projects.

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