Consistent fair pricing vs. Black Friday deals

Brilliant autumn day, 9X12, oil on canvasboard, $696 includes shipping and handling in continental US.

“Black Friday sales usually involve 25-50% off, but you and other artists only offer small discounts on paintings (if any),” a reader noted. “That doesn’t seem like much, so why do you bother?” The answer boils down to margin and markup.

Tamaracks, 8X10, oil on archival canvas, $522 includes shipping and handling in continental US.


Margin is the difference between the product’s selling price and the costs to make and sell that product. High volume businesses, like your grocery store, can afford to work with low margins, whereas a bespoke tailor needs a higher margin to offset his costs.

The problem for artists and other small businesses is that we cut it fine. We’re often working with both low margin and low sales, which gives us very little room to maneuver on price. “Wait a second,” you say. “All you have invested is some canvas and paint.” Not true. We have all kinds of hidden costs ranging from insurance and transportation to the rent and/or upkeep on our studios.

Saskatchewan Grain Elevators, oil on archival canvasboard, 8X10, $522 includes shipping and handling in continental US.

Bloated pricing

Another daughter and I both have the same floor cleaner, for which we each paid about $200 as a regularly discounted price. We were surprised to see the same model in last week’s ads at half off, or $200. Yes, it lists at $399.99, but I doubt many people have paid that in this world of competitive online shopping.

You could buy it for as low as $165 this week, but that’s a far cry from the ‘59% off’ at which it is promoted.

Artists can’t and shouldn’t raise and lower their prices willy-nilly. Part of the tacit bargain we make with collectors is that we strive to make their artwork more valuable over time. Inconsistent pricing undermines that and irritates collectors.

That doesn’t mean we can’t have sales, or have an in-studio bin where we get rid of sketches and old work. But unless we bloat the list price, we can’t offer deep discounts.

Up Ship Creek, 6X8, oil on archival canvasboard, $348 includes shipping and handling in continental US.

Technical snafu means a deal for you

I wanted to end this thankfulness series by offering a deal where the buyer got one painting at 10% off, two at 15% off, and three at 20% off. However, when Laura started to develop the software to drive that, she found it was impossible with the tools we currently have.

I felt badly. But since I can’t do that, how about I throw in frames for anyone who buys two or more unframed paintings today or tomorrow? Laura will never know; she doesn’t read this blog and it’s really a better deal than those discounts would have been.

As November draws to a close, the last ‘gratitude’ offering I have for you is a recital of all that I’ve offered so far:

  • 10% off any painting, with the code THANKYOUPAINTING10.
  • 30% off any class in the Seven Protocols for Successful Painters series, with the code THANKYOU30
  • $25 off any workshop except Sedona, with the code, EARLYBIRD
  • Free frames with the purchase of two or more unframed paintings. No need to enter a code, but this absolutely expires on November 30, 2023.

That’s because on Friday, December 1, I’m doing North to Southwest: a plein air perspective which is my first Virtual First Friday art show. As I’ve written copy for each of the paintings in this show, I’ve found myself remembering many lovely happenings along the way. I’m getting excited to tell you about them.

If you haven’t registered, please do. Laura will be sending out the Zoom link shortly.

My 2024 workshops:

Monday Morning Art School: how important are collectors, anyways?

Marshall Point, oil on archival canvasboard, 9X12, $696, includes shipping and handling in continental US.

The first time you sell a painting to a friend, you feel a little guilty, as if it’s a pity sale. (That’s different from pity marketing, which is when artists relate their struggles to generate sales. Manipulating others’ sympathy is exploitative, it makes all artists look bad, and I wish people wouldn’t do it.)

The second or third time that person buys a painting, you start to suspect that, against all odds, they actually like your work. You have a collector. As you get more well-known, you’ll collect more collectors, but those first ones are everything to the fledgling artist.

Quebec Brook, oil on archival canvasboard, $1449 framed includes shipping and handling in continental US.

My first serious collectors were Dean and Karolina. We went to church together and were friends. I knew they collected art, so when they bought their first painting from me, I was flattered. Then Dean asked me to paint a portrait of his children as a gift for his wife. He gave me an absolute deadline. That was a great lesson, as I realized that I could finish a painting with the same professionalism that I’d once finished design projects for customers.

Karolina was a great support when I was a mother of young kids without family nearby. Once she helped me pull all the wall-to-wall carpet from a house we’d just bought. As you can imagine, I’d love her if she never bought any art from me, but in fact she bought a painting just last year.

