A bonfire might be the consequence of a 55 year history selling art for a living

VOLCANO by Colin Ruffell
VOLCANO by Colin Ruffell

I sold my first painting 60 years ago. And I have managed to make a full time living as a professional artist for the last 55 years.

I have painted and sold probably ten thousand originals. For many years they were small or medium size, quick paintings that were just right for collectors walls and purses.

During the last 20 years or so I have published many thousands of my pictures as prints and cards. Unfortunately that included lots of experiments, plus extra pieces as display samples, and over production before we achieved efficient ‘print on demand’.

So I have accumulated a stock of unsold artwork during that time. Mostly unsold display prints, a collection of frames, plus some originals.



Things have changed and so I have stopped selling originals in UK art galleries.

In the old days I was shown in art galleries all over the country. They sold my originals at sensible affordable prices. I published a few limited edition prints as well. I was successful and gradually over a few decades my prices went up.

Art galleries have always got to optimise their turnover by appealing to the pockets of new collectors. And so the gallery uses crucial wall-space for new affordable art. Inevitably small galleries replace a rising price artist with a new lower price artist. Any sale of higher price originals by a successful high price artist was a bonus. For the gallery and the artist.

And the successful artist replaced their sale of low affordable price original paintings with a supply of good quality fine art printed editions.

So we made bigger paintings at a slower rate with the deliberate intention that the image would become a print product. If anything that pushed the value of these originals up. And that made them even less sellable to new collectors.

Eventually that meant that I sold fewer original paintings, but many more print editions.

The trouble is that artists who sell through galleries ‘must not undercut their prices when selling direct’. Otherwise the gallery will get very upset and the artist loses that venue for sale of originals and prints. Fair enough.

A couple of years ago UK galleries had established a selling price based on area for my original work.

That was £10 plus per square inch.



Recently the art market here in the UK has changed. People used to visit exhibitions and buy art from many small private art galleries. They were friendly places with owner art-dealer in charge. He or she would have a good selection of local artists and some more professional artists that had a nationwide appeal. The art products would be a lot of originals, very often local scenes, and reasonable affordable prices.

But those days are going or gone. Many of the most successful galleries are now part of a bigger chain run from a distant head office. These new art businesses have had to create a different range of artworks. They want art products that are the same whichever gallery in the chain that they are in. They are looking for stock to sell at the optimum selling price and repeatable over and over again. Only a small percentage will be local artists. So most of their art products are prints in very impressive posh frames at a high price.

And their artists are usually contracted and committed to do business only through that gallery chain. They cannot deal directly with their fans, and they only get a small percentage of their selling price. No thanks.


As things changed, and the small local gallery vanished, the successful independent higher price artist was left high and dry unless they found new markets, new sales methods, or new products.

The gallery prices for my originals had gone up a bit too high to attract enough new collectors. And I ‘must not undercut the established gallery price’.The most obvious new market was the rest of the world.
The new direct-to-customer sales channel was the www.

And the most obvious new, affordable, and interesting products for new collectors here in the UK were ‘print on demand’ giclees.


So for some years I have painted far fewer originals and published many more fine-art prints.

I have gradually withdrawn from the UK art gallery system as a way to sell originals.

Instead I have a selection on my own website and other international online gallery sites.

So my originals are more rare now.

And I expect to make them even more rare soon.

I intend to downsize and destroy much of my stock of unsold prints, frames, and some originals.
My 80th birthday in the Summer 2019 will be about the right time.
I am going to have a bonfire.




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Colin Ruffell was born in 1939, then he was bombed, evacuated, educated, expelled, repatriated, married, bred, qualified and taught; until in 1965, aged 26, he became a professional artist. Since then he is proud and happy to have survived. He qualified from two Art Colleges in painting, design and printmaking, and the Open University in psychology and aesthetics, plus he has a reasonably clean driving license. He has founded, led or organised the following; Spectrum Studios, Artists in Action, Bayswater Road Artists Association, 9-Plus Artists Group, Buckingham Fine Art Ltd., Brighton Artists Workshop, European Fine Art Ltd., The Fine Art Trade Guild, The Fiveways Artists Group, and Crabfish Ltd.