Top Five, and is digital really an art form?

Art isn't about colouring in the lines, making sure the camera is in focus, or having an eraser. It's about being able to show who you really are. Does it then matter how you produce your art?

I have said it before, if you are trying to make a living out of selling your art, sometimes you feel you have no choice other than to be safe. If that means using canvas and brushes, creating an abstract, or a landscape, then that's your style and it's a huge leap to move to working with a purely digital format.

There's just not the haptic feedback from a stylus on a tablet device that you would get from painting directly on paper. Maybe that's an unidentified niche the stylus manufacturers are missing? I'll of course claim all copyright on this idea, and expect at least 50% of all proceeds. It's now online so I have a valid claim right?

This lack of haptic feedback in itself was a huge transition for me when I started to create artworks to sell. I wanted to be able to keep up the pace expected of selling through Print On Demand, and clearly digital was going to be the most convenient method for me.

But even though I had been creating digital art in some form since the early eighties, I could and still can never resist the feel of brush, sharpie, or pen, on paper. The transition to creating art commercially through a digital medium was a steep learning curve. The transition to selling through Print On Demand, yeah, that was steeper still.

Digital art is gaining some popularity amongst savvy collectors who recognise that this relatively new art medium is a worthwhile investment. It's still difficult though to encourage traditional collectors to make an investment in a purely digital form, they still like to visit a gallery, (so do I), they still like the feel of the paint, the texture of the canvas, the great looking frame, and, yes; so do I. That's what makes digital a challenge. But it's a challenge the digital community and even traditional galleries, are and indeed have started to accept of late.

Even I would love an original Matisse over a digital representation of a similar piece. To be honest, I think the digital art community need to also convince themselves that digital, paper, parchment, canvas, are all acceptable.

Not so much the art installations of a dead cow, I've never really got that at all. Each to their own they say. I just really can't see the joy in spending a million on a dead cow. That's because I'm either very careful with my money, although I have no choice I married my bank manager, and I don't have a million, or because no matter how hard I look for the art, I'm thinking of the poor cow. Maybe that's the whole point, I really don't understand that type of art at all. Having said that, I have a partnership with the local butchers and we can work out a deal!

Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio is known to be an avid art collector, and is regularly seen attending major art fairs throughout the US. However, according to the Internet this week, rather than gracing the booths at a New York fair last week, DiCaprio spotted his latest acquisition on Instagram and called the gallery to secure the piece.

The piece wasn't digital itself, but it clearly shows that using social media to promote art has a reasonable chance of being successful. What it also shows is that buyers are now seeking new art online, and that is a good thing for digital artists. All I need is for Leo to follow my Facebook and Pinterest accounts. Pretty sure I have an Instagram account, but the password is beyond me remembering, and it's probably the same one I used for my MySpace account back in the day.

What Leonardo DiCaprio essentially did was buy into a digital representation of the art work. That's certainly encouraging for digital artists, but there's a real need to then ensure that the item the buyer receives meets the quality required by real collectors. Easy when the piece is essentially under the control of a gallery, not quite so easy for us mere mortals scratching a living through Print On Demand.

So here are my top five tips for ensuring your digital art meets a real art collectors expectations.

5. Make sure that any sizing is correct for the product you are going to sell when using print on demand services. I rarely use the minimum sizes recommended by the POD sites. Making my work bigger gives me a wider market, more potential products, and also ensures that there's no blockiness on the finished products. You can always downsize a piece to fit, but believe me, it is really, really difficult to upsize a finished piece without loosing quality.

4. Make a point of buying a sample of your own work from the POD services. There's nothing like knowing the quality is as good as you would want to hang on your own wall. It will also make a good sample to show people the quality of the finished products.

3. I use a few local print shops to create my pieces for direct sales. The same thing applies to Checking out the quality of these as well. The difference is that with a good local printer, they're more likely to give you a sample of your work, or offer a good discount so you can show others.

The reason I use a few local companies is that it's actually rare to find a single supplier who excels at everything. I know that one of my local suppliers excels in stretched canvas prints, another is better at creating great mugs and other non wall hanging items, and another specialises in framing. In fact the latter sold all of his printers recently and I was gutted to have not known. I would have paid better money than he made for his commercial grade A3 printer.

