Tag Archive - being an artist

Studio Rules


Years ago, a friend of mine mentioned that her family, who are all artists, have family studio rules. I thought this was a good idea to implement for myself and I’m sharing in case you find them helpful as well.

Here are my basic rules. Let me know what additional rules you may have below.

1. No work is started without a signed contract. Even if they are a friend, and I know them well.

2. 50% deposit is required at beginning of work, even if they are a friend and I know them. (Yes even good friends can be flakey.)

3. Contract states exactly what is expected for the piece, and any big changes create a change order (and additional money).

4. Anyone who wastes my time with phantom shows/events that fall through at the last minute does not get a second chance.

5. All work left anywhere has at minimum a consignment sheet, with agreed to price, inventory number if applicable, and sales fees stated, signed by the owner before the artwork is left.

6. Collect sales tax on all in-state purchases. Because not collecting tax equates to giving someone an additional 9% discount, as I then have to pay the sales tax myself. (Some artists simply factor this into their pricing. I however find it a little messy to try and back out the tax after a sale, and prefer to simply add that onto the sale at the end.)

I have found that besides saving me a lot of headaches and frustration, having studio rules is an easy way to make things less personal. By that I mean, if you tell someone No, they can get upset. But when you let them No, you have a set of basic business rules, that apply to all clients, there is less chance for a client or potential client to take this personally.

What are some of your studio rules? I’d love to hear from you below. Thanks!


An Art Show Is Never Just About The Show

Sometimes, in the middle or tail end of the day, when I’m exhausted from working so hard at an art festival and not necessarily making as much money as I would have liked for that day, I will forget that an art show isn’t just about what happens that day.

When you do an art shows – people you’ve spoken with before will remember you. During your marketing for the upcoming show, you are again front of mind. Collectors and gallery owners will remember they had been meaning to see how your art was going, or buy another piece, but they got busy and it slipped their mind. Until they saw your email about the upcoming show…

Art shows are also about relationship building and building your list. It’s about meeting raving fans who might other wise never hear of you – who tell their friends, who buy from you. Or who look you up on Facebook and then tell their friends who buy.

Art shows are about meeting people, and selling someone a card or a print, who comes back later and buys more prints, or buys an original (or two). So it’s about starting that artist/client relationship.

It’s about people you meet coming back later and buying.

It’s never just about the show.

That said – I’m not suggesting anyone does a show just for visibility (unless you want to). Or that anyone does shows where they don’t see enough advantages. I am about making money in my art. There are “good” shows and “bad” shows. And only the artist, can put all of the benefits, immediate and residual together, and make a decision about doing a show, or doing a show again.

But, if you are in the middle of a show, tired and a little cranky – try to remember it’s never just about the show. It’s about the before, during and because of the show too. And sometimes, that tips that show in your favor. And makes a meh show a great one.

For another way to look at it, see Selling Art: It’s Like Buidling a Snowman



Selling Art: It’s Like Building A Snowman

Remember when you were a kid and you would start to make a snowman? You’d start with a small snowball, keep rolling it, and rolling it, and rolling it. And then suddenly the mass had gotten big enough it would start to really pick up snow on it’s own? That’s what selling art and making an impression on the art world can be like.

You start off your list, with just maybe 25 or 30 friends and family. Then you do your first show and add maybe 5 more people who really like your work. But the, after a few more shows and a lot more work, “suddenly” you have 300 or 400 people on your list – who really, truly want to hear from you. And are excited about your art. It’s baby steps that eventually get you to the next milestone you have set for yourself.

Baby steps, that suddenly seem to make you see the gradual tiny little wins you have been having along the way. But may have been too deep in the muck of it to realize.

So next time you get a little worn down, or frustrated by all the seemingly small progress you are making. Don’t give up. Celebrate the seemingly small progress, that probably even to you, a few years ago, would have seemed unreachable. And keep going.

Because as long as you are taking small, manageable, intentional steps towards your goals, you are building a really great snowman, even if you can’t see it just yet.

For another way to look at it, se An Art Show is Never Just About The Show



Art, Paintball & Widgets

Not sure how exactly I came to have this epiphany while playing paintball but – I realized that selling art is simply another type of business. It’s not different than dry cleaning, selling advertising services or Belgian chocolate.  It’s 90% business and 10% art. I think because I saw so many successful couples tag team the art business, I always figured it was 50% art and 50% business.  But it’s not.

