August 18, 2017

2D Art: Originals vs. Prints

This one's for all of my 2D artist fans and followers. Original artwork will always be special for being one-of-a-kind, but I would argue that offering prints and other items emblazoned with your work can open the doors to new revenue streams to support more art. As a photographer, this is the only way I can sell my work because the original is not in a format one would buy much like a printmaker wouldn't necessarily sell their silk screens. Of course, this topic tends to bring up more debate among painters, illustrators and other artists working on individual 2 dimensional pieces. I'd like to share a few details on why those of you in the "Originals Only" camp should consider the opportunity with prints. There are certainly cases in which the artist has valid reasons for not offering reproductions, but in today's market, you as an artist can reach more people, introduce art into more lives and often garner more support for your career by sharing both originals and prints.

As I mentioned, for some types of artists, this is a non-issue because prints are the only format they produce to share; think photographers, digital artists, printmakers. The "original" is merely a step in the process in which you can have as much or as little output as they decide. When it comes to painting or drawing however, making the original only yields one finished piece. If you want to share multiple copies, you could attempt to replicate the work, but technically this is another original that will take time and materials. A reproduction on the other hand, can save you money and time. So what are the pros and cons? It's probably clear that I believe in prints, but I hope to give you an unbiased look at the reasons for and against this perspective. If you have additional points to add, I'd love to hear them to know what works best for your art!

Pros of Originals 
  • One-of-a-kind piece of art, giving your buyers a sense of exclusivity in owning an original.
  • You as the artist can usually charge more for the one piece given the value and exclusivity.
  • Collectors get the piece in its true form and media which is more important when there's texture or other similar embellishments.

Pros of Prints
  • Allows you to sell more than one copy of a piece, often in different sizes or formats.
  • Appeal to a wider range of budgets, many of whom many not be able to afford an original.
  • Allows you the keep the original in the event that you have emotional attachment.
  • You can turn 2D art into something functional for your buyers, enticing even the more practical people. The key is picking items that don't devalue the work.

Prints Done Right
If you're open to trying out this additional revenue stream, here are some tips to protect the integrity of your work and hopefully help you feel better about changing perspectives.
  1. Research printers to find one (or several if you do different varieties) to make sure you're happy with the quality. Many offers samples of their paper and other surfaces so you can feel what you'd be giving your buyers. There are many great local options like Skyline.
  2. Make sure you have high quality photography or scans of your work for the reproduction. You want the colors and luminosity to match so the prints are true to your original. 
  3. When you have special touches like metallic paint or gold/silver leaf, texture etc, consider incorporating a layer of that on top of your prints as well. 
  4. Don't feel like you have to offer something with your art on it that isn't true to your style. Some works look great on mugs or coasters while others are a better fit for scarves or leggings. 
  5. Price these reproductions in line with their cost and value. If you want to preserve some sense of exclusivity, do a limited run and you can charge a little more. 
Here are some examples of local artists who offer prints and originals in really creative ways!

Flip Solomon offers Cards, Pendants, Leggings, Scarves & More
Eya Claire offers Prints, Pendants, Coin Pouches & More
Abstract Expressions by Resi offers Coasters, Magnets, Mugs, Cards & More

I'll leave you with the thoughts of Daniel Grant, author of The Business of Being an Artist:

"Just as with licensing, editions of prints allow artists to get paid for the same image again and again, while a painting will only earn it's creator a one-time fee. Art prints clearly sell for less than original works but, because of their greater numbers, are disseminated more widely. The lower prices of prints may also bring artists an entirely new clientele, some of whom may later purchase the more expensive original pieces as well as provide money to tide them over until the larger works begin to sell."