Sunday, 4 March 2012

Making Money Out of my Art

I know that many artists are driven by a deep passion for something in their lives and their paintings reflect that particular subject. There is a clear theme running through all their pictures. I wish I could say the same about myself but my paintings reflect many different themes and are painted in a number of different styles, from conventional watercolours of landscapes to slightly surrealist oils!

My motivation is this: I love experimenting with different mediums, papers, canvasses and paints. As a consequence, I end up spending large sums of money on materials, some of which I give away if they are not a success. To compensate for this I need to sell the end result rather than having it stacked up in one of my bedrooms.

My exhibition in May should help my plan as it's the pivot for a lot of self-publicising at this time. But I'm always being told that no one has any money these days. I tell people that, one day, my paintings will be more valuable when I'm not longer able to paint - that's a euphemism for being dead. But it doesn't seem to help!

Many artists make money by producing screen prints, etchings and other forms of art where one can create several copies fairly quickly but one can still say that they are the work of the artist. I  discount here lithography which, to me, is just printing, unless of course it is done manually by the artist with plates and tins of printers' ink. But that sounds incredibly messy! 

No, what I mean is a shop simply ordering a print run of, say, 500 and calling it a "limited edition". There is no harm in making money out of litho copies. I have a friend in Barcelona who makes a good living out of selling his incredible original artwork as posters in the newsagents in La Rambla. But they are posters, nothing more. The artist makes no contribution to each copy as it rolls off the press.

I tell people that I'm more than happy to print a poster of any of my artwork, whether or not it's previously been sold, on heavy watercolour paper on my A3 printer for €12. I'll even sign it! The result is very good but only is really authentic in the case of watercolours. All ink-jet printers are "watercolour", they uses water-soluble ink. If the original is in oil, then the copy looks nothing like the original.

Making money

I don't claim to be anything more than an upstart amateur. I never received formal training in art but people make many kind and positive comments about my work so I must be doing the right thing. But, at my level, I can't hope to sell my pictures for €2000 or to make a good living out of art. So I will build on my strengths. I'm a technician and I've written elsewhere that I'm fascinated by the "technology" of art. My latest purchase is transparent gesso primer. I'll tell you about my plan.

Recently I painted an acrylic of Celrà as a commission for my doctor but I wasn't sure whether it was destined for the health centre or for his home. In the end, it was the latter and I was disappointed that it's not reaching a wider audience because I really liked the painting but I didn't like the colours. But see my posting elsewhere in this Blog about acrylics. The original version is on my web-site.

I'm going to re-paint it, this time in oils. Every painting gets scanned into my computer and my plan is to print it but as a weak image onto A3+ heavy grade paper. The paper is so thick that it has to be fed in at the back of the printer and it remains flat during the printing process. Being water-based, my first step is to seal it with a fixer spray which is normally used to seal pencil and charcoal sketches. Then I will paint a coat of transparent gesso primer.

The image is now ready to receive the oil paint. I can re-paint parts that I didn't like but I have the advantage of starting with the outline image. Now, I have to think of a name for this process! I like the word "re-mastered", it's rather cheeky as it is used in sound recording to re-mix the original multitrack tape into a new stereo copy in order to squeeze more sales out of the original recording.

I suppose the closest thing is in the case of artists producing monochrome etchings which they then paint with colour, each copy therefore is different.

This process gives me some more ideas. Now I can paint oils onto any surface, including paper, but retaining the original image. I can draw a sketch on paper, seal it, prime it transparently and apply the oils. I can go back to some of my early pencil sketches and update them in oil.
But, in the end, it is a commercial process! I need to recover my material costs. In this year alone, I've spent around €350 not forgetting the stock that I've carried over from previous years, very little of which has been paid for through sales.

I seem to have lost one of my paintings, "Arcos de Pals", but it's still in my computer and on the web-site. So it's not totally lost! I'll re-master it, make a clone. Aha, maybe that's the word to describe what I'm doing. (1st June: just sold the replacement Arcos de Pals).

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