State of the Art 2012 Survey | Some Initial Results

Several weeks ago we launched our first State of the Art Survey. My intention with the survey was to get a sense of what the art market in general is looking like from the perspective of the individual fine artist. The survey is somewhat informal, and certainly not scientific, but I think it teases out some interesting perceptions of the market, as well as sales trends. Keep in mind that these figures were self-reported and anonymous, so you can take them with a grain of salt or two.




Let’s begin looking at the numbers by discussing participation. Over the 10 days the survey was live online we had a total of 1,247 participants. The majority of the respondents were from the United States, although we did get some international artists as well. Participation was pretty evenly divided by region of the country:


Pacific U.S. 232
Mountain States U.S. 161
Midwest U.S. 212
East Coast U.S. 249
Southern States U.S. 201
New England U.S. 56
Canada 73
Mexico 0
Central America 1
South America 3
Europe 22
Australia 3
Other 34


Participation skewed heavily toward painters; over 64% of participants listed painting as their primary medium. While it would be easy to speculate that this reflects generally the distribution of artists in the market by medium, it may simply be that my sample group leans more heavily to the painters than other media. You’ll also notice that the second highest medium is “other”. The “other” artists listed everything from encaustic, printmaking, wood carving, textiles to basket weaving. Several of these media would have nearly gotten to 1% in their own right –certainly something to consider for future surveys.

Painting 797
Sculpture 66
Photography 67
Digital Art 19
Fine Art Jewelry 20
Textile Art 27
Conceptual Art 5
Collage 22
Glass 46
Drawing 32
Murals 6
Other 140


I was pleased and somewhat surprised to see how many of our respondents are seriously engaged in selling their art. Nearly half of the respondents declared art as their primary profession, and just as many said that they were at least engaged at a part-time level even if art sales were not a primary source of income. 10% listed art as a hobby more than a profession.

I am a full time professional artist (Almost all of my income comes from sales of my art) 562
I devote part of my time to my art, but have another job/career to help make ends meet 561
Art is a hobby more than a profession 124


Professional engagement in art sales is fleshed out a little better if we look at annual sales, where we’ll see that even though 45% of respondents listed art as part-time, they are selling at levels that would be more indicative of desire to pursue sales than actual sales success.

Under $4,900   659
$5,000-$9,000   203
$10,000-$24,000   183
$25,000-$49,000   115
$50,000-$74,000   28
$75,000-$99,000   26
$100,000-$249,000   20
$250,000-$499,000   8
$500,000+   5


Over 83% of respondents are selling less than $25,000 worth of art per year, leaving 202 respondents who are selling above that level. I am going to focus on some of the things these artists are doing and see if we can create some correlation between activity and higher levels of sales, but again these conclusions aren’t going to be scientific since we are dealing with a pretty small sample.


The Market


Perhaps one of the most interesting results of the survey was the perception of the state of the art market. It should come as no surprise that there remains some general pessimism about the market. As the economy continues to stutter there is a sense that things are still rough out there.

In spite of this, 66% reported that sales held steady or increased from 2010-2011.


When asked about the health of the art market, 43% felt that the market was holding steady, 24% felt the market is improving, and 33% felt that the market is getting worse.


Again, this comes as no real surprise given the economic environment. It’s very interesting, however, what happens when you ask about the artist’s personal outlook for 2012 sales. The pessimism suddenly disappears as a solid majority of respondents (65%) feel that their personal sales will increase in 2012, 26% felt their sales would be about the same for 2012, while only 9% expect to see a decline in sales. This is a pretty dramatic shift in attitude, and I hope it gives a truer picture of the state of the market – if a majority of artists do indeed see an increase in sales I would take that as a indication that the art market is in real recovery.

This could just be personal optimism, but, in my experience, artists tend to be anything but overly optimistic!





The State of the Art Survey shows a large number of artists hard at work. When asked about productivity, 40% reported producing more art in 2011 than 2010, while 37% produced about the same and 23% produced less art. And how much art were they producing? A lot!

Now let’s look at what happens when we filter production by sales – the question being, do higher sales relate directly to higher production? For artists selling more than $25,000 worth of art, the chart looks more like this:

You can get a sense that there is a higher level of productivity looking at it this way, but it’s perhaps easier if you look at average production comparing the general group versus the $25,000+ group. The math that gets me here involves some voodoo, but I am not too far off to say that, on average, when we look at all of the respondents to the survey we see that they are producing 56 original pieces per year, but if we look at the $25,000 + subset we see they are producing 109 pieces per year. That’s almost twice the productivity as the group as a whole and I suspect the numbers would be even more dramatic if we compared the $25,000 + group to the $25,000 – group.

Again, this perhaps comes as no surprise in general, but it’s good to get an exact idea of the importance of productivity in driving sales.


I have only begun to parse the data and will be back over the coming weeks to look at additional results from the survey – in particular we asked about marketing efforts and gallery relationships and I will have posts on each of those topics.

