Thursday, May 28, 2009

Painting Study: Spring Blossoms

Spring Blossoms
6" x 6"
Acrylic on Masonite

This blue vase is actually the sole survivor of a set of four hand blown drinking glasses a friend gave me years ago.

It has this murky blue green colour that I absolutely adore. Anytime I have the opportunity to collect a few spring blossoms, I tend to put them in this glass. I don't know what compells me to do this. I think it is partly because the green of the leaves against this colour makes them extra vibrant. The blossoms also look extra pinkish against this backdrop. Lastly, there is a greenish cast to the blossoms that fall below the rim. I can't seem to get enough of that.

The shadow was pretty fun to paint as well!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Painting Study: Veronica's Hands


Veronica's Hands
6" x 6"
Acrylic on Masonite

A while ago I was having coffee with a few of my artist friends. As we were chatting I was quite struck by how interesting their hands were. Of course, artists being the endlessly welcoming folks that they are, my friends were happy to display their hands for a few photos. Another one of these pictures ended up as another study, as you can see here.

Veronica's hands are very interesting, she has very long strong fingers and she usually has some really unique jewellery on. Very much the opposite of my short little minimally adorned fingers!

I'm sure the other Starbucks patrons thought we were nuts. We sure had a fun visit though!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Whoa! Where did I go?

I have a confession. I have been away from my easel. A lot.

I live in Alberta, a place where spring and summer are short and sweet. Last week, spring hit with a vengeance and I have to admit, I was lured out of my house and into my garden.

I have taken long walks with my kids to the creek. I have ridden my bike. I have gone for morning runs that don't involve long johns and mitts.

I am also completely unrepentant for my absence.

This week I am somewhat back on track, I even have some auctions going up too! However, I am considering reducing my posting for the summer. I'll try to keep you updated.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Selling Your Art Online: Auctions

I will be honest here, I have a love/hate relationships with auctions. They are expensive for the short time span they are live, you don't always make much money but you may hit it lucky with these, you can really widen your customer base quickly and they are pretty exciting.

Online selling of artwork really took off with ebay - this is the where a lot of artists developed their careers independent of being represented by an agent or gallery. In the early years it was the Wild Wild West of the art world.

It is quite simple to list an auction, open an account on an auction site (I use ebay), take your quality images, write up a listing very similar to how you would in your online store, and then set your starting bid.

Now. This is the tough part... what do you do for a starting bid? There are many theories on the best way to go about this - I suggest you familiarize yourself with some auction lingo before going about this.

Starting/Opening Bid: This is the first bid price. If you list your item for $0.99 hoping for it to get bid up to a higher price you still take the chance that it will get one bid and sell for $0.99. Once it sells, it sells for that price. You cannot back out. Think carefully about your opening bid and list your item for the lowest you can go without feeling regretful if it only gets one bid.

Reserve Auction: This is an option if you don't want to take risks, you can set a reserve on a listing and have a low opening bid to attract buyers. If you put a reserve in place, it remains secret and the item only sells if it is bid up to that amount.

The pros to this is that lots of action on an item means more interest from buyers - they like to feel confident that others like your work as much as they do. The cons - if you set your reserve too high, your ultimate goal (selling your work) may not happen... this means you may pay more listing fees to move that item to another venue or relist it.

Listing Upgrades: these are available to you in a listing, sometimes things are automatically checked off (uncheck them if you don't need them) You can choose a longer listing (10 days over 7 days), Highlighted listings, Feature listings, Automatic Timer (to list at a pre set time) Extra pictures, there are tons and tons of things that you can add.

However, on ebay, if you are going to add things to your listing, you are going to pay for every thing you add. a dime here and there doesn't seem like much but just be aware that a listing can get pricey pretty quick. There is a reason why ebay earned the nick name "feebay" - you can take a $0.55 listing and make it over $20 per listing - which is only live for a week!!!

There can be advantages to you to using some of those features - they may bring up your viewers immensely, occasionally trying something out is good to do if you have a good strategy. Make sure you have a bunch of cheaper auctions live at the same time if you do a high priced auction - buyers will check out your other work if they like your featured auction. Get the greatest bang for your buck!

Insertion Fees: Always be aware of the basic price your listing should be, it is based upon your starting price - the lower your starting bid, the lower your listing fee. Only use the extra features that you want - if there are automatically checked in boxes, be sure to uncheck them if they are not something you want to use.

Take advantage of 5 and 10 cent listing days - the notification on those shows up in your message box a day before they occur. Just be aware that every other seller gets the same message so the competition goes up considerably as they take advantage of the deals too.

Final Value Fees: There is a percentage that ebay will take for the sale of your item on top of the insertion fee. Keep this percentage in mind - read up and be familiar with what it is and remember if you are accepting paypal, this will also be a percentage taken from your sale price. You may want to build a bit of cushion into your opening bid to account for that and prevent regret.

