- Mermaid is finished and on my website. That was fun. I particularly enjoyed the TINY TINY LINES in the hair. OMG DETAIL. *happy place* Chinese calligraphy brushes are awesome.
- I am doing the Art Market again for two days on the weekend after next (27th/28th). From the sound of it they have MANY VOLUNTEER SPACES every weekend, probably because no-one is willing to give them any money when no-one ever sells anything. Clearly I am a glutton for rejection, but I figure it's worth one more try before I give up. This time I will have greetings cards, more art, prints, and you never know, I might even do some promotional work beforehand.
- My DaWanda shop is online. I have re-written all the blurb for all the artworks as the text on Etsy was very po-faced, and chatty seems to be the way forward on a home-made craft site. Now I need to go back and edit all the Etsy listings, but I might wait until I've added a portfolio to one of the poncy fine art portfolio sites, where po-faced might be more appropriate, so I can copy it across before I replace it.
- PinkDoodle haven't sent me the confirmation email I need to verify my account, even though I've triple-checked the email address and re-requested it twice. I sent them a support email on Monday and they haven't answered that either. So that may be a lost cause.
- RedBubble is AMAZING. You upload unwatermarked, unbordered, high-resolution images, and they run a print shop for your stuff. You can sell fine art prints, canvas prints, posters, greetings cards, t-shirts. They charge a base rate for each item and you add whatever you want to markup on top of that. Or you can order stuff yourself at the base rate and sell it on yourself. This is utterly fantastic, but uploading high res images using my connection is a very slow process. Still, if any of you wanted Little Elephant cards, you can get them here. They aren't square, sadly. I will be uploading other colours and other images soon, but it's a massive job because I can basically upload everything I've ever sold to this (apart from commissions, obviously) and that's a LOT of art. I am optimistic, though.
- Really, I want to be printing my own greetings cards wholesale. I really don't know where to start with this though. Professional printers are very expensive, and I'm not sure I'm at the stage of buying 100 copies of each design even if I could afford it. Even at that quantity it's still about a quid per card. I don't mind folding them myself, though, and I don't mind blank insides, so maybe I should just look at ordering glossy A4 prints on card, with two cards laid out flat on each sheet, and trimming/folding them myself. Unless any of you know someone who runs a printing shop, or who has a professional quality colour photo printer? Would be happy to pay for using the latter, of course.
- This summer I have spent 95% of my time on marketing/online promotion/correspondence/framing and mounting/art fairs and 5% on actual painting. This is the WRONG WAY ROUND. And I know stuff like getting my website online and getting these online shops set up only needs to be done once and then they can tick away in the background while I do new art, but still.
Anyway, at least I'm focussed. And poor. But poor, focussed and happy. I'm doing what I love, I'm more or less keeping on top of things, I think there's a sliver of hope that I might be able to earn some money off this yet. Although it does occur to me that finally getting into the swing of producing/promoting art in a concerted, professional way now is fairly ironic. I mean, it makes perfect sense in terms of my personal and professional development over the last two years, but there's a recession on. Now is perhaps not the time to be setting up a small business selling luxury items.
- So, er, yes. If any of you want any prints or cards, keep an eye on RedBubble. I'll be adding the archives to it over the next few days.
- Three sites down, including the one that I can't seem to sign up to. Seven to go! At this rate, I might be done by Christmas...
- Mermaid is finished and on my website. That was fun. I particularly enjoyed the TINY TINY LINES in the hair. OMG DETAIL. *happy place* Chinese calligraphy brushes are awesome.
Daunted by the prospect of sitting at a stall for eight hours, I took my watercolours with me to the Angel Art Market on Sunday. The people wandering round the gallery politely ignored me, even the ones who acknowledged my presence (most people are too nervous to smile and say hello back, because they are scared that you will try to guilt them into buying some of your art, which they have no intention of doing. I'm not going to attempt a hard sell, I'm just bored and want to say hi), but the other artists kept coming over and craning round to look without even asking first. I had to resist the urge to clamp the paper to my chest and scowl at them, instead sitting there with a fake smile plastered on my face while they wordlessly scrutinised my work. Occasionally they'd make comments: "Keeping ourselves busy, are we?" "Working on the next masterpiece?" Sometimes I'd pre-empt them: "Just passing the time." "Just amusing myself!"