Would you like to analyze the data yourself? You can download the raw data to see the results:


If you do analyze the results, please share your findings by emailing me at jason[at]


Have questions or comments about the results? Please leave them in the comments section below. Thanks to everyone for participating!

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  1. Thanks for putting this together, Jason. It’s really helpful and interesting to see where I “fit” into this picture. My “spec” sales were down a bit last year, but my commissions were up. I started 2012 with six commissions on the calendar…. up from the beginning of 2011, so I’m in the optimist group!

    1. Roxane,

      I did get a number of responses from fiber/textile artists so I will see if I can flesh out any details there. To a certain extent, however, productivity is important no matter what the medium. It’s a numbers issue – the more work you can get out there, the more exposure you have, the better sales are going to be.

  2. Thank you, Jason for this fascinating information. The productivity element does not surprise me at all, but excellent to have it confirmed (I had strongly suspected) and to be reminded!

  3. Thanks for doing all that work! Very interesting results. I’m just wondering if one of the major art magazines might be interested in printing the results…especially since you heard from artists around the world.

  4. Thank you for posting this Jason, I was skeptical that the findings would be true; because my experience has been people have to save face in the art world. Your data however, is the most honest I’ve seen, and I’m glad to know I’m in the majority bracket, though still working hard!
    🙂 Thanks again-

  5. this was great to see! I always wondered where I fell on the scale of artists! I didnt start my career until later in I am making up for the first 40 years of not doing it now! I am in the northeast so I will be curious to see if there are differences up here compared to the south! or the west!

  6. Yes, it would be very informative to get results about art sales and attitudes in the different areas. I am living in Germany, and it would be helpful for me to get more impressions about possibilities in the US, also with regard to marketing.
    Thank you so much for doing this important work!

  7. it would be interesting if you did a customer survey on some of these same questions.
    and some others that are purely customer oriented. i am thinking of doing that here in our little part of the world. our sales have gotten a little better every year, despite the economy, i guess. but i am curious about what “the public” is thinking re: buying art.

  8. I live in an area 100 miles from the nearest commercial gallery, then only a few. Marketing my work is a major time consumer, not easily done. I appreciate the opportunities and potential that appear to be available via the Internet. Hope public awareness and trust grow for art as fast as is has for other products.

  9. I was happy to see myself in the scheme of art sales and art production especially since I make my living as an artist and I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for artists who achieve more works and more income that I do. I’m always looking for ways to learn and grow. I felt the survey inspired me to keep creating and keep reaching higher to develop my business and advance from emerging artist to professional artist. Do you know of any grants for artists?

  10. I’m sorry not to have participated in the survey. This is an invaluable tool for artists to think about in how they approach the art market. I have been in two art markets for 20+ years. The commercial mural/art market and the fine art/gallery market. Most of what I earn is made in the commercial arena. It is astounding to me that so little is spoken/written about with regard to income, or other practical/business parts of our profession. Far too much is put into the “smoke and mirror” portion of what we do.
    Jason, I applaud your efforts, I think what you are doing will be a great help to many in the field.

  11. Thank you for doing all the work involved in this survey which reveals some very interesting information. It is always good to know how other artists are doing and feeling about the present as well as the future.

  12. Really interesting. Thanks for sharing the results. I’m not really surprised to see that productivity has such an influence on sales ; this is what I’ve always been told. Now that I have more time to paint, my intention is to produce ± 80 pieces per year. They won’t all be saleable I know but, the more I produce the more I improve my work and this is the most important. As J Littleton asked, I’d like to know how geographic areas influence sales (I live in Canada). Waiting for you on that Jason.

  13. Thanks for posting some comments and charts from your initial review of the survey. I find the information very interesting as well. I like the suggestion by Barbara to possibly have this distilled into an article for magazine publication such as The Artist Magazine.

  14. Very interesting Jason and thanks a lot for taking this initiative and sharing with us. As I am a data cruncher by profession (when not selling images), I will try to find times to do some analysis on my own and will definitely share my files/results with you.

  15. Even if preliminary, the survey results are thought provoking. The question that always comes up: Pricing of artwork v. productivity? An artist whose reputation and mastery allows him to sell at $10,000 v. a lesser known artist who must price at $100-$1000 range. One would generally think the high-end artist requires more time to complete a painting so would produce fewer paintings in a year. Should the unknown artist take the route of painting smaller, quicker and pricing lower, just to gain a following?

  16. The initial results are very intersesting and I plan to go over them with my business manager ((my wife) during our next business meeting. Also looking forward to the final report. Thanks so much for your efforts on this.

  17. Hi Jason,
    Thanks for doing this. You are one of the few dealers approaching the area of art sales with creative thinking.
    I think the real way to judge productivity as a sales function would be to add up the total sale prices of what you’ve produced for the year, and what percentage you’ve sold. An artist producing only a couple dozen 70″x90″ paintings may be making $50,000 that year by selling one painting, which unless these 3 things (quantity produced, value, sales) are linked.

