• Tag Archives art business
  • Tips on Tuesday, Keep Track as You Go

    Book keeping nightmare.

    I’m late filing my business taxes this year.  Why? Because I saved all the figuring until the end of the year.  I saved receipts to track expenses, but didn’t add them up month to month.  That means I had to get them all added up in the month of January, with my husband’s help I managed.

    The Department of Revenue wants a lot of detail.

    Then there was income, some sales through etsy, some through the co-op, some independently, some parties/classes through the studio, some independently.  Etsy keeps a good record for me, the co-op told me how much I made through them, but didn’t divide it into sales and classes, which I need to know apparently.  The wonderful bookkeeper  for the co-op is looking into it for me, and soon I’ll know what I need to know.  You see, every painting I make and sale has to be reported as “manufactured goods”, every sale I make through etsy or independently has to be reported as “retail sales”, every sale I make through another entity such as a consignment shop or co-op, my share of that income gets reported as “wholesale”. On top of that I need to know which of the sales I made myself apart from the co-op were made locally or out of state, through etsy.

    This isn’t for income taxes, this is to pay the sales tax on the items I sold at retail in state, and the Business and Occupations tax, and the out of state sales have to kept track of separately in order to not be charged sales tax on them.  Income taxes will be another monster to tackle down the road, but getting the report on taxable income from this first business filing is necessary in order to file my income taxes.


    A Ledger would have let me know what I could afford.

    Another thing that keeping track as I go would have told me is that I was spending too much.  I thought maybe I had actually shown a profit this year, but I didn’t.  I spent far too much on supplies.  Now, a lot of those supplies are still usable this year, so maybe next time around I’ll see a profit… but if I started keeping track month to month, I could try to make sure that there was a balance happening, and curtail spending when a profit wasn’t likely.

    So that is my tip for this Tuesday, keep a ledger as you go!


  • Earning with Art – Part 1

    hummingbird watercolor
    The original painting has sold. Prints are still available.


    Today I sold the painting pictured above on etsy, and it got me thinking about what I’ve learned so far about earning with art.


    Being an Artist isn’t About Making Money

    There are easier ways to make money.

    Any time I talk about the business side of art, I find it necessary to point out first of all that being an artist isn’t just about making money.  If it was, I’d have given up years ago in favor a job at a fast food place, because honestly doing that over the last four years would have earned me many more dollars than selling art has.

    Making art has its own rewards.

    Making art is something I would do even if none of it ever sold.  I have a deep need to create, and when I don’t meet that need emotional well being suffers.  Creating brings me much joy, it brings me peace when my mind is troubled, it gives me quite moments to think, or not to think, depending on my mood. So yes, even if I knew that nobody would ever buy one piece, I’d still create art.

    However, making art costs money!

    That being said, art supplies still cost money.  Higher quality supplies cost quite a bit.  So it is really nice when I can earn a little with my art, and at least offset part of the cost of creating it.  Four years of trying to earn with art has taught me a few things, though I am still learning all the time.


    The Struggle of Selling Art

    Materials cost money.

    Good art materials cost money.  Even cheap art materials still cost some money though quite a bit less, but if one wants to create art that is going to turn out the way you want it to, and that is going to last a long time without cracking, peeling, or fading, you usually need to use the good materials.  Now, I’m not saying that all art has to last years.  Some people make sculptures from ice that they know will last only hours, and that is still art.  But most artists like to think that their grandchildren and possibly event their great, great, great grandchildren will some day be looking at their work. Also, most art collectors want to know that the art is going to endure the test of time.  For that to be a possibility, the artist has to use quality materials, and those cost quite a bit.

    Space costs money.

    Space to sell is generally not free, art fairs costs hundreds of dollars to set a booth up in, galleries often charge for space, and if they don’t they take a hefty commission, sometimes it is both, between the two, even an artist with regular sales artist often makes less than half of the selling price the gallery charges.  Farmers markets cost anywhere from $20-$50 dollars to participate in for a few hours, and many don’t allow artists in at all, and others charge artists a higher price than the people selling farm products. Even online space like etsy costs, though not usually nearly as much as physical space.   Its not hard to imagine how an artist could seem to be having a good week, with lots of sells, but actually not be making a profit at all, and even be losing money, after considering the expenses.