The bloke manning the stall opposite me was very East London and cheerful and kept the hard sell attempt up all day long. He was exhibiting his wife's London skyline photography, which was very good, actually, although they didn't sell anything either. Early on in the day I was occupying myself by mounting Leaf Spiral. I was doing this with a craft knife, a pencil, some mounting board and some pritt stick. I didn't have a ruler so I was using offcuts of mounting board. The results, unsurprisingly, were not perfect.
Bloke: (wandering over) Do you mount your paintings yourself, then?
Me: Er, this weekend, yes.
Bloke: Don't you have a professional mount cutter?
Things I did not say:
1. If I had a professional mount cutter, do you think I would be KNEELING ON THE FLOOR USING A CRAFT KNIFE?
2. This IS a professional mount cutter, you twonk. I am a professional. This is my cutter. Now sod off before you get on the wrong end of it.
He wandered over again while I was painting.
Bloke: Keeping ourselves busy, are we?
Me: Just amusing myself, really.
Bloke: (looks at painting, blinks) Er, good!
At this point he hurried off without saying anything else. Are mermaids that upsetting?
Not quite finished yet; I want to do a bit more detail on the tail and in the hair, and add more ferns. Possibly some fishes. I can't work on it today though as I couldn't find where I'd left my watercolour pads and paper after our drunken painting session last night. But I was too impatient to wait before I posted her. I'm particularly fond of her purple body hair. :)
I made a website. I am very pleased with it. It's taken me weeks, in a slow, creaking-together-in-my-head sort of way, coming back to the graphics every so often and poking them a bit, trying to work out what on earth to do with the background gradient, having small ideas for the galleries. Then last week I sat down with the code and cranked the whole thing out in three days. This involved getting no sleep at all on Thursday.
For months I've been saying things along the lines of, "I cannot wait until earthskyart.com is online, and I have shiny new gallery software and do not have to create new html pages every time I want to add an artwork!" The observant among you will notice that earthskyart.com is online, and the gallery pages are still all hand-coded. The thing is that I spent ages looking at gallery software. Gallery is not customisable enough; none of the Lightboxes or Lightwindows are suitable. I looked at Drupal and Silverstripe, but Drupal isn't optimised for galleries and Silverstripe uses Lightwindow. I need a gallery that has the ability to display multiple images on a page, and as much blurb as I like. I don't want to be restricted to a single image per artwork and one-line caption.
It would be awesome to not have to create new pages for each artwork, but if I want a page on each artwork, I may just have to suck it up. The conclusion I've come to is that my needs are specific enough that unless I can afford to commission my own CMS, I am better off doing the cut-and-paste donkey work. (Although thanks to the magical wisdom of Denny, I am being initiated in the mysteries of SSIs, which will help a lot.) But having a gallery that auto-generates "next" and "previous" buttons on each page and lets you tunnel through the pages as well as click through from the gallery would be awesome. I did encounter http://www.zenphoto.org/ on Saturday, which might be worth investigating. Now that it's online there is nothing to stop me tinkering with it, in theory - although in practice, I simply do not have time and will just have to make do.
But I have a website, and now it's done and not perfect, but Denny has said to me several times that I am spending more time than I can afford on this, and if I were budgeting to pay someone else I would be much less inclined towards perfectionism. And it's good enough to send to people. And I have shiny, shiny new business cards with the url on. Look!
I also have shiny shiny greetings cards, but I didn't sleep on Thursday night and therefore forgot to pick them up from the post office depot on Friday, so I didn't have them with me for the Angel Art Market today.
Which was, of course, what all this was in aid of.
