The Tricky Business of Pricing Artwork

November 8, 2017

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King Street At Night #1, 12″/36″, oil on canvas, painted 2013.  (King and Jarvis-2010)

 

The painting above took over 80 hours to complete.  I was just starting out again after taking years off to raise my son.   It was as if I had to start all over again in some ways.  Mapping out the painting took forever and building up the skill after years off from painting takes time.   I was really determined to try to make a living from my painting.

I would paint whenever I could and I had decided that when I had at least 4 or 5 paintings that I was happy with I would try to sell them.   That’s when I got a bit intimidated.   I had no idea how to price my work.   So I got the idea to bring my work into a local gallery to ask them what I should charge.   The woman  who worked there was very nice but was almost afraid to look at the painting.  She was pleasantly surprised when I had shown her the work but still she didn’t want to give me a definitive answer.  She showed me pieces from various artists with quite a range in price according to experience and notoriety.   Unfortunately that confused me even more.

So, I decided to go low.    I wanted the pieces to sell because I needed more materials to keep painting.   Each tube of oil paint costs 20.00, canvases start anywhere from 15.00- 100.00 depending on the size, brushes, thinners can also be really expensive.  At the time I was a full time mom and had absolutely no money and very little materials.  Not to make a sob story out of it but I barely had money to get on the bus at the time.

When I completed the paintings I just put them up on my Facebook page to see what the reaction would be.   I got a great response from my friends and was lucky to sell a piece that week!

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Side note:  When people look at art and wonder why it is so expensive I don’t think they understand what goes into making a piece of work.  First off,  it takes years of experimenting and practice.     I served tables and painted for  8 years  just trying to figure out what my style was going to be.   Then it’s the time it takes to go out and take photographs, selecting the image that will be a successful painting, and then the work itself can take a month or more to complete depending on the details.  And of course, the materials can get really expensive. Also this is an original, handmade piece of work and that is valuable in a mass produced society granted if the work is good.

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From that point I had enough money to be able to buy materials however I was still in the dark about how artists actually price their work.  So I asked my friend who was a very successful artist in Toronto how she priced her paintings.  She told me that she charged per square inch and that was the standard.   Again, I was too afraid to ask her how much she charged per square inch because I think it’s a bit rude to ask people how much money they make. So I started to look at some galleries and their pricing and I did the math.    (However it is important to know that most galleries take 50% of the sale so I factored that in as well)

I wasn’t prepared to give up 50% to a gallery so I decided to rent a space and throw my own show at Wychwood barns.   Someone did tell me that beginners should charge 1.50 per square inch.  That is what I did.   A piece that was 12″/12″ /1.5 is 215.00.    As the sizes got larger I would not stick to the per square inch equation if the price seemed too high.  Over time you get a feel for the value of your work.  It is important to have the formula for consistency.

If a piece is very detailed and takes a lot more time I will charge more for the piece.   I now have 2 formulas since I do have 2 different styles.  The paintings that are more abstract take less time therefore I charge less.

It’s been 4 years now that I have been painting full-time.   I feel now that my work is at the right price point.   I love working with a formula because it is easy to explain to people who want to commission a piece or are just inquiring.   I have to say though, it was the trickiest thing to figure out in the beginning.   I was a bit terrified to tell people the price of a piece.  Talking money for something that I made was uncomfortable at first.   It just takes some time to get used to.   I hope this helps for any artists out there with this issue.

 

 

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Process of a painting.

November 7, 2017

 

These are stages of a painting that I am currently working on of a painting I have done years ago.  I will be doing a presentation talking about my process in a few weeks time. (I suppose this is practice)

The most difficult part of this entire process is selecting the right image to be a painting.   I often go out and take many photographs.  I have an idea of what I would like to paint which is important.   However I am not that great at photography so I could end up taking hundreds of photos and only getting a few that will end up being a successful image.    As time goes on though,  I have improved.