  18. I am pleased that someone is taking a good look at this business. It is all anecdotal, of course, but 2011 was for me the best year since the 1980s. I have never had any other source of income, so I give some amount of thought to what prompts people to actually buy art, and after decades have no clue.

  19. Thanks Jason for this helpful information. I too would be interested in the break down by medium especially fiber art (wearable if it can be that specific) and geographic area. Also wondered if it is increased inventory at shows that makes the difference or increased number of shows where work is presented.

  20. Not being able to participate in the survey to see the questions asked, I was wondering. Was there information collected about the sales, such as average price points? Thank you for your time compiling, analyzing and sharing the survey information.

  21. It’s interesting to see how many artists are in fact dependent upon galleries to make their sales. I’ve sold 2 million dollars worth of original art in the past 25 years and not one sale has been conducted through a gallery or agent, despite my efforts to open that door. The moral of the story is if you think your art is good, keep pounding the pavement and get yourself out where people can find you. No one will sell your work better than you can. If you can’t find a gallery, there is a plethora of art shows everywhere, and public spaces that may be available to exhibit. There really isn’t much correlation between the number of originals produced in a year and income. Some of my pieces take 6 months or more… fact my best years have been those with one or two clients or projects.

  22. It’s surprising to see that only 202 artists out of 1247 make more than $25,000 in 2011 but yet 45% are full time artists. I don’t know many people that could live off $25,000 a year, assuming this is profit not total sales. This doesn’t look good for an aspiring artist like myself. I’m assuming most of these full-time artists making less that 25k have other income coming from spouse or another source. Makes me question if you can really make a living being an artist?
    Either way I will never stop painting because that’s my passion.

    1. Brian – I can’t come as much of a surprise that this is not an easy way to make a living. You raise a very valid point about the disparity between those artists reporting full time and the income. I suspect you are correct about not relying on the income for many of them. Looking at the numbers another way, 15% of participating artists are selling more than $25,000 – some significantly more as you can see by the reported numbers. Those are better odds than the lottery . . .

      I will run the numbers to see what the average income of those reporting full-time employment is, and then work backward using income as the real indication of professional engagement. We will be doing additional survey work to tease out some of the attributes of the more successful artists to hopefully give us concrete practices to recommend to enhance success.

  23. First, thank you for your investment of time and energy and for taking on this task in an effort to help all of us who hope to make some sort of living by creating works of art from our hearts. It is always amazing to me how we artists always want to validate ourselves by comparison to others. As artists the one trait we all share is the desire to create, whether that is art or just to create a way to make a living. We always seem to view the world through our own eyes. I would really love to have a better idea and understanding about the way the rest of the world views us. I would love to have accurate and clear information about the art buyers and supporters. Who are they, what do they do to make their money, how often do they purchase art, what is their education level, how much do they typically spend on an artistic purchase, what kind of art do they purchase. In short, is there a way we can find out what motivates buyers to open their wallets and support our passions and efforts? That is very important information.
    James Stone,

    1. James – I am working on a collector survey – the challenge is getting a broad group to participate – I expect collectors will be reluctant to share too much demographic information. Would love to hear anyone’s suggestions on what might be the best way to structure such a survey to encourage response. Thoughts?

  24. There’s lots to think about here, that’s for certain. I would like to see a question asking participants where they view their skill/career level, too, so that we could separate students from emerging from established. It doesn’t seem fair to put people who aren’t relying on art as their day job into the same sales category as full-time artists, as that weighs things to the bottom end. I’m also curious if you sent out the same survey in Feb/March if you would get the same demographic responding – I’m wondering if the timing of the survey being so close to the holidays, that perhaps artists busy with commissioned artwork were unable to participate.

    1. Thanks Kimberly – and all good points. I do think that by filtering by sales will help us get a sense of what’s happening for artists at different stages of their careers – we’ll have more of that analysis coming.

  25. Thanks Jason for this illuminating work and effort.
    I am now waiting for a new book on the psychological and spiritual mechanics of artistic “productivity”, that may provide a magical key to all artists who desire to achieve financial success during their life span.

  26. Jason, sorry I was quite ill when the intial survey was taken. Yet, I am please with the results. Yes, I did take your recent course. I am looking forward to meeting you and your wife on my trip out west.

    Right now, I am engaged with branding myself in one style. Goal at least 50 new paintings or more of various sizes, all abstracts with a specific palette, by August in one style. To relax, I’ll still paint my realistic style with abstractions on the side. I figure I’ll create about 20 of those by August. Since I paint on my own, it helps to get away from my branding to better see what’s infront of me. My goal, 100 new paintings each year.

  27. It’s a very interesting survey and it looks like it was a lot of work. Thanks for doing this. It comes at a good time for me as I’m having trouble getting motivated to get back in the studio and work. According to the survey, productivity is important; so, here I go.

  28. The timing of these results couldn’t be better, Jason. You’ll get us all rolling full steam into the new year. Thank you so much for all you are doing for artists and the art world with your tools, seminars and research. Please know how much what you are doing is valued. All us right brainers say “many thanks”!

