Home Is Where The Art Is

If you are an artist, a lover of art then I hope that I can inspire you to do what you love.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The Price Is Right!

Sharon James

That certainly did the trick didn't it. Got quite a few of you talking and your approaches all vary and are all valid and ways that I have used myself.

How did you answer my question? What is the lowest price you would accept? Why?

It is just a tactic I use to price my own work. I don't ever charge that price but it does give me a rational starting place.

There is not a one size fits all solution because we are all individuals working in a plethora of ways with a huge variety of mediums.

So now let me tell you about my two very different experiences, today I am going to start with my gallery owners head first. On Friday it will be completely me with my artists hat on.
Everything I type from now on is from a business owner point of view.

Let's get this out of the way first, I take a commission from sales. It is in both mine and the artists best interests that the work is priced to sell.

I have my finger on the pulse of what peoples general comfort zone of spending is in my gallery in Swanage. Yes, I have rule breakers, I wish I had many more but since the recession people are happy to spend £500 and under. The key thing to note here is the word 'happy'. These are easy sales that people rarely think too hard about. If we want to add comfortable, warm and fluffy to the equation we have to go down to £200 and under.

That's just how it is. I have learned to have a fairly accurate gauge when it comes to pricing. (OTHER PEOPLES WORK). Why the capital letters? I think we all know why, more on that later.

The hard bit is convincing artists that I know what I am talking about. That's a hard one. What you can't/shouldn't do is work out the value of your work and then add the gallery commission on top. This seems to be common practice but it is not a good one. If you don't do this then look away now.

If you value something at £100 then add 50% to cover commission the value of the piece is still only £100, not £150. As human beings we actually have a fairly good innate sense of value. Whether we are prepared to spend it or not is another thing but be can judge fairly accurately if some thing is the right price for what it is. This applies to art as well.

How do you get it right? Compromise? Well yes a little bit, but you have to look at the bigger picture. I said yesterday multiple smaller sales vs one bigger sale could be more financially lucrative.
The most important thing to remember is that you cannot go backwards. If you have sold well at £150 for specific type of work via a gallery or personally. You have set a benchmark. If you want to encourage people to collect your work it is important that you remain consistent.

Do not be tempted to think that because you might be paying less commission or no commission that you should lower your prices. If someone paid £150 for your work and they see it somewhere else valued at £100 they will not be happy. Remember this if you are in it for the long game.

When I have sold peoples work who have a continuous theme running through it, be it colour, subject matter etc. When the work is reasonably priced it is quite common yes, common for people to buy 3 or on a few occasions 5. Just a little food for thought, you can also add incentive by giving a good discount on multiple purchases.

I think that doing your homework is absolutely key to perfecting the art of pricing. I visit galleries all the time and I look at what they are charging for original work. I look at the scale, media, the content and if there are business cards I'll take one and look the artist up.
Knowing what market you are aiming for is part of the pricing solution.

One thing I can tell you that they also do, many of them that is. If they have a featured artist that they are selling prints by as well as originals. The prints are not of the ones on the wall. This is clever as it doesn't encourage the 'can't afford the original so I'll buy a print' mentality. It also allows a sense of still getting something unique.

Top Tips
  • Do your homework.
  • Be optimistic but realistic
  • Get guidance from professionals and take it on board.
  • Understand that you will never really achieve the equivalent of a professional hourly rate. But it is what we all aspire to.
  • If you are just starting out then your prices should reflect this.
  • The more your work becomes known and the more you sell should impact on your pricing.
  • Do not get greedy!
  • Work out a formula that works for you and your work and stick to it.
  • If you produce work at £100 or less try and negotiate commission with the gallery. 45% is excessive on smaller sales but remember they will also be working hard to sell your work for you.
Most importantly do not get disheartened by no sales, or poor sales. There is no rhyme or reason for this generally. I should know I have been assessing and monitoring this like a fiend as business woman. If your work is correctly priced then it should sell. 

One last thing I have written blogs about this before, are you a commercial artist? Or are you an artist that makes things that they want to make, that hopes people will like it enough to buy it? I am the latter and it means that sometimes I am lucky and sometimes I am not.

