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How To Inventory Your Art Work

Drawings in a Classroom

Inventorying their work is something that many artists do not know how to do well. Partly because we tend to just shy away from anything that requires time away from our studios. And also because I don’t think it’s really taught anywhere. However, inventorying art work makes life a lot easier when consigning and selling work. And also when trying to remember what a piece of artwork is.

After a few different attempts to inventory my work (I tried just the name, I tried just a number) a fellow artist suggested the following.

2 digits for the year, and 2 digits for the number it is painted that year

So for example, the first painting I paint in 2013 will be labeled 13-01, the second painting is labeled as 13-02. For 2014 the first painting will be 14-01. I mark the back of my artwork in pencil, with this number. Obviously, for some types of art that might not work.

I put all of my paintings into a spreadsheet, organized by theme of paintings. I include the following columns:

1) Name of Painting
2) Short Description
3) Size of artwork
4) Medium
5) Year created
6) Number (i.e. 13-01)
7) Price
8) Location (ex studio, gallery, or name of owner when sold)

I also keep my sold paintings and gifted paintings on a separate spreadsheet. So that I don’t have available paintings and sold paintings on the same page. But this is something that isn’t necessary in the beginning.

Do you inventory your art? If so, what is the best method you have discovered for that?

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Banners for your website or Etsy Shop:

When creating banners for a blog, website or online shop, not all artists are experts at PhotoShop.  Here are some ways to help with that process.

Option 1: Do It Yourself: There are free photo editing software programs available. Some even come installed on a computer. I personally use Photoshop Elements, which is an inexpensive version of PhotoShop, even though I’m not very good with it.

The images: I would suggest using your art as the art in the banner. But if there is  aneed for other art, try a stock photo site, like iStock to purchase art for this purpose.  Purchasing art, or making sure you have the right to use the images, is important. As artists, we more than most should respect the copyright of another’s work.

There are a few places I use to find free images.  They include:

TheCutestBlogOnTheBlock.com has some great already made banners and backgrounds to download for free.  They are great for female based, or targeted blogs, websites etc.

Microsoft has some royalty free clip art images that I use for my blogs (not my banners, as I want unique content).  Here’s the link to their website: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/images/

Option 2: Hire Someone:  This doesn’t have to be as expensive as you think. I found a wonderful woman through Facebook who created my Etsy banners and avatars for one of my shops. It was much better for me to get a professional graphically designed banner quickly then for me to try and create it myself, which would have resulted in a less professional look.

Option 2.2 Outsource. This is a second version of hiring someone to help. But it requires hiring someone who is generally out of the US/Canada area.  Use a website such as  Fiverr or oDesk.  Both of these sites have overseas help for less than US prices.  Because English is not the first language of most of those on these sites, one needs to be incredibly clear with instructions and expectations. As everything is done via email, over communication is the key.  You will also need a PayPal account or credit card in order to pay your contractor.



 

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Art Class & Teaching Children – The Parent Perspective

Teaching art to children is a very popular way artist make additional money. And when speaking to artist teachers, I find many expressing frustration when setting up and teaching classes. To the point that many talented, caring artists simply stop offering teaching after a few private pupils or classes because they don’t understand why parents stop the classes when they seem very happy with the classes and the results their children are getting from them.

I understand this artist’s frustration, as I too have felt extremely confused and frustrated when a child that is doing well, enjoying class and progressing is then not signed up anymore. I think this frustration comes from not understanding the way most parents view art classes for their children.

From my experience there are two main reasons parents sign children up to take art classes. They take them either to fill a gap in time or to further explore their children’s interest in art. However, very few parents really focus their children’s art career on a regular basis, because most people do not believe art is a way to make money in life. The confusion often occurs when we as artists forget that most parents signing their children up to take art classes, aren’t looking to really expand and continue their child’s study as artists. They are simply looking to expand their children’s life experiences for a few weeks.

