Yeah, I know, I posted yesterday and I don't usually post two days in a row, but Thursdays seem to have become something of a tradition around here and I didn't want to break it, even though I was far too tired by the time I posted to really 'talk' much.
So first off, I want to say thank you to the folks who have started leaving comments--I appreciate them tremendously. It's nice to know I'm not just talking to myself, here :)
I have a couple of things I want to talk about today, the first of which is how much I love the first stirrings of spring... spring? Yes, spring. It doesn't feel like it, but according to the Wiccan (and many Pagan) calendar, spring begins, in the Northern Hemisphere, on Imbolc, which falls right around the second day of February. Let me backtrack a moment to remind everyone the Winter Solstice, round abouts December 21st, here north of the equator, is the longest night/shortest day of the year. Thereafter, days start to get longer, but it takes a while for us to really start to notice. The last couple of weeks I have really started seeing that the sun sets later and rises earlier (usually because I'm up before it, like now, at five bleeping o'clock in the morning, but that's a different story all together!)
With the lengthening days, we begin to feel the promise of summer's return; many of us have already started thinking about our gardens and what we're going to plant this year. (I'm thinking tomatoes, zuccini, green beans and cucumbers; I have a fairly small space and really crummy soil, so I do all of my gardening in pots and other containers.) Also with the lengthening days, we begin to feel more energized. It's a good feeling, isn't it? I've been writing more, painting more, feeling a re-awakening of the creative spirit that fuels my work and just generally having more "umph" to get things done. Spring is the season of Air and Air is all about starting new projects. (On the down side, an over abundance of Air energy can lead to a certain scattered-ness in one's life, so it's important to stay focused at this time of year. Pick a project and see it through to completion...says the woman with five paintings, each in different stages of completion, two half-started short stories and a novel she's 19,000 words into. Ahem. I believe I have just made my own point!) For those of us who are creative by nature, it's good to remember that Air is the element of communication as well. This is a good time to tap into that natural energy and get writing.
Those who live in the southern hemisphere ar entering the season of water, a time of emotional over-drive (water fuels the heart and fills the soul with healing, and aids intuition.) Autumn is a time of completion, a time to bring in the crops that were planted in the spring. It's a good time to wrap up projects before winter hits. Spring and fall are my two favorite seasons; they're pretty much tied for which is my "real" favorite. See, if you ask me now, when it's 25 degrees (Celceus) out there and we have four or five inches of snow on the ground what my favorite season is, I'm going to say spring! Ask me in a few months when I'm eagerly waiting for my first tomato to ripen....well, you get the idea. :) I love the enregy that we feel during these times of transition, both for planting and harvesting. The work hand in hand to remind us that we really, truly, do reap only what we sew. It's a good reminder to sew good things--and to nurture them, keep them alive, watch them grow, so we can enjoy the harvest later.
Which rather neatly brings me around to my next point (that was so *not* planned! See, what did I say, we're heading into the season of Air, communication.) Yesterday morning, I took a couple of hours and did some reading online, trying to figure out the right prices for my original work. See, on the one hand, I don't want to price them out of anybody's reach, and on the other hand, it can take a very long time to crreate a painting.
I spent about an hour to an hour drawing that 6x9 inch piece I did yesterday (and that's not counting the twenty minutes or so I spent looking at pictures of men sitting to find a good photo reference because while every artist works differnetly, I find I have an easier time if I'm working from a model of some sort.) Laying down the background, the sky took another half an hour or so, then I put it up to dry and worked on other things. I came back and filled in the foreground, another hour. I set it up to dry and when I came back to it, I spent another two hours finishing it. So maybe four hours total to create a fairly small not overwhelmingly detailed painting with only one figure/person in it. The materials cost on that piece weren't horribly expensive, half a sheet of 40lb cold pressed watercolor paper and a few blops of mid-priced paint (sorry, as much as I would love to I cannot afford top of the line paint.) But... if I paid myself by the hour, well, minimum wage is something like $7 an hour here in Michigan. Not counting the time it took me to shop for supplies, that's $28 right there, plus a couple of dollars for supplies (I'll be hanging it matted) and it's easily $30. Of course, it could be argued that my time is worth more than $7 an hour; if I were working in a library, which is what I'm trained in, I would be makign at *least* twice that. (I should be making more, but the economy is pretty soft right now; in an ideal world, I should make about $18 an hour with my skill-set.) Regardless, I think most artists would agree that we're worth more than minimum wage.
But then you have to turn around and look at it from a consumer point of view. There are a lot of people out of work right now; a lot more are making ends meet in minimum wage jobs or just slightly better even though they are highly educated because sometimes you just take the job you can find and make it work. Could someone in that circumstance justify spending $30 (or more) on a 6x9 matted painting? Hmmm....
