Changing times?

Dear Artist, A few days ago the owner of one of my less productive galleries told me she was hooking up with major art websites. She’s a lovely person whom I’ve known for years. She also told me she was considering reducing the size and perhaps location of her gallery, or continuing her business online from home. The reasons, I’m guessing, are high rent and mediocre sales.

Tyler Cowen, American economist, academic, and writer

She told me she had been “accepted” by Amazon Art and is also considering Artsy and Artnet. I told her she would get varicose veins staring at her screen before she made a decent living with Amazon Art. Hers is a high-end gallery offering both historical and contemporary art. She is a woman of high principles and a good eye. Yesterday, we fetched my work out of her gallery until the dust settles. Jeff Bezos and his buddies have sunk a fair amount of dough into Amazon Art. They’ve partnered with several hundred galleries and currently have many thousands of artworks on display. Their search engines can find all the paintings that show swimming pools, if that’s what you’re looking for. I checked with a few of my collector friends and not one of them had ever bought a painting from Amazon Art, Artsy or Artnet. A college friend had bought a Led Zeppelin poster for $79.95 on a similar, now defunct, site. Those who are buying from big sites seem to be beginners and wall-fillers on a limited budget. Amazon Art might be a spot for lower-priced and new artists, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The Amazon model has been tried a few times. But the computer and marketing experts who put these sites together miss out on the basic sociology of placing art: Special people see something they think is special and are guided by a real live gallerista to confirm their special choice. The galleristas who do the guiding need to be special people themselves. With the fresh empowerment of unknown artists (and lower commissions) one might think fine art is now selling online. For half a year we’ve allowed my twice-weekly to be picked up by Fine Art America on their weekly artist sales report. I’m trying to give a boost to their 40,000 artists, many of them new to the game. Unlike the Painter’s Keys letters, we can tell nobody’s listening because no one comments on my letters when they’re on the FAA site. In spite of their early promise, I don’t think the big sites are working very well, at least not yet. Would someone, other than a site manager, please write and tell me I’m wrong? Best regards, Robert PS: “Amazon’s last attempt at selling art — a project with Sotheby’s back in 2000 — lasted 16 months.” (Tyler Cowen, The Arts, Is Amazon Art a doomed venture? Let’s hope so.) Esoterica: There’s good evidence that local, secondary market, country-specific, auction-based and fun-type bidding sites work. And, as everyone knows, properly managed gallery sites are currently producing brilliant results for persistent owners. Some stand-alone artist’s sites are rockin’ too.   Galleries not doing enough by John Smith, Durban North, South Africa  

“Near Barridale – winelands”
oil painting, 40 x 60 inches
by John Smith

Galleries that are in a panic about artists selling via the Web are just not going that extra mile, or do not realise that gallerists have to be every bit as creative as the artists they represent. I have been a career artist for 40 years, and I am a part owner of a fairly upmarket gallery so feel I have a bit of an idea regarding both areas of making and selling art. The gallery has to work every bit as hard as the artists do. Too many gallerists seem to believe if you sit with your hands folded sales will come to you. As you know it does not work that way.   Success with Fine Art America by Eileen Fong, North Vancouver, BC, Canada  

“Riverside wonders”
mixed media painting
by Eileen Fong

Fine Art America is kind of fun for me. I have been member for many years. Every year, I have 6 or 8 sales of prints, very little money but rewarding. The last print was a request for a wedding gift from a local. I upload the images of the paintings she wanted to the site and the customer ordered the prints (on canvas). I am trouble free and receive a small financial reward. There were also occasional inquiries and comments. I am also happy to have had a couple of sales of originals recently, to the USA and Canada. Of course part of it is my prices are only in the hundreds.     No sales of originals yet by Ion Vincent Danu, Sibiu, Romania  

“Jenny in her Prime”
original painting
by Ion Vincent Danu

Fine Art America, you mentioned (and yes, I saw your essays on their weekly letter), RedBubble, Society6, Deviant Art, Saatchi Online and so many other that I simply registered, uploaded images and got nothing and forgot about them. To answer your question: No, I have never sold any original painting through one of these sites. I did get some emails with classical schemes from some African country and found, by Google search that some of my paintings were used illegally (a pudic nude on an erotic site…) But to sell an original painting through an online site, no, I didn’t and I suppose very few, if any, did. Not for a fair, decent price. I’ve sold some reproductions, yes, for a value of $50-60 in 2-3 years. Not enough to make a living with it. I’ve heard some artists sell reproductions and make hundreds per month with it. One has just to go see what sells everyday on FAAM, for instance. I would say no serious collector or very, very few, will even consider buying art, real art, for real money, on the online sites. I had some hopes but as for selling originals on line I’m totally disappointed and skeptical. It will take more than one proof to change my mind… There is 1 comment for No sales of originals yet by Ion Vincent Danu
From: Katherine Tyrrell — Oct 21, 2013

These sites are not a neat and quick way of avoiding the commission that galleries charge. It’s a general rule that nobody ever sells ANYTHING on any of these online sites unless they also invest in marketing their art and the sites independently of the sites. It’s the MARKETING that sells art – not galleries of the B&M or online variety.

