A Discussion: Year Created

Is old art BAD art?  Periodically we get questions about the “year created” on artwork. Change it, hide it, covet it – what does the date have to do with anything?

If art isn’t dated, you can’t see the artist’s progression.

Creating an accurate timeline is important in inventorying artwork.   “Art is not only aesthetically pleasing, it is also an historical document reflecting a specific time in an artist’s life and work,”  Lucas Boyd, Artwork Network’s Artist Development Manager, writes.  “As an artist, my work evolves.  I think not dating my pieces may misrepresent me –  it reflects who I am in a specific moment.”

Older art is not inferior to new art:  it’s like fine wine, not old milk.

It is not unheard of for galleries to hide the year created as a sales strategy.  The thinking is, if a buyer sees the piece is old, they will wonder why it hasn’t been sold and will second guess their interest.  However, as a seasoned gallery employee Aaron Bible points out, “If a work is properly archived, it shouldn’t matter what year it was created.  That’s like saying new wine is better than old.”

There’s certainly a reason why collectors covet the early work of master artists.  Dates are an important aspect for anyone in any role of the art world.  If we covet the childhood doodles of Picasso, why would we push contemporary artists to devalue their own creative history – as if it was a carton of milk with an expiration date?

A connection is a connection – no matter when the art was created.

It is my personal opinion as an art collector that it matters little what age a piece has.  I look for a piece that speaks to me, with less concern of how long the paint has been dry.  But should my collection ever need to be appraised down the road, I would want all the information available at my fingertips.   That’s why Alan Kircher, owner of Artwork Network, says simply, “Transparency is key – no secrets for the buyer.”

So, what do you think?  Is the “year created” important to you?  Do you put it on your art?  When you’re buying art, do you look for its date?

How to Write an Artist Statement

You want your art to speak for itself, but viewers will often have questions.  The point of an artist statement is to answer questions for the viewer when you are not around.

Consider the Facts

An artist statement is the basic introduction to your artwork.  When starting to write an artist statement, first consider these five questions:
1.  Why this subject matter?
2.  What does it signify?
3.  How did you create it?
4.  What is it made out of?
5.  What does it mean to you?

Remember Less is More

Don’t overload the reader with a whole manifesto about your work.  A good artist statement should be no more than 2-3 paragraphs long.

Keep it Personal

Don’t use flowery, complex language and text-book terms.  Keep it accessible and conversational, as if you were actually talking to the viewer.  Don’t write about yourself from the third person – keep it in your perspective, using the pronoun “I”.  A good artist statement should be from you, so avoid adding quotes about your art from critics or curators.  This is not the place for testimonials!

Be Specific

Readers will not grasp vague, generalized concepts.  For example, you should not make statements like, “My art reflects my views on the beauty in our world.”  What is it about the world that you find beautiful?  This is your opportunity to express your point of view, not gush about your general feelings about the world around you.  Every artist and their mom can say how they feel, but let the reader know why your art has meaning and holds value.

Don’t Instruct

Your artist statement is not an instruction manual.  Never tell the viewer what they should be thinking or feeling.  Instead of saying “Viewers will see my happiness in the brush strokes,” say “I express my happiness in the brush strokes”.  The viewer should have the option to agree or disagree with you!

Make it Interesting

Your first sentence should hook the viewer, pique their curiosity enough to continue reading.  While you should answer some basic questions about the work, your statement should also invite more questions.  Give them too little, not too much.

Revisit Your Statement

As you grow as an artist, so should your artist statement.  Different bodies of work will have different ideas and concepts behind them.  You may want to create a general artist statement, and then supplement that with a statement specific to each show.

Consider rewriting your statement if it:

  • Contains vague terms and ideas
  • Lacks confidence (Look for sentences like “I tried…” and “I wanted to express…”)
  • Doesn’t answer any of the viewer’s questions
  • Compares your art to a famous artist (you are your own artist, let the critics make the comparison)
  • Too Biographical (Does it contain details about your life or education not directly relation to why or how you create art?)

An artist statement is required for exhibition with Artwork Network.  If you are struggling, we are happy to offer feedback (and grammatical edits) to your rough draft!