  29. Jason, I appreciate your high energy levels on behalf of practicing artists. Your numbers and assessments are impressive and gratifying to the group as a whole. I find it interesting to see where I fit into the assertions, and am fully determined to outperform this past year come what may. I would like to see you repeat this survey end of 2012 to see how many others are determined to do the same. Keep getting your seminar messages out there. It certainly helps.

  30. Thank you for taking the time to do this for all of us! I really appreciate it! I find some that it is really our belief and knowing that helps us to get our art out there to be seen by others! I will take some of your words and items and make them apart of my business! Believe!

  31. I have been paying more attention to your emails and web information recently. Thank you so much for all your hard work. This is super interesting data. I have only been in the art world for a few years and have a great deal of work to do, both in making art and marketing. Your survey gave me hope. Thank you again, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the data. Would really like to see a printmaking category… selfish me.

  32. Thanks from me too for doing the work. I am curious about sculptors and how they fared as well. I generally see metal and bronze leading the sales market, at least in the galleries that I deal directly with. I had a final sale in December which changed my sales for the year significantly. I make ceramic and mixed meadia and after finally having some gallery exposure I feel I am getting a feel for what sells and what people are looking for. Being in the right place with your work makes ALL the difference. I plan to expand my horizons dramatically in the next year and productivity as well. I am very optimistic about the coming year due to some publication and opportunities that I didn’t have in years previous.

  33. Thanks for doing this survey. I find it very interesting as to what my fellow artists are doing and selling. Last year was slower for me than usual. Unfortunately, three of the galleries that represent my work, closed. One gallery I’d been with over 15 years and they closed due to a new owner of the property raised the rent to an unbelieveable rate. With sales already slow, the gallery couldn’t prevail. It was sad.
    I’m optomistic about 2012, already having sold 6 pieces with a new gallery representation in PA. I’m planning on finding new gallery space to fill in what I’ve lost. I find as far as my production goes I’m in the 50 -60 range. However, many pieces I do on location and keep for reference. Keep the info coming it is very helpful in finding what we can do to improve.

  34. I have owned an art gallery for over 20 years now and we run similar numbers every year. The gallery represents 35 artists. Only 2 of the top 12 in sales in revenue are not also in the top 12 in productivity. Quality is essential, but quantity is at least as important. As I tell my artists “If I only have 10 paintings, I can only sell 10 paintings”. To answer Carolyn above, my highest priced artists are also my best sellers, and they have the highest productivity as well.

  35. Jason,
    Thanks for this survey and crunching the results – I enjoyed participating. As with most of us, I have started the year with optimism. I have more commissions going into this year, and I’m grooming two more, whereas there were none last year. January is classically a slow month, but I’m hoping to see interest increase as the days get longer. Though sales are slow now, my spirit is up, so I’m in a good headspace to increase my inventory.
    I think most of us still rely on our local markets, so survey results will most probably reflect regional trends. I’m a sculptor, so marketing 3D on a 2D platform is tough, and finding interest via the Internet outside of the Vancouver, Canada area is difficult. I still rely heavily on my local market.

  36. Jason, you are to be commended for providing this useful data to the artist community at large. This is but one more example of your laudable commitment to assisting artists gain exposure and realize the rewards of their creativity. In so doing, you are a positive force toward engendering a flourishing art culture in our society.

  37. Thank you for the reality-check! True, false or something in between, it left me optimistic. I WILL clear a path in my studio now and do something about all the unfinished stuff, even if it means throwing it all out and starting over again. Something is selling somewhere. I AM A GOOD ARTIST, just have to start doing things differently. I think that’s a key, how to market your work. Another thing, has it been researched what type of artwork sells now best. Not that I’ll start producing that (it’s too late for me to to shift gears completely), just curious. Happy, Prosperous New Year to All! Irja

  38. Just curious…how does the data here, for 2011, compare to the last time you took a survey ?

    A thought on higher production vs higher income: perhaps those selling better are more motivated to produce because they are selling better ( it all being a chicken and egg thing?)

    1. Good point on the production – but rather than chicken or egg, it might be more of the chicken and the egg coming together and being equally important. I would suggest that since productivity is something you can control (at least a little more easily than sales) that it makes sense for an artist to focus there while at the same time working to get the work out to market.

  39. This is interesting info. My thanks to you for gathering, collating and analyzing this info.
    One of the things I am curious about that is not reflected in this survey is this:
    What size of painting is selling best? Do patrons of the Arts like big pieces, how big is big, and are the purchases to private buyers or museums and commercial buyers (architects, designers, print reproduction folk, etc.)
    Here’s another question: Where are artists selling most – through the Internet on various sites, on their own website, in commercial galleries, or to friends and acquaintances.
    A survey done here in Canada said that about 75% of sales were made through personal connections – friends and acquaintances. Wish I could point you to that reference, but I heard it in a marketing seminar and we weren’t told the source.
    Thanks again,

  40. Jason,
    Thanks so much for creating this survey and sharing your findings. It is not surprising that the amount of sales goes up with the amount of productivity. I think that is very encouraging for those of us who need that little boast to schedule more time in the studio.