  FASO is amazing by Karen Weihs, Asheville, NC, USA  

“Footbridges house”
original painting
by Karen Weihs

I use FASO for my website, it is amazing. Your Keys and occasionally my blogs are syndicated with FASO’s newsletters. I sell through the optimization of their skill set. I empowered my website to the optimized level from their expert guidance. Their support are all artists themselves, a brilliant combo of tech and creativity. Not only can you communicate to live artist technicians by phone, chat about the weather, art tech and making art, but you can e mail them for immediate tech results. They also share information crucial to selling art. The first on line service I signed on with was Fine Art America which was of no benefit to me, and I see no use to continue. I also sell my books through Amazon. I have never received payment for one book, so I have ceased to supply anymore till payment is fulfilled. Since there is never a live person to talk to at Amazon service, and I am not holding my breath. Would I trust my original sales of art to their on line tracking and shipping? Never!   Success on the secondary market by Ian Duncan MacDonald, Toronto, ON, Canada  

“Another Plaxe Another Time”
new media, original painting
by Ian Duncan MacDonald

In the last year I have sold around a hundred thousand dollars worth of paintings via the Internet. Not my own paintings but paintings by well known Canadian artists like Illingworth Kerr, Bruno Cote, Walter Drohan, etc. It can be done. I have not sold them through art websites like FAA but by making direct contact with art galleries who in turn who have put me in contact with collectors or by placing ads in sites like Craig’s List and Kijiji. I was amazed to find out that the chairmen of large oil companies and executives hunt for known artists in these free public websites. I have sold paintings for as much as $9,000 to people thousands of miles away who have bought the painting based on my digital photograph and who the artist is. I read somewhere that less than 5% of the population have ever been in an art gallery. My own feelings about art galleries is that they are often run by snobs, arrogant pirates and con artists. The people they have working in the typical gallery often do not have a clue on how to sell. If they did they probably would be selling something that was going to pay them more than the little dribble the galleries pay them. I believe if you can establish your credibility with buyers on the internet you can sell a lot of art by established artists. You do not need a physical gallery. True collectors just want to make a good deal and they don’t care if it is with an established art gallery or not. I think art gallery owners, like travel agency owners, are going to become very scarce. Before they were the only way to reach potential buyers and collectors. That is not true anymore. I also think that the internet removes a lot of the B.S. involved in selling art and that there are now hundreds of thousands of artists whose work is now being seen. Their work is often just as good as any established artist. These amateurs, who are not looking to make a living from their art but do it because they like to do it, are not after the kind of money established artists expect. People who buy paintings that appeal to them, rather than by who painted it, will not be inclined to pay more than a few hundred dollars for a painting nor will they need to. The art world is changing. Soon it is going to be electronic art versus static art. People will want the art on their walls to change daily, or hourly depending on the time of day, their mood or situation. This was never possible with paintings.   Too precious to sell anyway by Gary Jorgen, Pullman, WA, USA   The whole concept of art and artists has become a cheap and common commodity product of maverick capitalism. I once encountered packets of “modern art” from China for sale in a Grocery Outlet. They were colorful and bizarre; fully prepared to mount on your wall for only $19.99 a set. I addressed this issue to many of my art colleagues, professors, and mentors. Where do artists go from here? Like the cable companies, news networks, websites, pizza joints, cell phones etc… the art world has become an economic arena where there are too many choices and too many distractions. At the last university I attended, graduate students were trying to combat this with works that engaged the viewer to spend more time with the individual works. I have concluded that I am no longer interested in financial success as an artist. In fact, I have gone back to my origins and simply do works which I find wonderful instead of what I think may sell or please someone else. My last exhibit, granted–at a university, was successful, well-received and pleasing to me. And, surprising to some, nothing was for sale. I loved them too much to sell them, I told the patrons.   Baseball cards by Peter Prest, Calgary, AB, Canada  

“Riding Fence”
watercolor on canvas, 12 x 16 inches
by Peter Prest

I appreciate your stand in taking your paintings out while the dust settles around Amazon Art. I think the true market for e-galleries is prints not original art, and I think the next few years will prove you right. There needs to be a public setting for art, even if it’s only for the brief period of initial exhibition. Without that public venue, there is no chance for our art to find its true place, and to create that larger response which is public reaction to our work. (I realize that no response is a response, but catalogue shopping changes the artist/patron relationship irrevocably, and reduces the importance of the personal connection in the artistic process to almost nil.) Selecting art from a website is the equivalent of collecting baseball cards. As artists, we should aim higher. There is 1 comment for Baseball cards by Peter Prest
From: Susan Holland — Oct 17, 2013

Peter Prest, I totallly agree. And I love your watercolor on canvas.