How to Select Artwork for Exhibition

Exhibit of work by Jessica Loving at Artwork Network.

Written by Sara Chojnacki, Artwork Network’s Artist Coordinator.

Develop a theme

The first step to creating a cohesive body of work is to develop a theme.  What message are you trying to send?  What do you want your audience to take away from your show?  You should not exhibit your work simply for the sake of exhibiting.  Your artwork is your voice, let an exhibit say something about who you are.

Give Yourself Time

You may be excited to show off your new work as soon as possible, but keep in mind that galleries need time to plan and schedule shows.  Normally, artists will be scheduled anywhere from 6 months to a year ahead of time.  Make sure you get your proposal in with plenty of time for the gallery to prepare for your show.  Even if you are in the process of creating a new body of work, you can still propose the idea with pictures of works in progress.  As long as there is a clear understanding of where the show is headed, your proposal will be accepted.

Develop, Develop, Develop

You’ve chosen your pieces, now take a step back and look at what you’ve got.  Ask yourself critical questions about the body of work.  Do the pieces work well together?  Is there something missing?  Is there too much?  Asking these questions will help you figure out what needs to change before your work is ready to show.  Revisit pieces if necessary, rework details, ask for advice.  It is easy to pull ten pieces together and call it a day, but your artistic vision is always changing, so your exhibits should too.

It’s All in the Details

Once you’ve set up the time and place for your exhibit, it’s important to double check that all your pieces are ready to shine!  Make sure everything is framed properly, wired correctly, and that you have every piece labeled.  For Artwork Network, we need an inventory form filled out for our records, and it’s always easier if you fill that out before you drop off work.  Last, but not least, make sure all of your pieces are photographed.  This is necessary for marketing your show in the best way possible.

Signs your exhibit needs some work:

  • There is no strong concept behind the work.
  • There is no cohesiveness in your pieces.  Look at common areas such as style, theme, and color.
  • You do not have a marketing strategy for your show.
  • Pieces are not properly wired, framed, or photographed.

How to Price Artwork

Written by Sara Chojnacki, Artwork Network’s Artist Coordinator.

How much should you charge for your artwork? Here are some key points to help price your work.

Find your base price

To get an accurate base price, you must consider materials and time. How much paint/graphite/wood did it take to create the piece of art? The larger the piece, the more materials will be used. The more expensive the materials, the more expensive the piece needs to be to break even on these costs says WoodPursuits.com.

Next, consider what your time is worth. While we would all like to say our time is worth $100 per hour, it is important to be realistic. Choose an hourly wage that you think reflects your time and worth. Calculate how much time was spent creating the piece and add this to your materials cost.

Compare

If you’ve never sold a piece before, it would not be wise to price your piece at millions of dollars and compare it to a Picasso or Matisse. Do some research on the artists in your area. Look at artists that are at the same level as you, with art that is comparable in areas like size and materials. An artist with more experience and art sales will have higher priced art than that of the beginner artist. Before a customer buys, they will do the same research to compare pieces and prices.

Be Consistent

All of the art you create should be priced based on a structure that relates to the rest of your pieces and their prices. In other words, your newest creation should not be $2,000 more than your last piece, just because you value it more. Regardless of where you are in your art career, be prepared to adjust your prices regularly with market demands. As you sell more art, you should increase your prices with demand. If you haven’t sold any art in several months, you may need to consider lowering prices.

Objectively view your art

As an artist, you invest yourself in the pieces you create. To properly price your artwork, you need to emotionally remove yourself from the piece. It is not always easy, but necessary in order to fairly price your pieces for potential buyers.

Putting special prices on pieces just because they mean more to you is not relevant to a buyer. They do not want to spend money on your emotional attachment that means nothing to them. If the piece is that close to you, consider keeping in your private collection. (The price of milk does not fluctuate wildly because the farmer had a special connection to the cow.)

Signs your pricing system needs to change:

  • Customers are interested, but never purchase (your prices are too high)
  • Your pieces are priced higher than artists with comparable art
  • Your pricing is all across the board
  • The demand for your artwork outweighs how much artwork you can create
  • You can’t explain your pricing systems to clients

Why Does Art Cost so Much?

