Making a living with art – is it possible? Day 39

Today was a busy day at work since I was catching up after being off for ARTrepreneur yesterday. Tonight I’m going to touch base with the people I met yesterday either by email or Twitter. (If you want to connect with me I’m at bl.stonehouse@gmail.com or on Twitter @BLStonehouse)

I have been thinking about the presentations from the workshop and the concept of “production work”. This is the work that pays the bills. The presenter who used the term is a potter and he described it as the ‘no brain’ work that he could pump out that supported the one of kind pieces he really wanted to do.

I’m not sure how I feel about this or how it relates to my artwork. My oil paintings take quite a bit of time. Of course you know this…you’ve been following along as I’ve been working on the Muskoka Chair painting. I’m sure you’ve said, “isn’t that thing done yet???????”

I’ve been tracking my time (for the first time ever) and I’ve put in over 25 hours on the Muskoka Chairs so far. I estimate I’ve got another 10 hours to go before I’d consider it done. It’s a 24′ x 24″ painting and I generally sell that size for $560, so I’m not making a fortune on it.

I’ve been thinking perhaps I should be doing some smaller paintings. I can produce them more quickly and they would be more affordable. I’d be interested in your feedback – if you purchase art, is price a big factor? Or size? Or do you just buy what appeals to you?

The other option I’d like to explore is making prints of my artwork. I would have the one original painting and limited edition prints would be made of the image. I have no idea how this works so I’ll have to add that investigation to my to-do list!

As for today’s drawing, I did some work on the Trilliums. This one is taking a while but that’s because I only seem to work on it when I’m tired! It’s another big canvas – 24″ x 36″.

Here’s the photo I’m working from.

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6 thoughts on “Making a living with art – is it possible? Day 39

  1. weisserwatercolours

    Personally speaking, of COURSE price is a factor. There are many many paintings and pieces of pottery that I adore and simply don’t have the budget for. I look at them wistfully as though at a museum.

    What I look for is a work which forces me to look at it. If it doesn’t have that ‘stop-me-in-my-tracks’ factor, I don’t even bother glancing its way. Once I’m forced to look at it, I then examine it to see if its values are correct, and whether it holds up 12 inches away as well as it does 3 feet away.

    Finally, if I feel it is good value for the price, I will sometimes negotiate it lower if possible, and if not possible (and I really want the piece) I will try to buy it on layaway.

    On the reverse side of things, I do not price my work according to how long it took me to produce it. I price my work according to my profile as an artist–which is in the ’emerging’ category–and according to the buying power of the public, and according to the costs of having it framed and in presentable form. In my city, most people cannot afford art, and I want them to be able to. I want them to be forced to look at one of my paintings, and like it, and then be able to have it. I will negotiate. I will do layaway. And so the most I’ve ever charged for my work is $500.00, and it was snapped up by a person actually waiting in line for the show to open in order to have first chance at it.

    It is a very delicate thing, this topic, and is personal to every artist. Most of my colleagues don’t share my views. But to me, watercolours aren’t expensive to produce because the paper isn’t expensive and I have paints I’ve had for 25 years and still use–so people are paying for my skill and the glass and frame and mat. But I don’t want paintings lying around my studio.

    I want them on someone’s wall who loves the piece and will be proud to own it. I want that person to have it because that’s the person I’m painting for.

    Thank you for your interesting site and for this invigorating subject and chance to offer our views in the spirit of sharing.

    1. bstonehouse

      Thank you Lance, you make some really good points. I want my art out there and people to enjoy it as well and I’ve been fairly successful at selling my paintings so far. I would like to make a living through my art though and I’m not quite sure how to go about it.

      Each painting is an original and I’ve priced them to be comparable to similar pieces in the market. Unfortunately, that does make them unaffordable for a lot of people. The other issue I have is quantity of work. I spend quite a bit of time on each painting and the last few I’ve done have actually sold before I’ve completed them so I haven’t been able to build up an inventory. This is a better problem to have than having too much but I’m looking for the happy medium!

      I’m going to explore having prints of my work produced so my images can be shared with a wider market. I also want to look at different techniques that will allow me to complete a painting in less time. It’s experimentation time!

      And who knows…I may decide that I’m content to do my art part-time and still have my day job to pay the bills.

      I really appreciate your comments and your willingness to share your expertise!

      1. weisserwatercolours

        You kind of flatter me with the word ‘expertise’, for I’m as dazed by the process as anyone else. I did receive this through our Old Courthouse Gallery . . .

        “EGallery Shop is a professionally designed and developed online marketplace for artists, craftspeople and galleries to sell work direct to the public worldwide. Check us out at http://www.egalleryshop.com .

        We are membership based and we charge no commissions – you keep 100% of the sale.

        We’re recruiting new artists, galleries, visitors and buyers to the site and we would love to see some of your work for sale in EGallery Shop. You can create your own shows by uploading photos and text anytime to EGallery Shop and update and change as often as you want.

        We work with you to exhibit, promote and sell your work through links to social networks, yours and other EGallery Shop artist and gallery websites. The result is an ever-growing number of new customers discovering and buying your work.

        You can sign up for a free 6 month trial membership at

        https://egalleryshop.com/signup/121-artist?discount=EGS061231

        They are based on the Western side of Vancouver Island. I haven’t myself checked them out, so can’t offer an actual recommendation.

        I wish you well, and the orchids are absolutely lovely today.

  2. mye1212

    Have you looked into Etsy? If you haven’t heard of it, it’s the online store for artists. Check it out. You could sell the painting and the prints.

    1. bstonehouse

      We had a discussion about Etsy the other day actually. My challenge right now is having enough work to sell through an online site like that. I have to step it up and get some work produced!

  3. mye1212

    From my second blog, I’ve nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award. Go to http://mye2012.wordpress.com
    You post the award on your site, you share 7 things about yourself, you nominate 15 blogs for the award and notify each site what you did, and you thank the nominating site.Congrats.

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