Before retiring, I spent more than twenty years as an art rep and artist selling my own work and that of many other artists and fine art publishers to interior designers, architects and galleries. The “decorative art” business not only supported my family, but also provided constant inspiration and direction as I decided what to paint and which images done by others I would show my clients.

As I read art blogs, such as this one, and look at the questions and comments posted on various artists’ forums, I’m mystified at how often artists who can’t make a living from their creative output make a distinction between “fine” art and the “decorative” art people love and hang in their homes and offices because it provides enjoyment and enhances their “lifestyle.”
Somehow, the thought that taking on the challenge to paint something that “matches a sofa fabric” and can actually put some dollars in the artist’s empty pocket compromises their artistic integrity – whatever that is.

If you are wondering what to paint, stroll around a few interior design studios, high-end furniture stores or expensive model homes and look at what real people are willing to spend their hard-earned dollars for. Become knowledgeable about how the art business works (assuming you are serious about becoming part of it and not just a confused bystander). Learn who gets how much and why by talking to the people who buy art, not some high-tone “expert” who can’t even give away what they produce. Then put your creative juices to work and come up with something in your own distinctive style or subject matter that will be acceptable to the marketplace or an identifiable and reachable “target” audience.

Yes, you may have to use “trendy” colors or fit a “what’s hot” category rather than the “what’s not” you’ve been painting. Look at it as an artistic challenge or pretend you’ve just been given a “commission.” Isn’t that what a “real” artist is supposed to be able to do?


A primer for hard times

For most buyers “Art” is a luxury item. When there is a downturn in the economy or real estate market, artists often find their sales affected, particularly if they are selling to the “decorative art” market through interior designers, galleries, furniture store accessory buyers and other trade professionals. In the twenty + years I spent as a producing artist and art rep for other artists and fine art publishers my business went through up and down periods and I had to learn to cope. 

If you have subscribed to Barney Davey’s, as every artist who wants to keep abreast of what’s happening in the art world should, you will have read his perceptive comments on how the economy is affecting artists. If you’ve been following the political debates for either party and noted the concentration on economic issues, have watched the triple digit fluctuations in the stock market or predictions of a coming recession, you need to be prepared. Chances are, your sales will be affected.

There’s a wealth of additional information based on my twenty + years as an artist selling my own work and that of scores of other artists and fine art publishers on my website at Artists from more than four hundred cities in forty countries have visited and profited from listening to the podcasts – all of which are FREE.
Here are a dozen suggestions for coping with hard times that you, as an artist, may want to consider. They've been forged on the anvil of real experience by a "been there, done that" artist and art rep.


There is a difference between "Trendy" and "Comfortable"art appealing to two different sorts of buyers. As an art rep for 20 years I sold to both sorts of buyers. About 85% of my customers were Interior Designers, Decorators and Architects. This huge market many artists overlook bought art from me over and over again for years. Sometimes a single piece, sometimes several, often a score of pieces and occasionally hundreds, depending on the project they were working on. I sold more “Comfortable” art by far. By comfortable I mean art that wears well; art the owner will look at and enjoy daily for years, and sometimes pass on to children who grow up with, and grow to love a special piece. 

That doesn't mean artists shouldn't be aware of trends, particularly color trends. Florals, landscapes, birds and boats are ever popular. These "wear well," but don't think for a second we are talking about "ho-hum" images. My best selling artists painted those subjects time and again, but my top sellers painted with a "just noticeable difference" in style, palette, conception that set their images apart. My buyers may not have been able to verbalize what the JND was, but they recognized it immediately and wrote checks to acquire it.

"Trendy" art is sometimes purchased to impress friends or business associates, to build a body of work that may become collectible and increase in value, or satisfy a buyer's particular taste for the unusual. All are valid reason to purchase – including "comfortable" art. I dealt with a number of "cutting edge" designers who recognized what was about to be "hot" before it came to a boil. They recognized "trendy" and led hundreds of other designers into trends that became comfortable over time. 

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