Case Study – Fishing Art for Profit

From Stickers to Portraits – The Journey of a Fishing Artist

In this exciting world of art, where new ideas and creativity are always changing the scene, there’s an artist who has found a special way to mix her love for fishing with her art skills.

This artist, I’ll call her “Marina Blue,” because she asked me not to expose her real name, started by making fishing sticker art and then moved on to creating detailed fish portraits for local anglers around Tampa Bay, Florida.

Her story shows how powerful niche art can be and also gives us some ideas about how you can make money from it.

The Beginning – Fishing Sticker Art

Marina’s journey began in a small coastal town where fishing is a big part of the life of people who live there. Surrounded by water and inspired by the local culture and her own love for fishing, she started designing fishing stickers. These stickers had bright, colorful images of different fish species, showing off their unique looks and colors.

At first she focused on Pompano, Crevalle Jack, Gator Trout, and Snook. These are popular and well-known fish around the Tampa area and she thought she’d sell more stickers that way.

Making Fishing Stickers

Making fishing stickers is faster compared to other types of art. If you want to get started in the art world and you’re not sure how to do it, here is a great jumping off point. Anyone who can draw anything can make stickers. They need not be complicated, but ‘cute’ is recommended in many cases. Cute sells.

Time Taken for Each Process

  1. Concept and Design – 1-2 hours per sticker
  2. Digital Illustration – 3-4 hours per sticker
  3. Final Touches and Proofing – 1 hour per sticker
  4. Shipping – a few minutes per sticker.

On average, Marina spends about 5-7 hours to design and create each sticker. Initially she chose only 4 to print and offer for sale. It’s good not to overwhelm yourself at first. Find out – is there a market? If so, gradually expand your offerings.

Cost of Materials to Create Fishing Stickers

Marina had to invest in a few things. She outsourced her printing initially, but recently she bought her own sticker printer for $940. As you can see below, you can get by with a reasonable investment in equipment and subscriptions.

  • Digital Drawing Tablet – $400 (one-time investment)
  • Design Software Subscription – $20/month
  • Sticker Printing – $0.80 – $2 per sheet of stickers (depending on size and quality)

The cost to make one sheet of stickers is pretty low, so she can make a good profit when selling them.

Pricing and Income

Fishing stickers are sold at different prices depending on their size:

  • Small Sticker Sheets (16 stickers) – $8-12 per sheet
  • Medium Sticker Sheets (24 stickers) – $12-20 per sheet
  • Large Stickers Sheets (36 stickers) – $20-28 per sheet

Marina’s average sale is $18. If she sells 100 sticker sheets per month, her monthly income from stickers can be around $1,800. Not a bad part time job – right?

Transition to Creating Fish Portraits

While Marina enjoyed making stickers, she wanted to do something more detailed and expressive. This led her to start creating fish portraits, which are detailed and lifelike drawings of fish for local anglers who wanted to remember their catches.

She used photos of the fish and a photo she took herself of the angler so she could combine them in the painting.

Time and Process

Making a fish portrait takes a lot more time and effort than making stickers. Here’s a typical timeline:

  1. Consultation with Client – 1 hour (includes driving time down to McDonald’s)
  2. Initial Sketching – 4-6 hours
  3. Detailed Drawing and Shading – 10-15 hours
  4. Coloring and Final Touches – 5-8 hours

A single fish portrait can take anywhere from 20 to 30 hours to complete. She has noticed that with time she is getting faster so some portraits she can do in 15 hours total effort. Still, that’s a lot of time to create one portrait. She’ll need to charge a high fee to get a reasonable return on her time spent.

Her clients tend to be financially secure older people who fish regularly and who sometimes buy commissioned portraits for family and friends, not necessarily themselves.

Costs of Materials to Create Fishing Portraits

Making fish portraits requires high-quality materials that look vibrant and last a long time. Currently, this is a list of the materials she uses. The most expensive item is the paper, but she doesn’t want to drop down to a lower tier paper that may not last as long.

  • High-Quality Drawing Paper – $10 per sheet
  • Graphite Pencils and Shading Tools – $30 (replaced every few months)
  • Colored Pencils/Watercolors – $50 (replaced periodically)
  • Fixative Spray – $15 per can (used for several portraits)

The cost of materials for each portrait is about $20-$30.

