In an email, Chris asks:
In other words, can selling reproductions on products like this hurt an artist’s career? or help it?
(I’m defining "serious" art collectors as someone who would buy an original painting from an emerging artist for several hundred dollars to a couple thousand dollars.) diminish, enhance, or have no effect, on the perception serious art collectors have of an artist’s work?
Chris, this is an excellent question and I wish I had an excellent answer. But we just don’t know yet. These resources are too much in their infancy to be able to tell. And the artworld is slow to adapt to changes, such as the commercial enterprises available online. On the other hand . . . visit any museum store and see the works from their collections splattered over mugs, mouse pads, and notebooks.
Artists should always consider their long-range goals before starting any new venture. It’s easy to think creatively. It’s more difficult to pull in the reigns and say “Whoa! That’s going to get me going off path. Maybe I should reconsider and refocus.”
I counsel some artists (again, depending on their goals) to do more of their commercial work under a DBA (”doing business as” name) and create their fine art under their own name. This means two different “lines” and helps distinguish among the two worlds.