After selecting the image I find a canvas with the right dimensions to paint on.   Once I have the completed image, I pencil it directly on to the canvas.  Depending on the detail of a piece, it can take hours just to get the sketch in the right perspective.   Perspective was one of the most important thing I had learned in high school art class.   If the perspective is off the painting will not work.

Once I am sure I usually begin with using acrylic paint.  Acrylic paint dries immediately and is less expensive than oil paint.  I typically start with using individual colours in order to map out a painting.   Although because this painting is pretty complex because of the multitude of colours I decided to use oil from the beginning.   Oil has an ability to blend in a way that acrylic doesn’t.  Acrylic goes on very flat and is often thin even if I use very little water to mix it.

The first layer is the least exciting part of the process.  Really it is still all about making sure the image is in perspective and everything is in it’s right place.   I don’t know why but still to this day I get a bit nervous whenever I begin a new piece of work.   I am not exactly sure why.   It’s not like I can’t fix it if there is a mistake.  Although if the perspective is off – you kind of have to start all over.

I work in layers and depending on the size and detail of a painting the first layer can take up to a week to complete.   This particular painting is 24″/30″ (inches).  It has taken me roughly about 25 hours of work to get to this point.   It has one layer of  oil paint on it and will now take a few days to a week to dry depending on the weather.   I find that in the summer the humidity can keep a painting from drying for up to two weeks.   I have figured out that placing the work in my car acts as an oven and it can dry within days.   Since it is Autumn I am placing my paintings by all the rads in our house which will speed up the process.

Most paintings typically take 2-4 layers to complete depending on the detail.  The second layer is when I really start to see the image take shape.   The details take time but really start to mold the image.  With my paintings I love to work on the light.   How the light hits the buildings.  How light affects the sky.  The impact light has on different colours in the painting is what I love so much about working on a piece.

When I have completed a painting and it is dry I sign it and title it.   Sometimes I write a note on the back of a painting of current events.  Not only is this painting a snapshot in time, it also adds memories of what was going on in the world at the time that it was created.  I write the title of the work  and my signature on the back and place a wire on  for hanging.  I like to paint the sides of the painting to give the effect of the scene continuing around it.

I will be sure to post the finished product up when it is completed in the next few weeks.   I have had quite a few requests to make this into a print.   Once it is dry I will take it to get scanned.   Prints of this painting will be available by December (2017)

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Music

November 2, 2017

If I don’t have new music my life tends to grind to a halt in basically every way.   Part of my lack of inspiration comes from the inability to find new music that really blows my mind.   I have to actively go out and search for new music since I don’t really have much love for what is on the radio.   I don’t mind the old stuff every once and a while but that represents old experiences.   I equate new music with new feelings, new creations and all that is great in the world if I find it.

I am feeling at a loss lately where to find something new.   At least something that will hold me until my next show.   I have paintings that I have named after songs I was listening to when I was out taking pictures.

I haven’t finished this blog yet but I wanted to write about the role music plays in conjunction with inspiration in my life.

I was listening to a song called “The Brightest Hour” by The Submarines on some random mix and it was the first time I had heard it when I was taking pictures of an alley just south of Davenport between Ossington and Shaw.   So naturally I named it the Title of the song.   I love that when I look at this painting I hear this song in my head.

 

 

 

2nd Attempt- Palette Knife

October 31, 2017

This is another work in progress.  Originally this piece was a commission of a painting I did years ago, only I had the wrong size canvas so I decided to try out the palette knife and experiment.

First off I have to say that I am absolutely excited to experiment with this new technique on everything now. The  unpredictability of how the paint goes on the canvas and the texture is so different than what I have been doing in the past. I’ve had to waste and scrape off a load of paint.  However even the mistakes leave traces of the old colour which itself adds  depth and dimension.  The amount of paint I am using is insane! I can only imagine how long it will take for this to dry.

Over the month and a half leading up to Christmas I am busy with commissions so I won’t have much chance to experiment much.  I am thinking that the next group of paintings for my April show will be done with palette knife if I can perfect a technique.

