Hooray! People are buying your art!
It can be exciting to see the dollars start rolling in, but too often we turn around and spend a lot of that money on business expenses. Here are a few ways to keep costs down so you can pocket more of that money!
1. Buy online.
Buying supplies in an art store is a lot of fun, but doesn't always give you the best deals. I suggest turning to Amazon Prime or sites such as Cheap Joe's and Jerry's Artorama for lower prices on things you buy often. This has the added benefit of allowing you to read reviews before purchasing an item! A bonus tip is to buy products in bulk. I buy my watercolor paper in huge rolls, which requires a little more work on my end, but ultimately saves me lots of money!
2. Frame art yourself.
Getting art framed professionally is a beautiful and convenient option, but not all of us are able to shell out for hundreds of dollars worth of framing! Framing at home is actually pretty simple once you get the hang of it, and there are loads of good tutorials online. I like to buy D rings and wire, as well as frames on Amazon. Etsy also has some great handmade frames if you're looking for something unique. Another upside is that you can often find frames online in sizes that are difficult to find in stores.
3. Get creative with packaging.
Packaging art to ship can get pricey quickly, but with a bit of a DIY spirit, you can cut costs dramatically. First of all, save boxes! If you order a lot online, you probably have plenty of boxes laying around. Save them. When shipping large, framed art to galleries, I reuse the boxes that my frames came in! Smaller works can be shipped in envelopes, but be certain to back them with sturdy board so they don't get bent. I cut my own backers from the ones I receive from my print shop. You could also use cardboard. When including a thank you note, don't buy a pricey card. Make one yourself! It will add a lovely personal touch that your customers will appreciate.
4. Make small work.
This is a fairly obvious solution, but should be stated. Small work tends to sell better and ship cheaper. I can ship a small piece for 4-8 dollars. Usually I ship pieces unframed because it is more cost-effective for me, and allows the customer to buy a frame that they like.
5. Create intentionally.
Instead of making whatever suits your whims at the moment, create art that has value to your target market. That way it has a better chance of selling and you won't be wasting supplies.
There are, of course, a few things you should not skimp on. Here are a couple:
A high quality print on good paper will look so good that customers may not be able to tell it's not an original! Printing your art at Kinko's will be affordable, yes, but it won't give your customers the quality they deserve.
As I said previously, most materials are cheaper online, but don't fall into the trap of buying the cheapest paper, pens, and paints on the market. You will be able to tell the difference, and so will your potential buyers. Good watercolor paints are miles away from the kind you played with as a child! Bad materials lead to bad work.
A well-placed ad can do wonders for your business. I know it can be hard to spend money promoting an instagram post or creating a facebook ad, but they often reach people that you'd never be able to access otherwise. For example, for my last workshop, I spent $15 in facebook ads, and gained around 5 new students, who were each paying $40. That's a profit of $185!
I hope that these tips allow you to save money so that you can invest it back into your art practice. Please let me know if you have any questions about this topic!
Have you ever wondered how people get into group and solo gallery shows? I know I did when I was first starting out! I wish someone had just given me a list of WHAT TO DO when approaching galleries!
So...here is that list, from me to you.
1. Do your research.
When e-mailing galleries with your portfolio, PLEASE put in the time to research the gallery and the owners. Pay attention to the style of art they represent and the price points they carry. If they only carry abstract art, and you create highly realistic art, they are not your gallery.
2. Personalize your approach.
Gallery owners will be able to tell if you send the same email to every gallery. Make a point to mention what you love about their gallery, and use the names of the owners and curators if you can find them. Only send art that is applicable to the particular gallery you're approaching.
3. Give attention to detail.
Usually galleries ask for certain file sizes and names for your photo submissions. These are not suggestions! Make sure you format all your photos according to protocol.
Is there a theme for the show? Stick to it! Submit work that fits the theme, or wait for a show that DOES fit your work.
Furthermore, having a well-thought out bio and artist statement will serve you well. Knowing how to talk about your art in an intelligent manner is huge.
