Monday, July 16, 2018

The Business of Art

"In a Circle", 9x12" mixed media on paper. Congratulations to "eafoort", you have won this
piece in my email list draw! Check your inbox, and email me back so I know how to get this to you!

A week has gone by since the last time I set foot in my studio. An entire week. That's not how life as an artist looked in my head, when I decided to really try to get somewhere with this. But unfortunately,  in real life, that's how things work out sometimes.

Yes, I have a full time job. But that is only one of the things getting in my way. The list is long... and surprisingly, a lot of those things are art related. You don't necessarily think about it, but being an artist is like being an entrepreneur in a lot of ways. I make a product, but then I have to market and sell that product or it will sit in storage forever. And I will starve.

I have to make sure people know about me and the product I make... that means finding shows to participate in, art fairs to go to, places that may want to hang my work. And then carting it there, setting it up, possibly standing in a booth/tent for a few days introducing myself to people, packing it all up and carting it home again. And keeping track of it all, because somehow events always manage to overlap and it's way too easy to miss a pickup date.

Note: this is one reason I enjoy travelling so much... most of my vacation time from work is spent working on art stuff; Prepping for and participating in shows. I've cut down how many I do the last couple years so I could actually have a vacation. I was getting burnt out. 

I have inventory software and I track everything. I know which images I used for which application, and whether it was successful or not. I know which paintings were in which show. I can tell you which galleries actually sold my work and which didn't. In my state of overwhelm last year I stupidly let my inventory updates lapse... it took me a ridiculous amount of time to get caught up. Sometimes I think being prolific has it's drawbacks.

I have to keep track of how much money I spend and on what. I keep records of what art supplies I buy, what courses I take, how much my website is costing me. I track entry fees and hanging fees and commissions.

And then there is the relatively new arena of social media marketing. It's really just showing up and participating in the community, but it takes up a surprising amount of time. Facebook and Instagram are the big ones for me (and I presume most artists). And they change so regularly it's difficult to keep up. Now Instagram has "TV"... I assume trying to steal some of youtube's marketshare. I already figured out how to film myself painting, so now I just have to make sure I do it regularly so I can post something there along with all the other places. It's no wonder some artists just say no, and let their gallery do all that work. I don't necessarily think that's wise, given the way galleries come and go these days, but hey, we all make our own decisions on where our time is best spent. Whatever works for you.

I've been thinking about how all this is really like having a second full time job. It's taking the making part, which I love, and turning it into something I have to struggle to have time for. Not sure that's really where I wanted this to go. I understand that I have to sell my work... there are many reasons, but the most pressing one is that I just don't have enough space to store it all. And to do that I need to show it. But I don't need to do every show that there is. I don't even have to apply for them. And I don't need to use every shiny new feature on every platform that comes along. Perhaps I can pick one and focus on that, and do it well enough to get by.

The main thing is that I have time to do the work that keeps me sane, and keeps the stress levels in check. At least until I can retire from that day job.