Archive for January, 2010
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This morning, I wake up to the sound of tinkling cables on masts as I have spent the night on my beautiful boat at the marina. A bright shaft of sunlight filters through the skylight and gently warms my face. I can hear sea gulls screaming as they wheel and soar above and in the distance a gentle ring…..ring…… Hang on, I don’t have a phone on the yacht! It gets louder and more harsh until I fully wake up, this time in the real world in my small cottage in Leiston, and pick up the phone. It’s BT again, they want to make it really easy and financially worthwhile for me to ‘come back’. Years spent as a soldier followed by many more working shifts mean that I am instantly awake and ready to deal with my first ‘cold caller’ of the day. When he pauses for breath I butt in and begin my spiel, explaining to the caller about the benefits of owning an original piece of art, how easy and safe it is to choose and buy an artwork from my website, what a wonderful and unique gift it would make for a close friend or family member. This guy is more resilient than most and it’s a good minute and a half before he hangs up on me. Ah well………. up, wash, dress and ready for another day.
One of the benefits of being a self employed, full time artist is that I get up and go to bed when I want to. For me that means very late nights and I basically get up when I wake (or I’m woken) up. So, coming downstairs about 08:15 I’m greeted as usual by a huge hairy ginger face, all sleepy eyed and unkempt. No, it’s not one of the kids! They all left years ago. It’s my German Shepherd Murphy, wanting to get started on his morning walk. I always take him out before breakfast. We live in a small town in Suffolk, about 2 miles in-land from the beaches, surrounded by farmland and heath. So whichever direction I go I’m soon out into the countryside. This time is important for me as it’s when my mind is totally refreshed and with no distractions I can start thinking about what I’m going to be doing for the rest of the day. If I’m part way through an artwork I begin to focus on where I left off previously and get back into it. If I’m beginning a new piece then I start planning. Often my best ideas come to me while out with Murphy.
Running the gauntlet of dozens of kids on their way to school, half of them wanting to stop and pet Murphy, the other half too engrossed in their iPods and mobile phones to notice us, I get back to the house. I feed Murphy and get myself some cereal and fruit for my breakfast. Jenny, my partner since 1996, works as a supply teacher so if she has work she’ll be long gone. If not then she likes a lie in so I’ll take her a cup of tea about 10 o’clock. In the mean time I switch on my computer and see if there are any enquiries or messages to deal with.
Now then, do I need to refresh my supply of performance enhancing drugs? The replica watches are very tempting and one of these days I’m certainly going to find time to meet up with Natasha from Russia. Quickly dealing with the spam I’m left with the 3 or 4 genuine enquiries I usually have (not all leading to sales I’m sad to say) As a lot of my art is ‘Western’ influenced, many of my customers are across the pond in the USA and Canada so often enquiries will come in over night. Depending upon what is there can affect my plans for the day as there may be pictures to frame or unframe, packaging to do, couriers to organise, websites to up-date, queries to respond to…. the list can go on and on. At some point I catch up with it all and go into my studio to begin working.
I say studio, actually it’s a back room of the house which looks out into the garden. All though quite small it is ideal for my purpose and I feel lucky to have a dedicated studio space right here in my house where everything is at my fingertips. Some people might prefer to actually leave the house to go to their studio, working at home would be too distracting for them and they would never get anything done. Not me. The first thing that I do is put on my music, quite loud. I have a very varied taste in music, anything from Pavarotti to Rory Gallagher. At the moment I’m playing a lot of Jethro Tull and also a lot of rural blues. I can’t hear the phone, anyone who needs me can leave a message.
