Video: Ask a Gallery Owner | Is it okay to sell prints and merchandise of my art?

Leanne from Minnesota asks: “Is it frowned upon by gallery owners for artists to sell prints of their work at fairs and online, or to be represented by a gallery? Also, is it frowned upon for artists to sell gift items with their artwork on the product cards, scarves, T-shirts, etc.?”

I’ll share my insights on the ins and outs of reproducing your work for mass market sales when you are also seeking to work with galleries.

Do You Sell Prints and Merchandise Based on Your Art?

Are you selling prints and lower-priced merchandise based on your art? What benefits have you seen of selling reproductions of your art? Have galleries commented negatively on these items? What advice would you give to an artist considering reproductions? Share your experience and thoughts in the comments below.

 

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 reddotblog.com, 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.

16 Comments

  1. I tend to agree with all you have said here. Now my art is digitally done on a wood panel with quality pigments on a gessoed birch panel. Not a canvas. People seem to enjoy this as new even if it’s always been available as well. Also personally I limit the edition of these wood panel prints. The quality is high and quite nice. Now I also do plan to get chroma luxe prints done which are even more dramatic visually as a custom option if people decide they prefer this as well but it’s quite early for chroma luxe. Now I do lower-cost paper-sized reduced editions when it is a good option. Also, we have many new clothing companies approaching us to use our art as wearable art. Le Galariste in Montreal is a fine company and example of this. So to me, a gallery should support the artist on all fronts. So I am very pleased Jason you agree in your opinion here. I simply believe it’s a progressive choice and it helps the artists in all of our variations to be productive and successful. All the best! Jeff

    1. Thank you for your input, Jeff! I agree that galleries should support artists in all aspects of their work, and I think that offering different print options is a great way to do that. I’m glad to hear that you are offering both traditional and digital prints, and I think that the Chroma Luxe prints sound like they would be really beautiful.

  2. Wow, how timely is this article?
    I do not usually do prints anymore, other than cards for specific events. A couple of days ago, I was asked by a group to send them a digital file so that they could create 14 prints from a painting of mine as prizes for their event participants. I sent them a note back saying that I would be happy to work with a printer in their area to create 14 prints but I could not send a digital file as it would be a way that I could possibly lose control of the production quality part of it and it would, of course, be a copyright risk.
    They sent me the link for a printer in their area and I contacted him with the file info and he was preparing a quote for me.
    Today they sent me a note saying that they decided to go with another artist in their area. (I live 5 hours away)
    It was all on the up and up as the group is large and known for this annual event but I don’t think they understood the whole reason I would not send the file directly to them. I think that by protecting myself, I lost the job but hey, for a few hundred dollars, I still think it was not worth the risk. They said they would keep my work on file for future consideration. Ouch!
    Could I have handled this differently?

    1. You raise important points, and these are certainly justified concerns. I suspect that the group would have provided a contract that would offer reassurances about your ownership of the copyright, etc., but you would want to feel very confident about the partnership before taking the risk.

      With that said, my bias has always been toward action and opportunity. I would have taken the job and worked with the group to create a contract that would protect my interests. If they had refused, then I would have walked away. But by taking the chance, I would have had the opportunity to develop a relationship with the group, which might have led to more work down the line.

      There’s no easy answer here, and ultimately it’s a decision you have to feel comfortable with. But I would encourage you to err on the side of taking the opportunity when it’s presented. Gladly, there will always be other opportunities!

      1. I agree with Jason. Build relationship. Besides some payment, this large company and their well known event could have given you great exposure for your art. However, it’s good you made a decision and stuck with it

      2. Yes, I think I was overly worried about protecting my rights and they were not interested in taking my work and would have fairly compensated me. Lesson learned, some people really are honest and just want the work.

