View Full Version : Faces as Money ?!
10-10-2000, 11:05 PM
I am totally empowered by this little group of supportive talents, so I am asking for as much feedback as you all can muster about your present, past or future careers in PORTRAITURE.
I am starting all over, having studied art until I got my first commercial job and worked in the stressful ad world about 8 years. I started as an assistant AD, got the promotion when my boss had her nervous breakdown all over the office and slashed it with her xacto knife. I floundered, half skilled, never quite knowing how to spec type, line it up square on my board, accept rejection for my drawing and drifed down into newspaper paste up at a pennysaver before chucking it altogether.
I did a stint as a professional Scrimshaw artist until I couldn't stand thinking of dead elephants, was CALLED an illustrator in a textbook company but just pushed pasteups around and all I knew was that I could draw really good.
I don't have a muse, I don't have a picture in my head until I put the pencil to the paper and I am always amazed at what comes out.
As I have said before, I have only been at it again for a little over a year and coming up to 50, I think I KNOW I have a talent that can be marketed and my fragile ego will stand up under the scrutiny now.
SO any tips on how to afford the new digital cam, finance a modest website and set a profitable but fair pricing structure would be VERY helpful.
I am determined to do this, but my budget is shoe string and my comfort zone is JUST squeeking. I am not in the position to make a blind leap, so hold out your arms and just guide me into the river of wisdom flowing from all of you, please!
All stories, horrible and fairy tales appreciated!
Debra Jones aka dj*
10-10-2000, 11:38 PM
Well...dj...I hate to admit this, but I think the resiliency and character for which we artists gain as we get a bit older comes from the difficult times we have experienced which seems the norm rather than the acception.
I did commercial art/illustration. I have about 36 shirt designs which Miller High Life logos have been on, many without, sold in 40 some different states, for which I was supposed to get 21 to 24 cents per shirt. As it is...I'm owed about $125,000.....which I'll never see.
I become a "big whoop" wildlife artist that enjoyed reputation and some success, and had an agent/rep steal an original and make 5,000 prints without my permission...so, theres' another $50,000 or more there. I've lost teaching positions....and all in all, been kicked around some. (please no posts from others about how to contact lawyers, I'm not looking for action on these things anymore). The point is...we many have horror stories.
There are for many the obvious things that make for a beautiful painting. What makes for a beautiful artist? I think it is found in those continuously looking for the renewal of strength...stirring up that wonderful optimism again and again against odds and past failures. Knowing that failure comes only when one stops trying.
Like those that love the blues and somehow find resolve...knowing I am not alone in my struggles somehow strengthens my tenacity.
Now...as goes your shoestring budget...I certainly hope you have at the very least become a member with our sister site, ArtistNation.com and have put up a site of your work. At worst...you can have a place like "Kinkos" whom does office solutions, scan work in for you and download it to a disk so you can upload. Be encouraged...!!!
[This message has been edited by lseiler (edited October 10, 2000).]
10-13-2000, 05:00 PM
Gosh, reading the other posts in response to your question, I feel I'm going to be very mundane. I was going to say the following:
I've found that a great way to build up a network of commissions for children's portraits is to donate your painting of a portrait of one child to the annual fundraising auction of a tony private school in your vicinity (not an art auction. Those are deadly. I'm talking about the general goods & services auction most of these schools have every year). Give them your absolutely socko best painting of a child to put up as the sample. Write your own blurb for the auctioneer to read when selling your item. Attend the auction and bring lots of cards or brochures if you have them discreetly in your handbag or pockets (if wearing loose arty clothing, of course http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif). Mention in your blurb the cost of a portrait of the kind you're selling. This way you're putting your product before precisely the people in your community who would buy it, both at the auction and on the wall of the winning bidder where all her friends (also with kids; also with bucks) will see and admire it. The buyer is even likely to want to add a child at whatever your usual fee is to the portrait she's won, so it won't be entirely without renumeration. I've gotten lots of business this way. I think it works great!
I also wanted to mention that in my experience it's much easier to sell a portrait that is a painting - a subject in a setting with directional lighting and background - the whole schmear. You get much more money for it as well. There are people all over the place doing very good sketch/vignette interpretations of snapshots and school photos and they usually don't charge enough to make it worth their time. But if you can get $150.00 for one of them and $800.00 and up for a little painting by just including a background setting, why not? If you want to offer a price range you can base it on size and complexity of setting and number of subjects, rather than offer vignettes and undercut yourself.
My two cents.
10-15-2000, 03:01 AM
At ArtistNation you can build a free great webpage ( I am still trying to build mine, but I already have a good page so I am not in a real rush).
The donation of your painting at fundrising is also good idea. Done that, been there.
Another thing I did was a studio/home show, and still do 2 times a year with great results.
