How to earn money with digital art?


How to earn money with digital art? Hard to answer.

That’s why it is nice to investigate.

I think I’m dealing with this article, about an hot topic for many digital artists (or electronic) , clearly including also myself.

The digital art system, while using as a “Palette” (or main instrument) to build from scratch or modify an artwork, a single PC or a several computer farms, is not too far away, conceptually, from the system of traditional art.

Both systems (digital and analog) they are basically trying to communicate an experience to the viewers of the work.

Forget for now the “romantic” aspect of art, i.e. that definition, born in romantic period, mainly with the philosopher “Friedrich Shelling” that attaches to art the role to bring the vortices unrelenting monsters of passions and inner movements of the artist to his creation.

The role of digital art

Art is certainly all of this, art is playing and has always played , especially, the role of “communicating”.

Let’s think about the function of the pyramids, or the greatness of Ancient Rome: Art had the task of transmitting the greatness of a civilization.

Just think of the frescoes in Italian churches , created from the middle ages to the modern era: art has the role to communicate the greatness of God, and to immerse believers in a sort of virtual Heaven (or Hell, sometimes) …

It is in some way created a virtual experience, that immerse the viewer in an ultra-terrain world, where he would hopefully and happily go after death.

Digital art, continues to play this role of communicator, going to produce audiovisual art pieces, sensory experiences, playful content, music, or simply static images.

Now, many of the works produced using these techniques up to a very recent period , based their communication goal in highlight the relationship between the human kind and the machine, between man and technology, man and the computer.

Others seems to promote some sort of self-reference to the medium itself, and the new technical possibility….also, for example, in paintings produced during the renaissance many works seemed to “glorify” the perspective, more than anything else.

Still others, arise from inner passions of the author, who simply wants to express in his work its inner movements.

Other works, are aimed at communication of an idea, concept, and often are catalogued in the role of “short films” , “animated films” , advertising .

The uniqueness factor in art

What really differentiates the traditional media, from the electronic, is the lack, for the second, of the “uniqueness” factor .

The contemporary art system, is increasingly oriented to the affirmation of the value of the object – art piece being sold.

Human nature and the logic of the market, attributes a certain value to resources in base of their availability .

The gold is worth more than the iron, mainly due to its rarity, and the difficulty to find it.

The same can be done clearly for art: through the purchase of a painting, a sculpture, or of a author listed, for example, the collector may hang at home an unique, irreproducible (or at least, reproducible …

hardly enough there are so-called fakes, and forgeries) piece (he will OWN a piece of the Artist Soul).

Then He is going to improve his social status, receives the admiration of everyone who will visit him, and will make an investment, because probably, over time, He might be able to resell the purchased art work at an higher price that what he paid to increase the prestige of the author, or lower or zero, often decrease in commercial author listing (there are countless economic dynamics in the art market impossible to tackle in this article).

But produces digital art works, the ability of the medium itself, endlessly reproduced, and valid in being in the middle of use: to explain better, looking at such as “Van Gogh ‘s sunflowers”, on this page, you will not see the work “sunflowers” by Van Gogh, but a reproduction it, usable on your screens (or at least, if you decide to print it on an a4 sheet).

van gogh dipinto
The Vangogh Sun Flowers for free, Just for You! If You subscribe and like

It sounds quite cruel, but having it on your monitor, or printed on a piece of paper, you will not be rich, and you will not improve your social status: the work in question was conceived on canvas, created by the brush.

The infinite reproducibility

arte digitale_illusione maya

Looking instead for example at “maya illusion” by the famous digital artist Claudio Castelli (me), reproduced on this page, You are enjoying the REAL thing: this artwork was designed as an “image”, not bound to a specific media: it will continue to have its function on the screen of your pc, projected on a wall, printed on a postcard, a poster, a rigid support such as forex, a sheet of aluminum, canvas, photo paper, a t shirt, a cup and whatever.

Much better than going to Amsterdam Van Gohg musem, isn’t ? Well… So basically, you cannot “OWN”, or at least, you won’t be the only one to possess it, unless you buy (for an extremely high amount of money) all the processing work file, from the initial 3d modeling, to all the intermediate stages of painting and digital retouching, and you have to make sure that I will delete every file from my computer.

The Ownership

And when you will post the picture on your website, automatically, no matter what resolution you’ ll use, you will share this beautiful creation with ANYBODY.
Then: how to earn with digital art? It takes so much ingenuity.

The most widespread system, used increasingly by digital artists, art dealers and art houses, is to undermine in any way the infinite Reproducibile nature of digital art ,trying to assimilate the artwork as much as possible to those coming from traditional art media, in these ways: Producing a certification, in golden letters, that this artwork, maybe printed on a “precious” material, will have a maximum number of X copies, all the same sizes, sold exclusively by Gallery X, and that it will come along with a certificate of authenticity , a serial number , and the author’s signature on the back.