I work for about 4 hours or so. Often I will forget the time and forget to eat but if I leave it long enough Murphy will come and tell me sometime mid-afternoon that it’s time for his walk. We always get in the van and drive down to one of the beaches close to Leiston. Sizewell, Thorpe Ness or Aldeburgh being the closest but I often go further afield. From any of these I can walk inland onto the heath or perhaps take a riverside route. It really is a beautiful area in which to live and I enjoy my afternoon walks immensely. I have a strong interest in wildlife and the countryside. I love it if I spot a seal fishing just off shore or perhaps an egret on the marsh. I can lose a lot of time watching the harriers coursing over the heathland. Magical stuff. I get a lot more time to think and plan while we are out and come back refreshed and ready to put in another 2 or 3 hours work before stopping for the day. If I have completed my artwork, then depending on it’s size there is scanning or photographing to do next. I always create a master copy of each piece of a high enough standard to be used for having prints made if I so wish. From this master copy I can make smaller copies and detailed images to be used for the web. This can take a long time to get right but is very important as nearly all of my business is conducted on line. This image is all that my customers will have to go on when deciding whether or not to purchase.
The next job is framing. When I became self employed back in 2002 I sent myself on a picture framing course and then purchased the equipment needed to set myself up with a small picture framing business. This was firstly to have something to fall back on if I couldn’t make enough of a living as an artist, and secondly to enable me to frame my own work thus saving myself time and money. (Nowadays, apart from a few ‘favours’ for friends, I only frame my own work). So I have a framing workshop out in the garden and this is where I will head if I have mounting or framing to do. It’s extremely satisfying to finish an artwork and then to be able to have it mounted and framed and ready to hang within a few hours, all my own work.
After eating, a typical evening is spent usually with a bottle of red wine and watching telly but also a lot of time on the computer. As well as my own website to maintain, I have a presence on several other on-line galleries and each needs constant updating and refreshing if they are to maintain interest with my customers and the search engines. I reckon my working time is divided about 30% actually creating art and the rest is admin and actually trying to sell the art.
The above could be a typical day but what I like is the fact that each day is different and I never know what it’s going to bring. If I am preparing for an exhibition (I don’t take part in many nowadays) then I can be spending all day framing and packing. Sometimes I feel the need to get away from the studio completely and will go out walking for the day with my camera to clear my head and find fresh inspiration. But my thoughts are never far away from my artwork.
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Selling your art successfully, that’s a big question and I’m sure there are many, many opinions about it out there. I have been asked several times by people struggling to find ways to sell their art, for tips and advice. I seem to be perceived as a successful artist and, having been living mostly from my income as an artist since 2002 I think that is a success in itself. However I don’t consider myself an expert salesperson, if I were I’d be earning a lot more. I live on an extremely tight budget, more or less hand to mouth so what I call successful wouldn’t necessarily be the way everyone sees it, but I wouldn’t change my life and hopefully things will continue to move onward and upward. Anyway, here are some ideas, tips and an insight into the way I have gone about getting moderately established which I hope may help others get started.
After initially running around like a headless chicken, going from village fair to village fair, joining one online gallery after another, I found it difficult to keep track of anything. Income was sporadic at best, I had no idea which direction I was going in as an artist and it was a lot of hard and tedious work. Recognise yourself? Read on!
I decided to formulate a plan and take more control of my business life. Yes, selling my art is a business and has to be run as such, regardless of whether it’s part time or full time. That means no more giving away paintings cheaply or even for free. No more (or very few) favours for friends or family. After all, if your business was a pub I’m sure friends wouldn’t expect to have free drinks each time they called in, (OK some of mine would) so why give away your skill and time as an artist for nothing.
Pricing. Get a grip of your pricing strategy. If you undersell yourself people will assume you are just another hobbyist and not take you seriously. It irritates me to see perfectly reasonable original artwork for sale at just £25 or so. If you don’t value your work, why should anyone else?
Search out artists of a similar standard to yourself using similar media (who appear to be making regular sales) and get a feel for what is selling at what price. Take into account how established these artists are, whether they are published, have won awards, etc. etc. These things will have a positive effect on what prices they can command and you will be able to allow your own prices to slowly increase over time as you get established yourself. I’m not a believer in pricing myself by the hour or the square inch as some do. Each to their own and of course time and size should be part of the equation but personally I have a core price structure for my work then I take into account previous similar sales, how good I personally think the piece is, where I am going to try to sell it (some venues will be at a premium which I will come on to later) and most important of all, how marketable. So don’t be greedy or too modest, place yourself in the market where you think you belong and use that as a starting point.