Photo by Bruce Norman

I came across a wonderful article from Jason Brockert, asking the age-old question “Why Does Art Cost so Much”? I’ve reposted it here with his permission.  I highly recommend visiting his blog “Coloured Mud” for some other insightful (and humorous) entries about the art world!

Why Does Art Cost so Much?
by Jason Brockert

A gallery I work with called recently and recounted about a potential client, loved your work, blah, blah, blah…but… They would like a discount on the price, 10%. Is that possible?

Anything is possible and this got me thinking how little is known about the outrageous prices we artists have the gall to to charge. I offer a hypothetical to explain away some of the confusion.

You visit the city and decide to take in a few art galleries before dinner. You walk around the first gallery, admire the work and see a small framed painting that catches your eye. A quick perusal of the price list and…what! $850 for an oil painting 12×12 inches and barely 14×14 with the frame? You walk out shaking your head wondering how you could charge so much for something so small.

That next day, your car decides that the trip to the city and all the requisite potholes were too much. Clunk and you’re stuck on the side of the road. As the tow truck lifts your car you are pretty sure the sound of the clinking chains bears an eerie resemblance to the sound of money leaving your pocket. “Transmission’s hurtin” says your mechanic. “$415 in parts and 5 hours labor @ $87 per hour comes to… $850.”

You pay, because what else can you do?

OK, buying art and getting your car fixed aren’t really the same things but a few parallels are apt to explore.

Car parts certainly cost more than art parts. That 12×12 painting probably breaks down roughly and thusly;

Canvas – $20
Paint – $10
Frame – $60 (no assembly, just the frame)

Your total cost of materials so far is about $90 without a single brushmark painted or hanging wire attached.

Now we go to the labor costs and if we follow our mechanic analogy and assume an artist’s time is worth at least that of a mechanics (I am in no way disparaging mechanics whose jobs are very difficult but I also believe something as rigorous and specialized as making art deserves at least equal consideration.) The slippery part comes in figuring how much time a painting takes to make (that is the industry standard first question you are asked by fellow artists and public alike – “how long did it take?”) and the answer is…it depends.

What kind of painting is it? Is it a highly precise image (slower) or something more loose (faster.) As a younger artist I often made many more poor choices that needed a lot of rectifying and time spent. As an older artist my process is a little more efficient and faster. You also rarely work on a single piece from start to finish with a stopwatch in hand so we are faced with a best educated guess. Roughly 8 hours, start to finish seems reasonable for a 12×12 painting.

Back to our analogy and we find our labor costs at $87 per hour x 8 hours = $696

Plus, we need an hour or so for touch up and assembly of the frame with the painting (bring an unframed painting to a frame shop and just try to walk out without spending at least $100) so we can add, say $50 of framing labor to our cost.

Our total cost of the painting now sits at $836 which is an odd price to display so we rounded up to $850 for good measure.

Now comes the tricky part. The gallery will take 50% of the price that it sells for (pretty typical industry standard.) so your return just went down to a meager $425. In addition, we are in a bad economy and as a mid career artist, the cache of your name and art isn’t high enough to allow you to raise your price well beyond that $850 mark so you and the gallery figure $850 to be a reasonable price. (In defense of galleries and their commission; they market your work, rent a spot in high trafficked areas and serve as free museums for the public with nearly 12 new shows a year. The job they do is just as tough with much more overhead than your typical artist so they generally earn the commission.)

If and when your piece sells you will be cut a check for $425 minus an immediate $90 for those fixed supply costs and you are left with $335. For good measure let’s round to $300 in thinking of studio rent, utilities, marketing, etc and because those hidden costs don’t hide on the first of the month.

So, for a conservative 9 hours of work you made $300. Not quite the $87 an hour your mechanic makes as it actually breaks down to only $33 per hour. Still, $300 a day would come out to about $70,000 a year! Fantastic! If…you… make… a painting… a day… that can sell for $850 each… and you sell every single piece you make… then and only then will you make such a nice living.

