Sunday, April 29, 2012

Are You Serious?

I know people think it, but most will not ask "So if you are selling online, on Etsy, are you really a serious artist?" Like somehow making money to pay the bills is counterproductive to being a “true” artist.

No, I don't have an art degree. (I wanted one, and secretly part of me still does...or maybe it's the college experience I think I missed.) Too few boundaries in my youth, allowed me to be a mother at barely 20 and again at 24. In retrospect I wouldn't change a thing, I have two fine men I am proud to call my sons, not to mention four grandchildren from 18-3 years old. You know that old line "You can't scare me, I'm a mother", that's my mantra. 

I did spend 30 years in the corporate world which taught me good work habits, critical thinking, a real hunger for learning, and how to run a business.  I left in 1992 to pursue my creative dreams, however, as I began my self-directed art education there was that voice that said “the bills are piling up, pay them now!”  I come from a long line of entrepreneurs: my paternal grandfather sold popcorn balls and candied apples at a roadside stand in Florence, NE to support a family of 10, as a single mother of 2, my maternal grandmother owned her own beauty shop, my father owned his own home-building business to support a family of 6.  We know how to pay the bills.

That voice remains with me now, which is why I create “impulse buy” art along with my “serious” art.  I belong to the Pastel Society of Colorado, Missouri Valley Impressionist Society, American Impressionist Society, Colored Pencil Society of America (where I serve as the national president) and quite a few local Denver groups.  I was also a juried member of the International Guild of Realism for several years, accepted into their exhibition in Santa Fe in 2007.  My larger art is priced from $500-$1500.

To pay the bills: I teach pastel and colored pencil workshops, I create “impulse buy” art, I’ve been a paid staff member of our local arts council to perform website maintenance, marketing and outreach duties, and I RARELY take commissions (they are soul-suckers for me!)  I paint what I want to paint, small or large, and if someone wants to buy it then I’m a happy camper. 

"Chopsticks and Tulip Bowl"
12 x 16 Pastel on Paper
Click Here to Purchase Painting

Would I like a brick and mortar gallery for my larger art?  The jury’s out on that.  It would have to be a really stupendous relationship for that to happen.  I do have a gallery in Fort Wayne, IN that buys my smaller works 10-15 at a time for their gift shop, payment up front with shipping included.  Handy money when the rent is due the first of the month on my art studio.  The gallery owner found me on E-Bay when I was doing some experimenting with auction/buy now listings.  She bought a 4 x 4” painting for $9 and I have now sold her almost $700 worth of art over the last year and a half.  Not a bad return.

The stories I have heard from my artist friends about their gallery experiences (not to mention my own stories) is not necessarily making me want to hunt down potential galleries and entice them to review my portfolio.  I like people and business relationships on my own terms, as my studio mate will tell you.

"Lemons and Blue Glass"
12 x 18 Pastel on Paper
Click Here to Purchase Painting

What’s Next?

1.      How do you feel about selling your work online? Do you think that makes you less of an artist? Would you be proud to tell your friends you have an Etsy shop or whatever shop?

2.      How much money do you need to pay the bills? How many reasonably priced impulse buys vs. more expensive art do you need to create to reach the needed money? 

3.     Do you really want gallery representation or are you a do-it-yourself marketer? Under what conditions would you consider gallery representation?

1 comment:

  1. I sell almost ALL of my work online! I may need to look further into your idea of "impulse buys" - I think that's great! The little ones do add up! My artwork sells in the range of $150-$1000 right now, mostly depending on size and materials (if I'm working with 24k gold, the customer has to pay a good deal more, that stuff's expensive!).
    Do I think selling online makes me less of an artist? NO WAY! Never thought it might make me less an artist! I use social networking and web-based galleries to get exposure, I also play lots of online games (I'm a nerd, lol).... and oddly enough, I have sold more through Facebook, Twitter, and Mafia MoFo (where I'm a mafia Godmother HAHA)than I've ever sold through galleries and art fairs. Maybe it's my city - Pittsburgh is all about the Steelers, not about the art - I don't know, but the past year, quite a few months' worth of rent has been paid strictly from art sales. First time EVER.

    Ideally, I'd like to one day quit my day job to work as a full-time artist. I am looking into teaching classes in the future (not easy to come up with lesson plans and pitch it to places!) and of course, selling more artwork. I need to produce more before I can sell it - which really makes me want to get into more artwork for "Impulse Buys". To quit my job comfortably, I need about $40k a year. And I'm hoping to reach that point in the next couple of years.

    I prefer to sell my art on my own, rather than through galleries. Here in Pittsburgh, if you want an art exhibit, you pay the gallery's rent for the month, in addition to everything else, even needing to work the gallery (for free). It can cost thousands of dollars for an exhibit. And on top of all that, the galleries here want 30-50% commission (for what, I ask you! I'm the one working the gallery!).... and if I tack on the commission costs, my artwork is just plain unaffordable.
    Yes, I much prefer to sell my work myself, keep my prices affordable, AND keep the money for myself.

    In the future, I may look into gallery representation, when I'm too busy creating to worry about the selling. But even then, the terms will have to be superb, and there will have to be a fantastic and special working relationship with that gallery. But, I'm a long way from that still. :)