The Brand. My business is perhaps 80% web based and so what I decided to do was to create my own ‘brand’ which people would visually recognise as mine and hopefully be catchy and attractive enough for them to remember. A website forms the nucleus of my business and potential customers are going to find me via search engines more than anything else. It’s unlikely that they are going to search for me by name as I’m not that famous, rather they are going to be searching for a piece of art and hopefully stumble across my website by chance. So it seemed a good idea for a business title to include a key word or two. As I am fairly well known for Western genre artwork I came up with the name Mighty Fine Art which seems to fit the bill. I checked that a fitting domain name was available and I bought it, (later, when I discovered you could assign more than one domain name to a website, I also bought www.peterwilliams-art.co.uk). I incorporated this name with one of my paintings which I find particularly pleasing and use this as a logo. My Mighty Fine Art ‘brand’ was born.
Website. Getting my own website up and running has been the single most important thing I’ve done. As previously stated, as an artist I don’t have much spare cash to throw around so couldn’t afford to have a website custom built for me. I also don’t have very much knowledge about website building so knew I was going to have to have a go at a DIY site. The first thing I did was to visit and review dozens of other artists’ websites to pick out features I like and dislike, forming an idea of how I wanted my website to look and, just as importantly, how I didn’t want it to look. Next I looked at a few of the many companies out there offering a DIY website building service with hosting. I decided on Webeden.co.uk . They seemed to offer everything I was looking for at a reasonable price with an in depth accompanying ‘help’ feature. I won’t go into detail but, starting with a basic template I was able to adapt it and build what you now see as the Mighty Fine Art website. I’m happy with it, it does well for me and costs about £55 a year all in.
Now MightyFineArt.co.uk is up and running, from now on everything I do is aimed at driving traffic to it. There are many, many ways of doing that. Here are some.
A Blog is a great tool to have linked to your site, a regularly updated blog gets picked up very well by search engines. Uploading new work and any news about exhibitions and shows you are involved with will keep it effective and interesting. Get as many links as possible to the website.
On-line Galleries. Despite studying and implementing all I can find out about Search Engine Optimisation techniques (SEO) I realise I am never going to be able to compete with the big boys. A lot of searches will put me on the first few pages nowadays, but there are a lot of clever people out there who get top rankings all of the time. So for this reason as well as others it’s important for me to maintain a presence on several on-line galleries to supplement sales from my own site and maintain a good internet presence.
In my opinion a lot of these free sites are next to useless when it comes down to progressing your business. Bear with me, I’m talking about earning from your artwork here which is different to having a pretty portfolio of your work to show your friends but which does nothing in the way of sales.
A key thing to make sure you get near the top of internet searches is to keep all of your on-line galleries refreshed and interesting. Each one you choose to be on will take up some of your time in maintaining it, uploading new work, refining descriptions, altering the status of pieces if sold or reserved etc. etc. So you should choose a number you feel you can cope with and give your best attention to. The worst thing is to get an enquiry about a piece from a site you had forgotten you were on, which has long since sold. That would just damage your reputation as well as lose you a potential customer, and they are tough to find. Therefore it’s important to choose those sites that will work for you rewarding your time and effort and in some cases money. Then exploit them to their full potential. You can’t just sit back and wait for orders to roll in, it won’t happen.
There are really only 3 types of site to consider.
Free sites (or very cheap) where you can upload your work purely as an on-line catalogue which you can show to your family and friends, join in forums, make contacts etc. but with very little marketing on your behalf by the site owners and very little chance of sales. These are great for becoming part of a community where you might get advice, encouragement ideas and become a little better known by other artists. But they are not your potential customers. Artwanted is in this category and well worth being a member, but you don’t need too many sites like this. Whichever you join make sure you have a link or several links to your website.
Sites which are free to join and which work hard on promotion and do their best to get sales for you. Then you pay the site a commission of 25% or sometimes as much as 50% on any sales you get. These tend to be worth while being on, someone is working hard on your behalf and they don’t get paid unless you do. So you can trust they will do their best. I’ve chosen to be on 4 of this type of site but I’ve set myself a limit of what commission I’ll pay of 30%.