Friday, 18 July 2014

How Much Is That Painting In The Window? The One With The.....

You can imagine that I regularly jump this particular hurdle both as a gallery owner and as an artist. I know that I have previously written at least two blogs about it but it seems that it is constantly a subject that proves tricky for artists.

I hear these two things very often. 'I just want to sell my work' and 'I don't want to take it back home with me'.

Invariably the next thing that happens is a protracted discussion about price lists/commission/time spent on work.
Sharon James

There is a truth that we all (myself included) must realise. It is very rare to get what would equate to a wage from the sale of an original piece of art.


The truth is that even though you have just produced that work your entire past has influenced it. Yes, that's right. Every single experience you've had up until the point of completion has had some kind of impact on the piece you have just finished.

N.B Another sad truth is I regularly see artists that under price their work. This is such a shame but they assure me that they would rather make 10 £50 sales than one for £250. You can't fault their logic but....how can they let go of their work so cheaply? Do they value their work? Or are they just realists?

Let's move on from there although I thought it was important to point it out. Ok let's talk about real time. I have regular discussions with people about how long they worked on pieces for. Some take weeks, months or even years.

Ask yourself these questions.

Did you approach the piece like you would a job?
Did you start work at 9.00 and finish at 5.00 every day for the length of time it took you to produce?

It is really important that I point to here that some of my best work has been produced in minutes as opposed to hours. Yes, that's right minutes. How do I price that? I'll let you know tomorrow.

I am going to take a wild guess and say for the majority 'no'. That's fine, you might have a full time job, a part time job, a family, a life in general.

You need to do a realistic breakdown of the time that you spent. Be honest with yourself.

I am going to continue this tomorrow.

I am going to finish now but I have one last question for you, to ask yourself when pricing your work.

What is the least amount of money that I would accept for this piece? The absolute bottom line.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Create Before It's Too Late!

What a great demonstration by Nicola Dennis on Saturday. I really want to have a go at silk painting myself as it is such a satisfying process. If you haven't seen this show yet then you definitely should try as it is beautiful. It has made the gallery feel so light and airy. It is full of the colours of summer.
It is also fascinating watching someone work i think that I will be doing some live demos in the gallery during the summer to get people a bit more involved in the whole process. What do you think? Would you like to see me draw my drippy birds? Or make a collagraph plate?

Nicola Dennis
I think somehow that I am conditioned to be in tune still with the end of the school year. That's 15+ years of conditioning  for you.
It is at this time of year you would generally look at what has gone before and then think about what worked and what might need to either be scrapped completely or at the very least reworked.

I have been doing that at the gallery as there are still a few wrinkles that I need to iron out. It will mean some very big changes but that is what makes life interesting isn't it?
Keep your eyes open for the start of the new 'gallery experience' in 2015.

If you have a plan to get creative this summer and need someone to 'jump start your art'. Then I might just have the solution. I am available for 1-2-1 lessons throughout the summer and into Autumn. But I am getting quite booked up so I do need to get people booked in as soon as possible.

I often have people visit the gallery and they say that they would love to learn a new skill but feel that they are past it or don't thin they'd be very good at it, or can't afford it. These are potential learners who have already put the barriers up to learning before they have even started.

The best time to learn anything is when you feel like learning it. Grasp that moment with both hands and go for it. It is amazing what can be achieved with very little. If you have always wanted to learn to draw, buy a sketchbook and some pencils and start drawing. Draw from life if you want your skills to grow and improve quickly.

Yes, it is hugely possible that you won't be the next Leonardo but how do you know what you are capable of until you try? The same goes for any art or craft. Some techniques are incredibly expensive to learn so start small. Don't think I want to make pots and go out and buy a kiln. Think what needs to come first? You will need to design your pot before you make it.

USE YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY! That is my next tip, they usual have quite a good collection of books about arts and crafts and what's more is that if they know exactly what you are looking for then they will help you to get access to it.

Youtube has so many 'how to' videos that you could virtually teach yourself how build a car should you want to. Access some of those to give a bit of practical input.

