Thursday, October 21, 2010

Busy work


This is the season for small pieces of art. They're thought to be better for gift giving. Last year, my gallery did over $20K on little, inexpensive pieces the day after Thanksgiving. Further, last time I set up at the government building, I sold five small ones in two days; I'm glad to say I have two more gov't gigs in the coming weeks. Overall, I've sold about a dozen small works in less than a year; they help me keep my painting-a-month sales goal.

The tricky part is matching the things up as a unit. If you are provided a thin vertical space for your pieces to hang in a gallery, technically they're supposed to look good together. The problem for me has been that I feel that I cannot successfully put together 4-6 pieces that resemble each other and are framed appropriately together.

It can become more work than it's worth for a couple reasons. First off, I try to buy frames on sale all year, but I don't generally find or buy five at a time, so what I usually have isn't matched. I prefer them to not be all alike, but I realize the trend is for uncreative uniformity. Sigh. In some ways, I have to please both the gallery and the buyer.

Further, I only charge $75 for a 4x6, which is an appropriate price per square inch and is neither at the top nor bottom of the scale. Unfortunately, the gallery gets 40% of that, so I'm only pulling in $45, but the frame probably costs $6-10 and I actually getting only $30-35 due to the rest of framing do dads and other expenses.

Please remember that artists aren't getting wealthy off of sales, even that $2000 abstract piece you think could have been done by your toddler wrestling with the dog. Galleries will take up to 50%. And framing takes up a chunk of the other half. Calculate in shipping and $75 (or much more) specialized boxes for shipping to a national show. (My tiny 8x10 in a national show earlier this year was $45 for the box and $30 each way for shipping. And I would only usually have charged $275 for such a painting!) Hence, a dozen small pieces sold in a year barely covers my FIOS bill for a month, much less art supplies or additional training

The good news is that I discovered the solution this week to my cohesion problem. I had a large painting from a year ago that was just taking up space. I love the elements of it, but couldn't make it happen overall. It had long ago become a diminishing return on my time invested and this landscape met the chopping block today. I should get 6-8 paintings out of it and I will probably go back and adjust each so they have a good focal point to stand alone successfully. At least they will certainly blend together.

This time, I already had the frames b/c I went on a multi-Michael's binge earlier this year. That means I printed out coupons and went to a number of locations. I bought out all the decently cornered close out frames of a simple wooden style from four or five Michael's. I tell ya, the interstate is good for something - Michael's, Petsmart, and McDonalds are at most exits.

These days in this economy, small pieces are a great way to begin or expand an art collection. They fit in homes so full of windows that only little works can be hung. They flexibly collage together for larger spaces. And if they're not a gift for another, they're a small indulgence for yourself.

Support your local artists this season.