Pulse Points is a new series of posts on Create Mixed Media where a group of mixed-media artists are each presented with two survey questions gleaned from the pages of The Pulse of Mixed Media: Secrets and Passions of 100 Artists Revealed by Seth Apter.
How do you feel about the “business side” of being an artist?
For many, if not most, artists, creating art is just one part of their daily life. Much of their time is instead filled with the “business side” of art: self-promotion and marketing, social media, branding, sales, networking, etc. Based on the thoughts of the panel members, some artists embrace this aspect while others do not. But for all, the need to blend the creative side with the business side is clearly a necessary part of being an artist in today’s world.
Ronda recognizes that the business side of things is “an essential part of making my business grow.” Marie adds, “These days if you want to be successful commercially there is no getting away from the fact that you need to be moderately well versed in social media networking, compiling mailing lists, keeping up contact lists, managing spread sheets, sending out newsletters, creating a web presence and so on.” And Angela notes that for her “the biggest part of the business side of art is the never-ending task of getting your work out there, getting it seen, and hopefully selling it.” However, as perfectly stated by Mary Beth, “that doesn’t mean I like it.”
For some, the business side comes naturally. Says Mary Beth, “Coming from my previous life in corporate America, I find the business side somewhat easy.” Having that type of background certainly makes a difference but that is not typical. And in fact, for many other artists, the need to “do business” feels more like an obstacle.
As noted by Ronda, “I remember when I was younger thinking I wanted to be an artist. What nobody told me was to get a business degree because you are really going to need it.” How many of you have had the same thought? Marie “thinks that the business side of being an artist is way more challenging than the creative part.” According to Angela, “Sometimes it feels very frustrating and can even feel humiliating at times, and I just want to paint and let somebody else deal with all that.” Ronda adds that “most of my day isn’t spent creating. It’s spent doing the business side and sometimes I am overwhelmed by it.”
Each of the panel members has found strategies to better cope with the business end of being an artist and all recommend that you do the same. Mary Beth relies on lists. “I keep separate lists for different functions (deadlines, ideas, computer tasks, etc.)…and yes I have been known to add a task simply to enjoy the pleasure of crossing it off.” Ronda has taken to research and she “has been reading different kinds of business books to gain new perspectives.” Marie recommends being organized by “setting aside some time each week, writing things down and reviewing things.” And Angela talks about the importance of perspective: “I try to be as authentic and true to myself in my marketing practice as I am in my art practice. This approach has allowed me to find a calmer way to truly connect with and honor those who enjoy, exhibit and purchase my work.” And isn’t that the real bottom line?
If you sell your work, do you have trouble with pricing?
When an artist goes from making art for themselves and as gifts to a point where they are offering their work for sale, the thorny issue of price arises. How do you go about figuring out what to say when people start asking “how much does that painting cost?” But the challenge doesn’t stop there as many well-established artists also report struggling with this issue.
For example, the confusion over pricing has kept Ronda from selling her work. “I know it is fear,” she says. She goes on to ask the questions that many us have asked ourselves as well: “What is the correct amount to charge? What is too much and what is too little? How do I place a value on my work that is so personal to me?” She is hesitant to begin selling her work until she is comfortable with her answers to these questions.
For Marie, “The answers lie in the representation and environment that you chose to promote your artwork in. If you invest in the time and money to develop a body of work and show your portfolio to reputable dealers and galleries, then you have a chance at being shown in ‘formal’ spaces and pricing your artwork accordingly. However if you chose to take pictures of your work at home, post them on Facebook or Etsy, then what you can charge is often considerably less.” And she makes the valid point that in the latter circumstances, “you may never be able to recoup the cost versus man hours.”
Both Mary Beth and Angela have a pricing policy that is used by many established artists and this policy is more science than art: cost based on size. Since learning about this strategy, Angela prices her work by the square inch “and the randomness has been replaced by consistency.” This approach “makes it easier to stick to a price instead of giving into doubts and offering insane discounts” and it makes her “feel and appear more professional when someone asks for a price.”
It is much the same for Mary Beth who describes a process where she initially priced her work at 50% of her teacher’s price. “Supply and demand took over from there as I had to raise my prices to keep up with the demand. When things leveled off I determined a square inch price. This allows me to have equity across the board.”
For some artists, underpricing and therefore undervaluing their work is the issue. For others, overpricing becomes the norm. Marie has visited galleries in NYC and often wondered “how the heck do they get people to buy THAT for so much money.” The solution to both extremes seems to be balance, which according to the panel can be achieved by both clarifying your own goals as an artist and, based on that, creating a consistent pricing formula. Perhaps this post should be titled: The Business of Art…Right Brain Meets Left Brain.
Seth Apter is a regular contributor to CreateMixedMedia.com, the voice behind, The Altered Page and the author of the book, The Pulse of Mixed Media (North Light Books, Spring 2012). His two instructional videos, Easy Mixed Media Surface Techniques and Easy Mixed Media Techniques for the Art Journal are now available in the North Light Shop.
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