If anyone reading this works with oil paint and hasn’t tried using a palette knife, I highly recommend it.  I am not really sure if I am doing it right but I think it’s the combination of the texture and mix of colours that make my old paintings look a bit flat.

I am trying to blog more, so if I keep it up I will be posting the next collection of paintings for my show in April.

 

Something New.

October 28, 2017

 

I took a break from painting this summer.   There were days when I would paint for 14 hours.   Actually most days I would paint for at least 10.   For seven months straight I was obsessed with completing enough paintings to make the shows worth it.   I often struggle with balance in my life and I was aware that it was time to take a break.

The palette knife with oil paint is something I have never tried before.   I have always loved the look of it from some amazing artists I have been following.  The texture and chunkiness of the paint with a vaguely abstract/dreaminess to some of the work I have seen lately has re-inspired me.  I bought some palette knifes yesterday and decided to use it for the first time today.   The photos above are my first stab at it.     I tried to zoom in on various spots to show the texture of the work.  Honestly, it is amazing to look at the texture of the piece just from the sides.   I went through several more tubes of paint than I would with my usual paintings.

I chose a rainy street scene to use the palette knife so that it would give the effect that the painting was done from the view of being in a car in the rain.  It is late and I have been painting since early this morning and I believe I could keep painting until it’s done.   Again, the balance….  This might be a new obsession.   So it goes.

I will tweet the finished piece hopefully sometime this week.

 

 

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(November 1st 2017)  I finished this today.

Upcoming Bar Collection

May 30, 2016

I am so excited to work on my new project.   Over the summer months I will be painting scenes from several bars and lounges from Toronto and various other cocktail lounges.  I want to recreate that feeling of a night out after I’ve ordered a glass of wine, pint or martini with friends and we’re in the city out enjoying the nightlife.  I want to capture the romance of a beautiful bar with all it’s lights, chatter, music, with both the patrons and the staff.

I had worked at the Park Hyatt for years and it was a special place to work. It used to be called the Park Plaza years ago where many famous Canadians would go. When I worked there people always had a story about The Rooftop Lounge.   So naturally this is the first place I went to do my photo shoot.   A group of my friends and I lived a decadent night of sparkling wine and cheese while I took photographs for this new group of paintings.   I wanted to post a photo of that night as an example of what I will be working on soon.

This will be my first painting of the new collection of works.   wordpress

Massey Hall paintings

May 30, 2016

 

I am currently working on 2 Massey Hall commissions.  I have done this painting before.   However I got asked the questions of the value of a painting if there  is another one out there just like it.  However that is not the case.  I could never do the exact same painting twice.  It will always be different.   I know one artist who will paint the same thing over and over again because that is her obsession.  None of them are exactly the same.   In fact the more you look at her work you can really see the differences.   A slight angle, some shading, the colour tone is  slightly changed.  I recently painted my Weslodge Bar for the second time and it was interesting to compare the two.  The  people I sold the second painting to noticed right away that the pint glass was different.  No two things are exactly the same in this world.  Not exactly.

I particularly love my Massey Hall painting and I am curious to see the difference between them when they are complete and I will post them when I am done.   I love Massey Hall.   I have had many of my best nights at this particular concert Hall.  We saw Nick Cave there last year and he was incredible.   At some point I would love to do an entire collection on Massey Hall.    I love the building.  If possible I would like to do one of the full concert hall before the show starts.     There are certain commissions I find difficult but because this is one of my own I already know that the person wants this particular look so it’s less intimidating to paint and I can relax and enjoy it.    Also, each time I have begun this particular painting I have started off painting it differently.   I am posting 3 to compare.

Will update when I am finished. Three different beginnings.

 

 

This is the first layer of each of the paintings.   The first on was taken with a different camera so the tone of the painting looks yellow.  The 2 commissions have been taken with my iphone.  I will post the final paintings but that time I will use my good camera to capture the likeness since it is a better quality camera than the iphone.  What to look out for in the paintings are the subtleties of the people.  Some are similar and other’s I have changed.   The staircases I feel are slightly different as well.