Also coffe shops and restaurants are a good free venue. They will accept to display your art and get free wall decoration in exchange. They usually don't charge commissions. Even if you live in a very small town there will be venues where you can display your art: municipal halls, theaters lobbies, community centres, beauty salons, gift shops, florists, shopping malls...etc. Also as suggested, see if you can teach adults in the affluent part of your town, possibly. They will also become your clients, your supporters, your friends.
Most of all move around, push gently but with determination, be confident. You are good. It's about time that the people in your town discover this. http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif
[This message has been edited by Rita Monaco (edited October 15, 2000).]
10-15-2000, 03:26 AM
I have noticed that many of you offer prints on your web pages. The idea of dashing off some of my higher quality prints from an ink jet printer on little 1/2 sheet Avery cards and including a few with the commission has been greated with smiles, but no repeat orders.
When you do reproductions, are most of them done at home, or a high quality copy shop, or do many of you go the mile and make offset and how many and do they sell? I have seriously tried to pick some of my best nude sketches and inkjet them onto real charcoal or artist paper, shove them in a nice mat and sell them as (an idea of a client) Bathroom Art. Dud.
I will admit, I move in a higher (definately not the HIGHEST income) crowd, but I understand what you mean about finding the group.
Not terribly keen on freebies to the affluent, but like the idea of picking charities!
AND while I am here, is it my imagination, or does everyone have a hard time selling pictures of people? (Not portraits of SOMEONE I hasten to clarify.) I came to the conclusion that although folks RAVE about my work and talent, I have a friend that does rather modest, but colorful, flowers and doorways in watercolors and she is able to knock them off and out the door. It still seems that talent withstandind, if it matches the living room sofa, they will buy it!
I don't think people enjoy having faces looking into their lives....any other ideas, you "Face Folks"?
10-15-2000, 05:01 AM
You are right, figures are not the hottest selling item. I find landscapes sell best, followed by still lifes, interiors, and gardens . Flowers used to sell in my city and now ....don't anymore. I guess they have been painted to death. People got tired of them.
I don't do prints. I don't believe in prints. My work is affordable enough.
Portraits of the caliber you do, should sell though.....what is the problem? Where do you live? Are they too expensive? Not enough exposure?
Selling on the Internet is not an overnight thing. I had to wait over one year to sell my first painting. This year I sold 17 between large and small ones. Is not enough to have a page. Your page should be visible and submitted to all the possible search engines, sites, linked to other sites, webrings...the more the merrier. The first 3 or 4 month that's all I did at night...submit my page.
Lots of work...but I am getting results, after 2 years!! http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif
10-15-2000, 01:34 PM
Originally posted by Rita Monaco:
The donation of your painting at fundrising is also good idea. Done that, been there.
I think you should never donate a finished painting to a fundraising event(unless, of course, your're doing it for charitable reasons). It's almost always a lose/lose situation unless the prices are very high and you know they will be, because you not only give away your painting but you risk seeing it sell for far below what it's value should be. I would never suggest that. Horrible P.R.
10-15-2000, 01:41 PM
Originally posted by iyoung:
I think you should never donate a finished painting to a fundraising event(unless, of course, your're doing it for charitable reasons
I would never donate anything unless it were for charitable reasons....it would have to be a double winner for me. And I understand about give-aways. They are always the WORST promotions in any area. Freebies are rewards for loyalty, not lures. Thanks for the comment and protection! I understand what you mean.
10-15-2000, 04:03 PM
I agree that donating is not something that brings instant results, ( I don't do that any more, unless it is for charitable reasons)....but if you need the exposure, you need the exposure.
My first portraits were of family and frinds, all were donated...eventually the commissions started coming. (I like to do portraits of people I know, I guess the psychology of the sitter is important to me, it add that little extra that I look for.) But I do more business with landscapes and still lifes. I guess the fact that I paint all subjects really was important for my financial health. I also teach adults and I learned a lot in the process, plus it gave me a lot of confidence.
It is true that we don't want to let go of our work for nothing but if you think of it as advertising, it makes sense. No matter how good it is, if is sitting in your house and nobody sees it...it's a wasted effort.
The catch here is to paint a lot...!! when you have 30 pieces stashed away is easier to let go on one or two...but if you only have four or five....it's very difficult.
The important thing is that, one way or another, people have to see you work, in order to want to buy it.... http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif
10-16-2000, 12:43 AM
Thank you Rita,
You echo what I hear from friends. That is why I am trying to get started on a couple of landscapes. It is like pullling teeth! I suppose that since I did figures in a group, if I grabbed some friends for a plein aire group (why do we do these in French and Italian? OUTSIDE and ALL AT ONCE just don't seem as exotic or what!!) it may work, but of course 100 degrees plus in Phoenix may explain why I just got my digital camera.
