Progress – October 15, 2018

Here we are, halfway through the first month of the last quarter of 2018. I can’t believe this year is rapidly coming to an end.

I was looking at my projects this weekend. I don’t think I’ll have any more publications this year, but there will be several novels released in 2019. I currently am actively working on 6 novels and one story which I’m not sure if it will be novella length or a full novel. Several of these stories I hope will be released next year.

My son was in a play this last week and so it was a week with an odd schedule. My youngest came to watch Adrian’s play, which allowed me to see him for a bit. I kept myself flexible in order to keep myself working and getting things done.

And yet…

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Are you making a quality investment?

Now that we’ve discussed about art being a product, let’s look a little deeper. Art isn’t just something someone hangs on their wall or places on a table in the middle of their room. If you’re not making product for someone else (that means you’re making your art, then selling it), then you need to ask yourself if you’re making a piece that will make someone want to make an investment.

When you sell a piece, your buyer is purchasing a two-fold investment: once in your career as their money helps you to keep going as an artist, and second as an object that will increase in value as time goes by. Sometimes not every customer is aware of this second investment they are making — they just want something to enjoy. Part of your job in selling your art should be to guide the buyer to this understanding and that you intend on the piece going up in value. You do intend on doing that, don’t you?

Let’s face it. We’ve all heard about how an artist’s value goes up after the artist is dead. If you understand economics, you realize that this principle is all based on supply and demand. Once an artist is dead, there will be no more pieces created. Boom, the end, plain and simple no matter how cold the fact is.

There is another way that the value of your art can increase though, while you’re still alive. Get more collectors who want your work and will share your name with their friends who also want to buy your work. To do that, you have to create a lot of work, know what pieces are worthy and which ones need to be scrapped. It takes experience to develop this instinct. I know it’s one I’m working at. This means you must practice your craft lots to become really good at it.

So, ask yourself if you’re making quality art that will become an investment.

I’m going to pick on the daily painters here for a moment. Daily painters, if you don’t know, are artists who paint a picture in a day, every day. They then list their work for sale on their blog, a group blog, eBay, or some similar site. Just think, that’s 365 paintings a year. Granted, this is good practice. They are gaining experience and they might be selling enough to support themselves. But is it quality? Will it become an investment that will grow in value?

I have fought myself on these points over the last couple of years. On the one hand, yes, it’s good experience and a good way to practice the craft of painting. Yes, the pieces are usually small so that they can be completed in one day. On the other, most don’t have good composition. Most are very simple. Some look like a 1st grader did them. Because there are so many being done, if a daily painter actually stays with this, within 4 years they can potentially have 1000 pieces done and sold. They are building a name and gaining collectors. But does this mean they are actually creating larger works with value that will ultimately increase the value of all these smaller pieces? Will someone who’s bought a small piece purchase a larger one too? Are they only supporting themselves in the present with no thought toward the future?

I create pieces from ACEO’s (Artist Cards Editions and Originals – which are 2.5″ x 3.5″, the same size as a baseball trading card and used in similar purposes, but for art) to 8×10’s to 11×14’s and 16×20. I someday want to work to even larger pieces. I worry about filling up my artist database with ACEO’s and wonder if I should actually maintain two databases. Lately, I’ve been doing 4-6 ACEO’s a week. I can say that only a small percentage of my ACEO purchasers have continued on to buy a bigger piece. My hope is that one day that swings the other direction – where I actually focus on creating larger pieces and only do a few ACEO’s. I think about these things. To me, that’s part of my business. I know I have to create value for my customers. Not only do I want they to have a piece that delights them, but I want them to have art that will be worth more than they paid for it.

Some additional food for thought:
The Art of Investing in Art
Fine Art of Investment
Art Valuation
Fine Art Can Be A Fine Investment
Is Art A Wise Investment?

As you can see, not all the articles are flattering. But, as an artist, you have a choice: offer your potential client a momentary fleeting piece that evokes peace or inspiration (or whatever feeling your art is chasing) or know that you are a business person with only the value (present and possible future) of your art. The choice you make proves whether you will remain an amateur or if you are in the realm of the professional.

If you haven’t realized by now, the first thing to do if you want to learn about art as a business is to think about art as a business. I hope that you’re making steps in that direction and starting to take what you do more seriously. And that you want to learn about business operations in general. If you’re just doing your art without thought behind it, no one is benefiting. Take the time, if only to ask yourself the question that was the subject of this post. I really hope doors are opening for you! But I can only show them to you — I can’t make you enter.

Are you making art that is barely worth more than the materials involved, or are you working to make it be worth more that what someone will eventually pay for it? What qualities to you look for in art as an investment? Have you made a purchase of art as an investment? What are your thoughts?

The Nature of the Business of Art – A Summary

Recently, I found a new blog that I enjoy and last week they had a post about art schools not teaching artists about business. This is not a new complaint, but a rather common one.

Let’s step back for a moment. As a bookkeeper I’ve come to realize a truth: very few people know how to run a business. Really, truly!

Very few people learn the business skills they need in school. Most come out as “technicians” as Michael Gerber, author of The E-Myth, would say. Technicians are schooled in what they do, but now how to make a business out of their skills. I recently heard the younger accountants I work with say that they had come out of college with no idea of what it took to run an accounting firm (how to do billings, for example. Gee, setting their prices; sound familiar?). If they didn’t get the skills they needed, then who does?

It is the ability to be a technician (how well the skilled worker does his job) that allows the business to survive (and sometimes thrive) rather than his business skills. But artists do seem to complain about lacking business skills more. I think this is because artists work in solitude. We too enjoy being the technician. Yet because of the subjective nature of art, we often feel rejected (not realizing that the audience is rejecting the art, not us). It can leave us with a feeling of failure. So when we see money for jury/show fees, materials, marketing, etc. going out the door with very little coming back in, it’s easy to say, “Well, I don’t have the business skills I need to succeed.” It’s a cop-out, an inanimate object to place blame on that in a round-about way makes us feel more like a failure because of how that lie is effecting our subconscious. So ask yourself: do you really want to keep being a victim, or do you want to be in control?

Alyson Stanfield recently wrote in her blog that art and business aren’t separated. She’s right, but sometimes it’s easier said than done.

I’ve scratched the surface here and, I hope, got you thinking about the business involved in your art career and made you not feel so alone. If you have a question about art as a business, let me know. I can’t promise to have all the answers; this is a growing process for me too. In the meanwhile I’m whipping up some posts that should help artists take the reins on their business skills. I hope you’ll join me and share in the discussion.