Blue House on Fire - One of my Conte crayon drawings
What subjects are most popular (in other words, what sells the most)? Who cares? Okay, I myself have been interested in knowing this, and I remember once thinking that I should try to draw pictures that people liked. That was before I became much more confident about what I should be drawing (though I have strayed now and then...but not for popularity's sake).
Actually, it's easy to find out what sells. All you need to do is go to the online stores that sell reproductions of artworks (prints, posters, paintings copied by artisans onto canvas, etc.). Those people certainly will have done all the research to find out what sells (at least on their site), and that's what they show you. They would never show things people don't want to buy.
Some of them have lists of the most popular subjects, as if you wouldn't be able to figure out what you liked without knowing what other people like. And then under each main category they may tell you what the most popular sub-category is, and then when you get to that sub-category and start seeing the pictures, they are probably by default arranged in order by popularity (most popular shown first).
Art.com (Posters, Art Prints, and Framed Art) for example, has lists like these. When you get to the site, look at the left side of the page and click on "Most Popular." The main categories are these (in order of popularity, I assume, since they're not in alphabetical order):
Just below is a list of the most popular art subjects at the PaintingAll Art Gallery (where they sell oil painting reproductions), in order of popularity.
The main categories --
3) Floral still lifes
4) Genre paintings
6) Still lifes
7) Countries and famous cities
Click on a sub-category (e.g., landscapes/winter) to see their selection of pictures with that subject; presumably the pictures are also shown in order of popularity.
There's an article at the About.com site called Selling Paintings: Which Subjects Sell Best?
In this article there is a list of the "Top 10 best-selling subjects for paintings in the UK," according to "Art Business Today." Here is the list:
1) Traditional landscapes
2) Local views
3) Modern or semi-abstract landscapes
6) Figure studies (excluding nudes)
7) Seascapes, harbour, and beach scenes
9) Impressionistic landscapes
Also on this page they list the best selling media (different types of prints, different kinds of painting, etc.)
I don't believe it's a good idea to decide what subjects to draw or paint based on their popularity (see my other posts on the subject -- Subject Matter in Art - Part One, and Subject Matter in Art - Part Two for a lot more I've written about this) but I can understand why some people do so when they must sell their pictures in order to earn a decent living (though I'd think it would be better to make a living doing something else, if possible, and devote their free time to art so they can choose the subject matter they're best at and enjoy most working with).
"I used to say to my students during 20 years of teaching high school art, 'If you market target your art, it is a sure way of becoming a nobody.' This means you join hundreds of others in reploughing the same furrow and don’t express your unique self." -- Robert Bateman (Canadian naturalist and wildlife artist)
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