Paying for portraits
UB student artists share their experiences selling their artwork
Marysia Paradis began making art as soon as she could hold a pencil.
Her mother encouraged her to draw and paint and she soon found that she especially had a skill and love for drawing animals.
Paradis, a sophomore biological science major, originally used these pet portraits as a method of relaxation, but soon found they could be an extra source of income. She soon started selling pet portraits, phone cases, cups and jackets on eBay –– portraits for $70, phone cases and cups for $35 and jackets for roughly $200. And Paradis isn’t alone. Students across UB are using their talents to earn extra cash.
Emily Quartley, a junior studio art major, also sells her paintings, drawings and prints. She primarily sells her work on Etsy, Redbubble, Instagram and through family connections. Quartley’s pieces range from $15-$100, depending on the size of the work.
She remembers wanting to pursue art from a young age, as people close to her would notice her talents and ask her to draw for them.
People soon began purchasing Quartley’s artwork and commissioning her for original pieces, which has been more than just monetarily rewarding for her.
“My favorite experience selling art was when a former art teacher that I had asked to buy a small painting from my Instagram,” Quartley said. “She said it made her proud watching me progress the way I have over time.”
Quartley has since gone on to make more impressive pieces, including a life-sized self-portrait that she used as her final piece in her figure drawing class last semester. While her art is validating in itself, Quartley said seeing people’s reactions to her portraits is her favorite part of the selling process.
“Seeing their faces light up is a beautiful experience,” Paradis said.
Kristen Marie Lopez, a sophomore music theatre major, also enjoys selling her artwork and began giving her recreations of popular cartoon characters out to her friends as gifts, later receiving requests for her work.
Lopez has designed cartoon characters on shoes, painted portraits and drawn on homemade shelves. Lopez enjoys the process of fulfilling her requests.
“I’ve had people be like, ‘Hey, it’s my sister’s birthday and she loves ‘Dear Evan Hansen,’ so could you put the logo of ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ on these converse?’ So I’ll get my acrylic paint markers, I’ll sketch it out, outline it, draw it on there, modge podge spray it. If they just want solid colors, I’ve done crayons before, so it has a waxy layer to make it more waterproof before I spray it to keep it together.” Lopez said.
Some of Lopez’s favorite works were the “Plankton splat” –– a recreation of the Spongebob character Plankton being thrown against a wall on the bottom of someone’s shoe –– and a portrait of a friend’s grandfather.
The student entrepreneurs, despite the positive reactions to their work, still experience difficulties while selling. Quartley said she feels uncomfortable pricing commissioned works and ends up underselling her pieces because she worries she may be charging too much.
“I have also had a couple people not pay me the price they said they would, back when I was new to [selling art] and was too timid to do anything about adults shorting me,” Quartley said.
Paradis said it can also be difficult to find the right audiences and platforms to market her work to.
“Art is such a personal thing for both the creator and the viewer. It forms a relationship between both, yet you may never meet. So many people will see different stories in the same piece,” Paradis said. “That’s why a picture is said to be worth a thousand words.”
Lopez said she has started marketing toward college students, rather than adults. This shift in focus has allowed Lopez to create the kind of work that interests her.
“I no longer have adults asking for $100 worth of artwork. Now it’s more like on shoes and cartoons and using the ‘Power Puff Girls,’ the Central Perk logo from ‘Friends’ [and] Area 51 alien stuff.”
Quartley shares pictures of her artwork on her Instagram, @emilyquartley.
Paradis takes inquiries for commission by email (email@example.com).
“As an artist, I am constantly brainstorming ideas. When I walk around campus, I see the brick walls and imagine gigantic murals,” Paradis said “There are just so many different possibilities in the world of art and I cannot wait to share my creations, to show just a little more insight into my world as an artist.”
Julianna Tracey is the senior arts editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @JTraceySpec.