  41. I am one of the responders. Thanks for sharing the stats.
    Surprize for me were the top sellers. A lot of Texas has been lean last year.
    I will look forward to updates.

  42. Hi Jason
    Great survey! I’m interested in seeing more breakdown of sales figures: number of transactions, average size of sales, and types of sales. (Online, gallery, direct sales, etc.) I sold more pieces in 2011 because I drastically reduced my prices and accepted credit cards.

  43. Your way of looking at ” production” is skewed toward painters–ie how many new pictures did they paint. I am a photographer (formerly full time, now largely retired). Photographers of course produce some new images every year, but for most, sales rely on multiples. There is really no such thing as an original or a reproduction–every copy of a given image is equal in that respect. You could ask something like “How many copies of images new this year” did you sell, versus “How many copies of older images”. But “production” for a photographer means how many prints did you produce, regardless of whether the images in question were old or new. My husband and I did feel that newer images sold better, and most older ones would stop selling eventually, but every photographer has their small stable of reliable favorites that just keep going indefinitely.
    In talking with both photographers and painters over the years, I concluded that on average photographers had higher incomes, but had to work much harder for what they did make. Most photographers were full timers, for two reasons, versus painters who could easily be part timers or hobbyists.
    The two reasons are:
    1. You can’t sell photography at all unless you have a great deal of stock and a very large, professional, complex display. The medium is too competitive to do it “halfway”–you would sell nothing. But who would put the thousands of dollars required for that into something that was just a hobby? Painters often have fairly minimal displays and a much smaller amount of work, yet can sell because the public expects them to be “artistic”, meaning not commercially sophisticated.
    2. Photographers really could make a decent living at it, if they worked hard for 60-80 hours per week. Some painters could, too, but it was harder for them unless they sold reproductions. Yet you apparently excluded reproductions from your survey.

    1. Ruth – thank you for the feedback and input. You make some great points from the photographer’s perspective. While I do sell some fine art photography it makes up a very small part of my overall business. It seems like it would be good to do a survey specifically for photographers (it would probably make sense to do the same for other media, as each requires a different approach to marketing than painting). My email list and business experience skew so heavily to the painting/sculpture market that I may not be able to get a broad enough sample to get good info, but as my list grows hopefully that will change. Thanks again.

  44. I am curious about the production/sales relationship found. Did you ask if they hired or had assistants? As demand for work goes up, getting an assistant to do prep work, marketing, etc. is common and therefore production can go up. It may not be just production that is driving sales, but an interaction of the two. Do you have the data to piece this out?
    Thanks for doing this. Very interesting.

  45. Jason–What a terrific survey! I was detained with some life issues and didn’t get a chance to respond to the survey. I thoroughly enjoyed reading through it and realize I’m not too far off from many other artists. Thanks again!

  46. It seems to me that if 24% of respondants thought the market was increasing, and 76% thought it was holding or declining–that is a response that is bleek. The outlook reponses were much more positive. I think that is because of the optomism of artists in general–with no basis in reality. Pollyannas all.
    The relationship between vome of production and sales is interesting, and I want to hear more. Does that include reproductions? which are selling at a higher rate than originals?

  47. Very good, and interesting report, Jason – thanks very much for sharing. Not a lot of surprises to me, but interesting. I like your idea to see more how some of the top-earning artists are doing it. That information is going to be helpful to me and to other artists. Thanks again.

    All the best,

    Main web page:

  48. I’d be interested to see what each medium is pricing their art and what is selling at the prices. I missed the input for this valuable survey…my fault. And I assume it would be
    out of the realm to ask for painting to be broken down by medium the next time you do
    a survey.

  49. I always appreciate a survey of this type to see if it is similar to my own personal experience. My husband and I are both artists — me a painter and he a mixed media artist. We don’t sell reproductions. We sell at juried art fairs and we noticed the market really taking a hit at the end of 2008. Then we went to Florida in early 2009 and sales dropped 90 percent…. Needless to say 2009 and 2010 put us in the hole and deep in debt charging travel expenses and show fees to our credit cards. Then the credit card companies raised all their interest rates and made it difficult to pay the balances. Some artist friends filed bankruptcy or just quit paying on their cards…some borrowed against their homes and got in financial difficulty.

    We felt that sales had improved in 2011 but when you get behind it is always difficult to stay above water. This year we are in Florida again and definitely see a more positive sales environment… not sure what the rest of the year will hold. Because there are two of us and expenses the same except for booth fees it helps to make for a better profit margin between us.

    We are praying for good sales this year so we can put a dent in our liabilities and hope all artists will see a better 2012.