Pricing and Income

She sells her fish portraits at different prices based on their size.

  • Small Portraits (8×10 inches) – $150-$200
  • Medium Portraits (12×16 inches) – $300-$400
  • Large Portraits (18×24 inches) – $500-$700

If Marina completes and sells four medium-sized portraits per month, her income from portraits alone can range from $1200 to $1600.

To be honest, it is far easier doing stickers, don’t you think? Still, Marina is also doing this for the creative aspect and loves pushing the boundaries of what she can do. She is getting better at caricatures and she likes the idea of selling larger form media.

Comparing the Two Art Forms – Stickers vs. Portraits

Differences in Activities

While both fishing stickers and fish portraits are about fish, they cater to different markets and need different approaches.

  • Time Commitment – Stickers are quicker to make, while portraits take up to several days. Finding people to agree to a commission for hundreds of dollars can take a long time as well. She would need to find groups of potential buyers online at social media to increase sales. Also time consuming. Stickers can be marketed at Etsy, Shopify, and other online storefronts, easily and quickly.
  • Artistic Detail – Stickers are more stylized and simple, while portraits need detailed and realistic rendering.
  • Customer Base – Stickers attract a broader audience, while portraits are usually commissioned by serious anglers and collectors. Another way to say it is that stickers are broad niche and fishing portraits are micro-niche. Each have their pros and cons.

Financial Viability

Marina’s ability to offer different types of art has financial benefits. Her income is similar with both efforts, but one brings more joy and one also takes a lot of time. If looking at this from purely a financial perspective, creating fishing stickers is far more preferable and potentially lucrative because your stickers sell themselves on some of today’s online platforms.

Portrait sales involve trading more hours for money, which doesn’t scale well and can burn an artist out quickly.

  • Sticker Sales – $1000 – $1500 per month
  • Portrait Commissions – $1200 – $1600 per month

If she combined both streams, Marina’s monthly income could range from $2200 to $3100, or $26,400 to $37,200 annually.

If she focused entirely on stickers and increased the kinds of stickers she offers, including octopus, sharks, starfish, seahorses, and other cute fish – she could make a lot of money and most of it passively once the art is created.

She could change her business to be entirely passive if she hired someone to print the stickers using her equipment, or just outsourced the fulfillment of her sticker orders.

Adding other types of fish can greatly improve sales and won’t take too much time or effort.

Maximizing Income Potential

What could she do to make more money with her fishing art business?

  1. Expand Online Presence – By using social media and online marketplaces, she can reach more people beyond her local community.
  2. Offer Sticker Customization – Providing personalized stickers could be one way of increasing her income. It would be worth looking into.
  3. Workshops and Classes – Hosting drawing workshops for fishing fans and aspiring artists can be another way to earn money. If she wanted to help other artists get started, she could switch from artist to teacher and show other people how to do the same thing she was doing. This is the preferred model for online creators. First, learn how to do it. Second, teach others how to do it and make more money.
  4. Collaborations – Partnering with fishing gear companies or local fishing clubs for exclusive designs could increase her exposure and sales.

Takeaways

Marina Blue’s journey from making fishing stickers to detailed fish portraits shows the potential of niche art markets. By mixing her love for fishing with her art talent, she has created a unique and financially rewarding career. The move from quick, stylized stickers to detailed, commissioned portraits highlights the importance of adapting and expanding artistic skills.

She may re-evaluate later and decide that stickers is the way to go right now if she wants to quit her job as an accountant and move into creating art full-time as her “Art Day Job!”

With a balanced approach to both art forms, Marina is finding creative satisfaction and also has a nice side income. Her story is inspirational! Aspiring artists who are driven, can begin in some niche area like creating stickers in a certain niche, and then expanding as income from stickers provides a stepping stone to the next endeavor.

It isn’t easy to start a career in art, but it isn’t as difficult as many people believe. One of the artists I watch on YouTube – Kries – he is constantly saying that 70% of artists don’t sell any art. They just don’t try to sell their art. They are too shy to put themselves out there. While that’s good for those of us who DO put ourselves out there, it’s a sad state of things to be an artist capable of selling your art and yet you don’t make that effort.

Best of Luck to You in Your Art Journey!

[Two original images by Gemini, and are not Marina’s actual artwork.]