Let me explain what I mean with two examples. When I have taught one-on-one art classes to someone’s child I’m always told by the parent that their child has a great aptitude for art, and that they want to expand on this. When I look at this as an artist, I think great, I get a chance to help someone else develop their creative side. And so I spend time creating and adjusting the curriculum based on the individual needs of that child. Then inevitably 6 or 8 weeks will go by and the parent will pull the child from classes for some reason. The reasons all center around the same issue – which is parents, like the rest of us have a set amount budgeted for children’s activities. So if they feel their child should be well rounded, they will use their monthly budget for a new activity every 6-8 weeks.

I have a friend who did a very well thought out 6 week art class with a very detailed curriculum at the start of summer. All the parents were thrilled and happy with the progress their children made in the class. But when she offered a second 6 weeks to continue their progress none of the parents signed them up. They went on to sign their kids up for swimming or a sport for the remainder of the summer. She felt this was a reflection on her and was very disheartened. When in fact, if you asked any of the parents, they were thrilled with her instruction.

The disconnect occurs, because we as artists look at art as a life long pursuit. And so we view the skills we are teaching as life long skills, that require more than 6 weeks of activation to achieve. And it’s also extremely frustrating to see our teaching begin to pay off in a change in our student’s abilities. Only to then have the parent, who also sees this improvement in execution, then cancel further classes. Generally, parents are looking at art classes, even for their gifted creative child, as a way to expand a children’s brain for a period of time. And sometimes they really are just looking for an activity for their kid to do for 6 weeks, before giving them some other activity. There isn’t a lot more thought process than that. So we as artists are looking at a life long skill, and a parent is looking for 6 weeks of activity to fill a slot.

To avoid frustration, sometimes it’s easier for me to simply offer a workshop or an hour long class somewhere, occasionally, with a set activity that can be achieved in a 1 or 3 hour time block and leave it at that. If you can find a venue or a group that is looking for artist teachers to do this type of work – I feel this is a rewarding way to help kids increase their creativity, without investing a lot of extra emotion and attachment to it. Plus then I don’t have to worry about marketing my classes. And since I teach the same thing over and over again, my prep time before and after class is cut down significantly. As are my expenses, as I use the same materials each class.

For those not in a position to partner with an organization, or for those who are asked to do private or group lessons I have the following advice (which I also follow myself). Any private lessons are done in a block of 6 weeks. With a total of 7 weeks available to complete. This way I can prepare a syllabus, and feel that I have made an impact on my student. And at the same time I am able to schedule myself better. I find that teaching private lessons is more an act of love, than a viable way to make money, given how much time and thought I put into each session, thinking of ways to tweak the curriculum to best address the needs of my student. So if I can at least know that my time and energy will be rewarded

And for any artist offering of group classes for a period of 4-6 weeks, think of it instead like how churches offer vacation bible school. Offer it only once or twice a year. This way it can be an anticipated, looked forward to activity. Which parents can plan for financially, and be included in the yearly budget for child activities.

Obviously, occasionally there will be a parent looking to truly increase their child’s artist ability throughout the year. But for the most part, understanding the parent’s perspective will help alleviate our own frustrations and self-judgments we experience when teaching private lessons.

What are your thoughts? How do you best balance your needs with those of parents?

For more about the business of art, see Selling Art: It’s Like Building A snowman

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Redefining What It Means To Be An Artist

“Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.” – Anonymous

I love this quote. It doesn’t mean you have to be a “starving artist” at any point in the journey. But it does mean you probably will have different priorities with your “free” time than most when you first start making your goals into reality. And it may mean that you do both for a while – a job and your own thing. Or if you are lucky, maybe you find a job in the art field, and do great there as well.

The awesome thing about being an artist, is that there are so many ways to succeed at it. I know people who spend all day in Hollywood, drawing, painting or creating. And I know people in the corporate retail space, designing and creating every day there too. I also know fine-art artists who do the festival and gallery scenes and may or may not have a job somewhere else. None of those options is wrong – that’s the beauty of it.

