Eli Halpin ~ BLOG

Making Prints out of Commissioned Paintings

When selling a painting, the copyright is not included in the purchase. Keep this in mind if you are buying a painting from an artist. The painting itself and the image of the painting are two entirely separate products to be bought and sold. Even if the painting was commissioned. Yes commissioned paintings may have more sentimentality to the buyer but sentiment has nothing to do with the law or with the copyright or with the legal rights of the artist. In fact, if there is so much sentiment when purchasing a commissioned painting than the buyer may want to consider also purchasing the copyright along with the painting. This would most likely cost much more than the price of the painting.
Let me break it down to y'all why making prints from all paintings, whether commissioned or not, is a GOOD thing for everyone involved. Actually, why don't you just read my latest email to a buyer that asked me not to make prints from his painting which he purchased from me. (The guy was SUPER NICE about it and he is a pleasure to work with and I'm grateful that the subject came up so I have the opportunity to educate my buyers and to address these concerns.)
..."Prints are made of all my paintings. They are of the high quality, archival and made in America. They are professionally photographed by a talented local photographer here in Austin. Prints are another source of income for me and my employees and are one way I am able to keep the prices of my original paintings so low. If I were to sell only original painting with no residual and sustainable source of income to supplement I would have to charge 6000-12000 for my paintings...It isn't just me making these paintings..other people work with me full time as their only job doing all the prepping, shipping, accounting and all the other work that comes with any business besides the creative part that I do. 
Every artist has a legal right to use their images as they wish unless they sell or license (rent) those rights. The image and the actual painting are two different items that can be bought and sold. The image is called the copyright. The copyright is always owned by the artist. For example, a person can purchase an original painting and they can resell the original painting but they can not sell an image of the painting without purchasing or licensing the copyright ~ nor can they use the image for any type of financial gain such as making a logo for their business or putting it on a bill board or using it in any sort of advertisement for their business or putting it on t shirts to sell or making paper and canvas prints to sell. Only the artist holds these rights. I sold you the painting, not the copyright. If I sell prints of your painting that can add value to the original painting. So if I make prints of your paintings and those prints become popular the value of your paintings is likely to go up. At some point in the way future if you decide to resell your paintings you can sell them for more than what you paid for them. Your paintings become an investment.
I apologize if this is upsets you but please know that prints are TOTALLY different product than original paintings, they pale in comparison with the magic and beauty the real paintings hold. The prints are simply a photograph of the painting that is printed out. They have no texture, no shine, no gold and no paint. But they bring so many people so much happiness that otherwise can not afford to buy the real thing. And they truly can add value to your paintings. I have never ran into this situation before where I was asked not to make a print of someones painting. I have only had the opposite response. For example, the owner of this white deer painting purchased in 2011,5 Dancing Fawns became a print on stretched canvas and is currently being sold in Land of Nod (owned by Crate and Barrel) catalogs. The owner of this turquoise llamas paintings purchased in 2013, Llama Love in Turquoise and this elephant painting Elephant in Citrus and White is being considered by CB2 (also Crate and Barrel owned). The owner of this Buck and Baby Deer painting here Frosted Buck and Baby is being considered by LL Bean for spring of 2015. When I contacted the owners of the original paintings to tell them the good news, they were thrilled for me and thrilled that they owned the original. 
If the Van Gogh Enterprise didn't have his Starry Night paintings on mugs and calendars in book stores and museum gift shops than not many people would know who Van Gogh was and his original paintings would not be worth as much money as they are because the joy of his images would not be reached by many. But if someone other than the owner of Van Gogh's copyrights or a licencee of the copyrights was making mugs and calendars that would be illegal."
So to sum it all up, making prints from paintings benefits the owners of the originals by making their paintings famous and causing their investments to grow, all while keeping the cost of their originals low in the first place. The owner of the paintings have no authority to decide whether or not their paintings are made into prints, even if the painting was commissioned. 
Now excuse me I have to go to my chiropractic/acupuncture appointment because painting original paintings is damaging to my body. The 1000s of hours of sitting is hard on my spine and my wrists, not to mention the poisonous fumes from the paint that coat my lungs and nervous system. Hopefully one day after I'm all crumpled up and crippled from painting my whole life to bring other people so much joy and beauty the income stream from prints will support me into my last days alive.

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