4. Take good photos.
Use good lighting, and make sure that your photographs accurately represent your work. I use my iphone and VSCO to edit my photos to reflect reality. I never overedit to make them look better.
5. Keep records.
Keep track of your submissions. Don't just email blast a bunch of places and hope you get in. If you end up booking three shows on the same date, you'll be in a pickle and the galleries will not be pleased!
6. Don't just drop by!
This is a BIG no no. Do not show up to a gallery with your portfolio in hand and expect the owner to look at your work and answer all your questions. Galleries want you to submit through the proper channels, usually through a tab on their website that says "Call for submissions/entries/proposals".
7. ...And don't monopolize another artist's solo show.
If another artist is showing at a gallery you want to get in to, do not show up to their opening and make the event about you and your work. This is a good way to ensure that you will never show at that gallery!
8. Price with intention.
Pay attention to the price points the gallery offers. If your prices are well below theirs, they might not be a good fit for you. Alternately, don't price your pieces so high that the gallery won't be able to sell them to their current clients.
9. Title your pieces.
As much as you might want your work to speak for itself, "Untitled" just isn't going to cut it for every piece.
10. Expect to book shows in advance.
Most galleries organize group shows months in advance and solo shows up to a year or two out, so expect to book them early!
I hope this short list of do's and don'ts was helpful to you as you consider approaching galleries with your work. Pay attention to details, submit only your best work, and you should do just fine! Good luck!
Do you struggle with nailing down your style?
Do you find yourself jumping from one medium to the next, and finding yourself frustrated that all your work looks different?
This post is for you!
The most frequent lament I hear from beginner artists is that they don't know how to find their style. They feel like every other artist has it in the bag, and they're just floundering.
Here's the big secret no one is telling you: Every artist with a unique style has probably been exactly where you are, frustrated and unfocused. It was only through years of practice that they arrived at their style. And guess what? Styles change! Chances are, if they're a good artist, their style won't look the same in five years! So, take heart.
Here are a few tips to help you on your creative style treasure hunt:
1. Practice, practice, practice!
Almost no one is born with pure creative talent. There's a steep learning curve! If you go weeks without painting, you'll never reach the level you want to achieve. Put in the daily work, even if you don't feel like you are progressing. You are, I promise.
Try different mediums. Your art WILL look different when you switch mediums, and that is totally ok! Each medium has lessons to teach you. You'll find that some come more easily than others: some will frustrate you, and some will keep you endlessly fascinated. Go toward your fascination.
3. Ask yourself, "what comes naturally?"
Does abstract painting make you want to rip your hair out? Don't paint abstractly! It sounds simple, but many artists try to force themselves to paint like the artists they admire, all the while overlooking mediums and subjects that actually come quite naturally to them. Don't force it.
4. Use materials that fit your lifestyle.
If you have a small child at home, toxic materials might not be your bag. If you have limited space, that will inform the tools you use as well. I became a watercolor painter mainly because I had a baby and didn't want to use oil paints, epoxy, or anything with fumes.
5. Make the art you want to see in the world.
What kind of art would you hang in your home? Would you proudly display your own art? If not, ask yourself why? If it's not a matter of technical skill, it might be that you need to try different subject matter, colors, etc.
6. Ask what you find yourself returning to.
Is there a subject or medium you find yourself drawn to repeatedly? That's an important clue that you should follow that trail! For me it was florals. No matter how much I tried to ignore it, it was what I found myself doodling when my mind was empty and relaxed. I spent years avoiding my perfect subject!
7. Research what gaps you can fill.
With the current reign of visual social media, it can feel like there are no gaps in the market, but this simply isn't true! Think both small and big. Are there local spaces in your town or city that need art? Is there a lack of good representational art on your instagram feed? Do you see the need for smaller, more affordable art where you live? Try to be the one to meet those needs.
