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How to Make it as an Artist: Part 5

One of the biggest challenges for an artist is how to build up a body of work for a show or a big project without selling the pieces, while still making money to cover your expenses.  I have been asked this a lot over the years and I usually respond with the same answer... GET CREATIVE!

If you are an artist and have chosen this path for your life then you most certainly have the ability to think greater than your current suroundings and your current situation in order to create new works of art.  Since we live in a fractal universe and everything in life follows certain patterns and has a certain structure (quantum physics is really cool once you can wrap your head around it) then the same process that works for you when you are creating a new piece of art should work for you when you are creating a new event, a new path or a new source of income in your life.  I'm going to do some cool talks in the upcoming year talking about all sorts of quantum creation stuff, but I'll keep it simple right now.

How many of you have been walking through a market and you see an artists stand with a huge selection of their work and thought, wow, that person must be quite successful as an artist cuz they have lots of stuff?  I would often think that myself and wonder how they figured it out.  Well if they have figured out that step they at least are on the right path.  In order to make money to pay your bills and to feed the lifestyle you want you need to not put all your eggs in one basket.  You need to diversify and work on multiple avenues at different times, adjusting to the market needs at the time.  If you only do original paintings and they are all priced in a higher price point then you are only able to reach a certain side of the market that can afford originals and that can be quite limiting.  By making reproductions you open up yourself to a way broader audience and it's easier to get an impulse buy for a $5 art card or a $40 print than it is to have someone drop $1000 on the spot when they see your art.

Prints and cards are an amazing way to make small increments of money to keep your expenses covered while you are working on your next masterpiece.  I began selling prints and cards very early on in my career and this was one of the steps that I took that helped to get my art out to a huge audience and I was able to have a steady trickle of income on a regular basis.  At the start I was trying to just do originals because I had a bit of a stuborn attitude that "orginals are the only true art!", but that all changed when I realized that it was nearly impossible to paint fast enough to make that a reality.  I started doing small limited edition runs of 33 of some of my popular prints and I made about 5 different cards and post cards.  I would sell these at the Farmers Market in Whistler every Sunday during the summer months and then would do the Christmas Markets and craft fairs.  This made me a great living just off of reproductions of works I had already done.  This can get way more value out of every piece you do and it only takes a minimal amount of time to deal with the printing and packaging.  I wish I had figured out the E-commerce side of things on my website back then as well.  If you can offer prints on your website you will find that you can make sales to people all over the world and not just your local area.  I have been amazed at how people in Croatia and South Afrifa have ordered up artwork.  Most of it was from friends either sending them prints or simply coming across them in their travels.  The more images you can get out there the better!

When I began doing prints I wasn't sure which ones would sell so it was a bit of an experiment.  If I were to have gone to a printer and had dozens of every print made and just hoped that they would sell I would most likely be sitting on hundresd of leftovers still now.  So I ended up buying a really good printer and doing it  myself.  That was about 13 years ago now and printers were quite expensive and so were supplies.  But that all worked out fine once I had my system dialed.  Now adays you can get a really good large format printer with archival ink and all the great paper for well under $1000.  I had paid about $1600 for mine back then and it had a big issue.  The ink cartridges came as one unit and not individual so I wasted a tonne of ink at the start until I figured out that I had to keep track of what I printed and make sure I printed equal amounts of red prints, blue prints, yellow prints and purple ones... pain in the ass, but it saved me money once I figured it out.  But now you can change all the cartridges seperately so it's way more cost effective now.

Another issue I had back then was choosing which pieces to print.  I had to rely on paying close attention to everyones comments at the markets, to sales as well as asking my friends what their favorites were.  But now with social media you can reach out to your whole network and ask questions and get more peoples opinions as to which images you should turn into prints.  This also builds an interaction with your fans which is invaluable.  It super important to listen to your audience not only to keep them happy, but also to save you money from experimentation.  Smart businesses always do market research before they go ahead with production.  Many times I printed the pieces that I thought would sell because I loved them, but it turned out that not many other people did :(

One of the best things about reproductions is that it makes your art accessible to a wider audience.  Especially at the start or early on in your carreer when you don't want to cut anyone out of the picture. Later on once you work up to a high price point you can begin to be a little more selective with your target audience and you will have a greater knowledge of what demographic likes your style of art. But until then you want to get your art infront of as many people as you can.  When you think about each print or card as a seed that further grows your audience and spreads the reach of your work you begin to realize that the more seeds you sow the higher the crop yield.  When someone buys a print and takes it home and hangs it on their wall they are sort of making their home a mini gallery for you.  They all have friends and usually the reason you hang out with people is because you have similar interests and outlooks on life.  So chances are if you like a certain artist, your friends might like them as well.  Or at the very least strike up conversation about them.  If you do the really basic math on this, lets say every print you sell will gain you at least 1 new fan through friends of whomever purchased it.  So if you sell 100 prints or cards you could potentially gain at least another 100 fans or at the least have another 100 people check out your art.  This is where the whole website and social media avenues come in handy. They make it easy for people curious about your art to find you, follow you and eventually buy a piece. 

Also, like a seed, each piece you get out there can grow a desire for people to want more of your art.  I have heard time and time again "I can't afford an original yet, but this print will remind I need to start saving for one."  One particular instance in which I heard this was about 9 years ago.  I had a young lad (same age as me) buy a postcard of Cool Meditations and tell me that he loves it so much and that he promised me that one day he would come back and get an original of a similar image... 7 years later he returned with his family and they commissioned me for a BIG piece that was for the theatre room in their house in New York.  AMAZING!!  And this goes back to what I had mentioned in previous posts... don't be an asshole!  Be appreciative of everyones support and treat them all with the respect and gratitude they deserve.  I can't stress enough how important this is. 

When you pay attention to what has worked for you in the past and what has worked for other people, you will be able carve out an effective game plan that works for you.  You are where you are right now because of everything that has happened to you and all the choices you have made up to this point.  By focusing on where you want to be and by steering your actions towards that point consciously, you will be able to achieve greater and greater success.  Success is a cummulative anomoly and so is knowledge.  So keep learning new things and adapting consciously to your situation and you will achieve greater and greater success! 

There are a bunch of helpful things I can ellaborate on to do with prints, but I think I have mentioned enough for today.  Next time I will talk about:






At some point during the summer I will do a few vidoe blogs to show you how to stretch canvas prints, finishing paintings and a bunch of other helpful things as I can think of them.  If you have anything you are curious about please message me and let me know and I will do my best to help you out and answer your questions.

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