Eric’s Barber Shop (midnight walk), oil on archival canvasboard, 9X12, $869 framed, includes shipping and handling in continental US.

I met Martha when she came to my house at 0:dark:30 to watch William and Kate’s wedding. Our mutual friend Mary brought her, but we’d been corresponding for months. Martha bought her first painting from me at a Black Friday sale shortly thereafter. By the time she got married, we were close enough friends that I was invited to her wedding in Scotland; I brought them a painting as a wedding gift.

Her husband asked me to paint her portrait. It turned out to be as much a portrait of their drawing room as of Martha and her dog. Later, the room was destroyed by a catastrophic flood, which makes the painting that much more meaningful. I’m currently in the early phases of another painting for him.

Dean and Karolina were my friends before they ever bought a painting. Martha and I became close friends over subsequent years. I’ve had the good fortune to sell paintings to my friends, and to become friends with people I’ve sold paintings to.

Birches, 6X8, oil on archival canvasboard, $435 framed includes shipping and handling in continental US.

Your friends are perfectly free to ignore your art career. Most of them will, in fact. You may never meet your collectors if they’re buying through a gallery or online. But anyone who likes your work enough to own it is likely to share common emotional and intellectual ground with you, or the work would never have spoken to him or her in the first place. It’s no surprise that the lines of friendship and art often blur.

No artist can survive without collectors. Beyond that, my life has been immeasurably enriched by so many people who’ve pondered my paintings and drawings, corresponded with me about them, and, yes, occasionally purchased them. Thank you all.

For any of you who want to start collecting, here’s 10% off any painting on my website. Just enter the codeTHANKYOUPAINTING10.

My 2024 workshops:

Today I’m thankful for the helpers.

Pine Tree State, 6X8, oil on archival canvasboard, $435 framed includes shipping and handling in continental US.

My friend Laura Miner loves to quote Mr. Rogers at me every time there’s a disaster. “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'”

I can’t say I watch much news, scary or otherwise, but I’m keenly aware of the helpers. They always seem to be with me. Most recently, my friend and student Karen Ames learned that my brushes were lost when my painting pack went AWOL in Arizona. She promptly mailed me a beautiful selection of Rosemary hog bristle brushes. “I wasn’t using them and I know you needed them,” she said. I was very touched.

Early Spring on Beech Hill, oil on archival canvasboard, Carol L. Douglas, 12X16, $1449 framed includes shipping in continental US.

Have you ever done a good deed and never received a thank you? When I was 14, my brother was in a crash that killed him, his two classmates, and a passenger in the other vehicle. Our house was pandemonium, so I slipped out and walked to the neighbors. Dear old Mr. and Mrs. Adler took one look at my ashen face and gave me a large glass of brandy. I had no experience with spiritous liquor; I choked and sputtered, but it did make me feel better. Of course, I never thanked them; 14-year-olds are ingrates at the best of times, and that was the worst of times. They’re both gone now, but I’ve never forgotten that simple act of kindness.

Never assume that your small deeds don’t have an impact, or that the recipients aren’t grateful. It may take a snotty teenager decades to realize her indebtedness, but she’ll eventually get there.

It’s not always easy or cheap to be kind. For example, you’re late to work for the third time and the car in front of you is potting along at 20 MPH below the speed limit. (My daughter, who inherited her lead foot from me, says that Maine’s state motto is “35 MPH was good enough for Grandpa, and it’s good enough for me.”) How tempting it is to blow the horn, yell, and tailgate. You finally manage to pass and you realize that the old lady driver has a death-grip on the wheel; she’s the same age your mom would be if she were still alive. You’re suddenly very relieved that you didn’t act like a jerk.

At Rest in Camden Harbor, 12X16, oil on birch, $1159 unframed includes shipping and handling in continental US.

Artists are famously broke. They’re also, paradoxically, among the most generous of people. I left my quinacridone magenta home when I was at the Sedona Plein Air Festival. There was none to be purchased anywhere in town. Casey Cheuvront immediately gave me a big dollop of the closest thing she had, dioxazine purple. Later, Ed Buonvecchio loaned me a tube of magenta. I’ve never run short of something, broken something, or forgotten something that an artist hasn’t immediately stepped forward with an offer to help.

Old Wyoming Homestead, 9×12, oil on archival canvasboard, $696 unframed includes shipping and handling in continental US.

