Category Archives: contemporary portrait paintings

$100 USD Paintings Selling Quickly

Over 1500 paintings have sold since I started the $100 USD (11 x 14″) series in 2016. I paint every day and post new work as soon as I’m finished. All sales above my $1000 USD monthly expenses go towards opening the Free Artist Residency for Progressive Social Change.

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LARGER paintings

“Oh my word, I love these portraits so, so, so much.” – The Jealous Curator, September, 2017

Favorites from recent sales of $100 USD paintings

Chocolate #6 (11 x 14″) SOLD
No Hat #937 (11 x 14″) SOLD
No Hat #938 (11 x 14″) SOLD
No Hat #939 (11 x 14″) SOLD

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Interview: The Tyee


Great interview in The Tyee this week with novelist Kevin Chong. I managed to connect the dots from playing music, through novel writing and on to painting — which is actually a return to the series a began in 1973.

“Women, I think, are happy to see other women represent them. In this case, a feminist who has used other artistic mediums to put the ideas of feminism out there. When I talk to them on Facebook, they say amazing things about what they perceive in the emotion or the nuances of a slight smile or something.”

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Recent Favourites (all sold)

All sales above my $1000 USD monthly expenses go towards opening the Free Artist Residency for Progressive Social Change.

“I’m best known as the singer in the underground rock duo Mecca Normal. I also write novels and paint. The $100 painting series all started with “The Hat” in January, 2016. I posted the first one on my FaceBook page and it sold that same day. Hours later, someone was offering me money in advance for the next one! Since then, paintings in this series have been purchased by instructors from the Yale School of Art, the University of British Columbia and the Art Institute of Chicago, painters whose work has been exhibited in the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Biennial, 2014 in New York City, and by art critics for Artfourm Magazine and the Winnipeg Free Press – as well as a few indie rock luminaries.” – Jean Smith, August, 2016

“Oh my word, I love these portraits so, so, so much.” – The Jealous Curator, September, 2017

These 11 x 14″ acrylics are $100 USD plus shipping ($15 USD/CAD within USA and Canada). Please contact me for shipping cost to other locations.

$100 paintings in April 2020

Paintings Currently Available


No Hat #705 800
No Hat #705

Bathin Cap # 800

Bathing Cap #15

Hoodie # 800
Hoodie #15

Headphones #22 800
Headphones #22

The Phone #12 800
The Phone #12

The Hat #106 800
The Hat #106

Nurse #27 800
Nurse #27

Nurse #30 800
Nurse #30

No Hat #817 800
No Hat #817

No Hat #819 800
No Hat #819

Fox #24 800
Fox #24

Bathing Cap #38 800
Bathing Cap #38

No Hat #824 800
No Hat #824

Scuba #12 800
Scuba #12

Fascinator 800
The Fascinator

No Hat #839 800
No Hat #839

No Hat #836 800
No Hat #836

No Hat #844 800
No Hat #844

No Hat #822 800
No Hat #822

No Hat #805 800

No Hat #805

Bathing Cap #18 800
Bathing Cap #18

Affirmative #33 800 NEW
Affirmative #33

Affirmative #6 by Jean Smith
Affirmative #6

LARGE 16 x 20″

LARGE (16 x 20″) paintings (on stretched canvas) from this time last year. At $600 USD, these are actually still a good deal, but as long as I’m selling 11 x 14″ for $100 USD, I doubt they’ll sell. Wait! One did sell!

These would have gone into my solo show in May at Land Gallery in Portland (to be re-scheduled).

No Hat #587 16 x 20 800“No Hat #587” (16 x 20″ acrylic on canvas 1/2” profile) April 16, 2019. $600 USD plus shipping.

The Hat #85 16 x 20 800 a
“The Hat #85″ (16 x 20″ acrylic on canvas 1/2” profile) March 21, 2019. $600 USD plus shipping.

No Hat #577 16 x 20 800“No Hat #577″ (16 x 20″ acrylic on canvas 1/2” profile) March 16, 2019. $600 USD plus shipping.

Ruff Collar #27 16 x 20 800“Ruff Collar #27″ (16 x 20″ acrylic on canvas 1/2” profile) March 2019. $600 USD plus shipping.

No Hat #575 16 x 20 800“No Hat #575″ (16 x 20″ acrylic on canvas 1/2” profile) March 10, 2019. SOLD

Bathing Cap 800
“Bathing Cap #5″ (16 x 20″ acrylic on canvas 1/2” profile) March 14, 2019. $600 USD plus shipping.

No Hat #576 16 x 20 800
“No Hat #576″ (16 x 20″ acrylic on canvas 1/2” profile) March 12, 2019. $600 USD plus shipping.


$100 USD painting sales increase significantly

From the be careful what you wish for department, sometime in January my paintings sales on FaceBook increased significantly after a regular buyer of my $100 USD paintings (and long-time Mecca Normal fan) showed her mother my work and explained both the investment potential and how sales above my monthly expenses ($1000 USD) go towards opening the Free Artist Residency for Progressive Social Change.

I have now totally lost track of how many the mother has purchased, but I’m sending them to her in packages of seven, sometimes twice a week. She is determined to make the artist residency happen!