  What gallerists do by Melanie Desjardines, Prince George, BC, Canada  

acrylic painting on metal
by Melanie Desjardines

I used to sell a lot of my own artwork when I was my own proponent, and now that I have an art gallery,I advocate for as many as 30 artists whom I tout as being some of the best of the best in the region. I can say for starters that it ain’t easy! However, I persevere because I am passionate that people need art in their lives. I’m not talking about scouring internet sites that sell affordable art or prints for something to fill wall space, but actually going into galleries and truly engaging with the art that has been created by the hand of the artists themselves. I also create events at my gallery that give people opportunites to meet the artists themselves, hear about their stories, and see their bodies of work face to face where you can see the brushstokes, feel the color, and sense the emotion. I can usually tell when a particular piece has caught someone’s eye, and it is true that people can have a real physical response to an artwork that speaks to them. As a gallerista, this is where we can help them buy that special piece that can give them a true life enriching experience. So often a price point is a deterrent for people, or the fear that they don’t trust their own judgment, but again we are there to help them weigh their buying decisions, quite often by simply giving them more information on either the piece or the artist. The personal relationships that I build with each person that enters my gallery is crucial to the value of an eventual transaction. The internet will always lack that personal interactive experience for the buyer. I guess I’m still just old school. I still like to deal with tellers at the bank, cashiers at the store, and real people on the phone. There is 1 comment for What gallerists do by Melanie Desjardines

From: mars — Oct 28, 2013

beautiful!!——that’s just how the water often looks—like glaSS—just before a tide sets in. Love it. incredible depth.


Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Changing times?

From: Mike Barr — Oct 14, 2013

Robert – Unfortunately, you are right. It seems the only people making money from online galleries are the online galleries themselves. However, they are making money from the artists and not sales. One thing is rare from online galleries and that is their sales figures. I think I have been on Art America for something like 5 years and sold two prints in that time. I get a monthly review of how many people have looked at my work.. probably about 5 looks in total per month. The site is now enormous and unwieldy. I know a number of galleries that have opted to go online only in Australia – one step from shutting up shop completely.

From: Pamela Keown — Oct 14, 2013

Robert- I value your opinion and I drool over your art. I am making my comment to tell you I read every letter you send me. I am an amateur who will probably never sell my second painting. But that’s okay too. I love art.

From: Karen Cooper — Oct 14, 2013

Robert, I had a listing at Fine Art America for a while, even though I sincerely believe that art reproductions should be of deceased artists work only. Everyone else should be showing originals, my opinion, and I’m sticking to it. Back to Fine Art America – I know they make their money from selling cheap copies of artwork, but they also allow artists like me to have a listing for their originals. A while back, one of my originals listed on their site, suddenly developed all the specs, complete with measurements, to sell copies. Mad as the proverbial wet hen, I immediately shut down my listing. At times I think I should have saved copies of those pages, and gone searching for answers from Fine Art America,and then reality sets in and I KNOW it would only be a waste of time – but I would encourage other artists to be aware. It happened to me, and I doubt I am an isolated occurrence. KC

From: Susan G Holland — Oct 14, 2013

I have my digital work on Fine Art America. In fact, it is the only art I have in a print format (other than old original hand pulled prints.) My current chant is “My art only comes in ‘original.'” Real time exhibiting is slower, but it has a much better percentage of sales than online print set-ups. I notice that Fine Art America is pushing phone cases now. I put a huge markup on my digitals for phone cases..I really wouldn’t want it to be on anyone’s phone case. You can get those at Walmart, for heaven’s sake! I notice that people look at my digitals sold as Just Notes (called Spinoffery) on FineArtAmerica, but no one has ever bought one. Maybe they “lift” them. Never mind. It’s just a byproduct of hard work that deserves a space around it where people can see it in 3-D. That’s my take.

From: Richard Robinson — Oct 15, 2013
From: Anne Bevan — Oct 15, 2013
From: ReneW — Oct 15, 2013

Thanks, Robert for this letter. The internet and the various websites that offer art for sale is, in my opinion, is a fools errand. I’ve never even tried to sell my work on the internet. Artists I know have paid web developers to establish an art website but never sold anything as a result. Unless you have established credentials and people know that your work is sought after, the chances of selling via the internet is extremely remote.

From: Anne Barberi — Oct 15, 2013

I have been on FAA for about a year. I signed up because I wanted an online gallery where people could see my art in one place. I’m not concerned about sales and have not had any negative experiences as yet. I’m not sure that it’s the place to showcase my art. Still thinking on it.

From: Duelle Rickert — Oct 15, 2013

I find the entire internet art thing odd. I could not possibly purchase something which I did not see in person.

From: Elizabeth Davis — Oct 15, 2013

I’ve decided to just paint what I feel like and let my kids deal with selling it when I’m dead, if they want to. Ha ha.

From: Richard Shook — Oct 15, 2013

Thanks! One of the challenges of the internet is clutter. In print, getting noticed might mean creating a larger ad, but many other marketing factors could combine to make that a meaningless exercise and a waste of money, and with the internet there’s no “bigger”, although Amazon and others may be effective aggregators. I’ve tried to look at my web presence as a augmenter of my own networking efforts and not a primary sales venue. We all fit into categories and it is easy to lose our identity as people search for “flowers” let’s say. Art, on the other hand, is ego driven and name recognition and reinforceing an artist’s personal “brand” is ever more necessary. Still, I think an internet presence is essential and while there are many sites, I look practically at how much effort is required to update all of them just to make it easier for people to find me when they are looking for me. I have no expectations of selling anything as a result of someone stumbing onto my work on the internet, there are just too many competing choices.