My little web presence is just there so I would stop lugging ALL of my pictures around in my trunk! It was getting heavy so I print the site on my card and hand it to people.
I am reluctant to do the site. I got really gung ho on html about two years ago and am a real do it myself kind of gal so I am SURE I don't think mine is good enough. The communities gives me such a nice BUNCH of pages and organizes so nicely I don't have to worry about the heirarchy.
I must honesly say in the last two months I feel brave enough to take on anyone! It took a while before the gap between the eyes hit right, and nobody walked up and told me the foreheads were too short. The actual commissions have boosted my ego enormously. AND THE FACT that my flower painting friend, who has very little portrait skills is bringing clients to tears with pictures of their kids, convinces me it is not as important that my models love me, get a POCKETBOOK behind that admiration!!! :-)
Leslie M. Ficcaglia
10-16-2000, 05:33 PM
An artist I know on an art board does very well selling impressionistic paintings of children at the beach, having tea parties, and so forth, because the children look universal in her work and could be anyone's kids. One of my prints sold at an auction because the buyers felt that the child who was depicted looked like their own daughter. When I do a commissioned portrait I also offer laser copies for relatives, and those are very popular. I take a good photo of the painting and trot over to Kinko's or Sir Speedy and stand there while the copies are made, making sure that the color balance, sharpness, and intensity are as accurate as possible. I have them made in either an 8x10 format or in 11x14, so that standard mats and frames will work, and I hang a copy of each completed work in my studio (although of course I've now run out of wall space) so that my studio is also a gallery.
I've thought of trying the private school auction ploy. Portraits aren't a big item in southern New Jersey, and I'd like to expand my commissions now that I'm retired from my day job. The comments here are inspiring!
10-16-2000, 05:46 PM
Wonderful work and the sort I thought would be a full time business. I am not sure, are you retiring from a day job IN the art world?
Last night after the charity dialogue came up, I talked to a few friends and ONE suggested chamber of commerce meetings! Odd, but she made sense, just present. She also recommended doing a portrait of the publisher of the local business journal. I am not sure if she thought I should do the editoral portraits in the paper or what, but she said it is a great way to get a feature story in a business publication.
Another friend turned me on to a children's charity she is donating to but the deadline is Nov. 1. I need to get a few of my shots of little ones on paper and get ONE in there. I agree with the cause and the subject matter seems like the only hype I am trying for. Not a lure, an awareness, so to speak! :-) And Leslie, listen to Sue Fletcher, she is doing gangbusters with just what you seem to be entering into.
Thanks. I am enjoying the postings here...VERY thought provoking.
[This message has been edited by djstar (edited October 16, 2000).]
Leslie M. Ficcaglia
10-17-2000, 09:28 AM
Thanks for visiting my site! I started doing oil portraits in '95, so no, my day job wasn't art; I'm a retired psychologist and an ongoing environmentalist. I think that probably shows in my art. Point me to some information on Sue Fletcher; I don't see her on this thread. Your work is lovely, too; very painterly and impressionistic. I like the way you suggest planes and lines. Do you have any portraits per se on your site? Mostly what I saw seemed to be figurative studies.
Back to the idea of donating work, recently in our area charitable organizations have been offering a fifty-fifty split with the artist: a painting that sells for $1000 garners $500 for the artist and $500 for the charity, which isn't all that different from a straight gallery sale and makes everyone happy. Often if you have the right audience, people will pay in excess of the asking price anyway because they're trying to donate as much as possible to whatever cause is sponsoring the event. There is usually a minimum bid set, as well.
10-17-2000, 01:16 PM
Commercial art was my major in college, how my living was earned for 20 years. Did fashion illustration, outdoor, magazine ads etc. Fine art was always first love so did it on side. A friend owned a beautiful hotel with a dining room that had a skylight atrium. She invited me to work in the atrium weekends. Sold as many portraits as could do from there...she was wonderful promoter. Frame shops invited me to display samples in their business...did, and sold well that way too. While it requires more time keeping site found, to date, best venue has been web site which has been up almost 2 years now. Quality of client is best from there. Tho I offer a very inexpensive little pastel bust portrait, no one has gone for that on the web. More buy more expensive acrylic paintings. Price range of sales from web has been $200 to $1500 with $500 to $700 most common. I just barely make living at it...next mo. will get first social security cks...so will feel wealthy! I've totally enjoyed web clientele. I live in a remote area, still in population of less than 1000 people, lady who owned 1 of 2 restaurants here hung my work. Astounding to me, she sold about $2000 in paintings in less than a year! Struggles have become way of life, friend...I count my blessings for what is working! In order to move here, I got a job teaching art at the juvenile prison. During that time, got a matching grant from the Texas State Commission on the Arts for a mural project. Lots of ways to go when you keep looking!