At the end of the day, making art becomes a labor of love plain and simple. Those 8 hours you’ve “allotted” for your piece might easily turn to 16 or 20 or more as the dictates of a creative process demand. You rarely think financially when you are making the work and you do your best when it is finished to find a reasonable price that covers both time and materials with some equity. What is interesting is when you compare the relative cost of art to other professions and think of the benefit versus cost… Let’s just say, the art will last a lifetime and the rebuilt transmission… until the next pothole!

Art Dictionary – Emerging Artist

We throw around these terms all the time in the art world:  Emerging, Mid-Career, Established Artist.  While they may seem easy enough to comprehend, most people tend to use them wrong.  I was sent an incredibly concise article on the definitions of these artist labels.  This is obviously important for artists to know, but collectors should be aware of these labels as well.

(If you’re an artist, tell me, do you fall into the category you thought?)

Here’s a snippet:

“Nobody likes to be labeled, right? Especially not artists who tend to be contrary, rebellious types. However, artist “categories” are bandied about by artists, gallerists, jurors, and critics and most of the people using these terms seem to be clueless, when questioned about what they actually mean.

Applications for exhibitions include titles like “Emerging Artist Exhibition,” while some contemporary gallery websites report that they only exhibit “mid-career” and “established” artists. What exactly do these categories mean and how do you place yourself within them, when necessary?”

[ Read more on BmoreArt ]

Trend: Frame it in White

Contemporary white frames are a growing trend among artists and designers. It creates a modern look and a neutral surrounding to the art it frames.


All images from Design*Sponge.

Want to get the look for your own space? Contact us at 800.668.9522 to get a great deal on a custom frame!

Helpful Tips: Tracking Your Inventory

Keep your inventory organized with this Excel spreadsheet.

(Written by Amy Norton of Creative Angle)

It’s 10am. Do you know where your art is?

It’s 10am. You are settling into your studio for a nice long day of dedicated creating when a potential client calls. They are interested in a piece of artwork they saw on your website.
“Can I come to your studio and look at it?”
“It’s not here, I have it on display.”
“Oh, well, where is that? I am happy to go there to see it-but I am only in town for today.”
“Um, sure, let me call you back.”

The problem is that you don’t know where this particular piece actually is. And unfortunately in this instance, that sale will likely be lost since the client won’t be around to wait for you to find your missing piece. This scenario may sound absurd to most people, but you would be surprised! We have had many conversations with artists who are trying to track down their work at various locations.

Keeping an up to date inventory of your art in one document is a crucial aspect to managing your art business. Even more so if your work travels a lot from venue to venue. You want to be able to see, at a glance, where your art is located at any given time. Don’t count on the gallery or other venue to keep track of your art. Some places will be more organized than others. Take it upon yourself to be on top of it-after all, this is your livelihood!

One of our member artists keeps organized with a simple Excel spreadsheet.

The top row can contain information such as this:
Title, Size, Price, year created, Framed/Unframed, Sold/Unsold, To Whom, % of sale you retained, Location, Exhibition.

The row on the left can list the works by series or alphabetically by title.

I went ahead and created a sample for you to use! Click here to download.

Other important reasons to keep an up to date inventory list:

Sales History. Not only do you want a record of where your art is located, an inventory is also helpful to show a record of your sales and pricing so you have a history for yourself and for potential buyers. We often have buyers wanting to know what the artist’s work has sold for in the past. If this information is not readily available, a buyer will likely move on to something else rather than wait for you to find the information.

Client History. Your inventory list can also indicate who purchased a specific piece so you can market new work to them in the future. This is a captive audience who should be the first notified if you have new work they may like.

Creating a Portfolio Website. When you create a website, you will have to provide much of this information to the person putting it together. If you already have the information in one place, all you have to do is email it over!

Insurance Purposes. Providing your insurance company with your inventory list including photographs of each piece is essential.

Other helpful tips:

Name your piece and stick with that name. Don’t have one name on your website, another written on the back, and another on a tag. It can become very confusing for others handling/selling your art if the name does not stay consistent. If you must name a piece ‘Untitled’, we would recommend putting a number behind. ‘Untitled123’ for example. Again this is to avoid confusion for yourself and others!

Keep your inventory up to date! Creating a system is one thing. Using it is another. If you are not computer savvy, download and print the sample spreadsheet we have created. You may manually enter the information in the boxes, then have a friend help you keep it up to date on the computer.

