SELLING OUT: How it’s going

In this post I declared my intentions to start uploading a ton of simple designs to my print on demand sites in the year 2022. After the explosion of AI generated images, I already can’t believe that I once wrote that I worried about the ethics of manipulating stock art that I bought the rights to use…what a difference a year makes.

Anyway… I managed to cram a total of 200+ designs into my two most frequently used print-on-demand stores before the year ended, and have been doing my best to shove more in as we enter 2023. So the question becomes: did it help?

The answer is yes, it appears to have led to a significant increase in Redbubble sales. Teepublic ended up being about the same overall, although it seems to be picking up steam this year with 7 sales already this month.

Hold up. “SEVEN?”

Yeaaaaaahh all of this experimenting I have been doing is with an E X T R E M E L Y tiny amount of sales. As much as Redbubble assures me I am “on the way to becoming a Redbubble superstar!!!!!” it’s more like an Andy Warhol “Factory” superstar, ie the title doesn’t mean anything in terms of mainstream folks knowing anything about your brand, or earning anything approaching a living wage.

That said, let us look at my pathetic efforts to increase my even more pathetic print-on-demand sales numbers.

There you have it, the above is all the money I have made so far through Redbubble and Teepublic. I have had the odd society6 and Fine Art America sale here and there, but I haven’t been as consistently focused on either of those stores.

ANALYSIS

Here’s what I noticed happening over the last year or so as a result of my increased relatable schlock-designing efforts.

  1. Both stores experienced more unique sales in 2022. In the case of Teepublic’s “33 sales” of 2021, 20 of those are the same sticker that were all purchased in one order. Hence, there were 13 unique sales in 2021, as opposed to 18 in 2022 with an additional 7 following close on those for 2023.
  2. Bumping up the margins on the stickers on Redbubble helped immensely. The first few years, I was making as little as $0.16 on a sticker or magnet. Now, you still can’t change the margins on Teepublic, so prepare to make $0.50 on your stickers and magnets as of this writing. But at least my margins on Redbubble are a lot better now.
  3. Roughly two thirds of the newer sales were the simpler/”sellout” designs I made, meaning one third was older and more serious art designs that got noticed now that new eyes were on my shops.
  4. When I designed for newer Redbubble categories like jigsaw puzzles, people bought ’em.
  5. People seem to be responding positively to art that has words and phrases associated with it.

Conclusion

Making a lot of simpler designs and updating with them often seems to be helpful. Not only did I make more money than in previous years, my more serious and older art pieces got a second chance! Now more of them have gone to a good home. I will definitely continue to make simple designs in between my serious commissions and passion projects.

I hereby declare the Sellout Experiment of 2022 to have been a success. Twelve dollars turned into thirty-six! Six sales became twenty-one! BOY HOWDY!

initial sketch of the fanged wight guarding his treasure
If I didn’t sit down, I may FAINT

further sellout goals for 2023

I have recently read that Redbubble favors artists who upload once or twice a week, but I haven’t tested this so I can’t confirm it. Sounds like the next thing for me to test out!

I have lost all respect for Twitter so I don’t mind spamming it with self promotion. Who cares anymore!

I figured out how to make things go on sale on Etsy so I’ll hold sales and promotions and things such as that, or let people know when sales COMPLETELY BEYOND MY CONTROL hit my print-on-demand shops.

I have started experimenting with tagging my work according to trends. I am not energetic enough to create art to follow trends, but at least I can shovel them into apropos trending categories.

What will come of it all? Will twenty sales turn into *gasp* SIXTY?!?!?!?!? I sure hope I don’t get a big head and forget all my friends when I strike it rich.

See you in a year, fellow kids!

OR YOU CAN…

when ai imagery destroyed my dream, it saved me as an artist.

All my art life (which is actually all my life now that I think about it) I have worked to become a better and better artist. At some point, this became practicing every day to become a more technically excellent artist. I wanted very much to have a more steady hand, more economy of line, better compositions, superior color combinations, more dynamic movement, a better grasp of anatomy, and a better command of an ever-growing box of tools, including digital tools.