    Most buyers look for a bargain.

    There are a few people out there who really see the value of original art.  People who recognize that owning the original painting is much more desirable than owning a print, and that owning a signed print is more desirable than an unsigned print, and owning a limited edition, signed print is more desirable than an open edition print.  And that any one of those options direct from the artist is better than a mass produced print from Wal Mart.  There are a few people who “get” that.  Most people though, will look at a 16×20 original painting on canvas, and mentally compare it to the mass produced wall art at their local discount store, and will try to talk the artist down to that price range, or will just walk away figuring the artist is overcharging.  Only another artist, or someone very familiar with art and artists, really looks at a piece and stops to think of the hours that were spent making it, the cost of the materials, the cost of the selling space, the time spent manning the space at the art fair, and the skill required to create the piece.  If they did, they’d realize that most artists, if they get what they are originally asking for a piece, are still not even making minimum wage.

    So, in light of this, how can an artist possibly earn money with art, well, its not easy, and most artists will still find that they aren’t exactly “rolling in the dough”, but there is a way for an artist to at least make enough to cover their costs, plus a little extra.

    But I’ll tell you more about that tomorrow…

  • Tell Me Why… Art Blog Part 2

    Synopsis of part 1:  My dear husband and I discussed what a blog was in general. I also began explaining what an art blog was specifically.  The conversation ended with him asking why I needed a blog specifically for art, which I didn’t answer at that time.  I answer that question here, not just for him, but for anyone who wants to read.

    So decided it would be good to explain here the “why” of having a blog for art.  Obviously, the first reason is to share my art.  I mean most artists don’t create art in the hopes that nobody ever lays  eyes on it, we create it to share.  We want others to see it, we hope they will like it, we hope they will get pleasure from it, or understand the message we tried to convey with it.  Even if they don’t care for it, we hope they will see it and come away with a little more understanding of what we were trying to say.

    So an art blog provides the artist with a way to share their art, but this answer begs the question, “Why a blog specifically for art?  Why not just a general blog, or sharing to Facebook or other social media?”

    There are a few answers to this.  First, not everyone has, or wants, a personal blog.  Many artists don’t feel any particular inclination to write, and especially not about their personal lives.  However, making a blog with the primary purpose of sharing art is something that benefits the artist, without requiring that they pour out details about the happenings of their day.

    A second answer is  that many who have a personal blog share more on it than they want the average stranger to read.  They only share their blog with a selection of people.  A blog specifically for art can be  shared with the general public.  The artist only shares those parts of their lives that directly impacts their art.   This means that people who are really only interested in the art don’t have to be bored with the story of what aunt Martha bought the kids for Christmas. It also means that the readers of the personal blog can receive  an abbreviated tale of the art related stuff, along with a link to the art blog if they want to know more.

    Third, the art blog is a place to offer art for sale, while the personal one is a place for friends.  The readers of the art blog can get to know the artist in a limited way that relates to art, and they don’t need to know every single detail.  For an artist who sells their art, it is a business as well as a passion and hobby.  Like any business, there needs to be some separation between the business and the personal life.  How would you feel if your friend sold cars and every time you saw them they started a sales pitch about the newest great deal on their lot?  How would you feel if your doctor came into the exam room and started telling you about his marital problems?  No, there needs to a separation, and when there isn’t it makes the business person look unprofessional and the friend look fake and pushy.

    Another example of this need of separation is politics.  On my personal blog I often state my political points of view.  If I am trying sell art, I want to avoid alienating potential customers because they may hold a different view than I do. On my art blog, I don’t post about politics, unless one of my pieces of art touches on a political issue, which most do not.

    As for Facebook and other social media, they have their place, but it is limited.  Its actually against Facebook policy to constantly use your personal account to sell things.  If you open a “Fan Page” for your art, Facebook’s new post guidelines hide much of what you post unless you pay to promote those posts.  Facebook also has terms of use that actually gives away some of the rights to what you post.  You don’t lose your copyright completely, you can still sell your art, both originals, prints, and downloads, but you do give up some control over anything you upload on Facebook.  You agree to let Facebook use your images, and that includes in advertising that doesn’t benefit you in any way.  Contrary to what some think, posting a status or statement revoking that permission has no legal standing.  By having an art blog, you can link to your art content without actually uploading that content to Facebook.  This allows you to retain legal control over your art.

