I started my art career as a landscape artist and began to make a living within a year of learning how to paint. It is by far the easiest genre to sell. So how do you sell landscape paintings?
According to an ‘Art Business Today’ survey, the most popular painting subjects are:
- Traditional landscapes,
- Local views,
- Modern and semi-abstract landscapes.
Seascapes and coastal scenes come in at No7, and impressionist landscapes are at No9. That’s five out of the top ten. Six, if you include wildlife (No8) subjects within a landscape.
An eye opener isn’t it?
So that’s your proof of demand but what are the secrets to making some money? That, after all, is the bottom line.
Let’s go through them.
Romantic Landscape Paintings Sell Best
Don’t worry about the truth too much. People want to dream and look back at how life was, or how they imagine it must’ve been. They like the folk memory and nostalgia for simpler times and a more beautiful world.
‘They prefer to see the world how it should be, not as it really is.’
Personally, his work makes my toes curl, but I use him as an extreme example, not only to prove my point but to demonstrate that you don’t need to be the best to succeed. Ask Bob Ross.
The one thing they all had in common was abandoning the truth for fiction.
My paintings were far more realistic but I learned to bend the truth in my own way. My skies were more dynamic, my trees were more impressive, and my colors were more interesting than the real thing.
If you don’t believe the truth is really frowned upon, the next time you do a landscape painting, try adding some litter and see if it sells.
Further Reading: What Kind of Art Sells Best? The Secrets Revealed
Landscape Paintings With Figures Sell More, So Add Them
Adding a human touch resonates more with the viewer. A landscape painting without people is a lonely place.
I learned that early on. My gallery owner advised me to start adding figures, animals and buildings. I was resistant at first but soon came round to her way of thinking.
Just by adding a figure walking a dog turns a pleasant landscape into a story. People need narratives. We respond to the mystery. We want to know more, who is that person, what do they do, and where are they going?
Even signs of life can intrigue the viewer. A cottage with a light on, footprints in the sand, or wisps of smoke trailing from a chimney.
And you are not confined to people. An otherwise uneventful scene can be livened up with a bird or an animal. Perhaps you can imagine an owl sitting on a post, a deer in a field, or a songbird singing on a branch.
If a story doesn’t exist, invent one.
Sell Your Landscape Paintings in a Series
This is a retail trick that works every time. If you want to sell more art, construct a set. And that goes for any art, not just landscape paintings
This is more important if your paintings are on the small side. Small pictures sell more easily but for less money. So in order to maximize your return, it makes sense to group them together and sell multiple items. It’s a form of upselling.
Ideally, the images will have an obvious theme and identical dimensions. In my experience, customers prefer sets of three, but that’s not any kind of rule. You can sell them in pairs or in sets of four instead of a larger feature piece.
The advantage of selling sets of three, as far as I’m concerned, is mixing landscape and portrait formats. It’s perfectly acceptable to have one central vertical image with two horizontal images on either side and vise-versa. The symmetry works just as well.
Further Reading: How to Negotiate the Price of Your Art Prints and Make More Money
Add Flowers to Your Landscape Paintings to Increase Sales
In a similar way to adding figures in a landscape, adding flashes of color representing flowers has a similar appeal.
I learned that by adding a few dashes of red to a wheat field I could turn a sterile field into a thing of pastoral beauty. It was all fake. There are hardly any wildflowers these days, especially in chemical drenched crops.
The addition of red poppies made the field pop. They hit the eye. It was my way of bringing an otherwise barren landscape back to life.
I did the same with road verges and hedgerows. Or by adding blossom to trees. I added dots of pink and specks of white. If the flowers didn’t exist, I would add them anyway. Why not?
If beauty was valued properly they would be there. They were once.
Turn up in Galleries With Your Landscape Paintings, Unannounced
That’s what I did. It’s a gamble, it’s scary, and it works.
You’ll find more success in provincial galleries and framers than you will in high-end galleries but even some of those guys will see you. I had some success in the USA just walking through the door.
I knew nothing, so in that sense, nothing held me back. It wasn’t until later that I realized that the gallery business is a world apart. Much of it is up its own arse.
