Art, Art & Design, Business, Society6

How to know what sells for you

I thought we’d switch it up a bit and talk about the business side of art.  I’ve invested countless sleepless nights trying to decide what direction to take my art in, but the truth is when I sit down to design I really am inspired more by my imagination than by a certain aesthetic.  I tend to be a “seat of my pants” sort of artist because as I’m playing around with my designs I discover something that I really like and then I’m off in that direction (sometimes with some pretty cool results).

So this morning (at around 4:15 to be precise) it occurred to me that I have never graphically laid out my sales in a way that would allow me to look at the work I’ve sold overall – to try and get an idea of what’s actually selling.  So after getting my morning chores done, I set about doing some math and getting together this graphic:

sales graphic

These are my most popular designs on Society6, ordered from most sold (top left) to somewhere in the upper middle range of sales (bottom right).  I didn’t include those designs I only sold once.  I organized it according to actual money made, as opposed to most times sold, but that would really just change the order of these images a bit.  It was an easy enough project…but the hard part is in analyzing it.

The design on the top left – titled Falling Industrial was actually selected by Society6 for one of their landing pages.  This probably helped that design to make a little more money, but another design that was also selected at about the same time hasn’t sold at all.  This leads me to believe while being featured might give it a little boost, it’s probably not enough to make or break a design.   The one immediately below that is called Craftsman Night, and I’ve sold LOTS of that print on different sites.  Actually, I think that’s my biggest seller ever.

So when you sit back and look at these 12 designs, what’s the first word that comes to your mind (seriously, I’d love you to leave me one word in the comments section).  My first thought was “neutral” – all of these designs share a pretty neutral color palette.  My second thought was “navy” but “blue” is probably a bit more accurate.   Then that burnt orange/rust color shows up a lot.  In terms of style, two are pretty art deco, one’s a little more mid-century modern, five are Asian influenced (that peony series really paid off).  All of them are pretty simple – meaning there’s not a lot of complicated line work with texture – it’s generally either one or the other.  With the exception of Craftsman Night and the floral (Tropical Blaze) in the lower right corner, the color palettes are pretty minimal.    

I should also note that only three of them were actually designed as patterns,  and three from one collection are in the top 8 in terms of sales.  The rest were conceived as stand alone designs.  The mountain picture came about by chance; I was playing with layering texture and wound up with burnt orange mountains.  I really liked it so I put it in my shop and it sold.  Go figure.  The Art Deco inspiration comes up a lot in my work, as do the global influences.

There is a bit of a “chicken and the egg” dilemma in this project.  Did I sell more of these prints because I work more in this style, or are these really what people are looking to buy?  I didn’t start this project to find the answer to that question.  I did it to find out what I’ve sold, but also so I could look for anything consistent in the sales.  I think I found out both of those things to a degree, but I expect as time goes on the images in the grid will change.

At this point I’d love to say “Aha!  I now know what all of my future designs will be based on!  It’s science and math, people!”  but truthfully, I’ll continue to design and paint just because I love to do it.  I’ll be inspired by different things.  I’ll choose different colors.  But I do think this exercise will lodge itself into my brain a bit and influence some of my choices.  For instance, I’d forgotten how much fun it is to create a simple floral and manipulate it in multiple ways like those white peonies.  I also haven’t played with my texture files in a while, so more weathered metal elements will probably find their way into my work.  I had also forgotten how nice it is to just design a square piece of art without worrying about putting it into repeat or developing coordinates.

So if you’ve been throwing stuff at the wall for a while now, and you have a decent amount of sales and a variety of art work this exercise might benefit you.  I’m pretty sure I’ll spend a few days just mulling over my discovery and reconnecting with some of things I used to love to do but haven’t experimented with in a while.

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