 

 

I was unable to get my camera working so the tones are still a bit different.   However These are the finished versions of Massey Hall if you are interested in comparing.

 

A New Series of Toronto Paintings.

October 24, 2015

The last year or so I have been painting Toronto Streetcars.   I do think that I will always paint streetcars however I am more interested now in painting bars and cafes of Toronto.  My favorite thing to do is grab a glass of wine or cup of coffee at a bar or a cafe and sit and write about random things I think about or people that I meet.     Before I had my son I was a waitress (yeah yeah… i should be saying server or waiter) at The Park Hyatt Roof Lounge for 7 years.  It was the perfect place for me to work.   I love the whole culture.  The wine or martini glasses, observing people, talking to people, the constant bustle.  The Park Hyatt (formerly, the Park Plaza) had every walk of life come in there.   From  the travelers, the  extremely rich to people pretending to be rich, marriage proposals,  anniversaries, celebrities,  eccentirics, nutcases, regulars, at it’s peak-for the area-the film festival.   I got a lot of flack for being a waitress, it was surprising how much flack really, I have no idea why people would not think it a valued position granted you did the job well.  I would have withered in an office or a school.  Here I was always moving, there were always funny stories and my coworkers became really close friends.   I painted part-time,  but wasn’t a good enough artist at the time to fully commit.  Or maybe I just wasn’t ready to commit to doing one thing.  I think if you are going to be an artist professionally you really have to give it everything and it wasn’t until the last year or so that I decided that that was exactly what I was going to do.     Up until now I have focused on streetcars because I was able to get great photographs while taking care of my son, who also loved to ride them.   However now that he is old enough I can now go out and take photographs in a few bars and cafes.   I would like to do a group of paintings just on the Rooftop because of my connection to it and it’s history.  I have just begun my first painting of a cafe in Toronto which I don’t think I want to sell, I already feel very attached to it.   I do think until I get sick of it, this is my calling.   I am afraid I might not want to sell any of them.   Oh well, either way I am very excited about this new chapter.

Partially painted Toronto Cafe.

Partially painted Toronto Cafe.

Portrait of Lennox.

June 15, 2015

Portrait of Lennox

Portrait of Lennox

I typically don’t do portraits as commissions.     If I don’t get it right I am essentially giving them a painting of a different person.  However I find that painting children is easier than painting adults.   Someone told me once, I think it was my mother actually (she is no artist but she reads)  that children require less detail and this is why I am able to do portraits of children better than adults.  Lennox is my cousin’s grandson so I thought I would give it a try because they asked me.   I have to say I am rather happy about the outcome.

I was supposed to be better with the blogs but the last few months didn’t end up going according to plan.  In fact this was the first week where I took a few days off from painting since last September.    The Riverdale Art Walk was last weekend and so I decided to stop for a few days.   It was my first outdoor Art show  (well second, but the other one hardly counts) and I felt like my paintings were sub par in comparison to the work I had at my show in March.

I am  now preparing for the Queen West Art Crawl.   I have a bit more time and my goal is to work on some larger pieces.   Also I am interested in painting some more Toronto scenes that don’t necessarily feature streetcars.  We’ll see.

Painting # 3 – 1st and 2nd layer

May 5, 2015

#3 work in progress

#3 work in progress

Ok,  So back on the wood again.   I figured out a way to make it work with the wood.   I drew directly on the gesso’d wood and then put semi gloss varathane to keep the paint from soaking directly into it.   I suspected it might work and so far it’s been good.   Due to circumstances beyond my control, I will be lucky if I am able to complete 10 new paintings for the next show.   Either way now that I have discovered that the varathane works I am excited to work with wood.   Also, I am extremely excited about these next paintings.    They are still a combination of both styles.   I was thinking this collection would just be the rainy impressionistic reflection however I took some more photographs and fell in love with them as well.    I will continue to post each work in progress and then before the show I will post the finished pieces.