I am going to leave you with this quote by Picasso. I think it ams up perfectly the idea that I have been trying to communicate to you through my mini pep talk.

I hope that you have a creative summer! If you need any additional support/teaching you know where to find me.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

About Nicola Dennis The Silk Painter

Nicola Dennis
Nicola Dennis
BA Honours Edinburgh
I started painting about ten years ago and experimented with various mediums including oils and acrylics before discovering the joy of silk painting.  There is a beauty in the sheen of the silk  which enhances the brightness and vibrancy of the painting.
I have always enjoyed working with line and pattern and spent several years learning the art of glass engraving. Designing for an engraving is very similar to designing for “gutta,” which is the line that restrains the flow of paint, on silk. Like many mediums, it is as much about what you leave out, as what needs to go in, so that the paint has room to flow freely across the surface.

Nicola Dennis
As a member of SPIN  (Silk Painters International) I have the opportunity to discuss ideas and techniques with fellow silk painters from as far afield as Thailand America and Iceland. As a consequence, I have learnt that, what I thought was a simple procedure, is in fact a complicated and very beautiful and varied art form. There are so many different techniques that can be combined to create any one piece – wet on wet , wet on dry, salting, waxing, seizing, and discharging to name but a few. Through experimentation I have learnt how to master some of these techniques.   It is one huge and most enjoyable learning curve!

Nicola Dennis

I live and paint in Bridport, Dorset where I have my own studio, but I also share working space in Lyme Regis, at STUDIO 19.  In this studio gallery there is a community  which provides an exciting, supportive and encouraging interaction between other artists and the visiting public. I have learnt a  great deal from both positive, and occasionally negative feedback.  Sometimes it is refreshingly interesting to try and look at a piece of work that you have become emotionally involved with through somebody else’s eyes. I have often taken a photograph of a piece of work and find that by distancing myself from the original I am able to see more clearly what needs to be changed to improve the overall.
My inspiration comes mainly from the sea, the wondrous creatures within it, and the emotions that it evokes. Hand in hand with this comes my love of photography, the ability to capture an instance, of motion, colour, or texture. I refer constantly to my photo library for images that I can combine in a painting. By nature I have always been drawn to pattern in the detail of living 

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

iDraw On An iPad! Amongst Many Other Things.

Sharon James

Everyone likes a blog about drawing, thank you all you lovely readers. Well I have entered a new zone. What zone is that? You may well ask.

Whilst I am happy to spread the word and educate (after all it is in my job description). Of late I have been quizzed about exactly how I produce my work.
In the spirit of knowledge is power here's the truth.

I am a professionally trained printmaker but of late I have been exploring a whole range of media. I have a love of drawing that means I experiment and explore constantly. I love its immediacy which for someone with such a busy life suits me perfectly.

I have embraced new technologies for years. My new best friend is my iPad. I have a range of drawing apps on it that I use regularly.
The thing I must point out here is that whilst it is brilliant and I do love it. My drawings are only as good as I can actually draw.
People seem to think that there is somehow a shortcut involved somehow. I can assure you there isn't. I play as much on the drawing apps as I do in a sketchbook. They take time to master and some are easier than others.

Sharon James

I could list all the apps that I use but the truth is the best way to find the one that suits you is to try them out. Some are user friendly and some I find far too involved. The best ones generally have a free version that gives you an idea of how the app works.
Like anything else practice is crucial.

You could do worse than spend £10.00 on the book 'iPad for Artists'. It is a great little book that really breaks it down into bite size chunks for the novice.

There are 1000's of videos on youtube that show artists drawing/painting on their iPads.

Sharon James

Do I think that the iPad will replace my sketchbook? Never in a million years. In the same way my Kindle hasn't replaced my need to own real books.
What it does do is allow me to 'play creatively' with ideas and save them at various stages. It doesn't have the precious feel of the first page of the sketchbook. This in itself is a very good thing.
I'm sure you all know what that feels like?

The other thing I should point out is that although I use it to draw/paint I am never really trying to accurately replicate a medium. If I want to do a painting that looks 100% like a painting then I'll do an actual painting.