Now, if you are suddenly turned off by all the fees, keep in mind that if you were selling through a gallery they would take a 30% - 60% percentage and online 7% - 10% isn't too bad compared to that. Just be aware and adjust accordingly.

Shill Bidding: DO NOT encourage friends or family who want to "help you out" by bidding on your auctions with no real intent to purchase. False inflation of your prices is not only dishonest, it can result in your auctions being pulled and your ebay account closed.

Also, what sense of accomplishment can you honestly gain in the long term if the only reason your stuff is selling for higher amounts is because people take advantage of a generous bidder. It is better to set your opening bid higher and see what happens than have a relative in cahoots with you.

Anyways, there are more answers to common selling questions on ebay - check out Seller Central or do a search on key terms. When you are looking at their suggestions always keep it at the back of your mind that ebay makes its money off of YOU. They are going to tell you how wonderful all their products and services are so that they can sell them to you.

Start out with basic listings as a base line and then add things here and there one at a time so you can see for yourself how they affect your sales. Good luck!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Tools of the Trade: Motivation

Here are some things that might give you a little insight into why you create:

What is your end goal? When you create a piece of artwork, ask yourself what it is that you hope to achieve with it. For some it might be an immediate release, to express profound joy or to relieve stress. Others may take a longer viewpoint, hoping that their work will hang in a museum or become a highly collected item.

By looking at your end goal, you can take steps to make those dreams a reality. Maybe you need to protect a few hours for creating during a busy week to keep your equilibrium, perhaps you need to create a portfolio so you can start building your long term career.

Would you create this if money were not an issue? This is a big question to ask yourself. Some people can't get past the price tag - this can create a huge issue in regards to motivation.

If you are selling a ton (either because you have low prices or because you have hit a sweet spot) it is easy to feel like you are on a hamster wheel of produce.produce.produce. in order to keep the sales up. This can over extend you as an artist and lead to burn out or at the very least, repetitive, formulaic pieces.

If you are not selling much, this can be a huge blow to your ego as an artist. If you judge your work and find motivation purely from a sale - during tough economic times like these, your ability to weather the storm may not last long.

Would you create this if no one ever saw it? Showing your work can be a bit of a high, it is a great feeling to hear feedback from your clients, make money from something you love and hear the praise of your peers.

If you are creating solely so that they will respond to your work, it may be another form of motivation that doesn't take you through a dry spell.

The Internet is a HUGE place. It is pretty humbling to have good auctions with a decent amount of views and then suddenly *whammo* - no one there. Most people who follow your work go through cycles of paying attention. Sometimes they go away on vacation, get busy themselves or sometimes your work gets a bit rusty and they lose a bit of interest... whatever the reason, it may not be a good idea to depend too much on your numbers.

Does the act of creation bring you joy or satisfaction? Do you enjoy doing what you are doing? Not the end goal here, but the actual process. Can you find pleasure or release in expressing yourself with your artwork? If your answer is "no", then you probably really need to dig deeply into your motivations.

Creating artwork is a pretty unique thing - if you have developed your ability to the point where you are finding success in selling it to people who appreciate it, you probably loved doing it at some point. If you have reached a point where there is no enjoyment there, then how did you lose that?

So many people express a desire to be able to create like this. In some sense, it could be considered the equivalent to having a pair of wings and being able to fly - to be afraid of heights or to dislike being in the air would be an awful waste of that ability. If that were my situation, I would want to figure out why I couldn't make use of that somehow.

What do I do if I have the wrong motives? Loosen up. Don't take your artwork or yourself that seriously. I can remember being a pretentious teenager and not wanting to lift my finger to make a line that was out of character because I felt somehow it really mattered.

Years later I looked back at this time and discovered a few things. I repeated myself, I didn't practice much, my work was cold and stilted, and the pretension showed through.

If you are holding too tightly to your work, give it away. Donate it to charity, give it to a friend for a gift - bless someone else at no benefit to yourself. If that is too hard, cut your prices in half and have a sale. If you have a studio full of work and that bothers you - think about your motivation and change something (or else try to not let having a full studio bother you).

What do I do if I need new motivation? Loosen up - but in a different way. Play with technique, try a different medium - go take a weekend class. Dig out your sketchbook and make a point of spending 10 minutes a day brainstorming some ways to take your artwork to a new level. Sketch something different, time yourself on a sketch, go copy some great masters at the art gallery.

It can be so easy to lose sight of the end goal - keeping that in mind and constantly questioning your motives can really help your artistic life stay balanced and healthy!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Just Listed: Alberta Spring

Alberta Spring
12" x 12"
Acrylic on Canvas

I've finally gotten around to listing some things in my etsy store that are sitting around my studio. However, with the upcoming Airdrie 7 show and sale on May 16th, some of these items may not last past the weekend!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Selling Your Art Online: Merchandise Store

Once you have your direct presence online with a blog and a store, you can branch out even further, with another type of venue, one that sells customized merchandise such as my zazzle store. There are a few sites such as this, cafepress and zazzle being the big ones out there.

