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Archive for May, 2008

 

I once attended a seminar at “Making Art/Making a Living” where I got a lot of good, sensible business advice about running an art business.  Most of us will acknowledge that many artists and “artsy types” are the first to admit that they are not good at the business end of their work. Some are virulently opposed to admitting that it has to be a business at all.  And often this is why they are not more successful, regardless of what their own definition of “success” may be. 

             I don’t consider myself one of those.  I have had the good  fortune to have had two great mentors-one who is an artist and one who is not- who taught me a lot about marketing, promotions and all the general ins and outs of being business like and professional.  I do believe you have to be business-like, that you have to do the other work besides making the art and I have been pleased with the modest level of success I have achieved in the past five or six years since that seminar.

            But one thing that really struck me and with which I just can’t agree was advice regarding donating to causes.  This artist, who is quite successful in many ways, advised that one should limit (and quite dramatically, I thought) the number of donations to only one or two a year, if at all.  When approached by others throughout the year, one was advised to simply say something along the lines of “I’m sorry, I  have reached the yearly limit on what I give”.   This person actually went on to caution about giving art or even discounts on it to family members!

            Maybe I’m not the hard-nosed businesswomen with an eye to the bottom line that I should be.  And maybe that is why I haven’t made the leap from part time professional artist and full time art teacher to full time artist and part time teacher by now.  But as my good friend and mentor, artist Karen North Wells puts it: “If your hand isn’t out to give, your hand can’t be open to receive”. (http://karennorthwells.com ) I truly believe that the more I have given of my art to help causes, the more I have gotten opportunities to sell it and made money doing what I love.

            Because part of my philosophy is also that art should be affordable to everyone, I do sell reproductions, art tiles and note cards of selected images of my work (See my etsy shop http://www.bernadettewaystack.etsy.com ).  So the cost of what I generally give away is kept to a minimal amount with a standard 16” x 20” print that I mat and package myself.

             I don’t generally give away original work.  I have found that to be unwise as the work at auction will often go for bargain basement prices. Hey, let’s be honest, we all go to auctions to get a deal!  And one does have to protect current patrons who have paid far more for similar pieces by not letting the work be devalued.  On rare occasions I will donate a very small study that I feel is not a strong piece but not so poor as to hurt my reputation.  I will also entertain the notion of doing a piece especially for an important cause, kind of like a special commission, to be raffled off to make a large amount equivalent or above its value.  But generally, I will donate a matted print or sometimes even frame it inexpensively for a special event.  (I’m amazed every year when the bidding wars at the Toast of Harwich start over my framed matted print of Boardwalk at Bank Street and it goes for more than 30 times my cost!!)  Lots of wine plus art makes for rollicking good charitable events!

            Boardwalk at Bank Street, matted to fit 16 x 20 standard frame

 

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I just wrote a long overdue check to Habitat for some little and big sales that had trickled in off and on (some as long ago as last summer…shame on me!).

 

I made the commitment several years ago when I began seriously pursuing art as a (part time) profession that I would give 10% of whatever I earned to Habitat.  It all came about with the fact that first of all I had a very secure day job and was not in any position for the foreseeable future to chuck it all and live the life of the starving artist. Much as I might like to, and as real a long-term goal as it now has become, there are other family members and their welfare to consider at present.  And, more to the point, I actually was very conflicted about how I could feel so  drawn to “grow up to be an artist”.  After all “making pretty pictures” does not cure cancer or feed the hungry in Ethiopia or anything that seems a more worthy vocation in life.  But suddenly it dawned on me: ”I can use my art indirectly to help worthy causes”.  People are always looking for donations for charity auctions, etc.

 

So I went one step further. Since affordable housing is an issue that had mattered greatly to me personally and deeply affects so many right where I live here on Cape Cod, I basically “vowed” that if I were fortunate enough that people would be willing to pay for what I can create, I would give a part away to the cause. Sort of like the way some people tithe to their churches, I guess.

 

What bothers me now sometimes is how easily I can forget to “tithe, as I get more used to the idea of making part of my income from my art and trying to keep a business like approach regarding the bottom line…or at least breaking even on the art business.  But in the end,  I have a rather “karmic” attitude about it in that I do believe deep down that if I stick to my promise to conduct my art business on this philosophy it will produce more art business in the end.

 

There are varying thoughts on this subject, I know.  And I have just realized that I will need to have a Part 2 on this topic to cover some of what I’ve heard in opposition to “giving away the store” as it were.

 

But I’ve rambled on enough for a Part 1 and would appreciate hearing back from anyone as to their thoughts on making art that makes a difference.

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