Well, I did my first art fair. I can add it to my CV. Apart from that, the day really was of no benefit whatsoever. It cost me an awful lot of work, £26 in cab fares, not to mention money spent on promotional materials (although those will keep), and it gained me nothing. I didn't sell anything. This wasn't really surprising, because no-one else sold anything either. It appeared to be normal, in fact, not to sell anything. No-one took any of my business cards, except for the other artists, who were very impressed by my ability to sell any paintings whatsoever through the magical medium of the internet. I possibly have a website job creating an art portfolio for one of the other artists, if she emails me, which is unlikely. In short, the only thing I got out of it was networking with artists who are less successful than me.
It was very strange. I'd always assumed that the world of art fairs and art markets was prestigious and high-powered, and I'm beginning to understand that actually people spend all weekend sitting by a stall and if they sell one thing they're lucky. It's a slow, low-profit margin world for people with too much time on their hands and independent sources of income. This is not how I'm used to doing things. Possibly I need to try other fairs - the annual events rather than the regular ones. But they're expensive. £400 is not unusual for a day's stall hire. I just can't afford that.
I can't decide whether to give it another go or not. The paintings are all still at Denny's, because the cab from his place to Angel was much cheaper than a cab from mine to Angel. So if I was going to do it again, doing it before I take the paintings home would seem sensible. Also, it's possible to do it both days of the weekend and leave your stall up over night, which halves the amount of setting up/taking down work you have to do (and the amount of cabfare you have to pay) for how much exposure you get. So if I was going to do it again, I'd do it in the next month, for both days of the weekend. I reckon it's worth one more try, but to be honest I do not see much mileage in this avenue. Which is a shame.
There's an annual art and design fair this October - with very expensive stalls - also by Candid Arts, so I'm going to call first thing in the morning and see if I can work it. I can't afford to hire a stall, but if I could volunteer (as I did today) then I might have more luck there. Apparently it's busier. And all the promotional work I've already done will continue to be useful, so it hasn't been a total loss.
It's odd, though. I haven't sold a painting all year, apart from one small thing through Etsy - my art's been in the Pembury for nine months with no interest. I don't have anywhere new to exhibit my paintings yet and I'm probably going to have to spend a couple of days going round cafes and restaurants and galleries in town seeing if anywhere is interested. I need a print portfolio really, and that's not going to be cheap to put together. But in general, I am most optimistic about selling things online. I have a list of places to sign up to, now, in addition to Etsy - Pinkdoodle, Dawanda, All Trade Art, Artist Rising, Red Bubble, Artist Portfolio, Visual for Business, Sexy Art Gallery. I have ideas for erotic art projects (and a couple of promising commercial leads), and I'm planning a Wheel of the Year pagan greetings card/prints set with cards for each of the eight festivals which I can then try and sell through the pagan community. I'm going to be looking up interior designers and sending them my portfolio and trying to get contracts doing series of paintings for commercial premises, because there is REAL money in that and I'm not proud when it comes to making bland or trendy art, it's still more fun than temping. So, you know, I have lots of options and ideas and I've not given up hope.
But ... I've been working harder this last month than I have in a very long time. I haven't stopped since I moved. I've been juggling two careers and not dropping any of the balls; I've been crossing things off my long-term to do list; I'm motivated and disciplined and productive. But ... I'm very, very poor. I'm not eating properly, partly because my appetite's been fucked ever since I switched contraceptive pill in May, but mostly because I'm living on £20 a week after rent and half of that goes on Oyster. My rent was late last month because the standing order bounced first time round, and I couldn't afford the £40 fine for that any more than I could afford the £60 parking ticket we got when I moved. I'm holding it together - just - and Denny is very patiently loaning me cash when I need it and paying for me to go out and eat and drink the rest of the time, but god, I'm sick of being poor, and I've spent the last week working on my art website, which of course was unpaid work, and I was really hoping that it would pay off and I'd sell something today, if only so I could cover my own expenses. Selling a big painting would have made this month a lot easier; selling a little one would have made the day seem less of a waste. As it is, I'm exhausted and out of pocket with nothing to show for it but "experience". I'm not gutted - I knew this was likely - and I'm trying to look forward and be optimistic and stuff. I'm not demoralised. But I'm very, very tired, and it would be lovely if the myth I was brought up with were true, that if you work hard enough money will sort itself out. I am working harder than I ever have, far harder than I did at uni, and I am much, much poorer.