    Now, that isn’t to say that I never post any images of my art to Facebook, I have, but when I do I am aware that people can download it, copy it, print it, even use it in ads, and legally I can’t really do anything about it, because when I agreed to Facebook’s terms of service, I agreed that Facebook could do whatever they wanted with pictures I uploaded.  I have guidelines over what and how I upload things to Facebook, which I’ll share sometime in another article.  For now I’ll just say that Facebook isn’t the best place to upload your art if you want to be able to sell or license that art yourself.  So, Facebook can be good place to post links to your blog, and to develop some interest in your work, but its best if as a professional you have your own space, where you control what is posted, what is shared, and who is invited.

    An art blog can also be tied to your art website, such as this one is.  I blog about my experiences with and thoughts about art on the blogging tab, but I have a landing page with a slideshow of some of my art, and a gallery tab where people can buy the art.  This website is still under construction, so I haven’t added anywhere near all of my art, and I plan to add more tabs also, such as a “contact the artist” tab, and perhaps a “commissions order” tab.

    On an art blog you can also run contests, post how to videos, and almost anything else you want to do related to your art, while with social media you are limited by their terms.  I would like to add though, that if you use a free blogging service sometimes you are limited to their terms as well. In general, the free blogging sites aren’t as restrictive as the social media sites though, and they can be a good place to start your blogging experience.  However, free sites do have their limits, and eventually you may find that its best to move to your own website, with your own domain name and hosting service.

    A fourth reason for an art blog is that it allows the art collector, or potential art collector, to connect with the artist.  It allows the collector to feel that they know the artist as a person, while still keeping enough distance to feel professional.

    So to recap, the reasons for an art blog are:

    1. To have a place to share your art.

    2. To help keep business and personal life separate.

    3. An art blog can be your virtual “storefront” where you sell your creations while still maintaining legal control of them.

    4. An art blog lets a collector connect to the artist, but in a way that is limited enough to still remain professional.

    There might be other reasons as well, that I haven’t thought of, but these are the reasons that stand out to me most, and that I’ll share with my husband the next time we speak of this.

    Copyright Vicki Maheu, all rights reserved.
    Visitor to the Backyard Pond
    By V.J. Maheu

  • Trial Error, Error, Trial, Repeat

    Yesterday was another day of website building.  There are some things with WordPress that drive me crazy.  When I post the link to my website on Facebook, it doesn’t have a thumbnail image on it, and I’ve tried all the tutorials to fix the problem, but it persists.

    In spite of that, my website is coming along.  I am making progress with it.  I’ve imported past blog posts there, and for a while I’ll be posting on both, but soon I’ll be moving.  I hope that those who have followed me on blogger will come over to this  WordPress site and follow me here as well.

    In addition to the website work, I’ve added up the cost of doing business as an artist over the past year, and compared that to what I’ve made in sales.  I  just wanted  to find out how much money I’ve made lost as an artist.  Well, I won’t share details, but I will say that I can see where the term starving artist comes from!  I didn’t expect to make a profit over last year, but I did expect a smaller deficit than I saw.

    On an encouraging note,  there were a lot of expenses that I won’t have to repeat any time soon, like buying a canopy for art shows, tables for the canopy, a cart to move supplies with at art shows, and other big-ticket items like that.  I also had quite a few prints and cards made of my most popular paintings.  I  still have some leftover stock of those that will carry into this year and perhaps make me a little money.

    Last but not least, I actually got a little painting done, I’m still not happy with the clouds in my sky, but I’m getting closer to what I want.  One thing I am figuring out with this sunset though, is that I have to stop in between colors and let things dry, otherwise my oranges, and purples mix into brown, and my yellows and blues mix into green.  Here are two photos, neither one seems to really be right in color, the first one comes closer but is brighter than the painting really is I think…oh well,  what can you expect from a cell phone?

     IMG_20150118_240431_681~2 IMG_20150117_235650


    During my next session I will bring the purple and the blue up further in up in the sky, and cover those strange finger like projections I called clouds.  Then I will try putting in some less finger-like clouds.   Then,  I’ll bring more color into the darker blue water, I’ll cover the lighter blue area with land,  and there will be more land on the other side also, so that the bay comes between where the viewer “stands” and the other side of the bay.  I can see it in my mind now, when before I couldn’t, so hopefully I’ll be able to translate that to the canvas.


    I’m not really concerned about how much experimentation this is taking, I mean after all, this is how I’ve learned EVERYTHING I know about painting so far, by trying, messing up, and trying again, until I get I get it right.


    Thank you for reading! If you liked what you see, please consider following this blog by entering your email address at the bottom of the page,  or follow me on Google+.   See the right hand column to follow in any of these ways! I welcome your suggestions on how to make this blog more interesting to you!

    Fine Art America is the place to go for unsigned Prints of all my Paintings.


    My Etsy shop is the place to go to buy my originals that I haven’t added to this site yet, I sell a few select prints there also, and there you can choose if you’d like me to  sign them before shipping!  Eventually I’ll move all of my fine art products to this page, and leave only crafts on Etsy, but for now my art is in both places.

  • Saturday’s Six Minute Sketch

    I’m in the process of building this  new website, after I finish it, I’ll probably do all of my art blogging here, but for now it is just in its development state.   Yesterday I worked on it all day.  Registering a domain name, installing WordPress, picking a theme, and now trying to figure out how to integrate a pay pal shopping cart.  I also need to upload images of all my paintings.  Needless to say, I didn’t have much time for painting.

    So, for today I’ll post this sketch I did a few days ago.  I timed myself at 6 minutes.  It’s a sketch of my daughter, I feel like it would have looked a lot better with double the time, but I wanted to see what I could do in six minutes.  My daughter says she looks like a “Walker” (another name for Zombie, from The Walking Dead).

    Thank you for reading! If you liked what you see, please consider following this blog by entering your email address at the bottom of the page,  or follow me on Google+.   See the right hand column to follow in any of these ways! I welcome your suggestions on how to make this blog more interesting to you!

    Fine Art America is the place to go for unsigned Prints of all my Paintings.


    My Etsy shop is the place to go to buy my originals that I haven’t added to this site yet, I sell a few select prints there also, and there you can choose if you’d like me to  sign them before shipping!  Eventually I’ll move all of my fine art products to this page, and leave only crafts on etsy, but for now my art is in both places.

  • Putting it All Out There

    Desires, wishes, wants, we have so many of them.

    Yesterday, my desires were fairly simple, I wanted to go to work, and after work I wanted to come home and color my hair, and then practice painting clouds on paper until I was either happy with them, or until I became too frustrated to continue.

    Well I went to work.

    After work I felt really tired, and so none of the other stuff happened.  That was okay, I accomplished something else, you see, I’ve really been thinking about how to get my art “out there” more.  I mean, I am still learning, still improving, and I’m sure in time my art will be better and attract even more buyers, but much of my the work I’ve already created is perfectly saleable.  The only reason sales have dropped is that the people who are interested in buying are not seeing it.  So I’ve been thinking a lot about what to do about that.  Somehow I have to get my work “out there” in the right places so people who buy art will see it.

    I felt that perhaps advertising would provide the answer, so on Wednesday January 7th  I started promoting listings on etsy.  Then yesterday, since the promotions had been running seven days, I decided to see what the results were, here is what I saw.  Thanks to the ads, my work had 3000 impressions on etsy, but only 14 of the 3000 impressions resulted in clicks, which ended up costing me $4.70,  and none of those clicks translated into sales.

    Okay, it was only a week, but still, 3000 people saw my work, and only 14 of those 3000 were interested enough to even take a closer look, none of them were interested enough to buy.  To me that means if I am going to advertise, I need more targeted advertising, something that would be seen by the people interested in buying art.  I mean, a lot of etsy shoppers are looking for purses, hats, and things like that.  I need some way to target those who are wanting to buy art.  But what kind of advertising would do this?  I asked myself this question, and replied to myself that I really didn’t have any idea.

    (Yes I talk to myself, and answer myself, sometimes, I even argue with myself!)

    This was all in the back of my mind as I looked at other blogs, and as if in answer to this question I ran across this video on Her Online World:

    Well, in case you didn’t have time to watch, the main points of the video were that the best sources of traffic had to  be paid for.  (That one I had kind of already figured out, organic reach is nice, but it is limited).  The next thing was that Facebook ads, TARGETED facebook ads and promoted posts are some of the best kinds of promotion.

    So I decided to try an experiment.  My etsy ads ran for 7 days, I went ahead and stopped them.  I wrote a post on my Facebook Art Page announcing that one of paintings was now available in my etsy shop, and I linked to that listing in my shop, I targeted this promotion to people who were interested in collecting art and who had an interest in home decor, as well as the specific style of the painting shown in the listing.  I decided to run this ad for 7 days, and keep track of the results.  By results, I mean that I am going to be examining my etsy stats for shop views and listing views.  After the 7 days are up, I’ll run more etsy based ads, then after 7 days of that I’ll switch back to another facebook ad or promoted listing.  I’ll record the results.

    I printed up the following calendar to keep track of such things, as you can see, the first 6 days of the month are with no ads of any kind, I am also keeping track of what etsy calls “events” which is new listings or renewals, to see if they have any significant impact.   I’ll be sure to update after completing this cycle a few times, so probably around the end of March, I’ll update and blog my findings.

    See the key up on the top of the calendar.

    Thank you for reading! If you liked what you see, please consider following this blog with Google Friend connect, or follow me on Google+, or if you prefer, you can follow by email and get notified each time the blog is updated. See the right hand column to follow in any of these ways! I welcome your suggestions on how to make this blog more interesting to you!

    Fine Art America is the place to go for Prints of all my Paintings.

    My etsy shop is the place to go to buy my originals and request commissioned work. A few select prints are available here as well!

  • The Future of Art

    Art has been around as long as human beings, from the time the first person picked up a charred stick and began drawing that day’s hunt onto the rock wall of the cave that was home, and all along through the years, art has changed.  There have been times when it was respected, times when it was ridiculed, times when it was valued, and times when it was taken for granted. It has continued to exist through all times because it is part of being human.  That little spark of creativity, is in my mind, the thing that lets us know we are made in the image of the Master Artist and Creator.

    Art as business though… when did that start?  Was the man in the cave considered the community historian, and given an extra share of the hunt in exchange for his services, or did the rest of the tribe look on with bemusement at his strange pastime?  We will likely never know the answer, however at some point, artists began being paid for their skill and talent, and a few were brave enough to try to make their living at it.

    There have been times when the art business was doing well, when people have had the extra money to buy something if they liked it, and times when it was doing poorly, and the artist struggles for food and shelter.
    Where is it now? Somewhere in between those extremes, at somewhat of a crossroads.  Various societal trends are impacting the art market, and will shape it in the future.

    So, here are a few developments I predict in the art business, some of which are already happening.

    1. More wearable art.  Art on T-shirts, art on shoes, art on necklace pendants, purses, and coats.  This is both printed art, and art that it is hand painted right on the products.

    2. Smaller pieces.  Mini canvases that can be made into Christmas ornaments and refrigerator magnets, this is art that those in the downsizing movement can still embrace.

    3. Street art that is created fast, in front of the buyer, providing both entertainment and an inexpensive piece of art.  Such as seen in this video.

    4. Related to the above, but a little different,  is visual art AS performance art, as seen in these videos (though not all of us artist have the ability or desire to do this):

    5. Art for the plugged-in generation.  Something similar to itunes, but for visual art. What do I mean? Well perhaps a purchase of a specific brand of digital picture frame, and then a library of digital files of artwork that could be downloaded onto that frame, with the artist getting a small royalty for each download.  I think something like that would be nice for those in smaller spaces also, since they could download several “pieces” and then rotate which one would show, providing them with changeable art.  It would also be more affordable than buying several original paintings or prints.

    6. More “art classes as social time”, such as “art parties” where people gather and an artist takes them step by step through how to create a painting, or make a mosaic, or some other project.  These are already gaining popularity, and I predict more growth in that area as people are looking for an alternative then dinner or a movie when wanting to get out.

    7. More commissioned work.  For those people who do have their own home with room for art, often, they have something specific in mind, a specific color scheme or subject matter that they want for their home, what better way than to hire an artist to make it just for them?

    Most of all though, I see art just simply continuing on, as it has since the times of the cave-paintings.