With 78 paintings sold, February was an all-time record in the 4 years I’ve been painting daily and posting them for sale at $100 USD on FaceBook. A typical month until that point might be more like 30 paintings.

My small East Vancouver apartment is now something of a production line as I pull paintings from existing stock of 200, sign them, add a layer of gloss in batches of 10, allow that those to dry, while I package and ship others, all while maintaining my ever-evolving series including “Bathing Cap” “Headphones” “The Hat” and many others. I’ve been working 15 hours a day, 7 days a week to stay on top of things. Believe me I’m not complaining; it’s just a bit surreal.

Here’s a selection from the Oregon Collection which currently stands at 50+ paintings and counting. Literally.

Bathing Cap #24 800Bathing Cap #24 (11 x 14″ acrylic on canvas) $100 USD SOLD

Headphones #22 800Headphones #22 (11 x 14″ acrylic on canvas) $100 USD SOLD

The Hat #106 800
The Hat #106 (11 x 14″ acrylic on canvas) $100 USD SOLD

Nurse #14 800Nurse #14 (11 x 14″ acrylic on canvas) $100 USD SOLD


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Update: solo art show

I’ve dropped a few hints about my solo art show in the spring, but we’re not quite ready to officially announce it! Here are a few more hints, but I’m not going to confirm or deny anything in comments

The city in question: I can safely say that I may have sold more paintings to people living in this city than any other.

The yet to be named gallery is supportive of the Free Artist Residency for Progressive Social Change. I believe they see the benefit of cultural activists of our ilk having a place (outside of the USA) to work on projects that intend to change the world. I hope they see it’s in their / our best interest on many levels.

Mecca Normal will perform at the opening.

We’ll be doing a newsletter / press release email soon to tie a buncha things together. David’s graphic novels, my art show, online painting sales milestone (900 sold with 300 in stock = 1200 paintings in 4 years), playing Bikini Kill shows, the Free Artist Residency, and last year’s live album from the mid-90s — Riot Grrrl era.

We’ve always done our own press / publicity for our music and book projects (D-I-Y since 1984)*, but I haven’t spent much time looking for press for the paintings. Early on I contacted The Jealous Curator and I’m still, some years later, savouring her appreciation of my work.

“Oh my word, I love these portraits so, so, so much.” September, 2017

I’ve done a couple of email interviews, but a press release is basically David and I compiling content that can be reproduced by the media in advance of coming events.
In the past four years, I’ve focused on painting (and not so much the push required to escalate exposure / sales). I completely love the way this situation on FB works. I get to paint lots, I have an enthusiastic audience and appreciative buyers. File under: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Yet, I have 300 paintings here, I may need to move out of Vancouver, and I want to get going with the Artist Residency.

So, yes I am hinting at a plausible inevitability that when more people see my paintings, you’ll wish you’d bought a few. Also, this week’s near record sales (18 ?) remind me that post-sale production, packaging and shipping take time and adding rehearsals, art / music events, purchasing property, moving, potentially more interaction with the media, and getting the artists residency up and running. I only have so much time and there may be both scarcity and upheaval in how paintings are sold (and for how much).

As with Mecca Normal’s trajectory, the wildness of the ride depends on factors beyond our control, but the essence of our adventures can be applied to our other projects in a myriad of ways.

* Mecca Normal has appreciated and benefited greatly from publicity generated by the record labels we’ve been on including K Records, Matador Records, Kill Rock Stars and Artoffact Records.

$100 USD paintings currently available

0188 cx

photo: 2020 selfie

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Solo Show in the Spring

With a solo show in a proper gallery in the spring, I admit I kinda winced when these two all-time favorites sold this past week. I haven’t held any back for myself (or the show), but if I was doing that, these two would have been marked not for sale.

“The Scarf #2” is from 2018 and “No Hat #705” is from October 2019.

The Scarf #2 800

No Hat #705 800

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How I made $90,000 selling paintings online


I’m living my dream. After years of living other dreams (singer, novelist) I’m now living my original dream. To make a living as a painter. I always imagined this would require a gallery, but, as it turns out, it doesn’t.

I started painting faces in my room as a young teenager. 11 x 17″ watercolor self-portraits in the mirror. Over the years, I showed them to special people in my life, but then, when color laser copying became viable, I showed them in a limited way at events I sang at with my voice and guitar rock duo.

What was more important than being technically incredible was the emotion on the faces. My face. My emotions.

My parents were both painters and I picked up a lot from them in terms of composition and technique, but neither of them painted people. All of this is uniquely complicated in the way that every teenager feels overwhelmed by their relationships as they emerge from childhood. I went to art school for a while, but I was so keen to leave home that I opted for a full time job in a newspaper production department and painted in my spare time. Life unfurled for the next 40 years, twisting and turning in ways that I had not expected! Releasing albums and touring with my band. Which brings us to now.

How I Made large NEW 1200 Word Press

“I’ve sold 900 $100 USD paintings (11 x 14″) online in 4 years.” – Jean Smith

I don’t have a million followers, but of the ones I do have really appreciate being able to buy good art for an affordable price. I have 2667 friends on FaceBook, 815 followers on Twitter and 1161 followers on Instagram.