Sites where you pay up front to be a member and then any sales you make are completely yours. You have to choose carefully here as it is easy for them to rake in the money and sit back and do very little to promote the site. There are some good ones out there though, but they can be expensive. I choose to be on just one of these sites and if I find it hasn’t paid for itself with sales when renewal time comes around, I move on.
So how do you choose which? Firstly, think about your work carefully. How would you best describe it, better still how do you think other people would describe it. Then think about who you want to find your work and what are they likely to type into a search engine to find it. For example in my case ‘original paintings of native American Indians’ I could narrow that down by adding words like ‘affordable’ and ‘watercolour’ Think up a few key phrases like that and type them into search engines. See which on-line gallery sites consistently come up on the first few pages. Any further back and they haven’t done their SEO properly. Make a note of them. Then go through them. Think like a customer and see how attractive the site is, how easy it is to navigate and find what you are looking for. Very importantly see how well the images are displayed, the descriptions, everything you might look at if you were a buyer. See the quality of the work, you don’t want to be lost in the middle of a million cheap and amateurish pictures. At the same time you might not want to be competing with the worlds top artists just yet. How big is the site? will your work be swamped and lost? are there not enough artists on there to attract repeat visitors?
Having selected those sites you like, look at the cost if any of creating a gallery, how large a gallery you get for your money. As a rough guide, the cost of one sale ought to cover it. Before committing, read the T&C carefully, often the proprietors of some of these sites are out to make a fast buck with little regard to the artists so pay attention for instance to anything that allows them copyright of your images. It’s OK if they want to use your images to promote you or the site, but not for commercial gain such as prints etc. where you will lose out.
Online Business Directories are a great tool for getting your website and art noticed. Sites like Hotfrog.co.uk and Freeindex.co.uk are free to register and drive a lot of traffic to my website. There are hundreds of others to review, some you pay for but I haven’t felt the need to pay.
Self promotion is the next most important thing. Get business cards made up with the details of your website. Get greetings cards done the same. Get these out there at every opportunity. Put links to your website on every email, everywhere you can. Talk to people at craft fairs, exhibitions, down the pub, DON’T LET ANYONE ESCAPE without at least taking a business card. I have magnetic signs made up for my van, mouse mats with my logo etc. There are many other things you can get done to advertise your site such as mugs, key rings etc. I self published a book of some of my art work via Blurb.com which has sold well. Although very little profit on quite a large outlay I think it was worth doing to promote Mighty Fine Art and raise my profile a notch. I’ve taken out a 6 month advert in a glossy magazine this year, relating to my website to try to drum up commissions. We shall see if it pays off. Basically, set a promotions budget each year and be as creative as you can.
Social Networking sites like Facebook and Myspace have potentially a massive audience, so you can use them quite effectively by adding photos of your work and again to drive traffic to your website.
Ebay or Etsy I used to sell quite a lot of paintings via my ebay store but for some reason it seemed to die a death a while back so I closed it. However I still maintain a small presence on there, selling some of the less expensive items occasionally and if I have a studio clearout I sometimes put a few bargains on there. Again, I make sure I have links to my website on each listing as well as on my ‘About Me’ page. I recently opened an Etsy store for the same reasons and have sold one original painting to-date. I only have mostly inexpensive items on Etsy but again it does drive people to my site.
Exhibit Don’t forget live exhibitions and shows entirely. I don’t take part in many nowadays, perhaps 5-6 per year but I do want to step up the one man shows a bit, again promoting the website at every opportunity. Competitions can be worthwhile too. There are many online such as the David Shepherd Wildlife Artist Of The Year for example which, if you are short-listed will get you the opportunity to exhibit in the prestigious Mall Galleries in London. Great for the CV!
You can try to get into High Street galleries although I find the commission is more often than not prohibitive. I’ve also had one or two bad experiences regarding payment so choose carefully, I’m in a couple I know I can trust.
