Farewell for Now …

To my dear readers,

I really appreciate you taking the time to read my blog over the past year and a half. I hope in some way I have contributed to your life … no matter how small.

My life is altering rapidly in amazing ways … so much that I have not been able to keep up with the blog. I have to admit to myself that no matter how much I love sharing with you, it isn’t high enough on my priority list to keep it alive.

So with that admission, I bid you adieu and wish you a fond farewell … at least for now! Please visit me on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Amy-Buchheit-Art/190707613301) and check out my web page (http://www.amybuchheit.com). Thank you for joining me on this journey! :-)

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Rerunning of an old favorite: “Why Does Art Cost So Much?” Part III

This is part three of the series, “Why Does Art Cost So Much?”.  You can catch up with Part One – Introduction and Part Two – Materials in the archives or by clicking the hyperlinks above.

The Roman Poet Titus Maccius Plautus famously said, “You must spend money to make money”.  This has more profound truth in business than in any other endeavour.  And for those who intend to turn a profit and/or make a living, art is definitely a business.

One of the biggest expenses is marketing or presentation.  Marketing is all about presenting your product or service to the marketplace with the intention of drawing customers in.  Artists accomplish this in many ways including  promotional post cards, professional stationary and framing their work (in the case of 2D artists).   The intention is to create a recognizable brand that conveys value to collectors.

The front of my two-sided business cards, created by graphic designer Charlie Stover (503-951-8919).

Post cards, business cards and letterhead are all used to create strong branding and exposure for an artist.  The best examples show consistency throughout, with similar colors, patterns, logos, and images.  These are often developed and created by graphic designers, who have to be paid for their professional services.

Creating a strong identity package can be a major up-front expense, but worth it.  Fees for professional graphic design can run into the thousands, and printing these items can cost hundreds for a run of 500 or less.  Though the cost is sometimes high, the return on investment in terms of increased level of professionalism and better reputation is well worth the cost.  It can help turn a potential collector into an actual collector.

Another key part of the identity package is found on the Internet.  In today’s market, it is critical that an artist have a strong web presence.   The most effective presence is consistent with the rest of the identity package and easily identifiable as belonging to the same artist.  Although it is possible to build a strong web presence on your own it takes time and a level of comfort with technology that not everyone has.  For those who are unwilling or unable to create and maintain a web presence themselves, paying a qualified professional can run in the thousands each year.

Even if an artist spends the time, effort and money (if using professional web design software) to establish and maintain his/her own site, the cleaner, more professional looking sites usually cost at least a small monthly fee.  These sites are free from advertisements , clutter and competition for attention with other artists.  For example, my site is housed on Yahoo Small Business and costs approximately $14.00 per month.  That is very inexpensive, it can cost much more.

No matter how well a website, blog or social media is prepared and presented, it does no good without excellent images of the work.  High-quality photography presents a critical part of a professional appearance both on the web and in print materials alike.  A stunning photograph can sell a piece sight unseen to someone half a world away, while a poor image can turn off someone who may already be interested.

Professionally photographed image of my painting, “Sailing Honu”. This piece was purchased sight-unseen, with this image (at full screen size/highest quality) as their only guide. “Sailing Honu”, acrylic on canvas, copyright 2004 Amy Buchheit All Rights Reserved.

While there are artists who have the skill to create a lasting photographic image, most are better suited to paying a professional photographer specializing in capturing art.   A quality art photographer doesn’t come cheap, but the investment can be an important part of launching a career.

Once the work is made and photographed, 2D artists must consider framing their work.  Whether or not to frame is  up to the individual artist.  The key is determining whether doing so would enhance the work.  If it will, most professional artists will pay what is needed for quality framing.

Even for the savvy shopper, custom framing often costs $100 on up – usually much more, depending on the size of the work and the quality/design of the framing.  When done right, the presence of such presentation enhances the aesthetics of the work and increase the likelihood of sales.   The cheaper option of the standard frame is sometimes utilized, but having a custom framed piece of art, with quality materials specifically tailored to have the piece look its absolute best, is a win-win situation for everyone involved.

Now that we’ve explored the cost of materials being far higher than many consumers think, and the thousands of dollars that can be spent to market the work in a professional manner, next Wednesday we will explore the value of the artist’s time in Part Four – Time is Money.

© 2011 Amy Buchheit All Rights Reserved

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“Why Does Art Cost So Much?” Part 2 – revisited

The continuation of this “classic” series proceeds while I am on hiatus.  Enjoy! – Amy

“Why Does Art Cost So Much?” (Part Two – Materials)

Acrylic paint
Image via Wikipedia

A picture is worth a thousand words “* – but why does art cost so much?  This is part two of a series that attempts to unveil the mystery that surrounds art pricing (to the extent that we can here).

The creation of art involves the purchase of materials, the time to produce the work, and in many cases, framing or other presentation costs.  After the piece  is complete, there is the expense of entering traditional exhibitions, the cost of a professional photographer to shoot images of the work, time spent on marketing, more time on creating non-traditional exhibition opportunities and the general expenses of running a small business.  Last, and certainly not least, is the commission that galleries take when the work sells.  In this installment, we will look at the cost of materials.

