Painting How To: Artist Contracts and Agreements

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Click Picture to Purchase: “Flower Arrangement”

Artist contracts and agreements are a large part of being an artist and you should have a written agreement when you sell your original artwork, particularly commissioned work. Make sure you keep copies of these signed artist’s agreements/contracts. You don’t need sales agreements for reproductions, simply sales receipts. These receipts are helpful at the end of each year when you have to calculate your gross income. Just make sure the buyer’s name, date of purchase, and all items purchased are recorded legibly on this receipt.

My clients sign a sales agreement when they purchase an original painting.  The agreement (See Exhibit 42) states that I retain reproduction rights for the painting. It also seeks permission to use the original painting for future exhibits. And there is an agreement between us about any associated costs (e.g. shipping, handling and insurance) at the time of sale or for future exhibits.

When you exhibit work with a commercial art gallery, you should sign an agreement/contract which lists your artworks and outlines all terms that apply to the exhibit. If the gallery doesn’t have such an agreement, make one up yourself.

 The following examples are included below:

● “Artwork Sales Agreement” – one page – Exhibit 43
● “Works on Consignment Agreement” – one page – Exhibit 44
● “Artist/Gallery Consignment Agreement” – four pages – Exhibit 45
● “CA Lawyers for the Arts Artist/Gallery Agreement” – five pages – Exhibit 45


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EXHIBIT 44: WORKS ON CONSIGNMENT AGREEMENTartists consignment agreement, consignment contract, painter consignment contract


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artist gallery agreement

Typical Artist/Gallery Consignment Agreement

Each of these agreements describes artworks and prices in addition to other items, such as the term of consignment and amount of the sales commission.

Gallery commissions vary, but expect to pay anywhere from 20% to 50% of the sales price of your artworks. Many artists increase prices for their artworks to cover such commissions. However, I learned some time ago that price integrity is important. Don’t alter prices of your paintings to cover commissions. They should be the same wherever and whenever they’re sold or advertised.

With respect to exclusive agents/galleries, you won’t have to deal with this issue ’til you’ve built quite a following and achieved considerable success.  It’s then that the matter of jurisdiction must be addressed, vis-à-vis exhibits of your artwork or sales from websites.

As you begin marketing your artwork in different regions, you will also need to identify individual agents. This requires considerable effort. You’ll need to leave a stash of paintings with someone you can trust, who’ll keep an accurate inventory of your original artworks and prints, but also be willing to deliver and recover them in a timely manner from various exhibit venues.  For most exhibits, you’ll need to complete the entry forms and pay the entry fees unless your agent will to do this for you.

All of these details should be contained in your artist contracts and agreements.

Douglas Stenhouse also wrote a book about watercolor painting.

“I decided to write about how I paint, not only to share my observations with others, but also, frankly, to do some self- examination. I wish I had done this earlier in my life! But then, how was I to know I’d benefit from doing so, certainly at a time when I had no aspirations of becoming a professional artist.” 

To learn more about Doug’s Watercolor Painting Book, click here. To purchase a signed copy, use the link below.

Douglas Simms Stenhouse, watercolor artist, transparent water color art, watercolor painter, painting with water colors