That said, there are some lovely people out there, running their little galleries, who might tut-tut when you present yourself at first, but few can resist having a peek at what you have. And that’s your chance.
What I did next is not going to work for everyone.
I never agreed to leave my work on consignment (sale or return). I wanted to sell them. To do that, I had to lower my prices but as long as it was worth my while I was happy.
It’s better to have a bird in the hand than two in the bush
Once the gallery owner saw my paintings, which were mostly landscapes, and calculated their potential profits, most succumbed to temptation.
I tried the same in the USA. I traveled there with a portfolio of British landscapes and sold the lot. British landscapes in America? It shouldn’t have worked but that is the power of landscapes, and turning up in person.
Add Wide Mats or Bolder Frames to Your Paintings to Increase the Price
This is a trick another artist told me about.
People expect to pay more if the picture is bigger. They do not calculate the time it takes to make a painting nor the skill involved either. Those are secondary considerations.
People pay by size so if you paint small pictures, even brilliant ones, they are worth less.
One hack that helps to compensate for this unfair anomaly is to present your smaller work in a larger (mount) mat. This works for watercolors, prints, and drawing media.
If you don’t frame them, and I never did, make sure the matboard margins are very wide.
This gives the illusion that your tiny painting is bigger than it really is. Far from looking weird, it makes your artwork look more sophisticated. It’s all about presentation.
Now you can ask for more money.
It’s not so easy with oils and acrylics. For one thing, they are perceived to be worth more because those mediums command higher prices anyway. That apart, they are conventionally framed without glass so you need to use wider frames to create the same illusion.
Paint the Skies Bigger to Make Your Landscapes More Expensive
On the theme of bigger is better, if you find yourself making small landscape paintings, try changing the layout and paint small scenes with big skies.
Time and size is money and skies are easier and quicker to paint. You don’t have to be accurate, and when you have developed a reliable color palette you can bulk out the composition with 75% sky and 25% landscape.
You may scoff but there are times when you have to get more work done and this is one way of doing it.
Paint Favorite Beauty Spots as Souvenirs
If traditional art is the nation’s favorite genre, local views are the second. Combine the two and, potentially, you have a bestseller.
Yes, that means painting the same views that every Tom, Dick, and Harry has painted before but what does that really say? It says they are painting what people want to buy.
This works best when the local beauty spot is very well known, not just for locals, but for tourists as well. If that’s not the case, no problem. Locals will still buy the view and visitors will still enjoy a traditional landscape.
If you intend to serve just the local people, then local views are your best bet. Try and include as much local life as possible. People love being included in some way.
If you paint someone’s house or place of work, let them know. Sit outside and sketch. If you are taking photos, knock on doors and ask permission. They will be delighted and intrigued. The chances of sales are very high.
If however, you are in a position to serve tourists you might consider painting some famous national landmarks to broaden your horizons.
Don’t dismiss souvenirs as throw-away tatt. There are plenty of tourists who are aching to buy something genuine and authentic. Clever artists are onto a winner.
Just Sit in the Street and Paint in Front of People
I’ve sat down in the street for years, just drawing and painting. It’s so direct. People come over to see what you’re doing. It’s interesting.
What better hook can you have? You are passive, the onlooker is approaching you. It’s easy to strike up a chat and have a few finished paintings to hand. I used to do it with original landscapes. Today I do it with wildlife prints.
One word of caution. If you sell your work in a gallery you can’t just flog your paintings in the street elsewhere in town. That’s a no-no.
I even had one gallery kick me out for selling in the next town! If that matters to you, be warned.
Further Reading: Art Commissions – How to Get Them Quickly? (It’s Easy But Scary)
Your Art Medium Will Affect the Price of Your Landscape Paintings
Believe it or not, your choice of art mediums will influence your asking price. Some mediums are worth more than others.
No doubt there is some historical logic for this hierarchy. There was a time when a drawing was seen as the preliminary stage of a painting, and as such, not as valuable.
Likewise watercolor was initially a sketching medium. The colors were unstable, the papers were prone to decay, and the framing more expensive.
Pastels are only pigments held together in a dry binder. They really came into their own with the impressionists but have never gained the popularity deserve. They are very messy, easily damaged and difficult to frame, and in my experience, many galleries don’t like them. I suspect it was ever thus.