  50. Thanks very much for the survey–very interesting results. I am a Texas artist. I sold nearly $200,000 last year producing fewer than 50 pieces. Not my best year, but a good one, just the same. All of my sales were thru brick-and-mortar galleries; all originals. Only 3 or 4 commissions last year. I do not sell from my studio, nor do I sell directly online…BUT, I market online.
    It is quite difficult for me to do more than a painting a week because of my process. I also work fairly large. No reproductions (with the exception of a small edition of 20 hand-pulled etchings, used mostly for charity events). About 10 of those pieces are still on the market (they were put out there late in 2011). But, sales were from 3 states and 4 galleries (Calif., NM, TX)…majority of sales in Texas, however. I think some of this may have a lot to do with the fact that the economy in TX is generally better than the rest of the nation, overall.
    @Ruth Pinkus, I find your comment that “… photographers work much harder than painters” an amusing generalization. That may certainly apply to hobbyist painters. I assure you, I work extremely hard, painting 6 days a week minimum. For every painting I produce, the average photographer could produce 100,000 photographs (easily). I think it would be wise to do a separate survey for photographers…it is a completely different discipline. It would also be wise to separate the commercial aspects (such as weddings, food, etc) from “fine art” photography. I think it’s so much more difficult for photographers because there are so many of them out there…and, a photograph can be reproduced a gazillion times, affecting the public’s perception of value when compared to a work that is truly “one-of-a-kind”, and made by hand. That said, I love great photography, and I personally collect it 🙂
    Jason, it may also be good to find out at what point the artist is in his or her career (emerging, mid-career, established, etc). Thanks again for compiling this information–much appreciated.
    Best regards,
    P.S. I am one of those who believes 2012 will be an even better year 🙂

  51. Thank you for analyzing and sharing this information with us. I found several of the bits very interesting. I’m curious though why New England was segregated from the rest of the East coast? Why not diversify even more and separate the East Coast even further into Northern and Southern sections. Though since I reside in the DC area, I would be on the fence.

    I’m wondering what is the difference in artists that sell in brick and mortar galleries and shops as opposed to selling online. I do have an online shop, but I get more of my sales from gallery showings.

    -Russ McIntosh

  52. Great survey Jason! Sorry I missed participating. I’m not very surprised at the results.

    I would still be interested in knowing what percentage of Artists relied solely on their art (absolutely no other income means) and then what income bracket those persons fell into. Another survey I would be interested in seeing, is a graph of sales again; but then broken down into the percentage of Original Work vs. Reproduction Prints. Personally, I have seen my Originals vs. Print sale percentages change with the economy. When the economy is tougher, I find I do more higher-end work and fewer giclees. I suspect the lower end art market is more conservative with their money during that time. I also anticipate 2012 to be a very good year!

    ~ Heather

  53. Jason, this is a great survey and much appreciated by those artists who look at it. However, one basic question. Do you think 1247 responses are enough to make a valid analysis given that according to US census figures there may be more than 100,000 visual artists? Even if one wishes to argue about how many visual artists there are in the US the fact remains that 1247 is a very small number.

    On the other hand this analysis still is probably indicative of the art market past and present. The thing is that as we all know the economy will have it’s ups and downs and as artists we have to realize we will always face some “volatility” to use the stock market term and need to plan how to survive in those down times.

    As a photographer I realized long ago that selling photography for a living only really works if you establish a reputation ….. but maybe that is true for all disciplines. But even an established photographer will have to sell a lot more prints that a painter because they generally command lower prices. But then I can crank out a lot more prints quickly than a painter can create paintings. It would be interesting to have comparison figures for sales of work by painters and photographers as intuitively I think it is much harder for a “fine art” photographer to make a living than a painter.

  54. Jason – Thank you so much for sharing this information. It is such a hard balance to try to be producing work and also marketing it yourself. It is good to get the reiteration that we have to produce first, sell second. I am just starting out and I appreciate having you as a resource.

  55. Jason,
    Thanks for publishing the results. Always interesting to see how others are feeling about the market. I’m one who believes I’ll earn less in ’12 than last year but that is because of a large commission I was lucky enough to have landed in ’11. I responded that I felt the market was going to improve because of the increase in activity at my little gallery attached to my studio.

  56. Thank you for posting these survey results. They are both encouraging and educational. I see that I am not alone or in the minority with my frustrations as an artist. Someday soon I hope for some more success. This survey reinforces many of the lessons you taught in your workshop, so I know what I have to do. Work, work, work! And be brave and bold.

  57. I am an artist living in Mexico. I also missed the survey but thank you very much for doing this.
    2011 for me was a great year in sales. Much better than the 4 years before when I first got into a gallery here in Mexico. If January is any indication of the rest of 2012 I am going to have another great year. I work 6 days a week and produce a lot of work.
    All my work is original . This past year it seemed the more I produced the more I sold. Every time I took new work to the gallery to update my wall it sold. Even just moving paintings around on the wall caused work to sell. I think keeping you wall fresh and new really helps.
    Other artists in the gallery are not bringing new work and are just waiting for what they have in there to sell. I don’t think this works because a lot of clients are repeats and when they see the same stuff over and over they figure that artist is no good because nothing is selling.
    2012 is going to be great for everyone!!!!