From: alexander Petti — Oct 15, 2013

Dear Robert, My experience, and what I’ve seen from other artist friends, is that online sales can actually provide a steady stream of income for self-representing artists. However, just as a self-employed individual must be responsible for running every aspect of their business, likewise, a self-representing artist must be responsible for running every aspect of their online business. That means understanding what type of customer shops online and which only browses online, but prefers in-person appointments before purchase; doing your own marketing and promotions: in other words, using everything from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and your own email list of friends/clients to raise awareness about your latest artwork, any summer / holiday sales you might be doing, or any newsworthy tid-bits, eg an award, or paricularly commendable commission; and finally, doing your own public-relations – researching, reaching out to, and nuturing relationships with local media / local institutions (libraries, musuems etc) and blogs, to raise your profile, and using the online gallery as an easy place for people to view/buy your art. In other words, you are wearing a gallery-owner’s hat half the time, and the artist’s hat the other half. Yes, it’s quite a lot of work. That’s why galleries charge 50% of the artwork sale. As with any self-employed venture, you will probably not see immediate returns on time/money invested: you must build clientele, your reputation etc. In about 6-8 months you will find your venture has built enough momentum to be reasonably self-sustaining. I personally know of an artist who makes about U.S $200,000 a year doing online exclusively sales — mostly of high-quality copies of his work – but his artwork is very well suited to the medium; it’s colourful, poster-like, and he invested early on in a high-quality professional printer. I also know of another artist who steadily sells small original artwork, giving him a steady income of about U.S $1,000 – $2,000 a month. But again, both of these artists consistently devote about 5-6 hours of their day (thoughout the day) doing the business-end of art. In short, online sales can be sustaining and lucrative, but as with good artwork, there are no easy shortcuts. Hard work, dedication and discipline yields results.

From: John Berry — Oct 15, 2013

Robert, I know you have written about the number of artists working or trying to work now days compared to days of yore, and at times this has caused me to pause and think of my place in all of that. I have come to the conclusion that sites and places such as FAA have little negative and possibly a positive effect on the art world. It seems a “separation” is taking place, a weeding out if you will, of amatuer v. professional artists. The pro’s will continue to sell work by tried and true methods. The special people who collect will continue to collect by those methods, adding the internet once they have seen in person or previously collected an artist’s work. The other internet clutter sites (FAA etc etc) will do it’s job by keeping the amateurs busy and out of the true market place.

From: Laura Zerebeski — Oct 15, 2013

Online art galleries and art sales sites tend to be afflicted with the same thing: volume. There are SO MANY things to look at. This is when free will bumps up against commoditization. People looking for inexpensive art to brighten their walls or shelves might shop online but most seem to want to go to IKEA or some other discounty place where they can see what they’re buying and get a better sense of color and scale. Shipping is usually the deciding factor. If the shipping cost makes the product more expensive than what you can buy locally, then it’s almost always a lost sale. There seem to be an awful lot of art sites out there. I’ve tried a handful of them. Fine Art America has good search engine placement and I have sold a couple pieces because of them but not directly through their interface. I have also tried other sites like Gallerish, Myartspace (now defunct), Artweb, and Paintings I Love but, man, the interfaces are often difficult and the effort to upload and catalogue your work can be tedious. I don’t even bother keeping my inventory up to date; I post things that are already sold. The kind of art I create and my selling model – sell big but sell rarely – means I have more of a relationship business. I have a difficult time understanding how people would use these sites to buy big ($5000-plus) art. If I’m going to spend thousands of bucks on a piece of art, I want to meet the creator or go through a reputable gallery or agent. Then again, maybe there are people for whom $5000 is a mere pittance. I’d love to meet them. Somehow, I doubt they are hanging around online art web sites.

From: Mary Adams — Oct 15, 2013

Thank you Robert for all your informative letters and from my checking out various galleries, I would say there appears to be so much art out there, that art collectors can be picky and are waiting for those masterpieces to appear. That’s my take. Times are changing, but really fine art shouldn’t change. Galleries probably pay high rent but I am not willing to part with my art so others can make a profit off my labor. Build it they will come is my belief and if the greatness is in one’s art; then the money will come. Next week I have the opportunity to be televised and on ‘Youtube’, so I will show my art publicly for the first time.

From: Rick Rotante — Oct 15, 2013

Robert – I don’t belong nor do I join mass artists sites. They really never get noticed and suck money from artists. On the opposite side of the coin I have had my own web site for years. BUT- here is the catch. Unless someone I’ve met and given a card to or someone who has been to one of my “brick and mortar” galleries, has you have described them -seen my work – the only thing that happens is I get hundreds of “hits” daily from all over the world. In recent years -after the “crash” one person has bought from my site. Before the “crash” – I was selling well. The thing here is – no one will find you anymore with the proliferating of artist’s sites now on the Internet There are so many sites -with mediocre to bad art – on the Internet. I don’t think anyone sees anything they want to buy without thinking of touching it first. The Trick– if you can call it a trick — is after selling one piece, is to cultivate the buyer by sending updates of work that they might like to see or buy. Word of mouth, about you and your site, is still number one to get anyone to visit your site.