8. Niche til it hurts!
Once you find something that feels really good and natural, niche down. Don't do this until you've spent years experiementing! Maybe architectural drawings have always been your thing. Can you niche even further? Maybe you could draw only abandoned buildings. Or perhaps you could draw homes for new homeowners! Be known for one thing and do it EXCELLENTLY. This doesn't mean you can't change in the future. Of course you can! But it's better to be known for being an expert in one thing than to be ok at a bunch of things.
9. Notice what people are responding to.
Are there one or two things that you've created that have gotten amazing feedback? Pay attention to that. You do not exist in a creative bubble. Art is a two way street between the creater and the viewer. Deliver art that brings joy not only to you but to your potential patrons as well. Selfish art is no way to make a living!
I hope these tips help you discover a style that feels so good that you won't want to stop creating! Let me know if you find value in them!
Today I'm going to share with you five AMAZING podcasts that keep me entertained, inform my business skills, and truly make an impact on my career!
Let's dive in.
1. Artists Helping Artists.
This podcast is stuffed to the brim with useful information about growing your social media presence and levelling up your business. The co-hosts give practical tips in an easy-to-understand format, without all the jargon of a traditional marketing podcast. It's been running for seven YEARS, so they're obviously doing something right!
2. Savvy Painter Podcast.
Do you wish you could peek inside of an artist's studio...or head? This podcast gives you those insights! The host, Antrese, interviews fascinating guest painters every other week, covering their processes, their struggles and victories, and the nitty gritty details of why they do what they do. A must listen!
3. The Creative Empire Podcast.
Business nerds, listen up! The ladies who run this podcast want you to make MONEY off of your art! They interview creative professionals who are doing just that, and offer tons of ideas of how to scale and market your creative hustle. Truly smart women!
4. Art For Your Ears.
Have you heard of the Jealous Curator? Of course you have. She has a podcast, and it's every bit as fantastic as you would guess! Every week she interviews a creative talent who is doing interesting and fresh things in the art world. Also, she could read recipes and I'd still want to listen. Her voice is that great!
5. Creative Pep Talk.
I just started listening to this one, and I love it! Andy J. Pizza (not his real surname, obviously) wants to encourage you to make great art and get it out into the world! His podcasts are like a cheerleading squad that hangs out in your studio while you work. He's delightfully quirky, and his analogies are just weird enough.
I hope you give these podcasts a listen and let me know what you think! Get ready to be overwhelmingly inspired!
I've always been a list-maker. Let's just get that out of the way from the beginning. My ADHD-addled brain LOVES the concrete activity of writing lists and checking things off. I'm not, however, always so good at staying on top of things, despite my many lists. In my art business, I find it essential to keep 6 lists in particular, to keep me on track toward my goals!
1. Wall Calendar:
Ok, so it's not a checklist, per se, but man is it essential to my well-being! I like a plain old GIGANTIC wall calendar personally; the kind that I can rip the pages out of and tape to my wall. I need to be able to see about 4-6 months worth so I can get a feel for what's happening now and in the future. On this "list" goes: gallery openings, show dates, submission deadlines, appointments, set-up dates, and literally everything else!
2. E-mail List:
I make this one easy for myself and just use a mail service you likely know about: MailChimp. Whenever someone signs up for my list, I add them to the subscribers list immediately! Whenever I teach workshops or do shows, I always bring a paper list along, inviting people to sign up for my emails.
3. Available Work and Locations:
This one can be a doozy if you don't stay on top of it, especially if you're prolific! List every piece you create: the dimensions, the title, the price, maybe even the colors, date or theme. Then, I highly suggest writing down where the piece currently resides. Is it at home? In a gallery? Has it sold? Make a note! The worst thing you could do is forget where a piece of yours has gone, and potentially lose the piece! I have heard of galleries not returning work. It happens, guys. Excel spreadsheets work fine for me.
4. Gallery and Show Submissions:
I learned this one the hard way! Keep a record of which shows, publications, and galleries you submit to. Story time: I once submitted my art to a gallery via a form on their website. When they emailed me saying I'd gained entry into the show and asked me to mail the pieces, I had to admit that I had no clue which pieces I'd entered! It was SO embarrasing! Please don't make this mistake. Galleries really don't like it. This will also keep you from submitting the same art to multiple galleries and getting yourself into the pickle of having to choose between shows!