This modus operandi is not new in the art market, if we think of about lithography and xylography (woodcut) or even just about photography. Regarding a “video”, things get even more difficult: normally a video, or image sequence, it can be sold on dvd or blu ray, or vhs, laserdisc etc etc, and likely, probably to compensate the cheap nature of the media used, it will come with a precious cover signed by the delicate author’s hand, for example, or more and more often they will be sold the individual frames, as individual prints / limited edition (exactly as digital images). I personally would like the way of selling a whole installation composed by a tv and my video running forever, to hang to the wall or to be collocated in the middle of rich people living rooms, when using a beautiful old fashion cathodic retro-projection tv such as this one:

Another way might be to “hybridize” the digital nature of the artwork with analog elements … Starting from a digital base, that, once printed, can be processed by hand , using strokes, glue, trash or whatever to produce a “unique” and COLLECTIBLE piece.

painting metropolis city

This is an example: is an artwork called “Western Sunset” created as a collage of digital printed works on Masonite, modified with analog brushstrokes, so totally unique. These “tricks” are based, however, on the willing to re-conduct the digital artistic processes to the traditional ones, and honestly, I do not believe that they will truly innovate the art market.

This will be only a transitory step, needed to fullify the human-collector ownership instinct toward something similar to what we would expect: an unique, or almost, art piece.

A digital Horizon

I’m absolutely not judging anyone who makes the use of these techniques, I did myself, and I think I will continue to do so, since is it actually quite funny.

To make money with digital art, without altering the main innovation, namely the infinite reproducibility offered by it, it is absolutely necessary to work “on Commission”: find customers, individuals, Popes or emperors, or just Government willing to subsidize your talent, or, If You can accept compromises, willing to use your talent to realize their visions.

For example, I worked with theatre, creating projective scenographic following the action, or in musical performances, creating sensory atmospheres going together with the orchestra rythm, or conducting virtual immersive environments through panels, screenings and music at events, or festivals, commissioned by public institutions.

Or I created various exhibitions, funded also by institutions, which were the occasion to craft most of my works. Clearly having fully decision power about the techniques and style used. Basically, that’s what it happened with the music industry: with the advent of mp3 players, digital purchase, and the ease of duplication, the “classical” old fashion disco-graphic distribution had heavy losses, and the gain of the artists for each song sold on digital platforms is almost ridicolous.

Moreover, it is increasingly easy to download entire discographies online using not so legit techniques available to anyone.

So basically, the bands earn with concerts and live events: fans are willing to pay to be face to face with the artist they, and being immersed in their music played very loud .

This kind of big events in the music industry, in my opinion can’t be called concerts anymore… They are more la music show, where the music is supported by a strong electronic set design, by led, lasers, holograms, 3d projections, and any new instrument that the technique is making available.

I would honestly love to work in these events, first of all for the HUGE budget this shows can raise… And the possibility of using limitless features to showcase my art… unfortunately, artistic – experimental theater show usually have a very low budget, and is necessary to use so many compromises to reach something similar to what we have in our mind. But this is another history.

This is definitely the ideal working condition, but it requires a huge work of promoting your artist’s figure, participation and selection at hundreds of festivals, knowing the right people, and produce high-quality works, showcased in all the world.

Sometimes, however, the client requires different styles and art languages preferred by him, conveyed in a very specific message (so we are talking here about commercials, or multimedia products for conferences, conventions, stands or whatnot ) It’s up to you to decide if it’s worth of “subversion” and succumbing to economic need, or not.

Another way of earning, mainly used by popoular youtube – internet artists, is to sell from your site merchandising of your creations …Puppets, tshirt, mugs, underwear .. whatever. Here too, of course, you’ll need a certain notoriety, before anyone will be interested in t-shirts or toys with your characters. This system is used mostly by the filmmaker, or from those who create animation for entertainment … not exactly by ” crazy romantic artists” … but after all, what is an artist? Another system, provided that you have people interested in your work and your style,is holding University or private courses about your style, or the techniques You are using. Clearly, in this case, you should try to be, when required, as much “neuters” as possible and to teach basically the technical gimmicks and not impose your sick artistic conception on students, unless specifically required by the course or by the students themselves. Mostly, You have to help them developing their own sick visions. This actually gives, also, quite nice feelings, sometimes Then of course, you can always hope that someone interested in your works, wants to make a generous donation, which can be perhaps encouraged by the distribution of gadgets or prints of your work for any offer superior to X: for example, if your expressive language is the animation, you might say: “For anyone who donates at least X euro, will receive a dvd authenticated or certified printing one frame of animation etc..” Then there are, especially abroad, many colleges that support with specific workshops and dedicated digital art campus, offering residency programs and whatnot … That said, there are past, what is offered is usually a shelter, for limited periods, renewable, sometimes maybe Board, a pc, but I certainly do not think of living in luxury … (Then, of course, I hope that there are exceptions, but honestly I’m not aware of them). The best thing about this choice, is that you are gonna live in very stimulating environments, where you can meet people sharing your own goals. Other system, again, is clearly to be subsidized, for your project from your homeland, or to structures like Mediadesk Europe. I, honestly, never succeeded … but I think it’s possible … somebody I know they made it… but I have no idea how they did … There are tons of paperwork to fill out, and what is offered are basically refunds spent on materials, equipment and people paid for the realization of your project. I forgot about the more and more fashionable “fundraising” … And, if You’re working in 3d, about using a 3d printer – or a 3d printer service , and making your characters “real”. You are free to comment, with suggestions and comments, and even to criticize the crudity with which I broached this subject. Please notice that I’m not living in new York, but in a small italian city, so, something I said might sound extremely naive… but well.. this is my experience I intend to update the page if I get some new ideas:)