Then AI generated images came along.

Continue reading

Loving Your Rejects and Yourself

Sometimes, a piece I do won’t be used by my client.

Rejection can be surprising and downright disappointing. If I recall correctly, the two pieces below were actually declined right around the same time. It was very tempting to wallow and mope and decide there was no point in trying anymore because clearly, no one wanted me in their book ever again. Maybe you’ve felt the same if you got a rejection cluster.

Instead of giving up though, I got back up. I certainly allowed myself some wallowing and moping, sure! …But then I took a deep breath and got back to the business of making the next thing I was passionate about.

Here’s the story of how that went. Continue reading

Selling out…FOR FUN?! as a digital artist

bruh what r you doin or how I learned to start selling out and BRUH

In the past, I have bared my withered, jaded artistic soul to you all on the subjects of Popularity, Ambition, Commission Work, Spec Work, and Screw Ups. Today, I am going to tackle SELLING OUT. From a PRO SELLOUT STANDPOINT NO LESS! So strap in, sharpen your pitchforks, light those torches …or just scroll to the end for a wealth of tips on how to sell out efficiently so you don’t have to do all the tedious research I did.

Selling Out: An Overview

So first off, what do I mean by “selling out?” For my purposes, I’m not talking about making money from your own art, unless you’re literally making art you hate for money. Actually, I’m talking about completely phoning it in and using all of your painstakingly acquired design skills to quickly make stock art and fonts into designs you can sell. I am talking about the laziest, most money-grubbing (legal!!!!) use of your artist skills imaginable. 

WARNING: I’m going to talk about sellout art and sellout artists a LOT until you get over any kneejerk reactions you might have to that phrase. Because I might be a little sick of artists just …never being expected to make any money from their hard-won art and design skills, or only being allowed to make money in a certain way that is sufficiently prestigious or noble.

Generally, when artists decide to “sell out,” it’s a financial decision. Their pleasure from personal expression isn’t enough to offset their monetary needs, so they gloomily resort to selling out in order to survive. I don’t think selling out is automatically a BAD thing, as you might have guessed, but I’m not interested in doing it for survival. I’m interested in doing it for FUN. Continue reading

What the Hell Are You All Doing: Or, How I Learned to Stop Fearing Twitter and Love the Bomb

a metallic purple space worm erupting from a surreal ruby red sandy landscape kind of dune ish but not scifi

So, it’s 2021. The world is in flames. Millions are dead. What are we all up to?

I’ll go first. I’m working on a book cover for a cool novel.

The novel, called Blue Feathers, Bright Flames, is one of three projects I’m really excited about at the moment. The second is illustrations for my own book, and the third is a bunch of leggings ideas I want to make for Whimsies Leggings. So that will all be a lot of fun, I expect. Truthfully though, I’m even more excited about watching my children flop around, so that’s what I’m doing most of the time. But this is an art blog so

I’ve also adjusted my expectations…a LOT.

A rainbow with the words no one cares above it
A lot-A lot.

For one, my novel needs a lot more work! It’s been stuck in Development Hell since April 2020, as the pandemic wreaked havoc on different plans I had for it involving collaborators. That has all had to be scrapped. No one is coming. But, I’m ready. Let’s do this, Me.

I’ve also recently realized that clients change over time just like I do. This was the year that I learned that a client who has needed my help in the past won’t necessarily need it going forward. I had to grieve for an old business relationship or two, but ultimately it just meant I had more time to help other people.

And I finally figured out how to do social media.

Continue reading

AMBITION: 25 YEARS OF BEING THAT GUY

As a part-time freelance artist, I’ve raised money for day trips and dates, medical help for family members and friends, art supplies, booth rentals, and presents. I even managed to raise some money for charity. I’ve had a pretty good run! I’ve been able to do many things I could not have otherwise done.

It is with these things in mind that I will now proceed to destroy my artistic reputation forever.

Lol destroy your what?