Article by Peter Williams
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I am back from my fantastic trip to Budapest and the Open Evening/Private View of my first European Exhibition. Paul (my husband) and I flew out to Budapest on Thursday of last week and arrived at our hotel late in the afternoon. We stayed at the Opera Garden Hotel in the city centre and just a short walk from the State Opera House and this made it a nice central location for checking out the city. The hotel had only been open 3 days and it was a great place to stay, lovely rooms, good breakfast, great facilities and the staff were excellent. Would highly recommend it to anyone. After taking some time to chill we had dinner and an early night on Thursday in preparation for some sightseeing the next day.
On Friday we trekked off to find an Exhibition which I wanted to see at Kogart House, Andrassy Avenue. We first visited the Museum next door which was a kind of shrine to the work of Tibor Csernus and this was amazing to see. Fantastic to see his enormous easel (which he needed for some of the giant canvasses he worked on) covered in thick paint from years of work I guess, and all his brushes, paints and tools. There were also several unfinished works around and charcoal sketched pieces of possibly planned work and it is good to see where he would have started. There must have been many hours to follow to end up at his stunning final paintings.
We then went next door to the Exhibition of work by Tibor Csernus (1927- 2007). Three floors of superb paintings, mostly big canvasses and just fantastic to see them close up. I was in awe of the beautiful skin tones he had achieved on his nudes, made up from so many colours of oil paint. He tended to have very dark backgrounds and his use of light and shadows was just stunning, a fair bit of chiaroscuro going in them for sure. His later work became looser and this made them even more appealing to me, still beautifully executed but with what appeared to be quicker looser brush strokes, which from a distance where hardly noticeable. His use of colour was just so vivid, and I noticed in his studio that he had pots of natural pigment and wonder if this was partly the reason for this? Whatever, a fantastic exhibition to see and well worth a visit if you happen to be in Budapest before the end of December.
Friday evening we had dinner at a lovely, very traditional Russian/Azerbaijani/Hungarian restaurant on the same street as our hotel and this was wonderful! The lamb was to die for (sorry Katie). I have never tasted such amazing salad in my life, mine came in some kind of pomegranate dressing and I could easily get converted to eating loads of the stuff if I could get it to taste like that!
On Saturday we walked over towards Parliament to visit The House of Hungarian Art Nouveau, which was an absolute must for me with Art Nouveau being my most favourite movement in art history. This was three storeys of mostly furniture and decorative items from that period, with some paintings also, but I was in heaven… all those gorgeous swirly decorative items which just oozed class and finesse to me! Seeing this I wonder why my house is actually very modern and minimalistic!!
From the ancient we went on to the modern and the Hungarian Christmas Market for the afternoon. This was packed with people, traditional crafts, Christmas decorations and lovely smells of all sorts of home made Hungarian food. We tasted a hot amazing looking tower of pastry covered with cinnamon after watching it being made, not sure what it was called but it was just gorgeous!
We then hurried back to the hotel to prepare for the Opening Evening. Tibor Szonyi (Director of the Opera Gallery) met us at the front of the gallery and up we went in to be greeted by young ladies who took our coats and offered us hot wine (like Christmas mead) which was very welcomed when coming in from the cold. The gallery was already bustling with people and the gallery team had done a wonderful job of hanging the fairly diverse collection of work from around the world, it looked stunning.
There were 3 rooms, and in the middle of one stood a grand piano and above it fell the most gorgeous sparkling chandelier. I could tell we were in for an evening of culture and was not disappointed. First a pianist played for us and he was very talented for sure and this was a lovely start to the evening. He was followed by the beautiful Opera star Barbara Kecskes who sung like an angel and I was mesmerised by her voice.
In between music and singing the crowd then mingled and studied the art by artists from UK, USA, Romania, Brazil, Japan, Israel and Cuba. I was fortunate enough to meet the other UK artist Evelyn Chambers along with two of the Romanian artists and enjoyed chatting with Rodica Voicu (Romania) for some time and hope we will stay in touch via the Internet. We also enjoyed some nibbles and more wine.
Further into the evening us artists were interviewed by Hungarian TV and hope I can send you the link to this film when it is finalised. Then in a winding up of the evening we enjoyed delightful singing by Victoria Seres, a young musical student who sang in both Hungarian and English, which was lovely especially bearing in mind her speaking English was in fact not so good!
The evening flew by and I was sorry that it came to an end. We took lots of photos and enjoyed conversations with art lovers with whom I talked about my own work at the exhibition, as well as chatting to other artists about their own work. All in all a wonderful evening to remember.
On Sunday we took another walk around the shops and the Christmas Market and then eat at the Trofea Grill where they do an all you can eat buffet and drink (including wine and beer) for a fixed price. My husband was in seventh heaven!! It was fantastic. Great food, lots of traditional Hungarian foods like Goulash, lots of salads, vegetables and traditional starters, also a Grill where they cooked your choice of fish or meat and cooked it there in front of you, followed by lots of delightful sweets (much to my approval). I am certain I have missed loads, but again, well worth a visit.
We ended our visit to Budapest with a boat trip down the Danube at night with champagne on board and how lovely was this?! Fantastic to see all the amazing historic buildings from the river, such amazing architecture I have to say, all lit up and glowing beautifully. I took loads of photos again and played around with a long exposure and no flash on my camera which gave me some great abstracted shots too. This was a great end to our visit to this wonderful city and its lovely people.
Hope I have not bored you to tears with this lengthy epic! I did not want to skip over such a lovely trip and a very memorable occasion for me in that it was my very first European Exhibition. I have added an album of photos of the Opening Evening at my public Facebook account (Tina Ashton Art) and will add some more soon, I will also post something interesting here for you to see.
Thanks to my lovely husband for sharing these special times with me.
Best Wishes, Tina.
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Hi there, I’m Leila Godden. I have been selling my paintings professionally since 2004, and have been one of the Art2Arts artists since February 2009. This morning I carefully packed up one of my paintings for an Art2Arts customer, and imagined her excitement at receiving it.
2009 was the first year I sold my paintings over the internet, having been successful in traditional galleries prior to that. I was sceptical at first, wondering whether people really do buy over the net. My experience has proved that it is a great way to buy art if you use a good quality website, with excellent images and descriptions, and the assurance of a money back guarantee. You can relax at home and take your time to browse. It’s a real thrill to receive a painting you have chosen, and also for me, the artist, to receive positive feedback, and, as in the case of the painting today, repeat purchases.
My great passion is painting seascapes, and particularly waves. I grew up in Scarborough, on the cold North East Coast, and spent much of my childhood on the beach, paddling, mooching around in rockpools and just playing in the sand. These experiences are key to my paintings, and, having lived inland for many years now, (the beautiful Cotswolds for the last 16) I am moving to Sussex, not too far from Brighton, and within easy access of the sight & sounds of the sea.
Because of this, I have a large selection of paintings reduced by up to 50% in the Boxing Day sales with Art2Arts, which is likely to be a one off for me.
I have always loved painting & drawing, and my Mum used to run a local art club, which I loved attending, and sold my first painting at the age of 12. I continued to sell regularly at the annual summer exhibition, until I was distracted by the practicalities of life and finding a “proper” job. It hadn’t occurred to me to earn a living from painting. A BSc in Business studies was followed by12 busy years in corporate finance, and it was some time before I found time to paint again, gaining an A level in art & Design at evening class, and then a part time Diploma at Herefordshire College of Art & Design, which I absolutely loved.
Since then, I have had several solo shows, and my paintings are enjoyed in Italy, France, the USA, Israel and Hong Kong, as well as the UK. I have travelled to the Maldives and enjoyed the fabulous turquoise waves, and last year I also trained as a Life Coach, to help other people achieve what they want. Sometimes it seems just enough to hang on in there rather than be proactive about creating the future we really want, but there are always ways in which you can do something positive, whatever is going on around you. A recession is not an easy time for many of us, and the coaching experience has been invaluable to me in my progress as an artist.
My newest work is more focussed, and builds on previous exploration of texture and form. This painting in particular opened up a new way of working for me, where I am concentrating on the wave, capturing a unique moment in time, and painting a portrait of the wave in that moment.
Most of us have our own experiences and memories of a walk on the beach, or relaxing on holiday. These paintings inspire you to enjoy them. This one sold quickly, and has inspired me to work on a whole new series called “Portait of a Wave”.
View Leila Godden’s Artwork
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