It certainly helps that I am in a band that has a reputation for creating work that intends to create progressive social change, but I’d say most of my customers didn’t know my band before they started collecting my paintings.

Dealing with elderly parents and housing issues while painting almost every day has resulted in me revealing what is going on in my personal life. This came easily enough to me because I’m a writer and a public person. I would say that allowing people to know me is part of the appeal for a buyer of work online.

The housing issue I’m facing isn’t unique. As the economy changes and drives artists away from urban centers cities become less culturally vital. This is very unfortunate, yet it holds potential for structuring life in places that are conducive to creativity that doesn’t necessarily rely on external stimuli. Often where there is peace and quiet, there is less pressure to earn the astronomical amounts that city-living requires. Maybe lowering overhead results in being able to quit a part-time joe job.

The possibility that I may have to leave my rental unit and find a place in uncharted territory in western Canada has become something of a group project, which is perfect, because once I’m set up I don’t want to sit alone in some small town where I don’t know anyone. I want artists (painters, film makers, writers, musicians) from all over to come and stay for free while they work on projects that intend to change the world.

Friend me on FaceBook to see paintings first. It would be great if you mentioned seeing this article.

Below this example – my most recent painting are tips for selling  paintings online

No Hat #754 800

“No Hat #754″ (11 x 14” acrylic on canvas panel) December 8, 2019
$100 USD plus shipping

1. I paint and post new work almost every day (4 years in January, 2020).
2. The work has always been good, but is advancing by leaps and bounds.
3. The price is low at $100 USD (11 x 14″) and has never gone up.
4. I ship for a flat rate of $15 that includes tracking and insurance.
5. The theme is consistent: emotions on women’s faces.
6. My personal stories allow customers to know me.
7. I emailed one pitch and got lucky when the Jealous Curator posted my paintings saying: “First, oh my word I love these portraits so, so, so much. Second, Canadian rocker turned painter Jean Smith sells these paintings on Facebook for $100 a pop. WHAT? Yes, true story.” This promotion tripled sales (to 50) that month before settling at about twice what they were before.
8. I track my sales by month and post how many have sold (which has been a gradual increase aiming for 30 a month) to create engagement in the process.

9. Once I was earning more than I needed I created a goal for what I intend to do with the money from sales above my expenses.
10. My paintings are inherently collectable (size, price, theme) and I encourage owning more than one by creating a repeating post called “There’s something about these three together.”
11. I always show the painting again when it sells and say where it’s going and sometimes to whom.
12. I maintain albums of currently available, all paintings, SOLD, various themes (astronauts, scuba divers, aviators, angry women in rock, ruff collars) that allow viewers to engage in ways that suit their viewing proclivities.
13. I post new work around the same time every day.

Scuba # 800

“Scuba #6″ (11 x 14” acrylic on canvas panel) October 24, 2019
$100 USD plus shipping

help me

I have gone out to community events like Art Walks and Car Free Days, but this didn’t really pay off in an way as far as sales. I’m on the left. Met some very nice people though!

I’ve tried a bit of what I can glean about SEO (following bits of random advice including adding the phrase “contemporary portrait painting” to my blog posts), but it hasn’t changed anything noticeably. I try to let go of ideas that aren’t working (direct emails to interior designers) and stick with what does work. Paint every day and post on FaceBook. Some people tell me to raise my prices, but I think I’d just sell fewer paintings. I like the pace of painting every day and selling about half of what I do. I’m working on increasing that, but as I’m doing this alone, I need to make sure I keep painting, and then there’s the packaging and shipping. All very time consuming.

There are elements that would be difficult for anyone else to re-create, such as being in a band that has put out records and toured a lot (mostly in the 80s and 90s) as well as having an existing ease with revealing my personal life due to having done a ton of interviews over the years. I imagine that a painter could use social media to let people get to know themselves, but there’s also something to be said for being private and mysterious. I probably don’t need to tell you that cultivating an image of some sort might be helpful.

Mecca Normal (Jean Smith & David Lester)

My band Mecca Normal rocking out at a literary event at the library.


Fantastic display by one of my customers, an interior designer in Ontario.

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$100 USD Paintings for Sale Online: October Sales

sold OCT

43 $100 USD paintings sold in October! Incredible!

All sales above my $1000 USD monthly expenses go towards opening the Free Artist Residency for Progressive Social Change. $3300 USD raised in October.

Ideal spex: Outright purchase. No mortgage. Not in a mobile home park or any other type of leased land. Within 3 hours of Vancouver. Room for artist residency and accommodation and studio in the house or in a separate structure (large shed, converted garage, trailer, converted school bus).

I’m monitoring house price reductions and assessing whether new listings are any lower than higher seasons. So far it doesn’t seem like it. The longer I wait, the more funds I’ll have = fewer structural problems, closer to Vancouver and better weather.
Painting sales are always slow at the end/beginning of months making this the least competitive time to buy.

$100 paintings for sale online

Follow my $100 USD paintings for sale online on Instagram, but they are always posted on FaceBook first.

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