The fine art world has its share of rules, but what kind of artist would I be if I didn't break them?
Selling artwork has its own challenges. From finding the right spaces to display your work to finding the right collectors. But then there are also rules that you must follow to be considered a fine artist. From the resume you build to the materials you use, sometimes you can feel like you're not working for yourself but for some mysterious gatekeeper who would determine the trajectory of your career.
Early on in my career when I would approach galleries they would frown on certain practices. Galleries and collectors will tell you that they don't want you to sell prints of your work. If you decide to, they will say you should limit the amount of the prints you sell, called limited edition prints. These prints are signed and numbered and usually include a certificate of authenticity. The main reason is that they feel selling prints decreases the value of the original piece. The more people that have the same print, the less valuable the original becomes. But who made up this rule?
Collectors hold the power of the fine art world. If they purchase an original from an artist they have the ability to sell it later at art auctions. And if they play their cards right they can strike big. But what does this mean for the artist? Many times the artist sells the original to a collector, and that is the only money the artist will see from it. The collector in most cases pockets all profits from the sale at auction. The benefit to the artist in that case is that now the rest of their collection is valued at a higher price. Only a small amount of artists will ever see their work in an auction, so there has to be a way to actually profit from the artwork that we create.
This is why I sell prints.
I sell open edition prints, meaning that I will sell as many as I want to. I feel that if I create a piece of artwork, I should profit from it for as long as I want. I should have full control over how my artwork is distributed and where it is displayed. I feel that artists should take their power back and realize the value of our intellectual property. Why should we only sell one piece of artwork when we can sell prints to whomever we choose? I never understood how prints decrease the value of an original because there is only one original. The one piece that I actually created and made with my hands, the one piece that has all the textures and sweat and tears. When someone purchases an original, they are the only person in the world that has the original so that should not increase the value at all.
I also sell prints because my work centers on Black women and is meant for Black women, so how can I alienate them by making my pieces inaccessible? So many women have supported my work and are so excited to display it in their homes. That feeling is so amazing! Selling prints allows me to keep the price of my originals down, and also gives access to all budgets. If I only sold originals then I would have to charge thousands more for them because I would only be able to rely on the sale of an original to survive. This is where we get the term "starving artist" because so many of us live this way, waiting for someone to purchase our work. Sales of my originals are inconsistent, some months I may sell one or two, some months I may not sell any. I decided to pursue art full time so I had to break the rules in order to turn my passion into reality.
We as artists have so much more control than we think when it comes to selling our work. If the pandemic has taught us anything it should be that the rules have all been broken and we have to pave our own way to survive.
To date I have over 3,500 sales on Etsy and I am so honored that so many people believe in my work!