Just My Advice for the Starving Artist

These are just some ideas for you to think about. Even if you disagree with what you read, it’s a good to hear another voice.

We all want to be successful artists. I would like to be the next Jackson Pollock but I also have to be realistic. It’s more important to get my work out there than it is for me to sell one painting for $10,000 (but, boy, would I love to). We might never become famous for our work so let’s find a way to be a little less hungry!

  1. Keep your originals. If they aren’t commissioned pieces, or masterpieces (we all have more than one masterpiece) hold onto them. You can sell them, later after you’re famous (or sell them now but ask for a decent price, like $250). For now, sell good reproductions.
  2. Good reproductions are not that difficult. Most of us whip out a camera phone and make digital copies anyway. If you don’t have an expensive camera and lighting system, take your artwork outside, lay it flat, stand on a chair and aim down at the art. You want the most glare free, shadow free, most perfect copy so take a lot of pictures so you can scrutinize. Be VERY particular about this because your reproductions will help you sink or swim. Decide which photos are best, and create a PDF (do not delete the jpeg copy. You can edit that one or recreate the PDF).
  3. Choose a good print shop. You could print them yourself but, in my opinion, this is not  good idea. Just pay a little more for a professional. Use photostock, or glossy text, or something besides standard printer paper, please. PLEASE.  I happen to like Scudder Press because they’re a small, family owned business here in Thornton AND they do great work with great turn-around time. You don’t have to use them. You can use any number of places. Just choose wisely, Young Grasshopper.
  4. Do NOT just schlep a stack of unprotected prints around, not even in a portfolio. Take the time to card them. Cut the cardboard down to size, making sure it is slightly larger than the print in order to protect it. Wrap the print with plastic. Do this for each print. This is time consuming but it’s worth it and it doesn’t have to be expensive. Cardboard is easy to get for free. In fact, if you have a cereal box, you’re half-way there. Ensure the cardboard isn’t dirty, sticky, or covered with tape. Plastic wrap is perfectly fine to use as the protective barrier. Secure it with clear tape. Packing tape works the best, I’ve found.
  5. Find a middle-woman (or man) to sell your prints. Yes, asking is a little nerve-racking but since they don’t have your work already, the only difference is they can say yes. But if they say no, don’t take it personal. Take your digital file (the one that has your prints on it) to the gallery. “Store” the digital file in more than one place that you have immediate access to (because back-up is important). And don’t forget, have a few of your prints available, in case that person says yes.
  6. Or you can sell the prints yourself at art events in your city. If you sell them on line ALWAYS watermark THROUGH the picture. It’s easy. Open up any number of photo-editing programs and TYPE your name right through the middle. That way, people “steal”  the image, at least your name is there and/or you make them miserable when they try to Photoshop it away.
  7. Do your own marketing (a little like how I use this blog and all my other social media sites). Do not be afraid of offending people by bombarding them with your work. Offending people doesn’t put food on the table but mass marketing will! Do not rely on your middle-man to do it all for you, or wait for someone to stumble across your website. Be annoying if you have to be but be present. Post something every day, three times a day. Even if it’s just a picture of your lunch!
  8. Be proactive as an artist! This is important. I have worked with an artist who is probably not intentionally difficult but is so difficult that even paying the individual is a game of text tag and broken meetings. Be on top of those requests. Even when you know you aren’t able to fulfill the request, just say so. It’s easy. Just politely say, “No, I’m sorry. I’ve got a project/custom order/etc. due so I don’t have time to create anymore work.”
  9. Don’t be afraid to ask for the price you want. If you think your print is worth $20, say that. It’s your work BUT be prepared to participate in sales. If the middle-woman/man says that the store/gallery is holding an art sale, participate. Why? Because you’re still going to make a percentage, and your work will probably sell. Now, this following is IMPORTANT. IMPORTANT. You cannot make back everything you spent to make the prints in ONE print. For instance, if it cost you $22 to make 20 prints, you probably should NOT charge $22 per print. Why? Because they’re prints (you have the original, remember) and you want to sell them to get your name out there, and because people will buy something if they think it’s affordable. So, spread the cost of the prints over all the prints, and multiply it by 2 or 3. You could very easily ask for $5 (or $7) per print and not hate yourself for it and still recoup what you spent.
  10. And this is important too: work with a person you can trust. Almost nothing is worse than having your work “disappear”; or knowing that a piece was purchased and, when you go to collect, there is a no record of the sale so, therefore, no money (it happened to me. It was very disappointing and, frankly, I could never buy anything from that place again because I knew the person was a thief).
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