If you have ever stepped into an art supply store, you may have noticed the high cost connected to anything having to do with art.    One such example is something called an “Art Bin“.  These are portable plastic boxes, each with one or more trays to hold a variety of supplies.  One in particular reminds me of a standard, inexpensive tackle box.  The only real difference is the word “art” on the side of the Art Bin, and the difference in price.  The Art Bin, essentially the same item as the tackle box, sells for almost twice the price!

While the experienced artist looks for comparable items (like the tackle box) to save money, until a lower-priced item is located, they’ll need to purchase something that works.  That often means buying an item sold for far more money simply because it is targeted toward artists.

Copyright 2010 Amanda J. Mersereau All Rights Reserved. aMERSEREAUdesign.com

There is also a big difference between what a student/hobby artist pays vs. what a  professional pays for the same type of material.  For example, I have paid $20.oo for a 2 oz. tube of professional grade Cobalt Blue acrylic paint, where the equivalent student grade paint costs as little as $1.99.

For the most part, the quality of professional grade supplies is vastly superior to lower grades.  In the long run, that means a far better investment for the collector.  The difference in the quality of materials is  so big,  it justifies the jump in cost for both the professional artist (who is committed to their client’s long-term satisfaction) and savvy collector.

What about photographers, you ask?  Can’t you just get a digital camera for a hundred bucks, take a ton of pictures and print them at WalMart for a few dollars each?  Yes, but again, the quality is much lower than images shot on higher quality equipment and printed by a knowledgeable print shop.  While some photographers use the lower-quality cameras to interesting effect, most all will use a professional printer that is vastly superior to your corner drug store – again for the purpose of durability and overall quality of the image.

Digital SLR. Copyright 2010 Amanda J. Mersereau All Rights Reserved. aMERSEREAUdesign.com

A low end digital SLR (the variety of camera used by most photographers) costs around $1,200.  That doesn’t include the tripod (can cost as much as $2,000), extra lenses (can cost over $1,000 apiece), and the bags to haul gear around (hundreds of dollars more for quality bags).  Add in photo editing software (up to $2400), calibration software (around $300), a higher quality computer and monitor to hold and display all these images, and that is a lot of cash!  This is before the cost of paying a high-quality photographic printer to produce the hard-copies.

It is possible for a photographer to shoot hundreds of pictures in a day’s work.  But the ratio of images that are of high enough quality to be printed is quite small in comparison.  On a photo shoot where I take 260 images, it is unlikely I will find more than five images of high enough quality for me to release.

Most professional photographers keep their fine art images to a limited edition.  I personally am working in editions of five, meaning I only sell five of the same images in any one size.  (That edition size is extremely low, to keep the value of each image high for my collectors.)

I can’t speak to the cost of creating bronze, stone or other traditional forms of sculpture.  I can tell you that  I had the intention of creating a 4 foot by 6 foot hanging sculpture out of Styrofoam – until I found that materials cost – $700 to $900! The project I made in its stead consisted of bubble wrap, cardboard (to stiffen the interior), canvas, molding paste and acrylic paint.  It still cost close to $150 and took four weeks to make.

Now that we’ve nailed down the high cost of materials in a professionally created work of art, we can talk about the price of presentation.

Continued in part three – The Price of Presentation.

* – Napoleon Bonaparte

© 2010 Amy Buchheit All Rights Reserved

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Replaying of an Old Favorite: the “Why Does Art Cost So Much” series (part one)

Hello all!  As promised, here is the first part of the six part series, “Why Does Art Cost so Much?” that ran earlier in this blog’s history.  I am staying extremely busy, and have written some (very) rough drafts for a few upcoming blogs, to run after this series ends.  Enjoy the series and please, feel free to comment.  I will be here to read them, promise!  :-)

“Why Does Art Cost So Much?” (Part one – Intro)

Monk piggy bank
Image via Wikipedia

“Why does [art] cost so much?”  This is a question that I have heard more times than you can imagine over the last 10 years.   So often, I am choosing to  address this query here, where I can reach a larger audience.

This conversation cannot start without discussing the most prevalent myth about artists – that all (or most) artists starve and live as paupers, mooching off those around them.  The perception of the starving artist is a cultural conversation, most prevalent in the United States.

Professional artists are just that, professionals.   Many of us are educated with degrees in our field.  We pursue continuing education in business development and the expansion of our technical knowledge.  We not only manufacture the product (the art), we also handle the marketing, managing, finance and every other aspect of our business.   We work hard to produce excellent quality art and position ourselves in our own unique niche in an expansive marketplace.

Artists in the United States often have one or more jobs to support ourselves while we develop our business.   (I cannot speak for artists in other countries, which is why I am working hard to get “Ask an Artist” going.)  It takes a tremendous amount of courage, dedication, wherewithall and a strong work ethic to achieve our goals.

