One of the greatest blessings I've found in this creative life is getting to meet those people who purchase my work. I love hearing the stories that they connect with the paintings, how my work touches them and the memories it brings up for them. When I began selling my art it happened purely by coincidence...someone came to my home asked if I painted what was on the wall and wondered if I would consider selling it. I found it difficult to set a price for the work, so I involved this patron, asking what he felt it was worth to him.
Several years later I was represented by a gallery who helped me set the prices and so it was definitely easier for me. To this day, I appreciate the guidance of galleries, but have also learned to calculate my expenses (paint, canvas, staples, wire, etc) along with my time (gathering materials, preparing the canvas, painting, preparing the completed piece for exhibit and documentation). Though I do realize that some paintings flow effortlessly and others require much more struggle (and paint), I am comfortable with all of the work set at the same price point, but at the same time other artists price based on the amount of work and materials on each piece, or based on their emotional attachment to each piece.
Selling the work directly to patrons has been a bit more of a challenge for me. I enjoy the interaction, especially when I get to hear the memories and feelings that my paintings evoke for them, where the work will hang in their home and why they chose that particular place. Commissions have always been a bit more of a challenge but something I do enjoy, as long as we're all on the same page. There are a few steps I take when I work with someone, whether that is a commission or a sale of a completed piece:
1. Confirm that each of us is comfortable with the piece in question...I prefer it when someone sees the work first hand (rather than just online, if possible) to be certain that what they see is what they get. Nothing is worse than an item being bigger or smaller or more or less vibrant than expected. If it's a commission, we go through my portfolio and discuss colours and size, being sure that I can deliver what is requested. I want to be sure that the image we agree on is something that will be loved by both of us. If there is another artist who could do a better job in that regard, I have no problem referring them because I really do want everyone to be happy.
2. Though there is much discussion of getting a down payment on a painting, I never have because this is a commitment that I want both of us to feel comfortable with during the process and with the final product. In all my years there was only one commission that wasn't purchased and it was for personal reasons which I absolutely understood. And I love to paint, so I'm okay with that.
3. As far as discounts and payments, I follow the same guidelines as my galleries. I do offer a discount on multiple purchases and allow a three month payment period to make things easier for the patron. I don't want this to be a hardship or regret.
4. Finally, I don't expect the patron to purchase the piece in the end, whether it's a completed piece or commission. I try to allow things to progress naturally. If this piece isn't intended for this person, it will find the right home in time. Not only do I feel more at peace with this attitude, but it seems that the more I let go and allow, the more my work travels to new homes. When I truly allow what's meant to be I feel abundantly blessed.
5. I feel grateful for my history in Administration and Business Management as I have had many years of training on telephone and internet etiquette and the value of responding promptly and professionally to inquiries. Even if what sounds great doesn't actually turn out to be, I've learned that being polite even though I may be terribly disappointed works best in the long run. Not only for my public reputation but I also feel better in the long run.
The best part about my job is that not only do I get paid for doing what I absolutely love, but I get hugs and photos and emails, too. I have been gifted through meeting the most amazing people because of this creative life and have enjoyed long-term relationships because of it.
AIRdirondack Art Project