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How Expensive Original Paintings Become Affordable Functional Products

Updated on February 20, 2011

Some artists might think I am selling out, but I think I am surviving.

ASCENSION OF REASON product print design by Robert G. Kernodle
ASCENSION OF REASON product print design by Robert G. Kernodle

Art For Connoisseurs 

Between the years, 2000 and 2002, I produced a series of four original paintings that I call, Cosmic Headpieces . Each of these four paintings required over 60 hours of effort, from first conception to final coats of varnish.  Even at a median wage of $20/hour for skilled labor, the labor cost alone for each painting works out to be $1, 200.

Add another $100 each for cost of materials (with NO markup), and the price of each painting climbs to $1,300.

Next, add 100% markup to display each painting in an art gallery (for sale), since art galleries typically charge artists 50% of the retail price of each painting, in order to accept it, to care for it, and to provide exhibition space for it ( which costs rent and utilities, of course).  Now the price of each painting has climbed to $2, 600.

I am not finished.

Properly packaging, handling and shipping each painting for the buyer might add another $30 each.  This puts the price of each painting at $2, 630.  This price allows nothing for special marketing and promotion of just these specific pieces, which could easily increase the price of each painting even more.

MISTS OF PLATONIA product print design by Robert G. Kernodle
MISTS OF PLATONIA product print design by Robert G. Kernodle

The Economics Of Aesthetics

This is the cold, hard reality of creating original paintings for sale – the reason why we see high prices on authentic, one-of-a-kind, hand-made art. The time and skill (or patience) are tremendous. The materials used are chemically superior (formulated to last in mint condition for 100 years). The staging efforts required to present, to protect and to process (for sale) are considerable.

Most of civilization cannot support this high cost. The competition between artists for the few people who CAN support this high cost is fierce. I do not mean that artists fight each other. I mean that relatively few artists ever consistently sell their original paintings, while alive and in the prime of their creative energies.

The Aesthetics Of Economics

Real world economics is ugly, by artistic standards. $2, 630 can buy a very good used car, or a completely new computer, or a third of a year of college, or several basic household appliances. In other words, most people simply find better ways to spend this kind of money.

How can my original paintings, then, be of any real-world benefit? "Cosmic Headpieces" can hang on walls of deserted art galleries, sporting dollar tags that most people only laugh at, or prints of these original paintings can hang on people’s bodies, as t-shirts, at affordable prices. "Cosmic Headpieces" can decorate spaces that few people rarely visit, or prints of these original paintings can decorate people’s accessories that they might use everyday.

INFINITY'S DREAM product print design by Robert G. Kernodle
INFINITY'S DREAM product print design by Robert G. Kernodle

Art For Consumers

All artists probably descend from the clouds to this place of reasoning eventually. We artists fight it, though, holding out hope that more people will become more enlightened, more affluent, and more attracted to our particular specialty. The only things that become more, however, are more artists who produce more paintings that fewer people can afford or are even willing to consider buying.

The developed world (especially today) is NOT designed for original art. The developed world (more than ever) is designed for industrialized products and for consumers who consume industrialized products. Few creators of original paintings make a living as painters, just as few actors make a living as theatre icons. Art is a tight gig, with extremely few spotlights for stars.

A HIGHER CALLING product print design by Robert G. Kernodle
A HIGHER CALLING product print design by Robert G. Kernodle

Taking The Commercial Plunge 

I recently adapted my $2,630/each, original paintings to apparel and accessories, by photographing them and adding text for print designs. These print designs are what appear throughout this article.

I jokingly tell people that I have converted highbrow masterpieces into lowbrow manufacturing. Men’s wear, women’s wear, children’s wear, drink wear, computer wear (i.e., mouse pads), even dog wear, are fair game for my "Cosmic Headpieces" designs. I have officially joined the fray of mass production, knowing that my one-man, commercial offerings are mere drops in the world’s vast ocean of competing commercial products. Even in this ocean, my drops are relatively original.

The Angst Of Affluence

Products, products everywhere.
What to buy?
What to wear?
Too many choices.
Too little cash.
Life is clutter.
Art is trash.


Kernodle Artwear

Buy "Cosmic Headpieces" t-shirts, coffee mugs and more – high quality materials and manufacturing – easy, secure, online transactions – great gifts for men, women and children of all ages – also "Alien Symphony" gear and "Close To The Answer" gear, featuring musical notation from another planet and an equation from theoretical physics’ famous superstring Theory Of Everything.

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