It can, and indeed does cause some extra work when selling directly, but it's worth it if the client is happy. You can also make a little bit more than selling through Print On Demand. Much more? Well.. Occasionally, and it still works out cheaper for the customer that them purchasing through POD services. I have grown a reasonable collector base who now only buy directly, but it takes some time to get it all in line. It's also about having a personal connection with the client, and instinctively knowing who will give you the best end product.

2. Choose a print on demand service that works for you. I can't begin to tell you how important this is. Firstly you want to make sure that the POD service offers a great quality end product, that really goes without saying.

Secondly, it can be really hard work putting pieces of completed work online, especially if you are doing it across three or more POD sites. I sell through three POD services as well as directly, but I tend to focus all of my work on one (Zazzle) because they offer a huge range of products. I never use their Quick Create option, tried it, didn't like the results. I spend in excess of six hours uploading and creating whenever I do a bulk upload of new work.

My premium pieces I offer on Fine Art America. I don't post everything I create on FAA, but I have worked out that my buyers are likely to be younger on Zazzle, and may want a huge range of available options, but on FAA, my demographic is different and are mainly looking for traditional art on canvas.

I have also recently started using RedBubble. Their prices are lower that either Zazzle or FAA, but the demographic is entirely different again. I tend to use RedBubble for phone cases, although I do offer some of my other works through the site as well.

Having said this, a combination of the above might work differently for your art. Perhaps you will take advantage of the premium features for an annual fee from FAA, and post everything on there, and then maybe use Zazzle, RedBubble and maybe Society 6 for a more limited range. Maybe, you decide to offer everything everywhere, which I what I would love to be able to do, but frankly that's going to take a fair bit of commitment in terms of time.

1. Experiment. Unless you have a definitive niche, you'll likely be like I was in my early days of using POD services and expect to sell whatever it is you have created. Oh, and get a sale the immediate minute after you have posted it. Yeah, quick learning curve here as well. Lower your expectations, these things take time.

What I have learned is that art is very individual. That piece I expected to sell by the truck load actually got ignored for the most part. Only to be overtaken by a piece that took me way less time to produce, a piece that I thought would have been limited to a very niche market, and was actually more expensive than my original masterpiece when it went online. It has since sold, but I'm still hoping for a lottery win.

It's impossible at the moment to say what sells best. For art collectors, landscapes, abstracts, seascapes, seem to be just as you would expect them to be, right at the top of most collectors wish lists. These regularly get stacked on Art Stack ( but actually there are many still life/nudes that regularly get stacked way more than a traditional landscape. Most POD sites are a little restrictive about posting nudes, whenever they do, you'll need to set it within a category which might not be safe for viewing at work, and if the default setting for buyers is to not display this content, yeah, I guess you'll have a few less buyers.

What I can glean from this is that if you randomly produce art without considering what your buyers and indeed possible collectors want, you are unlikely to sell much to a wide audience. Or, you might just get lucky! Also of note at this point, I would sooner have 10 collectors over a 100 buyers, but I'll deal with that in another post!

In summary, use the early days of selling through POD services to identify your target audience. Keep up with forums, and always, always keep an eye on the best selling list of each site. If you can produce art in that style, then it's kind of all good, you'll have a market. Problem is at that point, you'll be up against a whole heap of competition. If you have an under represented niche, then you'll either be discovered as a genius, or you could be waiting for a while for a sale. My first commercial piece took nearly three years before anyone actually paid for the pleasure of owning a print of it! In the interim I had sold pretty much everything else in some form, but that original masterpiece that I was sure would make me very wealthy, just added to my stress.

Is digital a real art?

So is digital an art form that is now more socially accepted by the traditional art collector? Probably more than it was this time last year, and the year before, but there's certainly some work that needs to done by the digital art producing community to make it as collectible as say a Rembrandt.

I also wonder if Rembrandt would use an iPad if he was around today? I'd like to think he would, in reality he would probably stick with what was going to make him a few pennies. Time to make a push my dear digital artist friends!

Would you buy digital art over more traditional artwork? Would be great to find out.

Why not follow me on Facebook at - I do tend to showcase some of my in progress works on my Facebook page from time to time, and share some of my other interests and passions!




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