No one is saying quit your day job today. Unless you can, and/or you feel so inclined. I have a friend who instead of quitting his day job, started freelancing on the side. And then after a while he also started his own website. Wow – I mean this guy is killing it in two additional markets, while still keeping his day job. And so after 2 years of his website being kicked off, he’s making good money. Enough that if his day job said good bye, he’s be ok.

But what this meant was while everyone else was out drinking at the bar on a Saturday night, he was home working on projects, working with this web developers and creating an online outlet for his work. And since his day job normally didn’t require more than 40 hours a week, he was able to work a bit a couple nights a week and still enjoy life. Did he maybe turn down a more “prestigious” corporate job, that would have required more hours in order to fulfill his long-term goals? Yes. And that’s OK. I don’t know anyone who knows him who would think he lacks ambition or is lazy.

I remember when I was working “part time” as a consultant at a big firm. This meant by the way that I would still work up to 50 hours a week at least one week a month. (Crazy I know). I was accused by management of not having ambition because I didn’t want to be a Partner in a Big 4 consulting firm. But anyone who knew me or worked with me knew differently. They knew I gave my all at the client. And then I went home and worked long hours on my art. When I got laid off, I began living somewhat off savings, in order to work 100% on my art. Because I had an all-or-nothing attitude at that point.

Is either of these routes for everyone? No. You can sell your art and not worry about making it your sole income and still be considered a working artist. But, if you are thinking about making art your full-time gig – just know a little bit of sacrifice may be needed in the short term – but rewards will follow in the long term.

That friend I told you about? He still works his day job. But then goes on amazing globe trotting adventures a couple times a year. All because he was willing to think smarter, and work weekends and some nights on his dream. And he’s one of the most creatively fulfilled artists I know.

As for me, I’m currently working 1/2 of the year as a consultant, and the rest of the time I spend on my art.

So choose your own path, blaze your own trail, and start living the life you were meant to.

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Breaking Creative Block – Overcoming The White Canvas:

We’ve all been there. Standing in front of the canvas, or our sketch book, or a blank page, trying to figure out how to start. Feeling uninspired or just even afraid to start. Or sometimes it’s maybe not that obvious. We feel a little stuck, or want to be creative, more creative or get back in touch with how much fun art and writing us to be, but isn’t any more. Well, here are some ideas on how to jump start your creativity.

It’s “time to be creative.” Only you are sitting there facing a big white canvas or paper. Ugh….

That’s OK. This happens to all of us at some point. Instead of rearranging your paintbrushes, colored pencils and the rest of your studio for the 100th time, try something different:

* Grab a sketch book, and allow yourself to SUCK. I’m serious – allow yourself to just totally, just 100% be terrible. I know this sounds counter productive, but has always worked for me.

* Do some sketches in on smaller gesso covered paper or in your sketchbook. And again – don’t worry if they aren’t perfect. The idea is just to start.

* If you are writing, and feel you “can’t” just start anyway. It’s ok if it doesn’t make perfect sense – just start with some free flowing thought. Or grab a quote off the internet that is around your topic – now your page isn’t blank anymore.

* This one might sound like cheating. But if the white of your canvas or paper is really too much to take. And a part of you is scared you will ruin it when you start – go ahead and give it a light wash of color. Obviously a color that will work with the art you are going to create. It doesn’t have to be a really deep wash, it can be very transparent. But sometimes this helps me. Of course there are times, like when I’m doing skin tones that this will not work for me. So chose this option, or play with this options at first, when you are not under the gun to create a commissioned piece.

* I like to play music to get me in the mood, and to keep me company. Because let’s face it creating art can be a lonely occupation at times. I even crank up the music and dance once in a while, just to keep my blood pumping and my energy up.