  58. The survey is very interesting. I passed it along to members of our artists group in Salem, Oregon. It’s also helpful to read the blog comments and your answers to peoples questions about the survey. Thanks for sharing your expertise with us, as we navigate our art careers. I hope to be more productive in 2012!

  59. I am interested in the status of artists doing well, or all the artists. Are they sole supportors of themselves or do they have a spouse or partner or ? to fall back on?! on a monthly basis. A percentage need full/ part time employment it seems. Do they also have a spouse or partner, etc? I have always been curious about this.

  60. Jason,
    Thank you for your valuable survey. As we all are dealing with the economy and facing some hard facts like unemployment I would like to assure the artist that there are people out there working hard to educate and encourage the public to invest in art and the artist. If we put all our efforts together we will survive this. We appreciate your effort to educate us all. The staff of the St James Court Art Show is optimistic about 2012.

  61. I would like to know two things to get a better picture of the art sales presented. How many paintings were created and how many of that body of work were sold. It would help establish a unit price and what price arena was targeted. I know I only sell about ten to twenty percent of each years effort. I would also like to know the size ranges sold. Were the bulk of sales smaller or larger works. Again I find I create a few larger pieces, 40″x 40″ plus sizes, to wow and more smaller affordable, 18″x 24″ minus, works so people can have one of my creations at affordable prices. I sell the smaller works about 3:1 of the larger works.

  62. Your survey is an interesting attempt to make sense out of a difficult situation. Thanks for all your work. Could you please put me on your email list and include me in your next survey? Thank you.

  63. Thanks for this data. It’s interesting. It’s so rare to get honest info about how much artists sell. I’d be interested to hear the average price of works sold as well. That would be helpful info to see what people are really buying. And how much did each piece cost for the folks making 1500-2000 works/year??!! I can’t imagine that!

  64. Hi Jason
    I was not able to get my figures in for this time but will try harder for the next survey. I own a gallery in Windsor, Ont. Canada and found that 2011 brought us a great increase in one of a kind jewelry sales(2010 – $3,500 to 2011 – $12,300). Being that the jewelry is the lower end of the price scale at the gallery. Though various art both paintings and sculpture did increase also for our 2011 year, with a few higher end sales(over $1000).
    Over all I found the first 6 months of the year to be slow than once June hit things changed. I am anticipating a strong sales year for 2012.


  65. Interest feedback. I would love to see more information for photographers and the best places to market i.e. through high end galleries, website, art fairs, etc. I need better places to display my photography without losing 50% which is what some of the high-end galleries take on sales.

    My specialty is black and white fine art, although I incorporate color as well. You displayed one of my photographs for Starving to Successful of my 1928 Ford Wheels.

    I would love to display in your gallery. Would you be interested in displaying work from the Midwest? My website is


    Leona Webb

  66. Thank you for “taking the (economic) pulse” of working artists. As the majority of us struggle to walk the creation/survival tightrope, you are providing useful tools!

    The mention of your book interests me. How can I learn more?
    Nicole Ours

  67. Thanks Jason! This was interesting. I’m a newbie at selling my art, but 4 years ago I was up to about $5,000 doing murals/plaster work. Once the housing market crashed, so did the biz. I only did about $100 on murals last year, so I’m switching over to other things. I’m a single mom with 3 part time jobs BESIDES painting, so I don’t have much time. I feel my sales will improve this year because I’ve already sold more than all of last year just in January! Please include a question about how many years people have been selling their art so we can see how income goes up. Next year, let us know in advance and we’ll share the survey with art leagues, friends, etc. to get more responses.

  68. Hi Jason,
    I’m an artist in southwest Michigan, working primarily as a muralist. Lately, I have increased my studio and plein air painting time hoping to begin selling original paintings and prints in galleries and possibly art fairs. I find this survey really interesting and a good barometer on the art overall market. I’m hopeful that art sales will increase as the economy grows in my area. Great work!

  69. The size of you sample is just fine. You did mention the lack of randomness. There’s the rub. But for you to get a random sample would be expensive at the very least. We have nothing better than your survey. So that’s what we look at and can be thankful for.

    Looking at subgroups often is the best way to see what is going on in my professional experience as an economist. Lots gets hidden in averages of broad categories. What is sense from the comments is a big interest in how self-supporting artists they do it or what they are doing — by medium.

    To change the subject somewhat, you have an amazing amount of energy. Best wishes for 2012.

  70. Jason, great survey! Looking forward to see what else you ferret out.

    I would also love to see a survey (more specifics) of those earning 50K+ especially those earning 6 figures. (This group is of interest since it is over the government average). After seeing some government report that the average salary for artists is 40K including teaching, the numbers your survey reveals brings renewed energy! These are the people I would like to model :^)

    For the folks earning 50K+: Where are they in their career? What do their sales and marketing efforts look like? Are they selling items in addition to original one of a kind pieces? What did the road look like to get to this point? For each increment, what is the estimated time frame from $1 sales to $now in sales? I am sure you have even better data points to obtain.