Now that we have established professional artists as business people, we can move on to discuss the details of why art costs what it does.  Stay tuned!

Continued in Part Two – Materials.

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On Hiatus – Read On!

This gallery contains 1 photo.

Dear Reader, s, Vincent Van Gogh’s Dr. Gachet is a bit meloncholy today. “Portrait of Dr. Gachet”, Vincent Van Gogh. You know the signs.  A skipped week here.  A rushed post there.  Before you know it … the blog slows … Continue reading

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Guest Post: Scheduling and Staying Focused

Vancouver, Washington artist Katie Berggren in 2010. Used by permission of the artist.

This week’s post is by fellow Vancouver (Washington) artist Katie Berggren, best known for her paintings of intimate moments of motherhood.  I encourage you to follow the links at the end of this post to find out more about her poignant and whimsical work!

A recent ponderism: Schedules and Focus

I’m creating a list of Focus Items – items/tasks (such as specific research, communication, organization, product development, art techniques) that I can focus on for a series of days while the kids are at school (this will be the first time that both of my boys are away from me for school for more than just 8 hours a week).

I’m using this list as a way to stay on task while alone and get some goals accomplished vs. flying around like a multi-tasking freak-a-zoid.  I also have a schedule posted to my desk that reminds me that time is money – so don’t waste it!  It reminds me to get on the computer to respond to folks, then get back to creating/packing orders/learning/researching and developing as an artist (and of course, as a mother and a healthy human being as well).

I shared my scheduling inclination on Facebook not too long ago, and received some great ideas from some other mamas and artists that are clearly focused and organized as well. I shared my schedule on the Etsy Forum (with other artists & sellers) and was SHOCKED to discover how many shop owners responded that they do NOT have a schedule. They flow freely throughout the day, some admitting to not getting much done.

(Attempted to reach image owner at rightattitudes.com, website error. If this is your image, please contact me.)

For me, when the school year begins and gathers pace, I’m anticipating that my brain will start to meander, overwhelmed by all the Internet and world has to offer.  In this event, I can glance at my list and quickly get back on the trail to something I’ve always wanted to do.

Don’t get me wrong, it is not about accomplishing non-stop, or creating until creating is no longer fun. It is about pinpointing just what I desire, and attacking it while training my brain to stay focused at the same time.

What about you ~ do you keep a schedule for yourself?  Do you give yourself time allotments for social media and online research?  (Or maybe, you are not prone to getting sucked into the Internet.)   At the end of the day do you wonder where all of the time went and what good you did?

About Katie:  An internationally recognized and award-winning painter, Katie Berggren’s art career began in high school when she launched a pencil-portrait business. Graphic design and illustration took her to Central Washington University where she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.  After a brief career in graphic design, Katie was drawn to focus exclusively on painting.

Her days are spent with two young boys by her side, while she strives to balance simple, loving motherhood with the discipline and craft of painting.  Always interested in the dynamic relationships between those around her, she narrowed that focus to study the intimacies between mothers and their children.  The resulting acrylic portraits reflect intimate moments of motherhood through gentle, whimsical compositions and soothing tones.

"Whimsical Mother", Katie Berggren, 24"x24", acrylic on canvas. Copyright Katie M. Berggren 2010, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission of the artist.

You can learn more about Katie and her magical motherhood paintings on her website as well as her blog, “Painting Motherhood”.  You can also find her work and related products for sale on Etsy.

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Death by Erasure

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.”  ~Ambrose Redmoon

If you erase TOO much, you'll wear a hole in the paper.

As my writer friends know, a lot has to happen before an article of any sort comes into existence.  First, you need an idea.  An outline can work wonders for developing longer writings, creating a sort of skeleton on which to hang the meat of the article.  Once the framework is in place, the article can be fleshed out, then edited.  For a blog article you then look for images to compliment the content, edit again and then edit some more.  But while brevity and clarity are admirable traits in most any style of writing … so is the author’s voice.  The challenge I face is not to edit so much that I delete my personality entirely.

Until the launch of this blog last year, the last bit of “creative” writing I had done was my thesis statement in 2006, which was largely autobiographical in nature.  Aside from that, most of my writing from 2000 – 2010 consisted of fact-filled research papers.  In that format, there is little room for dashes of personal wit and sprinkles of personal anecdotes.   Just the facts, ma’am.  That, along with a sneaky underlying desire to remain somewhat hidden behind a a logical, “normal” facade (whatever normal is!) creates a tendency toward deleting the best of myself out of my articles.  It takes courage to swing out there and lay it all on the line.  I’ve not yet concluded that I am ready to be that courageous in my writing.

What is your biggest creative challenge?  Do you over analyze or over think your work?  Do you tend to rush it, or send it out into the world before it is ready?  Or is your biggest creative challenge that you don’t challenge yourself?  Or “worse” … you don’t allow yourself space to explore the creative side of you at all?  We are all on this big blue spinning ball together … I’d love to hear your experiences!  :-)

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