What it’s like to be a rich and popular artist :)
First of all, it doesn’t matter if you can paint. It helps a little bit, but the majority of fine artists making tons of money today are not representational painters! This means they draw geometric shapes or splashes of paint, using heavy brushstrokes and scratchy movements.
Those artists who are painting recognizable things in their art, are usually using a simplified, stylistic (not realistic) cartoonish method, which is a million times easier than actually painting objects and people as they are.
I’ll say it again; representation it out.
What should I paint?
What you want to do is develop a theme and a style. Use the same colors (and not a lot). Pick your 5 favorite colors. Muted and dull tones are in. Keep your canvases roughly between 3’x3′ and 5’x5′ (the average gallery sizes.) Paint your canvases pretty much a like; although with variation, when 10 of them are in the same room they should all look similar, like one big painting cut into pieces. (If you draw people are faces, keep them about the same).
Use a lot of the same images: if you like to paint cats or pianos, paint cats and pianos in all your paintings. That will become your recognizable style.
Paint a lot and paint fast: time is money. You should have at least 40 paintings ready before you think about selling them or promoting yourself. The first step is to get the work done.
After that, you need to prove that your work has value. Unfortunately, this is an exercise in writing. You need to craft an excellent bio and statement, about where your artistic sensibilities come from, what your paintings mean to you, what they represent for you personally and for others, how you paint (your process), how paintings makes you feel, etc. You also need to write a description of every painting: what it is, colors used, what it represents, size, materials, date, etc.
Altogether, this represents your ‘catalogue’. You can put it together in a little book or post in on your webpage. You should also memorize it – you need to be sure what to say when people ask ‘what does your art mean?’ or ‘What’s it about’.
Pricing is a sensitive issue for artists, who are usually insecure (or overconfident in their abilities) and thus usually overprice or underprice, or apply wildly varying prices based on their moods or their financial situation.
Pick an average price for your average work based on similiar paintings you’ve seen in the places you’d like to sell. (If another artist is selling a similar piece in the outdoor market for $100, then $100 is how much to charge if you want to sell your work in the outdoor marketplace. If a similar artist is selling a painting in a gallery you like for $500, then pick $500 if you want to be in galleries. The money isn’t important right now; it’s just an indicator of where you position yourself as an artist.
Small paintings will be worth less, larger paintings will be worth more. (A painting that is double the size of a smaller painting can be double the price as well. This may seem like a lot, but it will also make the small paintings seems like ‘a good deal’.) Offer a range of price options. Never fluctuate, or low ball or offer an enormous ‘discount’. This is art, not pirated software.
Show your work
Get it out there! Get you work up in public where-ever you can, markets, cafes, restaurants, local galleries, etc. Start small. Get a fan place. Start locally. Big New York Galleries will shred your packages and letters (as will most galleries). Galleries rarely want to be contacted.
Attend exhibitions, become part of the community, get to know the players personally. Get to know local artists and curators. After you get to know them you can casually let on that you’re an artist, and they may ask to see your work.
What to do after I’ve made it?
The average professional artist makes between $500 to $5000 per painting. If you sell 10 paintings a year you may make about $25,000. If you sell 40, you can making $100,000. However, if you’re popular enough to be selling 40 paintings a year, your art is probably much more valuable. If you hit a bubble and people are wildly fanatic about your art, you could make as much as $100,000 (or even $1million) for a painting.
If you’re making this much money painting, congratulations. Spend some money to increase your exposure and productivity. Hire a maid to clean your studio. Buy a gallery of your own to promote yourself and emerging artists. Hire professional showgirls to hang out and be beautiful at all your opening events. Buy paintings from aspiring artists. Don’t take success for granted, but don’t take it too seriously either.
Just be grateful and remember that you’re getting paid to play with colors.