My theory with selling art online is that the more sources of passive income, however small those sources, the more regular your income will be. Having a merchandise store available is a way for your customers to get a unique product with your artwork on it.

I say it is passive because once you load up your images and choose how they will be formatted on the product (t-shirt, magnet, cards etc) all that is left is promoting your store. The more time you put into telling people about your merchandise, the more people will look at it.

So what happens when somebody purchases your merchandise? The company that hosts your store then takes care of the payment, producing the item, shipping it and customer service. They basically handle everything from the moment a purchase is made. If there is a problem, they will fix it for the customer - it is a good idea google reviews of the products you want to have or order one for yourself so you can see the quality for yourself.

After the transaction is completed, you will have a royalty amount available in your account that you can ask them to store up, transfer to your paypal account or cut a cheque for you. (Sellers outside of the country your store is based in - always read the terms of service before opening a store like this to see if they will be able to send you payment in a way that you can accept, they do not always send cheques out of the country and those that do will do it in their currency)

Personally, I don't make a fortune off of stores like this, but for the time it takes to set up a few products, I have found it to be worth the effort. It is just another iron in the fire that is online selling!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Sketchbook: Parking Lot View

I often have to park the car and wait for my kids. This offers me prime sketching time. If I am at a loss for a subject, I'll usually just pick something random and go from there. This is one such sketch. I kind of wanted to capture the main landscape elements and the atmosphere in the sky.
Not sure if it totally translated, but that is the fun of sketching. If I feel like sketching something else, the commitment level is low, so all I have to do is turn the page for something new.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Tools of the Trade: Tube Wringer

I just picked this little gadget up last week with visions of never wasting a drop of paint or toothpaste again. It works like a charm, crimping out the last bit of whatever from the tube.
If you look for one of these, the heavier the construction and the wider the appliance the better. The model I got is mostly plastic and rubber and I notice that the width doesn't accommodate some of my tubes of primer.
Live and learn! I do think I'll get my $6.50 out of this gadget though!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Sketchbook: Girl with Notepad

My daughter has noticed me carrying my sketchbook everywhere. It has resulted in me carrying a sketchbook for her everywhere too. At least hers is a tiny dollar store notepad. She feels quite grown up sitting next to me drawing princesses and fairies.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Selling Your Art Online: Opening a Store

Once you have all your images ready, you've started a blog and you've made yourself available, it is time to start branching out. Your little blog is just a tiny corner of the universe and it would serve you well to get your name out in a variety of places.

One such place could be opening a store on an artisan site like Etsy, or via Ebay. There are countless other options available out there, some cheaper some more prestigious - do your research and find a place where art of the same caliber of yours is getting prices that you deem to be reasonable (just make sure it is actually selling as opposed to just waiting to be sold - you can usually check this by looking at the seller's feedback)

Most places will let you set up a store for free (etsy) or for a monthly fee (ebay). You then get charged for each listing that you put in your store.

A listing is made up of an image, a description, your selling terms (payment within ____ days, ____ type of payment accepted, returns allowed/not allowed etc) and your shipping information (will ship internationally, using ______ method, _______ amount for each area)

You can look at how other people set up their listings on the site and tailor your set up to be similar (without copying word for word). Use the same logic that you have for your blog - write up clear listings and be upfront about what your customer is paying for.

Some things to avoid doing:

Multicoloured text - it can really drain your eyes to navigate through a long listing. It may look a little too gaudy to someone who really wants to purchase your art.
varying sizes. Or UsiNG OdD CapiTaliZaysHon OR sPELLinGz.
Also avoid centering everything - this is a listing,
not a wedding invitation. (haha)


Once you have your pieces listed - be prepared to log in occasionally and respond to any convos (conversations) or messages that people send you - it is really important to not turn those email notifications off, your customer doesn't want to wait a week for you to realize they had a burning desire to purchase your art.

Pay your bill in a timely manner - nothing is worse than getting into arrears and having your account closed and your listings pulled! You can usually set up an automatic payment plan, just make sure to check your charges over to make sure things are all okay.

Once you sell a piece, you will be charged a FVF (Final Value Fee) or Sales Fee - usually it is around 3.5% to 7% (much cheaper than the 30%- 60% gallery cut!) and will be calculated automatically. Keep that fee in mind when you set your prices so that you do undercut your profits to account for these little additions. They are the price of doing business on a larger site with way more traffic than your blog!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Airdrie7 - Women. Mothers. Artists.

Hello everyone - I haven't disappeared. I've been busy preparing for an upcoming show and sale for an informal arts group I am a part of, the Airdrie7.

For my local friends and patrons, I invite you to come out on May 16th to see us in action - more information will be forthcoming on our group blog! I will be showing a mixture of large and small new works as well as painting live on site! Email me if you have any questions.