I’ve been a jerk more times than I can count, although I will attempt to count them for this article. But one common thread has united virtually all of my artistic knavery.

I speak of AMBITION.

Almost every (art related) act I’m ashamed of stemmed from my artistic ambitions. It’s not pretty! But if you’ve seen my gallery, you already know that “pretty” is not the goal here, so let’s get started.

Continue reading

Are You Ready to Build a Fanbase? Yeah, Me Too.

A terrified girl sprawled on the snow looking up at a menacing shadow covering her.

Let me start out by saying WE ARE IN AN EXPERIMENT TOGETHER.

I’m a prolific and modestly successful obscure artist. At the time of this writing, 251 people have a passing awareness of me on Twitter, 252 on Facebook, and 5 on Patreon. I think most of them overlap, so let’s call that 252 fans total. Weed out the bots and people who have abandoned the platforms and let’s call it 200.

I have been active as an artist online since 1995. This should tell you that I am not an authority on building a fanbase. You’re not here to listen to my expert advice, you’re here to observe me succeed or fail, and try some of the same things if you’re interested.

What could go wrong?

Ready to start experimenting? Let’s go!

Continue reading

The Two Kinds of Art

For me, there exist only two kinds of art. Medium has nothing to do with it, nor does whether the piece is one-of-a-kind or reproduced, technically perfect or relatively unskilled, famous or obscure.

No, for me the only two kinds of art are Art you make for yourself and Art you make for others.

There is a lot of discussion and judgement on both sides from artists who believe that commercial art is not “true art,” or successful artists criticizing their peers for not considering the “business aspect” of art. All of them have valid ideas to consider. As for me, I only have one big assertion to make about the two kinds of art as I have defined them:

It doesn’t matter which kind you do. Continue reading

Navigating FAN ART and Copyright Law 2022 Update

two children adrift on the sea of the earth's atmosphere, their ship a home-made rocket

UPDATED 12/3/2022: Rights holders are starting to work with fan artists. Here is Teepublic’s Fan Art Program and here is Redbubble’s Fan Art Program. (I’ve used both myself.) This is an avenue to LEGALLY make and sell fan art of some properties.

UPDATED 4/18/2017: FUNimation released a very helpful statement about fan art and trademark, read it here.

DISCLAIMER: I don’t have a law degree nor can I give legal advice.

I like to make fan art sometimes. Maybe you do too. But, you might be wondering: is it legal? Is it morally questionable? Is it bad for your career? Is it copying someone’s work? Let’s take a deep dive into this incredibly thorny topic and answer these questions for ourselves. Continue reading

Artists: 6 Reasons you should team up with a good freelance writer

Friends Lauren Tharp LittleZotz Writing and Heather Landry Sandpaperdaisy Art

A few years ago I became friends with Lauren Tharp of LittleZotz Writing. I didn’t know she was a freelance writer, only that she was the significant other of my incredibly talented artist buddy Ramiro. When I did find out about her occupation, I was mildly interested simply because I wanted to get to know her. Little did I know exactly how invaluable it is for an artist to know a good freelance writer, or how mutually beneficial our friendship would prove to be over the years.

Here are a few reasons why you really need a good freelance writer in your life too! Continue reading

The basics of setting up Patreon from a clueless comic Creator

Sandpaperdaisy Art on patreon

As of early this morning, I have a Patreon page! It was all unfamiliar to me, so I’ll share what I learned while setting up.

Keep in mind, I just learned about Patreon yesterday. I’d seen it once or twice before but I didn’t understand the mechanics. Well, I stayed up all night until my eyes bled, reading over everything and carefully combing through other creator pages. Here’s what I gleaned: Continue reading

The specter of spec art

The specter of speculative art

A lot of artists and other freelancers have opinions about “working on spec,” that is, doing work without compensation in hopes of obtaining a job or some other benefit in the future. Some maintain it’s a necessary evil in the industry, some believe it’s a good way to get exposure, and some urge you to avoid it like the plague.

So, which approach is best? Continue reading