People sometimes talk about ‘paying it forward’ but most helpers aren’t thinking of kindness as a debit/credit sheet. They’re not treating the universe as a giant karmic apparatus that repays their kindnesses with benefits. They’re just being kind. That’s because kindness is not a zero-sum game, but rather something that can fill us to overflowing and never run out.

Today I’m thankful for the helpers. Here’s a discount code for all you helpers, which will give you 10% off any painting on this website: THANKYOUPAINTING10

My 2024 workshops:

This series would not be happening without you

From Step 1: the Perfect Palette

Last year, Laura and I sketched out a seven-part series called Seven Protocols for Successful Oil Painters. Laura had a vision based on the industrial training videos that were part of her prior career. I’ve never watched a training video in my life; the last time I worked for someone else, my instructions were scribbled on foolscap.

I didn’t want to make a tedious video where I did a long, uninterrupted demo. They always make me fall asleep. Laura wanted a series of shorts that explained a specific concept. Each would be followed by exercises and a quiz.

I had no idea how to record video, and no clue how to edit it when it was done. However, I did have a good SLR and audio recorder. My son introduced me to DaVinci Resolve. We bought a subscription to Canva and extra storage on Google. Once we had all those things in place, we realized we had no idea what we were doing.

From Step 2: the Value Drawing

There is nothing more disheartening than spending an afternoon painting, only to find that you hadn’t focused the camera, or the light was wrong, or you forgot to start the audio recorder. If there was a mistake to be made, I’ve made it.

Our goal was to finish all seven classes by the end of the year, but as the summer season heated up, I lost my momentum. We will probably finish the fifth one by Christmas, and the other two by the end of winter. Once that’s done, you’ll no longer need me; you can learn to paint by doing the exercises.

From Step 3: The Correct Composition

This series would not be happening without you. That starts with the people who have asked me over the year to write a book; I got it outlined and then stalled. The outline for that book became the outline for this series.

Then there are the people who beta tested the first class. You gave me incisive and pertinent feedback, which improved later classes. A few loyal testers have been with me through every episode, and I’m especially grateful for you.

I’m grateful for the early adopters of the series. At times I wondered whether Laura and I had lost our minds in devoting a year to such a risky venture. But many of you have taken them, and you seem to have found them valuable. “I took Carol’s online class modules prior to the [Rockport Immersive] workshop and found them to be great preparation,” Beth D. wrote. “I don’t think I could have absorbed all that complicated and practical information while painting plein air on location. The modules were very brief and concise yet enlightening.” Thank you, Beth.

From Step 4: the Essential Grisaille

In appreciation of you all, here’s a code for 30% off one of the Seven Protocols for Successful Oil Painters. Choose from:





Just type THANKYOU30 in the coupon code. And thank you so much!

My 2024 workshops:

I’m thankful for you, dear readers

Primary Shapes, 6X8, oil on archival canvasboard, $435 includes shipping and handling in the continental US.

First among the many things for which I’m thankful are you, the people who read my blog and are part of my community. This blog started almost two decades ago as a very clunky essay on WordPress, with almost no readers and rather stilted writing. That was back when my website was called Painter of Blight as a cruel mockery of Thomas Kinkade. We should not speak ill of the dead, and, anyway, I outgrew sophomoric humor. I think.

From there I migrated to Blogger, then to the Bangor Daily News, then back to Blogger and finally home to my own website. I’ve never totally understood the mechanics of moving a blog, which is why only the last move really worked, and why you’ll occasionally come across an old post where the pictures have disappeared.

American Eagle in Drydock, 12X16, $1159 unframed includes shipping in continental US. Do I have a crush on this boat? You bet I do!

Some years I barely wrote at all; others I wrote five days a week. Today this blog goes out to thousands of readers three times a week. It has a very high open rate by industry standards, and that’s down to you. Thank you.

It’s also reposted on social media, where, paradoxically, most people make their comments. (Hint: if you post them here, they last forever. However, you usually must wait for me to approve them. Any website that raises its head above the parapet is prone to denial of service attacks. Then there are the goofballs who think they can plug unrelated websites in the comments. That’s why our security is so high.)

A blog is a partnership between writer and reader. It wouldn’t happen without the input, questions, and ideas that you readers send me. Amazingly, I’ve never been stumped for an idea; right before the well runs dry, one of you always contacts me about something and-bam-there’s another post.

American Eagle rounding Owls Head, 6×8, oil on archival canvasboard, $348 unframed.

I used to write these ideas down in a tiny 35¢ notebook I referred to as my iPod touch. Amazingly, a tiny notebook can still be had for 35¢, but now I store our bright ideas in my computer.