Do have other ingeniously simple ways of tracking inventory? Please share them in comments!

DIY: Art Storage

Bruce Zander uses cardboard carriers to store his artwork.

Transporting and storing art can be nerve-racking. I personally have some photography pieces that are nicely framed, but I have managed over the years to muck them up by toting them from show to show and not storing them carefully enough. I wish I had thought about the wear-and-tear factor before hand! Some of our member artists have come in with great solutions for protecting their artwork for storage and transportation, while also making it easy to identify!

Photographer Bruce Zander stores each of his framed photos in a clever, yet simple cardboard carrier. He uses a large piece of cardboard that has been folded in half, squaring off the bottom so the frame sits flat. Two rectangular holes have been cleanly cut at the top for handy carrying. The top and sides are secured with fun binder clips to prevent the piece from sliding out. The final touch is a sticker that displays his branding, as well as the title of the enclosed piece. The title is usually written in pencil, presumably so each container can be easily reused.

Pastel Artist Mardie Driftmier needed a solution to transport her “float frames” that would not damage the edges of the glass. She used foam pipe insulator and cut it down into manageable pieces. She then slit one side and slipped it onto the glass. These serve as bumpers against damage and make handling the work less risky.

Mardie Driftmier uses foam pipe insulator to protect the edges of her frames.

Other solutions include bubble wrap “pockets” customized for each piece of work. Secure the sides with tape or staples and leave enough room to fold the top over. Use self adhesive Velcro to secure the flap for easy access, and a piece of tape or printed label to mark the title on the outside.

Simply wrapping art in foam or other materials may not make the work as easily accessible, but it does offer fantastic protection for long term storage or one time use. For smaller pieces, plastic storage containers are a great option for keeping work dust free and portable. And of course those handy cardboard corners should never be thrown away – they will always come in handy to protect the edges of frames! If you are constantly moving your artwork, have a pile of foam in the back of your car for quick and safe transportation.

Have you found a good solution for you that you would like to share? Have you come up with clever ideas for 3-D art? Feel free to post your comments below.

Who cares what’s in a name?

(Written by Amy Norton of Creative Angle)

Sometimes naming a piece of visual art work that summarizes it’s heart and soul, and at the same time isn’t too boring, trite or “gives away” too much, can be difficult. There are many artists more schooled than myself on this subject, who have many different opinions. While I am an artist and find it an interesting topic, I would much prefer to guide you to some blogs that discuss the different philosophies rather than address them here.

Resources:
http://fineartamerica.com/blogs/the-importance-of-naming-your-artwork.html
http://drawsketch.about.com/cs/tipsandideas/a/namingdrawings.htm
http://www.picassomio.es/roller/picassomio/entry/the_fun_game_of_naming

I, however, would like to discuss naming visual art from a business and organizational stand point.

At Artwork Network we manage the content of our website. Meaning, our member artists send us all of their digital images and information and we do the work of loading it to the web. Over the years we have come across some naming issues that have made it extremely difficult to manage an individual’s inventory of work, on the web and in person.

We have seen instances where a piece has name on a website, a different name on a separate site and a different name still written on the actual piece of art! This can cause problems not only for you, and those helping to manage your inventory, but also for a customer. There is nothing more frustrating than when, during a potential sale a client and representative cannot communicate clearly about a piece of art merely because of inconsistent naming practices.

When naming your artwork consider these points:

Stay consistent: Don’t change the name on a whim. Name the piece and stick with it. If you change the name mid-stream it is very difficult to track, especially for other who are handling it. Write the same name on the piece and keep it the same across digital files, websites and other marketing material. It is helpful to keep a log of names and photos so that you remember the name when you buy facebook likes for you brand or name.

Avoid using “Untitled”. If you insist on using “Untitled” as a title, at the very least add another distinguishing character to it, like a number or roman numeral.

On the subject of using numbers in your title, be sure to keep a log of the numbers you are using in your series. It can be easy to use the same number twice and have two works with the same name. Again, this can cause much confusion to you, your representative and your customers!

Whatever titles you choose for your pieces, use these tips, and leave the headaches behind. You’ll be glad you did… and so will others!

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