(By the way, my sizes are in inches; I have no idea what the metric conversions are, other than a metre is 33inches. And I know this off the top of my head because I used to work in a fabric store; at least half of my customers were from counteries that use the metric system and at least half of those had a spotty command of English... but I digress. It was actually a great job, I loved it, as anyone who has seen my fabric stash can tell you!)
So ok, back to what I was reading yesterday. I had the very good fortune to find a fantastic article on surviving a recession as an artist. "How to Sell Artwork in a Weak Economy." To highlight the salient points, the author suggests... gasp... dropping one's prices (assuming a person is the sort of artist who can command $1000 for a painting, a catagory I'm nowhere near... although that one big piece I've started is going to come close, it's just *too* time consuming not to. But there will be prints!) The general suggestion was that if your asking price is $2000, you might want to consider dropping your price to $1200--after all, dropping prices is what the big companies are doing right now. Look at any set of ads and you'll see it. Those corporations realize that the only way to get people to buy big ticket items right now is by offering deals of one sort or another; why should the art world be any different. (Another fantastic suggestion was to use the barter system as much as possible, something I already enjoy doing.) Let's face it, even those of us who do have steady income are nervous about spending because everything feels so uncertain; and it isn't just here in the U.S. This is a global condition. What affects one country really does affect all of us, anymore. We *all* have to be more responsible with what we do.
Another fantastic point made in that particular article was to not base one's value as an artist on the pricetag one puts on one's work. In other words, it is *not* a blow to the ego if you have to face up to reality and drop your prices a little. Everybody else is doing it, come out of the ivory tower and live in the real world, please and thank you.
Now, obviously, for the most part, I don't ask anywhere near that for my work, but I'm a reletively young artist, just staring out (again), so for the most part, my work is priced under $100.
So on one side of the arguement is to be reasonable and realistic and drop prices as necessary, or in my case, start out with a reasonable asking price in mind and barter whenever possible. (There is something to be said for having your work *show*, even if it's in someone else's home. Exposure is good when you're an artist or a writer... or both.)
Then I found this (it was published on About.com, so I'm assuming it's fair game to reprint it here; my comments are in italics) :
Robert Genn's Ten Commandments of Art Pricing
•Thou shalt start out cheap.
(So far so good)
•Thou shalt publish thy prices.
(Agreed...oops, better go put prices on mine!)
•Thou shalt raise thy prices regularly and a little.
•Thou shalt not lower thy prices.
(Here's where it starts to break down.)
•Thou shalt not have one price for Sam and another for Joe.
(I will admit up front to having a friend and family price... if you want my work for any less than the advertized prices, I suggest becoming my bestest buddy--or having something I want to barter for! I won't lose money on a sale, but I have been known to nudge down my price for friends. I think everybody does.)
•Thou shalt not price by talent or time taken, but by size.
(yes and no... I mean, I could spend an hour drizzling paint on a really bit sheet of paper, but does that make a piece worth the same amount of money as something smaller I spent three days on?)
•Thou shalt not easily discount thy prices.
(Ok, I guess it isn't *easy* to offer discounts, but the question becomes is it better to offer a discount or deal and sell something or to have my work collecting dust while I wait for the economy to improve?)
•Thou shalt lay control on thy agents and dealers.
(I don't actually have agents and dealers, but if I did, I would have a hard time letting them jack up prices as I've heard galleries often do... then again, my work is so niche, I doubt it'll end up on a gallery, anyway...but a girl can dream.)
•Thou shalt deal with those who will honour thee.
(Duh. That's a given in life, isn't it? Honour, by the way, is recriprical, although I'm pretty sure that's what's implied here.)
•Thou shalt end up expensive.
(I would honestly rather sell ten $100 paintings than one $1000 dollar painting. Why? Because those ten paintings will be the homes of ten--or at least seven or eight--people where their friends and family can see it. I would rather have a number of moderately priced pieces in multiple homes than one grandly expensive piece in one home.)
By the way, the asking price for Goodnight Moon is $20 online, plus shipping; it's matted. The matt fits an 8.5x11 inch document frame. There will be no prints. (The price will be slightly higher when I show it at ConVocation next month. Hanging at a show means paying hanging fees. Of course at shows you, the customer, don't pay shipping costs, so it evens out.)
Lastly, I saw an interesting few articles on the virtues and vices of prints... and when I say 'print', I really mean high quality photo copy... well, glicee copy, which is essentially a photo copy, it's just a really good one! I never gave a second thought about doing prints. It's not about making money (you do *not* want to know what it costs to have prints made! I make far more money selling the originals.) It's about a) letting more than one person buy the same piece and b) never having to fully give up something I've painted that I love--I can always keep a print!
"The point is to develop the childlike inclination for play..."
Original watercolor painting
$45 (unmatted, unframed)