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Selling Art on eBAy: an Artist's Life

kristena briem-west

I graduated with a Master’s in Transformative Arts and Consciousness from JFK University Berkeley, in 2002. At that time I had been a life-long artist and had worked with medicine men and women learning traditional shamanic techniques for many years. The question that lived in my heart during years of training and still resides questioning is, “What makes Art sacred?”

I went on to complete another year training in Goethean Studies at Rudolf Steiner college and came back home to Santa Barbara five years after I left. I had left a full-time counseling practice, running two groups a week for men and women called Alchemy and a long-term partner to follow a dream. I had to start over in 2005 and on my own.

So I decided to sell art online, as we know, its  a world market. I had been an “art consultant” in New Orleans on Rue Royal all the way to Rodeo Drive back in the day.  I tried selling paintings for a few hundred dollars to start, but the listing fees then $25 for a “featured” listing (remember those?) on top of high list fee was a nightmare. But I ran into a friend that I had gone to art school when I was young. We were both standing in line at the post office with art to ship. I told her I was trying to sell on eBay (which if you remember sold CHEAP ART!- that was it’s keyword! ugh!) She told me SHE was selling on eBay and she figured out the strategy that worked.

I was agog! It was grim necessity for me to conquer this format of online selling. She said, do 4 sketches, list 4 per day in the same category at, now here is the kicker, $9.99 each! I couldn’t believe it. Me? All my years of training to learn how to make sacred art with shamans, just completing a MA with two major exhibitions in Berkeley, give art away at $9.99? NO WAY! Was I going to lower myself. You know that feeling?

But I need to make a living, Right Now. So, I tried it. I did exactly as she recommended and I made $750 in two weeks. I didn’t look back. Now, I know it’s hard to believe but I sold over 2,700 or 3,500 works of art ( I can’t remember exactly) And I built a marvelous art business concentrating on positive messages, nudes ( I am a figurative artist) and larger paintings. Yes I sold for higher prices as I added a store.

Lets talk about making  “cheap art” for a world market.

  • PROS
  • make art every day
  • financial reward
  • build a customer base
  • great feedback
  • folks feel they are “getting a deal!”
  • hone your skills
  • learn the online marketplace
  • learn how to run a business
  • work with various media
  • dedication to craft
  • become a better artist (you have to!)
  • experimenting is easy
  • they are not masterpieces less angst
  • happy mistakes that lead further
  • independence & can work from home
  • see your story emerging on a daily art journal
  • CONS
  • no real-time spent on each piece because of low financial return
  • have to create a huge body of art to make larger amounts of money
  • skimming the surface of art making
  • the body takes a hit as you are churning out product
  • what do you sell a print for if your art is only $10?
  • exhaustion Sisyphus* forever rolling rock up a hill
  • my own “real” art making suffered no time to engage
  • the sense that this is not “it” but you need the daily funds coming into PayPal. Needs Must as they say.
  • my working arm & hands eventually gave out even with nightly castor oil packs

*Sisyphus: was punished for his deceitfulness by being forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, repeating this action for eternity.

Now all this was back in the day, I do not say that this strategy will work today. eBay has changed all the default settings, and it’s not the same game plan. But what a life lesson! Grim Necessity led me to basically giving away art, which let me tell you is a very humbling process, and I did become a better and a successful artist.

But was I making sacred art? Art with a healing intention? Only on a very small-scale, a $9.99 version of sacred art. Adding text in painting was new in 2005, the was the beginning of the “scrap-book” craze that let everyone out of the closet as artists. (thank goddess) When I blew out my right arm after years of this, I decided to switch to my second love fashion design. Now, eleven years later I design a batik and silk evening wear line & sell clothing online.

Easier in some ways, but one of the most important lessons I learned was to Never Give Up. Dedication, resilience, perseverance, and an indomitable will focused on your intention will bring positive results. So, if your longing to sell art, crafts, jewelry, what-ever it is, go for it.


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