If you are interested in seeing other aspects of my work why not checkout my own Facebook page. You will see that I still use very traditional media in my own work. I use the daily drawing challenges to do something a bit different.


If you have an iPad and would like to unlock it's creative potential along with your own then you know where you can find me.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Help Me I Am Stuck!

Sound familiar? Well what happens a lot at the gallery is that people like to come in for a free tutorial. That's not so bad as I quite like to talk to people. If you know me then you know that is true.

Sharon James

The term 'artists block' seems too rear its ugly head with quite alarming regularity. I totally get it. When your actual life gets in the way of your creative one.
I think the first thing to understand is that in order to be creative you really need to have the headspace to think about it.

You are not alone! You have a day off and the intention of doing some art is at the forefront of your mind. Sounds good so far right?
So you sit down in front of your easel, sketchbook etc and wait for that creative spark that gets you working.

The spark that seems to be like trying to light a fire in the wind and rain with damp matches. I can almost hear the nods.

Well I have no magic cure, I'm sorry I wish I did because I would sell it by the tonne and be a millionaire by now.

I have looked online and tried to find some helpful hints and tips and the following link is pretty good. Just click on it and it will take you right there.


Sharon James
I have written before about getting involved with some daily drawing challenges. The idea is so simple in concept. Basically, a theme is chosen at random every day and then you respond using your given discipline.

How does this unblock you?

Well having to think about what to draw, is the very start of the creative process. Drawing things that you don't normally unlocks numerous possibilities. Seeing the work of others on a daily basis and feeling part of a group and hugely beneficial.
One of those drawings might just trigger a new body of work. The truth is it is a way of getting going with no real pressure.

Sharon James
I have used the challenges (I have done 3 months worth now)
, to set myself personal challenges. I did one month solely on my iPad. I learned so much about the various apps and how to simplify my drawing. This month I will be using a variety of media that I either don't like or haven't really explored.

I have used my iPad drawings from last months challenge to illustrate this blog. If you would like to give it a go then here are the Facebook pages of two of the groups that I belong to. You don't have to submit everyday if you don't want to. I try to do most days. Although I am yet to do todays challenge 'Market'. Still thinking about it.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/674798375903045/   This is called 31 Days of Drawing July

https://www.facebook.com/groups/770156319696450/  This is called Draw My Life Challenge

Take a look and if you are interested ask to join.

Have a productive weekend I most certainly will.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

A Mini Review of John Gooch's Exhibition.

John Gooch

I have just taken delivery of my next exhibition at the gallery and let's just say it is really vibrant and colourful. It says 'summer' in every single picture. I hope that it goes down well as Nicola who paints them is lovely and her work is too.

Don't worry there will be some sneaky peeks coming soon.

There are still a few days to catch John Gooch if you are interested. I think you should be as the work is  really good. Let me think of some better adjectives. An eight line review to follow.

John Gooch combines 'plein air' with studio work to produce deeply contemplative paintings. Visitors to his exhibition have said that he is an excellent 'colourist'. I agree, but for me it his brush work that captivates me. There is something reminiscent of impressionism, pointillism and fauvism. Just a nod to them all really. His bold brush work creates luminosity in some images and brooding menace in others.
My personal favourites are three little studies. I have sold one of them. It is a clever painter that can paint a small yet powerful image.
It is quite a heady experience when you walk into the gallery and mingled with the smell of the sea is that of oil paint. A thoughtful exhibition with sufficient variety of imagery to please the most discerning visitors.


If you would like to take a further look at his work then check out his photos on Facebook. I have included the link to make it easier.

More importantly you don't have to take my word for it you can come and see it for yourself before it finishes on Saturday at 5.00.

I had a few takers for the idea of the guest blog so let's just see if they live up to their side of the bargain. I hope so. It is still not too late to get involved, you know how to get in touch.

There are days when you do and there are days when you don't and today is sadly a don't day. That just means that my admin cup runneth over. No time for my own work. I best get on with it other wise it will run into tomorrow and that I cannot have.