From: Nick Esterbrook — Oct 15, 2013

Amazon Art–where hobby painters dare to dream

From: Zeb Winfield — Oct 15, 2013

I like the big Chinese sites best–they’ll make you a nice oil painting to order for 30–40–or 50 bucks–even one of yours Robert…

From: Charlie Halpin — Oct 15, 2013

I use FAA as a database and a way to automatically update social media. I am unsure of anything beyond that. But will give it a chance. Prints aside, my originals are still only available through my gallery and I intend to stay will my gallery. Also I love your art Robert. I have your book as well. A first edition. Hope to meet you one day. All the best fellow artists.

From: Peter Worsley — Oct 15, 2013

It is hard to get reliable data on the performance of most online galleries. But many B&M galleries are adding websites with online galleries. Several gallery owners I know, claim that they have more than enough success to justify the expense.

From: Shirley Erskine — Oct 15, 2013

I feel that it is difficult for anyone to select art that has a collage texture, a soft gentle pastel, the smell of an oil or the sleek texture of an encaustic finish from a CD image. I also find that to be a difficult way to jury a show, so how could one make a purchase without seeing the work in person? Having juried shows from CDs and then being asked to go to the take in and select the awards, it is sometimes a shock when you see what you have selected and wonder what made you do so. I really hope that the brick and mortar galleries are not completely passé. Online buying would be like buying a dress without trying it in and twirling around a couple of times to see if it is a “good fit” for you! You have to live with the painting before it becomes yours to own. Step in closely to see the texture, step back to see the over all image, smell it and if no one is watching, touch it. Make it yours in every sense.

From: James Kissel — Oct 15, 2013

The larger problem is that there is too much art being produced. These big sites are taking care of the overflow….

From: Grace Karczewski — Oct 15, 2013
From: Jacquelyn Sloane Siklos — Oct 15, 2013

Recently, I have sold several photographs and paintings on Amazon. I am uncertain whether it is the novelty, or simply the stupidity of a lot of amateur collectors (yes, my tongue is firmly in my cheek), but I am equally sure I don’t care who the buyer is, so long as there is one. It was thrilling to send some work back out of my studio, even though I don’t make much from them – and it has renewed my resolve to return to work in my studio.

From: Pat Wafer — Oct 15, 2013

I paint and collect art and the only online buying I’ve do was from a small UK online gallery because it had works by 2 artists that I was particularly interested in. I corresponded with the gallery owner and one of the artists by email before buying so it was not at all impersonal. I felt the prices for the pieces were less than I would have had to pay in a gallery and I do all my own framing so I did not want the works framed. All 3 works exceeded my expectations in quality and I love them all. I could not afford to go to the UK to buy them so for me the online option was great but I agree that normally I like to buy from galleries that I personally know and like.

From: L. Leo Fernandez — Oct 15, 2013

I find it hard to believe that this woman of high principles would make such a poor business decision.

From: Karla Pearce — Oct 15, 2013

Sorry Robert. The art market is flat. Its because all the baby boomers are dumping their collections on e-bay for .10 on the dollar. I get at least 4 a month walking through the doors trying to sell their collections. They want the money. None of the young artists have a hope in hell of supporting themselves through painting like you did. Young artists have to think of new ways to make a living. People have lots of recreation time to learn how to do these things for them selves. Lets face it, given enough time, anyone can take good photographs.. anyone can create a painting for their home. Why would you buy one?

From: Patton Hunter — Oct 15, 2013

Robert, you are so correct. I put up a website 18 years ago. In the first two years I sold five paintings. I thought this was terrible until I didn’t sell a single painting for the following 16 years (from the Internet). In addition to my private website, I’m on several big sites like Artsy,, FAA, Saatchi,etc., without success. I sold two sets of greeting cards on FAA to a buyer who owned originals of two works featured there. Even that sale was a result of my direct marketing to that buyer, telling him that his paintings were on the site and he could now make the invitation cards he had asked me about. I have relatively good sales because I live in a modern, open loft space where I can hold studio parties several times a year and target specific groups of people. Unfortunately, few artists have a similar live/work arrangement and depend on galleries, which are struggling to stay in business, too. You mentioned no responses from the FAA site so I want to tell you that I forwarded your newsletter to about eight artists with whom I work once a week and are always interested in what’s going on in the art world. Several of them are now your subscribers. You have a way of hitting the mark on so many aspects of the business.

From: Lorraine McIntyre — Oct 15, 2013

I tend to agree with you about sales on Amazon. If I wanted to be seen or buy I would rather support a local Gallery, in my community or certainly within the BC, Canada Galleries. My principles say buy local and support the artist within your circle that you enjoy. The older I get the stronger I feel about this. Online is great for some things but our local unknown artists have a lot to offer.

From: Liz Gowen — Oct 15, 2013

The problem I have found with online art sites is still color. If I know an artists work I might buy a less expensive piece with pottery now under 100.00. I have a collection of pieces I purchased online that are in my “TO BE DONATED “ for the full tax deduction because I really disliked the glaze, the color that if I had been there in person I never would have bought it pieces. I am physically challenged so can’t travel much at all and like to be able to shop online. Would love to see it get better but not sure how. For potters would sample tiles of a glaze help? I am not sure. Certainly more shots with differently angles but I still ended up with a well know potters platter for 400.00 that hangs behind my door.