Oils and to a lesser extent, their modern equivalent, acrylics, have a higher status. Oils on canvas were seen as superior in quality and longevity. That legacy remains even if it’s no longer true.
Colored pencils still have baggage to overcome. They are still ‘only’ drawings, and as such, relegated in desirability. Modern professional pencils are a world away from the cheap crayons we had as kids, yet they are still associated, unfairly, with children and coloring books.
If you are clever enough to choose your art medium and want to maximise the value of your art, oils or acrylics are your best bet. For the rest of us, we have to make do with the medium we feel comfortable with.
In my case, I can draw well, and I became a pastel painter because I’m colorblind which makes mixing color very difficult. Pastel tints are all pre-mixed.
Further Reading: How Do You Price Your Art? (And Increase Your Profits)
Recompose Your Landscape Paintings for Artistic Effect
Our countryside is full of clutter. Country roads have ugly signs, pylons straddle the fields, and now turbines are dotting the landscape. Don’t be a slave to authenticity, if things are in the way, cut them out.
One of my favorite devices is to draw vertical lines at an angle. For example, imagine a lead line of fence posts receding into the distance.
Ninety-degree uprights are boring as hell, but the same posts leaning at opposing angles have charm. An upright lamp post is dull, a tilted lamp post has character. The same goes for trees.
Country gates look better if they are falling down, cottages look better without satellite dishes, roofs look better without solar panels. And so it goes on
I habitually paint and draw this way.
If my composition is imperfect I make adjustments. Artists are not bound by any rules.
Add Drama To Your Landscape Paintings And Sell the Mood
Landscapes are governed by the light gliding across them. Few days are perfect and you can’t afford to wait for the right light, at the right place, at the right time.
You have to contrive your perfect moments. If the light is wrong you have to improve it. A dull day can be made into a misty day. A threatening sky can be broken by a shaft of sunlight.
A change of perspective can transform a scene. Sometimes it’s better to crouch down low.
A grove of trees can look uninspiring at eye level, yet at ground level, the same trees are grand and stately. Don’t agree? Just tilt them slightly.
If you have a beautiful scene with a clear blue sky, add some clouds. So what if it was a cloudless summer’s day. That’s great for a picnic, not so good for a painting. I see so many landscape paintings ruined by bland skies.
Another great hack is to add water. Imagine some lonely trees in a open landscape. Now imagine those same trees mirrored in a reflection.
You don’t have to fake a lake, add some puddles, they’re easy. All you have to remember is this – darks reflect lighter, and lights reflect darker. Do that and your reflections will look real.
Make Prints of Your Best Landscape Paintings to Make a Living
The one thing, and most important, is to make prints of your best work. Looking back at my early days that’s where I went wrong.
I’m talking about the 1980s when I painted landscapes for a living. Making prints in those days was a costly gamble, and I wasn’t up for it.
Now with home printing and print on demand sites, an artist is no longer bound to dodgy printing companies. The pitfalls are fewer and start-up costs are far lower.
At the very least you must scan or photograph your work. The money is in reproductions.
Back in the day, all I could do was repaint the same scenes to extract a greater return from my efforts. If not identical scenes, then the same compositions and colors. I had to, I couldn’t create a unique, salable painting every single time.
Prints allow you to cash in on your best work and that gives you the time and space to experiment with new ideas. It’s a no brainer.
You’ll end up selling some prints for years, if not decades.
Further Reading: How to Make Prints of Your Art if You Don’t Know What You’re Doing
Landscape painting is a forgiving genre. It allows us plenty of room for error and all those happy accidents can improve a painting immeasurably.
And, I would argue, digital photography has been a game-changer for capturing the fleeting nature of light. There is no need to be a Plein-air painter if that’s not for you, or even carry a sketchbook.
Now we can use our phones to capture things as and when we see them, and in stunning color. It’s both an aid in the field and a record for when we return home.
There has never been a better time to make and sell landscape paintings. The time is now.
If you’ve enjoyed learning how to sell landscape paintings, you will enjoy these too:
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- How to Sell Your Drawings (All You Need to Know)
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