I have a few obsessions besides painting. They are general history, art history, and the gender pay gap in the arts. You’ve traveled down many rabbit holes with me, from this potted history of the art model to the story of Vincent Van Gogh’s sister-in-law.

Today I talked to someone who asked me if I really planned on working until 80. “Yes,” I told him, “If my health holds out.” Some days I’m tired, some days I’m discouraged, but overall I have a tremendous amount of fun doing this gig. Thank you so much.

If you get my newsletters, you know that I’m offering a discount for all workshops for 2024. In appreciation for all my readers, I’m extending that to anyone who reads my blog anywhere. Just use the code EARLYBIRD at checkout to save $25 on your registration fee (except Sedona; but it’s still a great deal). This offer is good until the end of the year.

“Bracken Fern,” 12X9, oil on canvasboard, $869 framed.

Save the date

I’m planning an online party on Friday, December 1, at 6 PM. More details soon, but you won’t want to miss it.

My 2024 workshops:

I’m thankful, how about you?

Skylarking II, 18X24, $1855 unframed or $2318 includes shipping and handling in continental US.

For the professional artist, marketing is our most important job. People often say, “But you’re doing what you love!” Sadly, artists must buy groceries and pay mortgages and taxes just like everyone else. And while my friend derives great satisfaction from being a surgeon, nobody expects her to work for free.

One can’t sell in America without engaging with Black Friday. In the past, I’ve made haphazard efforts toward Black Friday Sales, but they aren’t a good fit for me. I loathe shopping and Black Friday most of all. My products (paintings and painting instruction) don’t fit the model of Kohl’s or Macy’s, which have limitless items they can mix and max in the advertisements they’ll barrage you with this month.

“Skylarking,” 24X36, oil on canvas, $3,188 unframed or $3985 framed, includes shipping in continental US.

On Friday, I had a brainstorm that will radically change my blog for the remainder of November. Instead of focusing on Black Friday, why not explore thanksgiving?

For years, I publicly counted my blessings every November. This year, I’ve been a little shaken on my pins. Mired in worry, I completely forgot about that practice. But it’s never too late to start practicing gratitude.

Breaking storm, 48X30, oil on canvas, $5,579 framed includes shipping in continental US.

What’s in it for you?

For much of my adult life, I believed the ‘black dog’ of depression was my lot. My father and grandmother both died of it, and I experienced significant trauma as a child. Psychologists reinforced the idea that my depression needed management, not banishment.

I’m not saying that the simple act of counting my blessings cured my depression-it was a far bigger transition than that. (And if you want to hear it, you’ll have to email me, because I’m not getting into it on a public forum.) But counting my blessings played a tremendously big part of making me the larky person I am today.

Larky Morning at Rockport Harbor, 11X14, on archival drymounted linen, $869 unframed includes shipping in continental US.

But don’t take my word for it:

  • Many studies have shown that expressing gratitude can lead to increased happiness and reduced symptoms of depression. Gratitude helps shift our focus from what we lack to what we have, and that promotes a more positive mindset.
  • Studies have also shown that gratitude improves our physical health. Grateful people have stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, and a decreased likelihood of developing illnesses.
  • Gratitude strengthens our relationships. We all tend to like people who acknowledge and appreciate our good points, far more than the person who carps at us. Expressing gratitude fosters a sense of closeness and connection.
  • Gratitude leads to increased resilience during challenging times. It allows individuals to reframe difficult situations and find silver linings, promoting a more adaptive response to stress and adversity.
  • Cultivating an attitude of gratitude enhances our emotional well-being. Regularly acknowledging the things we are thankful for can lead to more joy, optimism, and contentment. This, in turn, contributes to our overall sense of well-being and satisfaction.
  • Gratitude prepares your brain to be altruistic. Grateful individuals tend to be more empathetic and generous. As you can imagine, this can create a positive cycle of kindness and giving in one-on-one relationships and collective activities. (This cycle of kindness, by the way, is one of the main things I value in my church.)
  • Gratitude and self-compassion are integrally related to mindfulness. Gratitude involves focusing on our present blessings. This helps reduce the chatter of anxiety, promoting a more balanced state of mind. That quiets the voices that tell us we’re insufficient, unqualified, or just plain bad.

For the rest of November, my Monday and Wednesday posts will focus on thankfulness. Fridays will still be about paintings, to fulfill a promise to my business partner Laura.

My 2024 workshops: