• Tag Archives art sales
  • Thursday Thoughts – A Plan and a Painting

    First a Painting

    From Chiropractor’s Wall to Collector’s Wall

    You might remember me telling about a painting that I reclaimed from my chiropractor’s office because I felt it wasn’t being displayed satisfactorily.  While I put it there in the hopes that someone waiting for massage or adjustment might see it and decide to buy it, it was never hung in a very visible place.  The place it was displayed was only being seen by people on their way for x-rays, which at a chiropractor’s office is usually only for your first visit.  Well, I reclaimed the painting and put it up in the studio where everyone who came in could see it, and it finally sold. Only it didn’t sell as a result of being seen in the studio.  It sold from my etsy shop to a collector in California.

    This was great encouragement for me, because while I’ve sold prints and T-shirts, cards, and hand painted glassware.  It has been a while since I sold an original painting, and it was making me wonder if it was ever going to happen again.

    Koi fish
    My Koi Pond is off to its new home.

    I just packaged this painting last night and got in the mail today, it should be arriving at its new home next week sometime.

     

    Next, a Plan

    Log it, track it, write it down and add it up.

    So, in my last post I shared about how I didn’t keep track of financials as they happened, and it is causing much delay in filing my business taxes.  Well, I am not making the same mistake in 2017, I am keeping a running ledger, so I will always know at a glance what shape I am in financially.

    While I don’t plan to make up for previous years’ losses, I don’t want losses in 2017.  So, unless the expense is unavoidable, like a bill that is due and can’t be delayed, I will not spend money on my art, or classes, or studio, unless I am in the black.  I have a pretty good start to 2017 already, January I came out $25 in the black, and now with a sale in February I am looking to probably ending February in the black too, by at least as much as January, so the two will accumulate to being at least $50 in the black for the year so far.

    Now of course if I am in the middle of a painting and need a certain color of paint I’ll probably buy it regardless of financials, but a lot of my spending in 2016 were not things I needed right then, a lot of it was because this store or that one was having a great deal on canvases or paints that would likely come in handy later.  Since I didn’t really know I was operating in the red, I went ahead and bought things that I didn’t even really need for a project right then.

    Well no more.  From now on if it is discretionary it will only be purchased if my art business is in the black by enough to cover it.  My goal for 2017 is to at least come out even financially in my art business.  Now, that might not seem like much of a financial plan, but its a start.  Sure it would be great to turn a nice profit, but I love doing art, and if all it does is pay for itself, I will be pretty satisfied.

    One good thing about all the supplies I purchased in 2016, I have plenty stashed up to start 2017 without spending much.  Yes, there may be an occasion here or there where I need something specific, but for the most part I have enough supplies to do almost any art project I might want to do.  If I buy anything at all in the coming year it would likely be paints as I run out.  I have canvases everywhere. I might have to buy more of the economy canvases for my classes at some point, but not right away, and as for the canvases for my personal use, I have more than I think I could possibly use in one year.

    So, I don’t think curtailing my spending is going to curtail my creating of art at all.

     


  • A Few Tips for Using Etsy as a Selling Tool

    There are a lot of pros and cons to using etsy as a selling tool, rather than just selling directly from ones own website, but I’m not going to outline those right now.  Someday I probably will switch over to having a shopping cart on my website instead of going through etsy, but at this time the convenience of etsy’s shopping cart and calculated shipping are working for me while I try to find the best wordpress plug in  to take its place.

    In case you are also using etsy, or thinking about using etsy, I thought it might to share with you some tips I’ve learned.  I learned some of these tips through trial and error, and others through online courses.  I’m not offering this as a full course, instead, I’m condensing it and just passing on what I’ve found most helpful so far.

    You can’t just post it thoughtlessly

    So you’ve made a necklace, or a painting, or knitted a hat, or made any other kind of handmade item you want to sell, and everyone tells you, “Oh that’s great!  You should sell on etsy!”

    So you go to etsy and open an account, and start your store.  Next you take your item, lets say for now its a knitted hat, you see that etsy asks you to post at least one picture, you put your hat down on your table, and snap a picture of it, then you upload the picture.  You see that etsy allows more than one photograph, but you figure one is good enough.  You see that the next step to uploading an item is to enter a title.  You type the words “Knitted Hat”, you figure out the categories and the pricing and enter those, then its time to make a description.  You’ve already told them its a knitted hat, so you look at it try to figure out what else to say.  Its a green hat so you decide to describe it as a “Green knitted hat”  You then decide that maybe you should mention the crocheted flower you attached to your knitted hat, so you edit your description to say, “Green knitted hat with pink crochet flower on rim”.

    Then you move on.  You are asked to enter tags. So you tag it as “hat”, “knitted”, “accessories”, and “women’s fashions”.

    You are asked to enter the materials used, You enter “Yarn”, then you think better of it and decide to specify, “Green acrylic yarn”, “pink acrylic yarn”.

    You figure out the shipping options, see that the other stuff is optional, so you skip it, then you publish and wait for your hat to sell.  Four months later, your listing expires, and you wonder if its worth renewing it, because according to your stats it only got a few views, and you don’t understand why, its a very attractive hat, the yarn you chose is durable, known for retaining its shape, and is even machine washable, its been cold out, so people should be looking for warm hats.  You decide to give it another go and renew it, and four months later the same scenario ensues, except now its spring and no one is in the market for winter hats anymore.  You abandon your shop and wonder how anyone ever sells anything on etsy.

     

    How to make an etsy listing that will get seen

    So lets look at this, and go through this listing process again, and see how you could have listed your lovely hat in a way that would have gotten some views at least.

     

    The pictures

    Okay, so the first thing you come to when creating an etsy listing is the place to post photos.  What you need to remember about your photos is that need to showcase your item in such as a way as to grab attention.  A hat laying on a table or desk looks, to most people, like clutter.  Like someone forgot to put their hat away.   You can improve the appearance by maybe putting a some boxes or blocks down to lean the hat on, and then cover those with a table cloth in a complimentary color to the hat, or a color such as white or brown that will show it off without clashing.  Set a vase with some flowers in it next to it… prop the hat up on the boxes behind it, get down on eye level, and take the picture.  Now, at least the photo is interesting.

    But wait!  Is there an even better way to showcase this hat?  Sure there is!  Get a friend to put the hat on, go outside in the cold, in some place that shows the season in the background, (for example fall leaves, or if its winter, near a fence or tree that has snow on it).  Have your friend turn to an attractive angle that shows the flower on the hat, and take a couple of photos, one should be close up on her head to show the hat in detail, in another maybe she could be holding a snowball as if she’s going to throw it, in the next maybe sprinkle a light dusting of snow onto the hat and a little on her hair and take another closeup, with her looking like she’s laughing.  Now upload that series of photos to etsy.

    What if you can’t find a friend willing to do this, or its not snowing where your live, or its still summer and you’re getting your listing ready for fall and winter so NOTHING outside looks like its the right season.  Okay, there are ways around all of that.

    A wig head can wear your hat, its probably best if its not a white Styrofoam wig head though, because we might surround it with white stuff, they sell black velvet covered wig heads at a lot of craft stores, if you can get one of those that’s great, or one that is made to look more real, with the skin, face and eyes colored in.

    Now, take some quilt batting and spread it out on your table to look like snow, put the hat on the wig head, dig out your Christmas stuff and find some fake evergreen or holly to set around on the quilt batting. Now take your pictures.  Or, if you had to use a white wig head, maybe you could go with a more fall like setting, put down a festive fall tablecloth, surround the wig head with some fall decor like gourds, colorful leaves, ornamental corn.

    Whatever you do with the background, make it look interesting and related to you item in some way, take photo.  Now slightly rearrange everything and take a photo from a different angle.  In a couple of the photos maybe drape the hat instead of using the wig head.

    Now, make sure that you are taking your photos in good lighting, outdoor lighting, but not in direct sunlight is best to show the true colors of all you items.  Upload you photos, pick the most eye-grabbing one and move it to the first spot, adjust the thumbnail to best showcase the item.

    As an example of some of these principles, look at my featured photo of my T-shirt above, now, does that photo look better, or would a photo of the shirt draped over a table look better?  Which one makes you want to buy the shirt, and which one makes you think of laundry?  😉

    The etsy title

    I’m going to give you a little disclaimer, there is a lot of disagreement about what makes a good etsy title.  Some say keep it short and descriptive,  easy on the eye.

    What I learned from a few of the most successful etsy shops though is this, make your title include as many keywords as you can, and separate those keywords and phrases by commas, because they are also going to be your tags a little later on.

    Now, what do I mean by keywords and phrases?  Well, for our hat it would look something like this.

    Knitted hat, knitted green beanie, hat with flower, machine washable hat, warm winter hat, women’s winter wear, pink green flowers.

     

    Item Description

    Okay, before you get to the description you’ll answer some questions about who made the item, when it was made, what it is for, what category you want it listed in, the price, etc.  I’ll let you figure those out because they are fairly self explanatory.

    For the actual description though, you want to make sure it is short enough that people will read it, interesting, and contains enough information to answer the questions someone might have.

    So, for our hat we might say something like.  “Winter is coming! Get ready for it with it with this lovely pale green knitted beanie that has a feminine pink flower on the rim.  This hat is made from machine washable acrylic yarn that is excellent in its ability to retain its shape and soft texture wash after wash.  And its also convenient to dry, just lay it flat on a towel and it dries very quickly because the acrylic yarn doesn’t absorb much water to start with.  This hat is a one size fits most adult hat, it stretches so it can fit hat sizes ranging from small to extra large without any struggle.”

    Now, if you have other items on etsy that might go with this hat, say a pair of mittens in a matching color you can add, pair this hat with the mittens found at _______________ (insert etsy listing link), to stay even warmer this winter!

    A few tips on your description.

    Include as many of your keywords and phrases into it as you can without sounding silly.

    Link to other listings in your shop if they relate to this listing in any way, for example, hats in other colors, mittens in accompanying colors, a scarf that would go nicely with the hat, etc, also make those descriptions link back to this one when you are done.

    Try to anticipate questions someone might have about the item, and try to answer them.

    Make it sound good.  Which of these two descriptive phrases sounds best: “synthetic yarn” or, “machine washable acrylic yarn that is excellent in its ability to retain its shape and soft texture was after wash”?  Try to think like the customer and how each phrase would sound to you.

     

    The etsy tags

    After your description you will set up your shipping options, shop section, and various things like that which are fairly self explanatory, but the next item which most people need help with is the tags.

    The first tags you should list will be exactly the same as your title, just copy your title, paste it in the tags, and click “add”.  If you broke your title up into short phrases with commas between like we described above, each phrase will now be a separate tag.

    Now, after pasting the title into the tags field, you will find you have room left for some more tags, in the case of our hat, if you used the title above, we have room for six more tags.  Now you need to think of 6 more descriptive phrases for the hat, you want to use all the tags you’re allowed, because tags along with keywords in your title and description, is how the etsy search engine finds your listing.  This is tricky, so here I’ll share with you a tool you can use here, and in creating your titles.

    Use Marmalead

    Go to http://marmalead.com and sign up for the free version.  In the search field at the top of the marmalead page you’ll type in a quick description of your item.  For example, “Green knitted hat with pink crochet flower”.  It will search etsy and find similar items scroll past the “matching items” down to the section that says, “tags used”.  You can then use the arrows to sort these various ways.  First sort for the ones that have the best rank, a good rank number is small, for instance, if a tag ranks as “1” it means that if you search that phrase on etsy it comes up on page one, so with rank, the lower the number the better.

    The next part of the marmalead site to use is the “views/item”, use the arrow to sort that so that the highest numbers show on top.  This will show you which tags resulted in the most views.

    Get some tags from both the lower ranking numbers and the high views sections.  Low ranking numbers are good because people will only click through a few pages when looking for something, however a low ranking number can also be deceptive because it might just means that no one else uses that tag, so if you search specifically for that tag, only that one item matches so it comes up first.  In that case you need to look at the tag and think about how likely it is that someone is actually going to search that term.

    The “views/item” with a high number means the items with that tag is getting a lot of actual views, so obviously people are searching relevant terms for that tag.

    By getting some of your tags from the lower ranking numbers and some from high view numbers, you hedging your bets and increasing the chances of your item ending up on pages 1-5 of some shoppers search.  If you can find tags that are both relevant to your item, with high views and a low ranking, that is most definitely a tag you want to use!

     

    Materials

    In the materials field list your materials, keep in mind some hints from the description field, “machine washable acrylic yarn” sounds better to me than just “synthetic yarn” or “acrylic yarn”.

     

    Other fields

    Next you have fields for “occasion”, “style”, and “recipient”.

    If there is a gift-giving holiday coming up select it from the “occasion” field, of course if your item is a wedding cake topper, you’d select “weddings” and if it was a happy birthday banner you’d select “birthday”, but if your item isn’t strictly related to a specific event, you can pick whatever the next gift giving occasion is, and if nothing suitable is coming up you can leave it blank for now.  You can always come and change these fields later as another holiday or gift giving occasion draws near.

    If the item fits into a specific style, select that from the style fields.

    If your item is very clearly for one type of recipient, for instance, “women” or “teen girls”, select that from the recipient field.  If it really would be fine for anyone, just leave that blank.

     

    Now publish your listing.

    A few more etsy tips

    A few more tips for etsy that arent’ specifically about how to create a listing.

    List or renew frequently

    Etsy’s search engines favor new or newly renewed listings.  So if you have 50 items items on etsy they shouldn’t all renew the same day, try to stagger the renewal times out.  Each etsy listing lasts four months, approximately 120 days, so ideally you’d have at least 120 items with at least one item renewing each day, that way there always fresh or freshly renewed content on your shop, but you are never paying to renew an item before it expires.

    As you set your items up, if you choose to have them auto renew, then once you get enough items listed, one per day, they will renew one at a time as well, so that your shop always looks active to etsy’s search engines.

     

    List a lot.

    Shops with more listings are favored by etsy’s search engines.  Etsy itself is a business, and etsy makes its money not only when someone buys something, but also when each seller lists or renews something.  It makes sense that etsy favors the sellers that “contribute” more to etsy’s bottom line by listing a lot of stuff and renewing often.

    Aside from the search engines, think from a shoppers point of view.  Your etsy shop is your store front.  How would you feel if you walked into your local clothing store and they only had three items in the store?  Would you come back?  Shoppers feel the same way if they come to your etsy shop and see three items.

     

    Sales generate more sales

    Etsy’s search engines also favor shops that make sales, so run all your sales through etsy.  Get the “Sell on etsy” app for your smart phone, now, when you are out selling somewhere else, such as a farmer’s market, or even at home with a friend.  Run your sale through etsy.  It counts as an etsy sale and so will help generate other etsy sales. Yes, it costs you some fees that it wouldn’t cost if you sold in person without the etsy app, but think of that as advertising money, a way to increase your sales over the long hall.


  • Earning with Art – Part 2

    Yesterday I posted the problems associated with trying to earn money through art, first noting that being an artist isn’t about making money, which is a good thing because there are many easier ways to make money, and many will find that even working for minimum wage will pay better. I also noted that making art has its own rewards, but that money was still needed, even to be able to make the art in the first place.

    I noted how selling art can be a real struggle, because materials to make art and the space to sell it both cost money, many times a considerable amount of money, and yet most buyers are looking for a bargain, barely wanting to cover the cost of the materials, let alone the overhead involved in selling the art.

    I concluded though, that while very few will become rich as a result of their art, it is reasonable and possible for many artists to at least cover their costs plus make a little extra.

    Today, I’ll tell you a few ways I’ve found that you actually can earn a little with art, bear in mind though, that I’m still learning myself, and there may be some very good opportunities out there that I haven’t learned about yet!

     

    Original Art Sales aren’t the Only Kind of Sales

    Its great when I can sell an original painting for a fair price that adequately compensates me for the materials, the time spent, and the overhead costs of selling.  However, that just doesn’t happen that often.  More often than not, when an original sells it doesn’t cover a fair hourly pay plus materials, let alone the overhead costs.  Thankfully though, there are other kinds of sales that can be made.

    Prints

    Perhaps the most obvious other type of sell is prints.  Selling prints of work allows people to purchase a version of an artist’s work at much less than the cost of the original, without the artist losing out.  Of course there are different kinds of prints and different ways to have them made, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

    Fine Art Giclee Prints

    Fine are prints are prints that are manufactured with archival inks on acid free fine art paper or on canvas.  The advantages to these prints is that they last a very long time and really showcase the artwork in the very best way possible aside from the original.  The colors are generally very true to the original, with a depth and reflection of the most subtle of differences between shades, values, and tones. They are archival, which usually means they are guaranteed to resist fading for at least 60 years, and often up to 200 years. The disadvantage is that unless an artist can afford to have thousands made at one time, the artist is probably going to pay between $7.00-$15.00 for a small, 8×10 print on paper (it will vary based on the type of paper, how many are ordered, and what company the artist orders them from). Then add to that the cost of having it shipped to the artist, the cost of backing, matting, print sleeves, and/or frames, and the cost of overhead for sells, and the customer is going need to pay between $20 and $50 for that 8×10 print if the artist is going to make a profit.  Prints on canvas will run even more.  So, just like with the original art, there is a limit to the number of people willing to spend what is needed for these.

