Thursday, April 24, 2014

For Sale

Telling the world that your art, creations, creative services are for sale is a whole other kind of business, one that I historically have categorized as Awkward, Capital A. I have painted for years. Mostly I have given away art and it wasn't until this past year when I developed a greeting card company out of these paintings (and had the pesky need for cashola), that I ventured into the world of Selling Art. Of all the things that have surprised me this past year, and there have been PLENTY, this particular "detour" on my path is probably the most surprising and exciting. Today. (I've also learned that the creative path loves a detour so I'm keeping my options open.)

Here's my top 10 low-down truth du jour on selling your original art in no particular order:
1. Pricing sucks. It's a near impossible act to get that sweet spot price just right and I generally underprice because my goal is to keep the energy moving. I'm not attached to my final pieces and feel like when I am done, they are ready for their new home. Having said that, it's helpful to do a little research to see what your peers are doing and get a few trusted friends to give you some feedback. As a beginner, my belief is to price to sell until you get the momentum, talent, and recognition to garner higher gallery prices. Sometimes I ask myself, what would I pay? 
2. It is thrilling & fabulous & fun to sell your original work. It validates. It is a universal high five from the sky saying keep going!!!
3. Make a lot of art and it is easier to sell. And price. And develop a style. And maybe even attract a collector!
4. I sell direct with the exception of one store in Carmel where they take my pieces on consignment and we do a split. This works for me. My output is not so prolific that I could have this arrangement with many shops. But this works great for me, keeps the flow, and is good practice for commission pieces. (They might say: we need pugs or something golf themed or florals.....nothing too specific but they give me customer feedback and I try to incorporate that into their next shipment.)
5. There are many modes of selling your original work these days, Etsy to BigCartel and beyond. Like life, it's what works for you. My success has been word of mouth, Facebook, keeping a blog, and exposure with my greeting cards in retail shops. It's what resonates with you. When I first had some pieces for sale, I put them on Etsy and had no response--for whatever reason, that hasn't been my thing and that's ok. I've learned to do more of what works and not try to swim upstream in areas that aren't clicking.
6. I continue to give art away. There are birthdays and special occasions and reasons for giving art away and it feels wonderful. I highly recommend this.
7. If something doesn't sell, it doesn't mean it won't or it's not "good".  One of my pet pieces that I reluctantly sent to Carmel was there for a year without selling and I thought, of everything I had sent them, it was the only one that stood out. I loved this funny piece. It was a Parisian toy sailboat cart in the Luxembourg Gardens. I liked it so much I made a card out of it. The card doesn't sell either! But it was my favorite! What's wrong with it? Well, nothing. The day came when someone walked in the store, looked around for a few moments, and walked up to the counter and bought that painting. No fanfare. It was waiting for the right person. 
8. See #2. Thrilling.
9. Fabulous.
10. Fun. 

Above pieces, for sale at ElizabethW in Carmel, CA. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Love Letter

This painting is what my dad has affectionately come to call "A Biggie"! And it is a biggie, for me at least It's 24x36" and like many paintings, has had several lifetimes before the one you see here. That is the true beauty of painting for me. The do-over ability. The keep going effect. The forgiving nature of acrylics and how one small change or addition will inform the next move even when it feels awkward and sticky and why the hell did you paint that wall over that weird yellow color? Intuition.

The bare bones of this painting was started months ago--the outline of walls, the floor, a big chair, a window but nothing else. Maybe like a daily writing word count, I just got the paint down and worried about editing later. The pros and cons of that is that what I put down, I could barely look at for 2 months and it sat in the corner of my living room. (With the usual creative whining that goes along with's so ugly, why did you buy such a big canvas, you don't know how to paint windows, what's the point, will it fit in the recycle bin, they come know, the usual.) The pros, is that I did not have a blank canvas. I had some structure to work with. Maybe not something I was digging on entirely but some bread crumbs to follow. That is what painting has taught me. Following the small signs, the next right thing, tuning in to the quiet voice that says I think the Golden Gage Bridge needs to be in here or that chair needs to be big and bold and striped. I've come to trust the voice more and more and I find I get stuck, like I did when I started this one, when I have a predetermined idea of the outcome. This piece was meant to be soft and soothing, pastel colors, feminine and sweet. A floral chair maybe?  My palette on the first run was a sea of soft dreamy colors and at risk of sounding like the woo-woo Paint Whisperer, this piece did not agree. This is what happens to me when I start from the end. Here's the truth. I found the perfect perfect perfect frame for a canvas this size. So I bought the canvas with the intent to frame with a very specific end goal. The pressure! No matter what I did to this piece, I got further and further away from my vision until finally it retired to that sad and lonely place Next Week. I knew the second I took the canvas off my big easel, it was going to hibernate. Something didn't click and that something was my expectations trying to override the natural process and the fun of creating. These are the lessons I need to learn over and over and over again because clearly it doesn't stick the first 100 times. And that's ok. I've become accustomed to the "oh yeah, I should have had a V-8" moments when I get back in the groove, loosen up and lighten up.

So, appropriately, my calm and soothing vision turned into a circus, an explosion of color and BIG-ness. Do overs are a necessity. Following the creative bread crumbs are key. First drafts are critical. The art knows better than you do. And that lesson, creative muse, via stripes and marquee letters and iconic red bridges, is a biggie. xo

"Love Letter", 24x36", acrylic on canvas, framed

Saturday, April 12, 2014


I'm experimenting with gouache, painting in a Moleskine sketchbook and Willie Nelson lyrics. The latter not entirely true but if you ever want a laugh, google Willie Nelson quotes. While painting cowboy boots, he and Lyle Lovett were the two living country boys that came to mind, and between the two of them, they have said something about someone somewhere, all while looking nonchalantly Texan cool in those big ol' boots, bandana and braids. 

I need to swap out my creative medium once in a while--gouache for acrylics, charcoal for ink, Natalie Goldberg for David Sedaris, War and Peace for Eat, Pray, Love. I know when it's time. I start doodling, ignoring big pieces that have the background laid out, ripping out inspirational images in magazines, did I mention ignoring what's on my art table? If I'm lucky, and I was lucky with gouache, I love love love a new medium or technique and rush in, willy nilly, just getting messy, not caring what it looks like because the act of playing and using the new medium is satisfaction enough. If you haven't used gouache, I highly recommend it. This recommendation is based on nothing other than the scientific mind of Mindy Carpenter that goes something like this: omg, the colors, the colors!!! Look at the dreamy pastel color palette!!! The clerk at the art store called my palette he was ringing up "deco". "Oh, I see you're drawn to the deco palette". To which I replied, "I was thinking more Italian gelato." 

All of this just reminds me that creating should be fun. Am I some expert with this new paint? Hell no. But is it creamy and delightful and looks super cool in my new Moleskine and makes me want to paint quirky things like cowboy boots, converse sneakers and peony bouquets in my crazy new deco palette that's full of peach, pink, aqua and mint? Hell yes! That's good enough for me. The new medium, even just to play, is where it's at. So thank you gouache. And cowboy boots. And Willie Nelson for making me chuckle as I read some fabulously absurd deep thoughts. Me and my boots are having fun. xo

"Cowboy Boots", 6x9" Moleskine sketchbook