From: Charles Eisener — Oct 15, 2013

As a “recreational” acrylic painter, I have a variety of art books on hand. Most of these have rather decent color reproductions of works from various artists. A couple years back, I was able to visit the special Van Gogh exhibit hosted by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and was as they say, “blown away”. Print media simply do not do justice to works of art. The limitations include paper quality, type of press, selection of inks and pigments, color balance, the quality of the actual image provided to the printer, and so on. The flat lighting used to provide the printer copy eliminates much of the brushwork, texture, and unique quality of the work. Computer images suffer from many unique factors, depending upon the monitor type, brand, graphics hardware/software. How many typical home computers have their monitors properly color balanced? Buying posters online is one thing, but I would be very cautious about purchasing fine art without seeing it up close before the money is on the table. Did I ever? Once! After seeing the work in print and online, I made a commit, but was given the opportunity to cancel or pay up when I examined the work in person. As for Vincent, let’s just say that I have a very different appreciation for him and his works than I did prior to my visit to Philly.

From: Karen R Phiney — Oct 15, 2013

This has confirmed my own suspicions. Everyone has been very “bullish” about selling online. I still think buying art is emotional as well as aesthetic, financial, and/or practical in any way. You respond to something, and then you “have to have it”. If you are seeing it on a screen, you don’t have a sense (often) of scale or texture or “feel”. Seeing a real, live piece of art, be it on a canvas, on paper or whatever, makes a huge difference. The piece is almost alive to you, if you connect with it. Harder to do with a screen, I am thinking. However, not to take away in any sense from those who are successful in selling on line. Good on ’em, I say! I just don’t think that will totally replace a bricks and mortar gallery, with a smart gallery person who will talk about the art and stir your passion. We need stories sometimes, too!

From: H Margret — Oct 15, 2013

Interesting timing on the subject of your letter. Just last week, I signed up for the premier subscription on’s site. Cost $165/year, plus $10 extra to “sell” your work. I currently have no gallery and thought this was a way to stay “out there with an inexpensive web site.” I got a call from my bank last night that my bank card had been hacked and three charges from the Chech Republic had been made, with a 4th, thank heavens, declined by my bank due to suspicious activity. I’ve never had a hacking problem before although I shop online often. This might never happen with Amazon, but last night I cleared all my art & info off the site and requested a refund. I also cleared my art off just in case. So there’s an experience to post for other artists to beware of. is not a secure site. Enough Said! I’ll probably never get that refund & have lost the $175 (which could buy a lot of supplies), not to mention the bank charges, if I can’t get out of paying them…..So this artist will stay with tried & true methods of selling now. Identity & credit theft or loss of inventory are not worth the risk for a little exposure. As a former gallery owner myself, I know we are going into “retail hell” due to bankster manipulations, but artists need to stay focused on creative ways to keep themselves productive without throwing out their integrity.

From: Gilda Pontbriand — Oct 15, 2013

After a friend insisted a few times, I registered with Fine Art America to post some of my limited edition photographs, thinking that it is the kind of thing that would easily sell in a web like that. I get a weekly report but I have never seen any reference to your letters nor to your site. Am I going blind? or maybe your info is not well advertised?? Many people have seen my photographs, but no sales yet.

From: Mona Youssef — Oct 15, 2013

I am a site manager of my own small site but at the same time am the artist who is capable of selling online independently. So, maybe I am the one to write you and say you are wrong in some people’s eyes but NOT in my opinion. All those websites, specially the big ones, as you mentioned, are among the art sharks and controllers of the art market and of artists. I understand the game but need time to explain unless you know what I MEAN. I feel bad for artists who lack such knowledge and follow, like blind sheep, a selfish shepherded. I receive many offers of those ones but I guess you know what my responses would be, if I even bother to reply, delete or block. Artists need to learn how to market themselves for the simple fact that they are the creators and producers of their artwork where they invest whole their lives. Why would I give my neck to someone who is holding a sharp knife! Some galleries are closing down or reducing sizes for the same reason. Successful business has to work for all parties not only for one way street and always artists get to pay the price. When will the table turns around and artists take control of their artwork and set their Terms and Conditions? I wonder! I am not against professional galleries as they do their homework well and work the two ways street.

From: Lee Mothes — Oct 15, 2013

You have confirmed my suspicion that online galleries are frequented only by low-end, poster seeking bottom feeders.

From: Anita Slevin — Oct 15, 2013

You know that “chicken and egg” idea? Well, I believe strongly that the art market is tied to art education. If children don’t learn to make art and value art at an early age, how will they grow up to be art appreciators and art purchasers? Perhaps galleries owners could benefit from an investment of time by encouraging local school districts to provide quality art education to their future customers. Just consider how much time, effort and money is spent on sports education in school districts. Then consider the sports market.

From: Kelley MacDonald — Oct 15, 2013

I think it’s to new to say, Robert, but I do believe there’s a price point involved. I don’t think people will part with more than a few hundred dollars for online-viewed art. Because what captivates people is the heartbeat-to-canvas experience, yes, enhanced by the gallerinas. But since I do both, I’m happy with my bread-and-butter online sales. For larger pieces I feel I need a gallery. I don’t think very many people are going around spending thousands of dollars on something they find online. IMHO.