*Or, if you really haven’t even made it into your studio, because you just aren’t feeling it. Here’s a few other things I do to get in the mood. Let’s say I have a commission due, and I don’t want to start on it. I head to the beach. I realize this may sound like an excuse to play hooky. And it would be if I was brining my swim suit and a towel. But I go the beach, sit on a bench for a while and just watch the waves. This always works for me. Other creatives I know go for a walk, or go exercise, or listen to some great music.

* This list idea is going to depend more on you than anything else. Was there something you use to do, right before art class in school or whenever you went to take a group class or seminar? Some habit that inadvertently helped put your mind in the right mindset? I discovered that if I can’t get my brain to click over to the right side, I grab coffee or a latte. This works for me every time. I don’t even have to really drink it, I just have to smell it and – boom – I’m ready to get started doing the work. So see if there is anything like that, that you do unconsciously that gets you in the mood to work. And then do this intentionally going forward, to help set your mind in the right state.

Let me know if what you found most helpful, or if there is another trick you use that others might find helpful when dealing with the dreaded creative block.

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Keeping Track Of The Wrong Statistics For Your Art Business:

Years ago I went to a Blair Singer Sales & Leadership Conference. What I learned there, I actually now use on a daily basis, but there was one thing I got really wrong.  Blair is all about statistic – tracking what you do, so that you can adjust course, and also just keep track of progress.  Well, for years I tracked hours worked. How many hours I worked on marketing. How many hours I spent prepping for a show.  How many hours I spent painting.

While knowing how many hours it takes to paint a painting, or prepare for a show is important for work planning purposing, using hours worked as a key statistic isn’t actually helpful.  All it does is give you something to tell people who think that since you work from home, or since you are an artist you don’t really “work.”  So you can say “hey, I worked 60 hours last week on art!” In a sense, this is a “Vanity Stat” – a statistic that is created so one’s ego can give a “correct” answer.  And not a stat that is actually helpful to one’s business.  And is, in essence, a complete waste of time to be tracking.

Every year, I keep statistics, and at least once a year I reevaluate what I am tracking and decide if it is worth continuing to track, or if there is something else, more tangible/ actionable, or just plan more relevant to my business that I could be tracking instead.

Sometimes, it’s helpful to not just evaluate once a year.  For example, at the beginning of the year I got involved with the Link Love movement.  For me, I was spending hours and hours a week doing Link Love, and while I did meet some really nice people, I did not get a single sale out of it.  I did however, meet some people who ended up doing some work for me (SEO and Graphic Design) so for them, doing something like Link Love really worked – because just about everyone in the group was in need of what they were selling.  Therefore, I’m not dissing Link Love – I’m just saying that because I was keeping track of my effort, and the results (which were no sales, although people did start reading my blog) I decided after a few months to completely remove myself from the Link Love lists so that I would not participate actively or otherwise. And if I had’t been keeping track of results, this might have been going on all year before I realized this wasn’t where I wanted to be placing my energy.

Peter Drucker (a business genius) said “What’s measured improves.”

Here’s a few things that might be helpful to you to track for this coming year.  But again, if they aren’t impactfull to you, or they don’t help you adjust and expand/grow your business, try some new ones.  Or better yet, suggest a few below.

  • Sales – how many and where they are coming from
  • Number of people in email list, and how often they are corresponded with and results of each campaign
  • Number of people who received hard copy mail/ promotional material (and results)
  • On Etsy I actually track which day of the week sales have occurred, as well as promotional things I do on Etsy (like treasuries, re-listing and advertising) to see if there is also a correlation to sales for a particular action.  For example, while I do find relisting helpful in getting people’s attention and being added to their favorites I realized that when I paid to be in the Etsy Showcases it was more effective from a sales perspective.
  • Number of locations that showcase my art and the sales/ leads results

What are some of your favorite statistics to track for your art/ business?  How has this helped you move forward with your goals?

For more about keeping statistics see Why Do Statistics On Your Art?