This realization started to creep up on me over the previous few weeks.  First there was a post by an artist who’s wife manages his career stating that it was 90% business and 10% art.  I was really surprised by this – given his full time crack marketing and sales team/ aka his wife.  And while I did agree with that – and think “oh good, I have been feeling bad that I’m not at my easel 50% of the time, maybe I’m on par with everyone else.”  I didn’t really get the deeper meaning of this.

I could basically be selling widgets.  Yes, high end, niche widgets, but widgets just the same.  This fact didn’t fully sink in until ANOTHER artist said he was spending 90% of his time at his desk and only 10% of his time out in the field behind his camera.  I was like – “yeah, I spend my entire day doing business.  It’s like I’m back in the corporate world, doing what I did then, only now I work for myself.” And he agreed.

So there I was, two years into being an artist full time and I finally got it.  I am selling widgets.  Art is a just another business.  I know that takes some of the fun out of it.  But it also all of a sudden makes it fit nicely into everyone’s business processes and models.  Where before I had been going along with the “conventional” artist wisdom that says art is not a square peg in a square hole.  Well, I hate to break it to you, but it is.  We are not the exception.  And this is a GOOD thing. It means life is much easier for us when we look at selling art from this viewpoint.

Yes it’s still precious.  Yes, unlike a traditional widget, it’s personal.  And yes, it costs more than a paperclip widget. But probably costs less than a real expensive watch widget.  So when we start to think about it in sheer business/ product terms – Wow – possibility opens up like never before. And all of a sudden the hard become simple.

What do you think?


Facebook Etiquette What Artists Should Know

There has been discussion, normally by those guilty of it, who are irritated when I remove their blatant self-promotion from one of my Facebook Fan Pages.

I define spamming a wall as putting content (including pictures of your own work) without invitation to do so, on someone else’s wall.

The reason I consider this is spamming is for the most part, the content posted isn’t relevant and the person doing it hasn’t asked permission to do so. They are simply trying to piggyback off the work and good-faith another person has created in order to promote themselves.

Here’s my take on Facebook Etiquette. Don’t self promote on someone else’s page. This doesn’t mean don’t comment, and don’t get involved on Fan Pages or Group Pages. It means add value first. Then build a relationship with the person who owns that page. Then see if something you do and they do tie in together.

People will promote you ON THEIR OWN if you are offering value. If you are contributing to the conversation. And if after some time, you want them to promote you – then ask – via a private email. See if they feel what you are offering is in line with what they are offering.

There are two exceptions that I know of to this – that fall under the agreement to post on a wall. The first is Link Love – because everyone on that list has agreed to self promote (in a very specific way, in a very specific place). The second would be a forum set up specifically to promote art. There are a few on Facebook.

(I personally have given up on both Link Love and posting anything in a self-promoting forum because it was not a good ROI activity. Because if everyone is just out for themselves. And no one is adding value. Who actually is paying attention and reading the posts? Very few. )

What are your thoughts? Does it irritate you to have people post self-promotion on your page without first contributing or getting to know you?

For more on Facebook, see Facebook Fan Page – Why You Need One


The Vanity Activity:

Last Blog I talked about statistics. And I mentioned something I tend to think of as a “vanity stat.” For example, I worked X number of hours this week. The only reason I even knew that, and still if I’m honest sometimes track it mentally in my head – is I’m trying to justify to someone else that I am “busy” and “productive.” Where in reality – any moron with half a brain should be able to tell that you do not get shown in New York City, Palm Springs, San Diego, Orange County, have a handful or correlating Website, Facebook, Twitter and Etsy shops, accompanying blogs etc. by sitting at home eating bon bons.

But sometimes, we get sucked into Vanity Activities as well. My favorite example of this so far, has been my ego’s insistence that I am “in” a gallery. Last year I was in a co-op gallery. When that co-op was in Laguna Beach, it was actually profitable for me. But when it moved 30 minutes down the coast, to another beach city, with a different type of clientele, and it suddenly wasn’t profitable. It took me WAAAAAAAAY too long to let that one go. I was very stuck on the idea of being able to say I was a “gallery artist.”

The funniest thing was, that when I stopped worrying about that two things happened. As I was getting ready to pull my art from the gallery – I ended up in a much better location for me 1/2 a block down the street that did not cost me any monthly maintenance. AND I was asked to be in two other galleries.

For another common business pitfall, see Keeping Track of the Wrong Statistic