    Thank you for reading! If you liked what you see, please consider following this blog with Google Friend connect, or follow me on Google+, or if you prefer, you can follow by email and get notified each time the blog is updated. See the right hand column to follow in any of these ways! I welcome your suggestions on how to make this blog more interesting to you!

    Fine Art America is the place to go for Prints of all my Paintings.

    My etsy shop is the place to go to buy my originals and request commissioned work. A few select prints are available here as well!

  • Artist’s Life, Heaven or Hell?

    Have you ever heard an artist describe creating art as hell?

    Well, that certainly isn’t how I think of it!  My satisfaction with my life has increased exponentially since giving myself permission to “be an artist”.   In general I am happiest and most fulfilled when I am creating art.

    So what did author Steven Pressfield mean when he said, “The artist committing himself to his calling has volunteered for hell.”?

    I’m not sure I agree with him about that, but I do see that not everything about being an artist is romantic, joyous, free, vibrant, carefree, and exciting. Especially if one really fully commits oneself to being an artist as a vocation.

    Then, one finds that:

    Sometimes, being an artist can be tedious, like when you set up a booth an art show and sit ALL DAY waiting for people to come by, and hopefully buy something.

    Sometimes being an artist is melancholic, such as when a gallery owner says he likes your work, but doesn’t have room for it, or worse yet, when he says it doesn’t fit the style of his gallery (another way of saying he hates it.)

    Sometimes being an artist is restricting, such as when a gallery owner tells you he will only accept landscapes, or animal paintings, or still lifes… or whatever.

    Sometimes being an artist is dull, not so much while creating, but while taking care of all of the other tasks of marketing, showing, contacting galleries, keeping inventory of prints and supplies, etc.

    Sometimes being an artist is worrisome, like when you look over your receipts for supplies and realize you spent 70 times more on equipment and supplies than what you made in sales over the past year.

    But being an artist is not hell… its just that its not always heaven either.

    Being an artist today, in this world, in this economy, is hard. Not that its ever been easy, but there have been times when it was easier than today.

    You see, today not as many people in America own their own homes, instead they rent. When a person is in a rental, and they know they may have to move, they aren’t as likely to invest in art. After all, that painting might look great over the mantel in this house, but the next house might not have the wall space for it.

    People in America today have less disposable income than they had ten years ago before the housing market tumbled, and no matter how much a person likes art, when they are choosing between putting food on the table, and buying a painting, they buy food!

    So, for an artist to have a chance at supporting themselves today, they often must look into other options aside from simply making great art for people’s walls.

    One thing that many of us artists do, is to look into having our art put on usable or useful items. Items like T-shirts, cups, or pillows.

    I haven’t taken full advantage of this alternate market so far, but I am beginning to. For example, much of my work can be ordered on throw pillows.

    In addition, I’ve had some of art put on T-shirts, and Greeting Cards, and Notecards. I’ve also printed images of my paintings and put them in 1 inch bottle cap necklaces, and soon I will begin doing hand painting on wine glasses and candle holders. I may also have tote bags other items made available for order.

    However, even if none of this took off, even if nobody ever bought a thing, I’d still be an artist, and being an artist would still be worth it. Because being an artist isn’t about being in hell, and it isn’t about being in heaven, it isn’t about money or galleries or pillows or totebags or paintings on canvas.

    Being an artist, is about seeing the world, in all its pain, sorrow, comfort, joy, loneliness and community, and reflecting those things in a way that is beautiful. Being an artist is about taking those feelings and emotions that are bottled inside and letting them pour forth into the created work. To be an artist is to let one’s passion and, in fact one’s very soul, be open and bare before the world for all to see.

    As Van Gogh, the man I see as the world’s greatest artist of all time, said, “I would rather die of passion than of boredom.”

    To be an artist, is to be passionate.

    And in the end, even if I didn’t want to be an artist, I couldn’t stop being one, if I put down my paints my artistic self will scream for expression until it finds another outlet.


    Thank you for reading! If you liked what you see, please consider following this blog with Google Friend connect, or follow me on Google+, or if you prefer, you can follow by email and get notified each time the blog is updated. See the right hand column to follow in any of these ways! I welcome your suggestions on how to make this blog more interesting to you!

    Fine Art America is the place to go for Prints of all my Paintings.


    My etsy shop is the place to go to buy my originals and request commissioned work. A few select prints are available here as well!