From: Susan Marx — Oct 15, 2013

I would never buy a painting from a website, why would I expect anyone else to do so? How can you see/feel the paint from a photograph? How can you feel the size of the artwork? In my humble opinion, trying to sell online is a waste of time. A good way to introduce yourself on a personal website, but more than that…. no way.

From: Linda Anderson Stewart — Oct 15, 2013

Glad you are addressing this subject…it’s the real world we face everyday, those of us who are still struggling to reach a “making a living” status. These sites are very seductive…but they DON’T work and are costing us all in the end by making “art” a trivial commodity. In a world where everyone wants something for nothing painting is losing it’s stature…we mustn’t let it. Tho many of us may starve along the way.

From: Dorise Ford — Oct 15, 2013

Bezos has so much money that he is financing a 10,000 year clock in Texas where the land is stable in a mountain and my son is in charge of getting all the parts counted and shipped properly from here in California. If you Google LONG CLOCK you can read about it. Why is he doing this? Because he can. I am happy my son has work at this point but can think of a lot of other ways Bezos can spend his millions helping others. It sounds like a monument to the man’s ego but as long as there are wealthy people they will indulge themselves.

From: Erika Schulz — Oct 15, 2013

I agree with you Robert, to an extent. I do think that most of the “Fine Art” websites are not worth the time and effort of most artists. Saying that though I do sell my work through and I would say that it has definitely been worth my time. “Handmade” websites are better places for artists who sell prints and also create small originals. These websites cater to the home shopper in a much more organic way. Size and price point are important aspects to marketing on these sites. I have had moderate success, and there are great success stories. You may be competing for sales against a broader range of products, but on the whole the clientele is more educated about artist made items and they are internet savvy shoppers. As has been said previously you do have to put in your elbow grease in this case as well. As a part of a broader internet presence/branding, having a site that is capable of handling sales for you is an important part of that equation. You just have to find the right one.

From: K. Joann Russell — Oct 15, 2013
From: Jonathan Bradley — Oct 15, 2013

The main part of a painting is selling it.

From: Irene Kuziw — Oct 15, 2013
From: Carol Kairis — Oct 16, 2013

Upon “A road less traveled”…my friends gather. Footprints upon the soil…casting shadows within it’s depth.

From: Robert Sesco — Oct 16, 2013
From: Pat Zalisko — Oct 16, 2013

I have family working for a major internationally-based auction house. The big houses – Bonham’s, Sotheby’s and Christie’s – are venturing into on-line auctions and direct sales of luxury goods and art. Artbomb Canada and Artbomb NY are other examples of online art auctioneers and direct sales. Another major retailer, Ralph Lauren, who owes a small group of luxury retail stores, catering in equine art and unique antique jewelry and watches, is a prominent example of successful on-line sales. Amazon’s venture may be a poor example, but the others are popular and well-done. I agree with you: there is much to be gained by the experience of seeing art in a well-run gallery. But as for electronic sales, it is the wave of the future it seems, particularly among younger, more affluent and upwardly mobile collectors. Fort Myers, FL, USA

From: Merv Bellini — Oct 16, 2013
From: Brad Jermyn — Oct 16, 2013

Where art is doing well on the net is where digital art is being offered digitally. Check out Tumblr

From: Barb — Oct 16, 2013

Good point. The elite sellers like Ralph Lauren and Christies work excellently on line because they carry the image of their luxurious B&M spaces. I know of a few local luxurious galleries that decide to go on line, and soon after that exclusively on-line and soon after that nobody was on line – they all went bust. As soon as buyers lose the memory of a luxurious gallery, they start imagining a sweaty guy in a basement with a lap top, and the allure is gone…

From: Mandy Main — Oct 17, 2013
From: Laurel Adams — Oct 17, 2013

A glaringly obvious decline for the “excellent” over the facile/cheap mirrors the epidemic acceptance of mediocrity and extends to The Arts in general.

From: Lars Lindstrom — Oct 17, 2013

Great trends take a while to be accepted because quality is not up to speed. Look at how bad TV image quality was when it first came out. I, personally have some expectation that digital online sales will eventually become the new normal.

From: Petra Eubanks — Oct 17, 2013

I hope these sites don’t make it. But that goes to show you how uneducated in the arts the public is. I am an artist now, but there was a time when I did not understand the effort, time and money it takes to become an artist and also why we are artist and the beauty behind it. Many younger people cannot afford an expensive or even a reasonable piece of art, but are willing to plop down money for several $50 dollar cheap print from retail stores. How do you educate the masses to keep sites like these from being successful?

From: Brian Dunleavy — Oct 17, 2013

The internet is very good at selling branded items where the price and quality are understood. An artist’s product is by its very nature unique. It may be unique rubbish or a unique masterpiece but either way it is difficult to market. You have always been a champion of art galleries and although ten years ago I doubted their survival I have now come to believe you are right. I ventured into web sales in the 1990s and had some success until I began to slip down to page 329 of the Google rankings. And since I was unwilling to pay huge sums for a higher placement I let my internet presence slide into obscurity. I did tie in with a London-based internet gallery and I do sell the odd painrting, once every few years – hardly a sensible proposition. Art is a difficult purchase. The buyer has to like it. The buyer’s spouse has to like it, or at least not object to it. Decisions have to be made about where it will fit in the home, and so on. All of these potential obstacles to buying require a sympathetic, even empathetic, human being on hand to bring the decision to a satisfactory conclusion. Art galleries will survive!