10-17-2000, 02:30 PM
as Sue has said:
Lots of ways to go when you keep looking!
this really sums it up for me!!
If we don't move around and keep inventing and discovering ways to sell our art, we are going to starve. Let's face it, we may be quite decent painters, but none of us is going to shake the art world!!It's has beem my attitude from the start, to consider this a free lance profession, not a quest or a mission. If I don't find customers, I have to do something else to make a living....and since I like to paint more than any other activity, I have to find ways to sell what I do.I devote about 20% of my energy to market my work. The rest is spent painting. I also found out very early that doing varios subjects helps. Not everybody likes landscapes, or figure. I do all subjects because I like to do them all, (thanks god,) learn from them all....and sell them all.
My first subjects were figures and flowers. I realized that flowers were not popular any more and tried landscapes....which were successful. Then I tried still life....went so, so and last I added portraits, also so, so. Galleries don't like this approach, they prefer one subject done to death....but then I don't make enough money with galleries to worry what they like or not like. Also I would get very bored if I had to confine my painting to one subject....so, I am my own promoter, works great this way.
I must have given away at least 50 pieces over 5 years....promotion. I produce a lot of stuff, this helps!!
10-17-2000, 06:25 PM
Lots of charities really help artists also. Last year West Texas Rehab went on-line for first time. In conjunction with their TV promotion, they added auction worked out with E-bay. Provided tons of exposure for all particpants. They have an "Art Extravaganza" for selling Visual Art only. With this, half of sales go to artists, half to Rehab. Many do this. I love participating because helps 2 good causes at once! I do give things away for what I believe in, whether private or public. Just helps life. Many surrounding communities have web sites and most have my link. Get good results with this also. Since my primary job for 20 years was Marketing Manager for company I worked for, has really been asset in self promotion. Purchased reverse lookup phone book and did direct mail to areas of cities I'm familiar with. Quite time consuming, but had good results. Just a few more thoughts of things I've done as they come back to me!
Enjoy seeing what rest of you try or have done as well!
10-17-2000, 06:25 PM
This little discussion is taking on a life of its own. I think I am still working on the confidence of my voice. MY personal bias to what I like is starting to dictate my direction and I like the sketchy quality. Until recently, I felt like I was just a slacker, but now that I am growing confident, I just believe that art is always in the eye of the viewer and he maker. Big money pieces reflect big money patrons, not always better art. It is becoming apparent to me that art is like fishing. A big part of it is how much you like the fishing hole. Fly fishing is NOT about eat or die, it is about the joy of the sport. I am trying to find my little spot to get sustained, and it is easier to hear opinions favorable or contrary when I keep reminding myself that nobody is right but me. EVERYONE is right for them and they are all willing to tell me how they found their way, whether it is going to be my way or not. There are always trade offs for the choices we make. Lots of what I DON'T want to hear, is also stuff that makes lots of sense, but I also get the support for my own voice no matter WHAT you all see as the best path.
Thank you for it so far and hope you all are gaining as I have.
10-17-2000, 06:29 PM
http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/biggrin.gif http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/biggrin.gif YAY! I just graduated to MEMBER!!!! http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif It is fun not being a JUNIOR any more!!!! And they say there is no life after 50! http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/biggrin.gif http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/biggrin.gif
Leslie M. Ficcaglia
10-19-2000, 12:46 AM
Thanks for the background info, Sue! I checked out your web site and like your work. A question: when you take commissions from the web, do you use others' reference photos? I prefer to take my own photographs and get to know the subject before I paint him or her, which is why I've thought that I wouldn't bother with a more professional art website than the one I'm using now, which is ancillary to an ecotourism site.
02-02-2001, 12:23 AM
Yes, I use reference photos provided by others. Ideally I like taking my own too. I like making additional income more than turning down photos provided by others. Sometimes they give me really great candid ones that I'd never get with people I don't know well. There can be advantages in everything if we look for them.
02-02-2001, 12:34 AM
I was talking to NOBLE and we were hashing out the same old stuff and I suggested he look at your site.
I am so encouraged and inspired by your example and re-reading this post helped me recall the wisdom of those who have gone before...
This is a nice revival!
02-02-2001, 03:42 PM
I mostly paint people in watercolor and,the feedback I get is "wow,at last!someone thought of painting people for a change!I am just sick of seing flowers in watercolor!"
Now that's a comment I often get in exhibits.The last time our watercolor society did a group exhibit...we we're 2 artists painting people and the rest was mostly flowers and landscapes...they were beautiful of course but reach only part of the public...
Now may I suggest a book..."Becoming a successfull artist" by Lewis Lehrman available at The North Light Book Club.Maybe reading how others did go from amateur to pro will inspire you!
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