    You are so helpful, THANK YOU!

  71. Fascinating data! I’m interested in hearing how the analysis sorts out, especially with higher-earning artists and work ethics/productivity. I’d also be curious to see how prices relate to productivity and to annual sales.

  72. Thank you Jason,
    It would additionally be interesting to know the average price per piece sold so we could track that figure as a collective. And how do the number of pieces sold compare to the number of works created within the year?
    Very interesting study. I am looking forward to following it and studying it further.

  73. That is a very interesting survey. I was surprised by how many artists actually make a living off their art. I had heard it was much less than the 45% that is stated here. I knew that there are a lot more painters than sculptors, but only 5%? I live at the Brewery artist colony in LA, and there are way more painters and photographers than sculptors here. I am glad to hear that people are optimistic about future sales. I am spending a lot more time on marketing these days than I have in the past. It certainly is more fun just to make art every day, but right now marketing is what I need to be focusing my time on. I hear blogs are great for this, so I have recently started one titled The Steel Whisperer, which you can see at:


  74. Thank you so much for the survey, Jason. For me the part that was most eye opening was the section on production. As a sculptor, I can’t imagine turning out that many pieces in a year. It would be interesting to see the number of works created per sculptor.
    Thanks for all of the work you have done to keep us informed and connected.

  75. Thank you for your hard work! Interested to know if there has been a shift in where sales are coming from – galleries, direct, publishing, corporate art, online, agent/rep? Have a feeling that galleries sales are on decline??

  76. Jason,
    I have been following you for awhile. I own both of your books on selling techniques. I also took the survey and enjoyed reading the data and your perspectives on the data. Having spent time being as a gallerist and consultant in the art business, I have seen and experienced both sides of the process. I am now a full time artist, relying fully on my art sales as my income. And I utilize a lot of the info you’ve shared thr0ugh various avenues. Thank you and I look forward to crossing paths at some point in the future.

  77. 2011 was a great year for my business. I doubled my sales. It was a clear indication that a positive mindset can propel you to any goals you have. I disagreed with the notion put forth on the recent teleseminar that there was nothing to gain by spending time with social media like Facebook. Over the last few years I’ve done a great amount of business using Facebook. Two things that you may not be considering:

    a. If you’re just establishing your presence in the hubs, you are a little behind. Not to say that you can’t do it now but many artists were devoting tons of time on their presence four years ago. It is much easier to ride on that now.
    b. If you’re just posting things for people to buy or attend, you won’t stand out in the crowd. People generally do not want to be marketed to all day long. Mix it up. Establish relationships with people. Let them know who you are, not what you want them to sell. Social media is no different than a public get together. Meet people. Ask them questions, relate to them, be a real friend. You’ll find that if you use etiquette and manners like you would in real life, you’ll have an audience that cares to be a real “friend” to you.

    I am a full time artist and I’ve got bigger plans for 2012 no matter what happens in the market.

  78. Thanks for all your hard work on this topic. It is very interesting to see the results. I think an optimistic attitude helps. The internet has provided much help for artists as also for people in other fields, but it is an opportunity for us as artists to respond and achieve quicker results.

  79. Jason, I know these are old charts from your State of The Art 2012 Survey and that you may have discarded them by now. I’ve a couple of puzzelments on your charts Q6. and Q6-$25000+ ; when comparing the statistics you stated that the general chart showed that on the average each artist produced 56 pieces of original art per year (some produced 2000? with 200 working days that’s 10 a day. WOW!) then going to the $25000+ chart you calculated 109 pieces per year per artist. I’ve gone back and forth and up and down and I don’t know how you found those numbers. Could you please tell me if it isn’t a lot of effort. I enjoyed your “blogging webcast” and I’ve gained some real insight looking over your research. Thanks for your kind effort and revelations. RonG
    P.S. I’m no statistician, I’m one of the millions of painters out there but I have enuf business background to be fascinated by comparative research charts. rg

    1. Ron, thanks for the questions. It has been a while since we published the results, but I think I can reply. I suspect the production number (2000 + pieces per year) would reflect the participation of glass blowers and fine art jewelers who are able to produce a higher volume of work. To determine production averages by income, we simply filtered the stats to artists making $25,000 + per year to find the number of pieces produced. We put the data in a database to manage the filtering. Thanks again for the questions.

  80. I am pleased that you took the time to research and share this data. You hear of all the high end sales at Christie’s and Sotheby’s auction’s, and an outsider, like me, get’s the impression that investing in art is a wise decision.
    However, if only a handful of artists are making enough money to make it from one month to the next, perhaps one should think twice before placing a $3000 or more charge on their credit card hoping that one day the art work may be worth 10 fold.
    I would like to see artist work on their people skills and keep in mind that it is the folks like me, with little knowledge about the art world, who buy the art work. All of the folks who are Art experts are the ones competing with you, trying to sell their own art.
    Be willing to engage with folks who know little about your world. They are your customer’s!

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