  3. Hi Jason, I agree. Also, people who buy prints, etc. are “usually” different customers. An art business model that provides a variety of income streams for artists is a very good thing, imo. With economies going up and down this provides some stability which helps artists continue to create. As time goes by, as artists age, they also have to remain healthy in order to continue creating. Being a creative individual is very demanding. I think of my original artwork copyrighted property as money in the bank. It takes time and effort to establish this aspect of an art business, but in the long run I believe it can pay off. … recently I had inquiries about a particular print. Long story short, the woman decided to purchase the original artwork. So even the idea that you have prints available can make your art more accessible to a wider variety of people. This idea is important to me. I’m also learning to market my work… it’s not easy, but I had a recent breakthrough. Thank you, Jason; your blog and words of encouragement are greatly appreciated.

    1. Thank you for your kind words and insight, Roxeanne! I completely agree that having a variety of income streams is important for artists. It can provide stability and help them continue to create new work. I also think it’s important to market your work and make it accessible to as many people as possible. I’m glad you had a recent breakthrough in marketing your work and I hope you continue to have success in the future!

  4. Hi Jason!
    Thanks for answering this question of mine. I am currently doing art fairs and just joined in with a wholesale rep. I have learned from the past I need to diversify my offerings along with my originals to fill in the gaps financially and doing well with it. Your advice gives me the confidence to go a head with approaching galleries.
    Leanne (from Minnesota)

  5. First of all, thank you for speaking on this topic. I sell both originals and prints as well as art notecards, but in different settings. I sell originals in galleries and directly to collectors, and sell prints and notecards online. There hasn’t been any problem with that arrangement so far.

    To Sharon: I recently had someone contact me about getting a digital file of one of my paintings so it could be used to create wedding announcements and other stationery. I also had to explain the reason for refusing to send a digital file, even for a fee. I had no reason to doubt the integrity of the person, but wanted to help them get the look they desired. The result was a commission for a small, casual watercolor based on the original larger oil painting. I did have a digital file made of the watercolor and included that at cost for the customer, who was very happy.

    Excellent sound quality in this video.

  6. I’ve been in this business for over 35 years and have always sold my originals through galleries. At the same time, I produced offset lithos and later giclees from my own publishing co. ,later switching to a nationally known publishing house. My images are now licensed to manufacturers of various products around the world. None of this has hurt my gallery sales- if anything it has made my work accessible to a huge market and brought in another income stream besides the originals. No gallery has ever complained about my production of prints- nor should they as it is a different market.

  7. Since I started to have my art recoginized in the fashion world, it seems to be helping me get noticed in the art world. I’m very glad I tried it. It is a lot of extra work but, if you can’t seem to get into galleries because you don’t have any “name recogination” try to get “in” from another angle. The fashion world, was looking like another wash out for me until I really stepped “out of my comfort zone” and made contact with a completely different culture than mine.

  8. Doesn’t it depend upon the venue and demographics of the intended audience ? Some art fairs draw interested collectors willing to entertain the purchase of expensive original works. Some art markets are rife with lookers who dream, know what they like, but can’t afford the original artworks. Galleries with their own policies not withstanding, an aspiring artist vending at market style venues might find more sales by offering a little something for everybody.
    After being blessed with a fairly decent large format printer where quality and price is controllable (more or less), I have found that by exhibiting a few original artworks at the markets, many folks are drawn into the booth to converse and view my portfolio in the print reproduction bins. And while printing and packaging prints does take a bit of time and energy, the dollar value of print sales easily equals that of my much more expensive original works sales.
    So yes, offering both original artwork and print reproductions has broadened my reach, availability and appeal to both demographic groups of lookers and collectors.

  9. I have sold through galleries and outdoor shows in the past and also sold giclee reproductions. You’re absolutely right about selling reproductions/art on products as being a separate business that has to be marketed. Not having a lot of extra time, I decided to concentrate on marketing my originals and leaving it at that. Even selling through platforms like Fine Art America required quite a bit of time marketing and getting eyes on my page there. Wasn’t worth the effort for me – I didn’t enjoy it.

  10. I have sold only originals for many years. I will be in a large local crafts fair this year with several originals, a portfolio of larger originals available on my website, but a lot of art cards, fabric collage bags, and some monoprints and book plates as well. It will be interesting to see how I fare.

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