At some point soon, I will put the art down for a few months, get my design portfolio online and put my nose to the freelance grindstone. Soon, my credit will run out and I will have to stop chasing rainbows and get on with earning hard cash. But I have so many ideas for my art, so much enthusiasm and ambition, so much energy and inspiration. I am desperate, desperate to have some serious painting time soon. I do not want art to be a hobby. I don't want to squeeze it in around the edges. I want to be able to work at it, really work at it, get up in the morning and do it all day. And maybe, just maybe, if I have a solid online presence and a strong portfolio and I do art fairs and shows, maybe I will sell something, and then I will be able to justify painting more things to sell.
I'm not quite ready to give up. I can live on pasta for a little longer yet. But not much longer.
Commissioned painting for vardebedian as a Christmas present for his parents:
Untitled (kittens), 10"x14"
Oil on Canvas
- FWUFFY!! :)
- the shadows to the left and right edge of the image are shadows, not part of the painting. This picture was taken by Seamus because I didn't actually finish the painting in enough time for it to be dry enough to scan before he collected it. Mea culpa.
- the photo doesn't show the top/right edges of the painting; there's negative space around the tips of the tails, rather than them being cropped by the canvas.
- this is a wooden-framed box canvas about 1" deep, and the blue shading of the background continues onto the sides. I always like the 3D effect this creates.
- the kittens must be grown-up cats by now, because the photo he gave me to work from was a rather old one. It was also about 3cm square. Which wasn't the easiest photo reference I've ever worked from. I ended up scanning it in at 300dpi and blowing it up to 1000px, which made it slightly grainy but enabled me to actually see what was going on.
- The black kitten is a L33T NINJA STEALTH KITTEN. With NO FACE. Or any other distinguishing marks or features. He is a SEKRIT KITTEN ASSASSIN. Apparently he has a white bib which easily identifies him, but I can't actually see it in the photo (and trying to paint it in made it look like it had breasts, because the angle is wrong) so that doesn't actually help.
- Fur is really really hard to paint.
- For most of this painting I was swearing to myself NEVER EVER AGAIN to do pet paintings EVER. I like painting things with personality, and I don't even know these kittens' names, let alone what kind of cat-people they are. The tabby looks kind of curious, and the black one looks L33T and POUNCY and NINJA, but seriously, that doesn't help much. I was bitching to hythloday about this and he suggested that I invent personalities for them. I suspect he may have been assuming that I actually have imagination.
Anyway, by the time I finished it I didn't mind painting kittens so much, and to be honest money is money and people will always want pet paintings. (I was actually going to voluntarily paint a picture of our old dog for my dad for Christmas, but then I ran out of time so I'll have to buy him something instead.) Not that I'm inviting to all to inundate me with pet paintings. Please don't do that.
- I've decided to stop being secretive about the price of commissions, because although I tend to undercharge my poor friends and let my rich ones give me as much money as they like, this isn't actually that bad or evil a practice, and it's only fair you know about it in advance. So:
Seamus gave me a £50 deposit for this upfront, and we negotiated a rough ballpark of "about £150ish" in total, balance to be paid on collection, on the grounds that:
- He wanted a small painting ("something between A4 and A3)
+ Pet paintings are boring and therefore it takes more money to persuade me to do them.
In the end he gave me £180 including the deposit, which I left to his discretion. Relevant factors in the final price included:
- It was about a week late (partly due to me being ill and partly due to me being slow)
+ It was better than he'd expected it to be
+ It was harder than I'd expected due to smallness of reference, fluffiness of fur, and NINJA-LIKE INVISIBILITY of black kitten
+ He was drunk.