Can Making Smaller Paintings or Crafts Pay off for YOU? When Working Smaller is Working Smarter

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Have you been hearing about the mini movement in paintings and crafts? Almost every arts publication these days has reference to producing smaller, less expensive pieces and more of them.

When someone asks an artist to create a smaller piece, they always assume smaller means it should cost less. Sometimes this is true from a materials cost alone but frequently, working on  a smaller scale is more challenging and more time consuming. So,

initially, my rection to this mini movement was less than enthusiastic. If you’ve been following me, you know that I suggest artists and craftspeople have a wide range of prices. I also advocate printing, casting, licensing  or in some way, reproducing a portion of your work to add leveraged income. I also recommend keeping part of your line limited editions and originals, as very high end, like the bread and butter pieces, continue to do well in slower economic times.

Is working smaller working smarter? Not neccessarily if your smaller works are originals and done in the same style as your larger pieces. You can, however, develop a line of what I call “speed” works. Depending on your medium, this might mean altering your working style. For some artists, this is a great experiment in getting out of a rut. A reason to try something new. There are lots of options from painting smaller works in the “Painting a Day” fashion that was so popular a few years ago, to still working large but then selling your work as pieces of a collection.  It’s also possible that the quick sketches you see as preliminary to larger works can be sold as stand alone originals. We all know that in the world of art, there is no correlation between time spent and the dollar your work commands. And as a collector, I will tell you that some of my favorite pieces are quick line drawings. One cherished piece is a simple ink drawing of a Mantee we purchased in a Wyland Gallery years ago. Yes, it could have cost as much as one of his detailed paintings, but that was the piece that spoke to us so we puchased it without thought to how ‘little time” was involved in the work. Think of John Lennon’s whimsical line drawings. They’d be charming and command good prices even if he were an unkown (or were still alive.) Same with Picasso’s “Dance of Youth” or “Bouquet”. He likely didn’t produce them with marketing in mind but they have an appeal separate from the more time consuming, detailed paintings and were I to come across him as an unkown, alive today, I’d prefer to purchase those drawings. Those simpler works do not compromise the integrity of the artists other work.

If you’re a jewelry artist,  begin thinking in terms of collections as well. Yes, it takes as much time to hand fabricate a piece in sterling as in platinum or gold, so while that’s a great option for cast pieces, you’ll need to find a different way to cut down time and price on originals. If, for example, you do wire-wrapped dangly beaded bracelets, developing a line of “modular” or add-on pieces or charms is one answer to your coming up with lower price points. (I’ll tell you a secret. Customers actually end up spending more, not less because they seldom purchase just one component. They see how great the pieces you have assembled look and can’t resist adding on). The great news is, they still percieve it as a bargain because they have the option of spending less. This isn’t tricking anyone-it’s just giving them  the benefit of more choices.

If you’re someone who adores working on a large scale and the idea of selling 20 small paintings rather than one large one doesn’t appeal to you, or you feel going smaller would alter your unique style, consider a change of materials.  You may work quickly and loosely on a large scale but your supply cost is high. Consider using recycled material rather than pricey oils on a fresh, newly stretched canvas for each piece. What would your work look like if you did some of your pieces with left over interior house paint on recycled masonite?  Or, you switched from sterling wire to colored, coated wire. (this is when it’s handy to make friends with a telephone repairman-if you can find one these days.)

Now, rather than laugh, or groan,  annoyed when a customer asks if you can “make it smaller for less” and we’ve all heard that, begin thinking about ways to cut time, materials and costs on a portion of your line. But remember, don’t cut prices on your existing line. That will devalue your work and negate all the time it’s taken to build your “brand” and perceived value.  And DO keep producing some of your high end line.

If you’re feeling discouraged as you read this because you don’t see how you can apply this to your work, you’re not a painter or jeweler, there is a way to widen your price points without compromising your style, time or quality. If you need help, post your dilema on the blog and let’s see what the other readers can come up with for you. Or if you really are stumped, I do have some limited availability to work one on one and I promise you we will come up with a way to maximize yor income without compromising your craft.

What are you doing now to widen your price points? I’d love to hear how you’ve met this challenge and I know fellow readers would appreciate your sharing.

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