From: June Tucarella — Oct 17, 2013

I have been in a gallery now for almost 2 months & have sold 2 ptgs, I guess u could call us a co-op, as there are 24 artists that give 5 hrs, ea. wk. in the gallery. I make good use of that time, as I paint in the window, it certainly entices people to come in & visit. I find it heart warming to encourage young artists, & meet people from other states. I have about a 40 min. drive, but it’s worth it, to be w/ your peers & hearing great stories from complete strangers! You must have the FIRE IN YOUR BELLY! thank u for your encouraging mail each week, u r the best!

From: Camille Bodey — Oct 17, 2013

Thank you for this observation on online galleries etc. I would really like to know if any artists are working with Saatchi or Weebly and what they thin of those.

From: Charmaine Burke — Oct 17, 2013

Some of my friends have their own websites. Unsure about overseas markets but I do know they seek regularly (if slowly) at leafs on a National level (Australia). Both of them also have regular showings at joint or solo exhibitions and the sales there are always better. Another artist friend from one state sells all her things in another State as she says it is easier to sell in X rather than in her home state. Yet other friend in a third state sells mostly to overseas buyers and have had a few (not huge numbers bit maybe every 2 years or so) exhibitions overseas rather than in their own state for much the same reasons. unsure if this is peculiar to Australia or if the ‘prophet in his own town’ syndrome is operating equally well in other places Most of my sales are via commissioned works but once returned from my travels am hoping to join a few of the local Art groups exhibitions as well to try that out.

From: Jim Furlong — Oct 17, 2013

I have about one hundred images of acrylic on canvas on the FAA site and have never sold one thing

From: Jackie Knott — Oct 17, 2013
From: Sharon Rusch Shaver — Oct 17, 2013
From: Nancy Romanovsky — Oct 17, 2013

Since Amazon Art went live in August I have sold two paintings with them. I agree, it’s not going to provide a living for me, but it’s better than my art not being seen at all…I think.

From: Harold Joiner — Oct 17, 2013

I had a presence on Amazon Art for two weeks after the site’s launch when I sold a painting. In my communication with the purchaser, he said he and his wife looked at about 6000 paintings before choosing mine! Amazon has a sliding scale for commissions, and in this case I paid them about a 8.5% commission. Keep in mind that all artwork sold on Amazon is through a gallery, so there might also be a gallery commission. Amazon does not accept work from individual artists but only from artists affiliated with established galleries. It is the gallery that signs up with Amazon, not the individual artist. In my case, Archway Gallery has set its commission for Amazon sales extremely low. All things considered, this sale cost me less in commissions than an ordinary sale in a brick-and-mortar gallery.

From: Marisa Petersen — Oct 17, 2013

Thoughtful people are all too aware of the spell that technology has cast upon the unsuspecting. Entire books are now written about i-addictions and detox centers for people who can no longer function socially face-to-face, but thrive on social networks, and in text-and-twitter spheres. This too will pass. We are designed to appreciate beauty and craftsmanship, to know the spirit that imagined and then transformed their vision into the painting, the tapestry, the pot, the sculpture. (Southern Oregon)

From: Linus Beekmann — Oct 17, 2013

Except for digging up historical work submitted to eBay by sellers who are out of touch with current prices and are the legitimate prey of the better informed, no sophisticated buyers are buying online.

From: Pierre Levis — Oct 17, 2013

Regarding Marisa Petersen’s remark, above, what if the spell of technology does not pass, the world becomes a more fearful place where people dare not go out into crowds, and interacting on line becomes the choice of most?

From: Val Norberry VanOrden — Oct 21, 2013

I’m glad you tried to encourage the artists on FAA, as I am one of them. I do like the groups on FAA such as sepia artwork. I think FAA has its place and you have yours. Maybe Amazon is the place for “collectibles” like Danbury mint, etc. We all have our place and the universe is big enough for all of us.

From: Carol Kapuscinsky — Oct 23, 2013
From: val norberry vanorden — Oct 24, 2013
  Featured Workshop: Robert Leedy 101813_robert-genn Robert Leedy Workshops Held in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico   The Workshop Calendar provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order.     woa  

Road to Town

watercolour painting by Ken Marsden, Marinette, WI, USA

You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013. That includes Sam Seamans of Newton, NJ, USA who wrote, “Art Galleries are like good book stores. The excitement, smells and layout draw me in and transcends online art or e-book reading. What Amazon doesn’t understand is that buying art is not like buying a toaster — buying art is a visual, emotional and sometimes a spiritual experience.” And also Peter Stevenson of Lehigh Valley, PA, USA, who wrote, “I am confused over your omission of outrage over the extinction of the visceral experience while viewing and buying art. Do you not take umbrage? I’m quite frankly nauseated to envision the future of art appreciation. Maybe we should all be designing Zeppelin covers instead?”  

Robert and Sara Genn Twice-Weekly Letters

Subscribe and receive the Twice-Weekly letter on art. You’ll be joining a worldwide community of artists.
Subscription is free.