    Standard Giclee Prints

    I’ll let you in on a little secret, the term “giclee” is a term invented sometime in the 1980’s for prints done on special, high resolution, archival inkjet printers.  At first it was used exclusively for prints made on those high quality archival printers.  However, no one trademarked the term, which came from a French word meaning “nozzle” in its noun form, and “to squirt or spray” in its verb form.  So, in the mid 1990’s, it started being used to refer to any inkjet art print.  Any inkjet printer capable of reproducing a print that closely matches the colors of the original piece (a photo quality inkjet) is technically capable of making “Giclee” prints.  Because of this, artist’s have needed to specify between an “archival” giclee, and just a “regular” giclee.  I, and many other artists, specify this difference by calling the regular giclee prints “Standard Prints”, and the archival giclees, “Archival Prints”.  The benefits of a standard giclee if it it printed on high quality paper it will usually not be visually distinguishable from the archival giclee right after printing, and it costs much less, depending on the printer brand and where the ink is purchased it could cost as little as $1.50 for each 8×10, though most of the time it will probably run closer to $2 or $3 in cost to the artist. Again, you have to add to that the cost of backing, print sleeves, frames, and overhead, but in the end, it is possible for artist to ast between $10 adn $15 for these prints and still make a profit on them.  The disadvantages of these prints is that they are more prone to fading than archival prints are.  You can still expect them to last 5-10 years if they are not hanging in direct sunlight though, also they will last considerably longer if they are coated in a UV protection spray, which will bring their display life up to 50 years without fading under normal display conditions.

    Laser Prints

    Laser Prints, like giclees, vary in quality and cost based on the quality of the laser printer used, they have many of the same advantages and disadvantages as the various types of giclees, so I won’t repeat a lot of that information.  The main difference though is the visual quality.  A laser printer will cast a “sheen” over certain dark colors, and tends to not pick up contrast and subtle value differences as well as giclee prints.  Laser prints are best suited for digital art, because the programs used to create digital art often are designed with the laser printer’s color capabilities in mind, whereas physical paint will often have too subtle of differences between shades and values, and the laser printer will lose those.  The laser prints do have the advantage of lasting a very long time, they resist smudging from contact and moisture, they resist fading for a very long time, up to 200 years.  They generally fall somewhere in the same cost range as the standard Giclees, of course depending upon paper or canvas type, etc.

    Cards

    For a fairly reasonable price, prints can be made on greeting cards or post cards.  The quality and price depends on where they are purchased.

    Poster Prints 

    Poser prints are made by a variety of processes, often by laser printing methods, they are usually printed on very inexpensive paper, and are more prone to tearing and fading than prints on better paper.  Their quality is about what see in posters purchased from any store.  They have the advantage of being fairly inexpensive, although to get the really low prices the artist will often have to purchase 500 or more of the same image at the same time.  Still, there are some places that will do small runs or even single posters starting around $3 each, plus shipping.  Even though they are called poster prints, they can actually be made in a variety of sizes, from as small as 5×7 to as large as your typical movie poster.

    Products

    Other types of sells are also possible. Art can printed on a variety of products.  A list of products I’ve seen easily available are: coffee mugs, travel mugs, pillows, T-shirts, phone cases, computer cases, tablet cases, ipad cases, shower curtains, duvet covers, book marks, purses, tote bags, leggings and skirts.  There are a variety of ways to do this.  You probably will make the most if you can find a manufacturer to print on the products for you, with no middle man, but for that you will usually have to put up the money for a large number of each image on each product type, and then you will have to hold onto the inventory and market it all yourself.

    There is a way to have your art put on products without doing that though, and that is through several different print on demand sites, there are many out there, Redbubble, Zazzle, cafepress, fineartamerica, and pixels.com to name a few.  What these sites do is showcase your work on the products you choose, and when someone orders them the site pays you a royalty for the sale.  You usually only make 15-20% of the sale price of the item, but you didn’t pay anything for the manufacture of the item either.  My favorite so far is Redbubble, both for the variety of products and for the fact that they charge you nothing to have your work there.

    The only disadvantage to doing this is that in the eyes of some collectors it “cheapens” the artwork and doesn’t really allow you to do a limited edition of an image.  For that reason, I haven’t put all of my work up on those sites, though I have put some.  With some future pieces I plan to do limited edition prints, and so I won’t be able to list those on redbubble or a similar site.

    Well, once again I’ve let this post get longer than I wanted, so tomorrow I’ll continue this same series, but tomorrow, I’ll be venturing away from actual sales, into other ways to earn money with art.

     


  • 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.


  • 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!