5. Income and Expenses:
It's not sexy. It's certainly not fun. But it IS vital. Keep a record of everything, and I mean everything that you spend on your business, and everything that you earn. This includes supplies, shipping, submission fees, advertising, studio rent, etc. This will really help you when tax season rolls around! It's also essential to know what bringing in vs. what's going out, so that you can keep on top of your budget. I use Excel spreadsheets for this, though a program like Quickbooks would be even better.
6. Customer Details:
This one is really helpful for getting repeat customers. It will help you build and maintain relationships with them so that they feel that they will want to purchase art from you again! First I suggest making a note of every sale, the date, and the client's name. Next to that, add where they found out about you. Was it on facebook or Instagram? Did they see you at a gallery? If you have their mailing address or social media handle, write it down. You want to be able to find them in the future.
Why? Maybe you created a piece you know they would love and you want to let them know. Or perhaps you want to ask them if the piece arrived ok and if they need any help with framing ideas. And obviously, if they order from you a second time, you'll want to have their address handy, so you don't have to ask them to repeat it! They won't soon forget that you made an effort to be kind and helpful.
The cherry on top of all this is to keep record of birthdays and anniversaries, or other special dates. Sending a good collector a small gift: a handmade card, or a print for example, keeps you on their mind and lets them know that they are important to you! This is all about making customers feel valued. Another nice idea is to send them a thank you card, maybe on the anniversary of the day they bought their first big piece from you!
Well, those are my lists! I hope that THIS little list was helpful to you and that it saves you some grief in your own art business. If it was helpful, please let me know!
Wow, what a year!
In April of last year, I was out of work, disorganized, and frustrated with the trajectory of my (non-existent) art career. I decided to take the plunge and dedicate myself to my art fully, which was the best and scariest decision I could have made!
Without any knowledge of what I was in for, or how to go about it, I haphazardly started throwing together photographs of my work (bad ones, I might add), and cold-emailing galleries. I think I emailed every gallery in Kansas City!
Well, my tenacity paid off, and I landed several shows, including my first solo show, which was scheduled a year out. The gallery owner asked me if I had large pieces that could fill an entire gallery, and like every artist ever, I LIED. "Of course!" I said confidently. Never mind that up to this point, I had only created work that was 11x14 inches or smaller. I'd make it work!
In a total frenzy, I began painting large pieces that quickly took over my dining room table and my small apartment. I used what little money I had to buy beautiful frames off of Amazon, and googled how to frame art myself! Painting large was a (pardon the pun) HUGE challenge, and stretched me in amazing ways! Having the goal of a solo show also forced me to narrow my focus, and to hone in on the subject matter I was truly drawn to: florals.
I'd always resisted pigeonholing myself as a floral artist, and had previously experimented with painting everything from still lives, to architectural pieces. I'm glad for this long period of exploration, as it gave me my footing in what I do now. I think every artist goes through this when they are trying to find their style.
Fast forward to nearly a year later: I had nearly 20 floral pieces ready to show, a growing instagram and facebook following, and several group shows under my belt! In a sudden panic, I pulled out my old paintings from last April, and realized to my horror, that I hated them! They looked washed out and amateurish, and I realized in that moment how far I'd come artistically. I pulled off the frames of these pieces and started reworking them, with a lot of fear I might add! What if I completely messed them up? Thankfully, they came together and now are some of my most special works.
As of today, I have been in eight group shows, and had three solow shows! Wow! I can hardly believe it! I've also won two awards for my art, and booked shows for 2019! I've also begun to teach private art lessons, do commission work, and sell on social media. I don't say this to toot my own horn...not at all. I say this because I want to encourage and inspire others to manifest their OWN dreams and see their artistic career blossom! If I, business and tech-challenged Kelly, can do it, SO CAN YOU!
Go out their and make your dreams come true!