Sunday, September 27, 2009

What to sell

As I've been discussing before, the primary goal of a craft show is to... Sell your paintings and bring in income. Therefore, how do you know what to sell? This is actually a much harder question to answer. The answer is totally based on what type of artist you want to be and what your end goals are.

If you are strictly at the craft show to make a lot of short term sales that are almost guarantees, then it is a good idea to have a LOT of small, inexpensive (less than $5) items that people can carry away. It's amazing how quickly the dollars add up. You can actually make a lot of money doing this, but you have to have a LOT of product and your product HAS to fit the motif of the show. Also, unless your items all reflect one particular motif (angel statues, fairy pendants, etc), future sales by the same people will probably be minimal. There is the point of where people will judge you as a crafter, rather than an artist (I know... I know... there's a ton of arguments over the internet saying that all crafters are artists, etc... This discussion is way to long for such a post).

If you wish to use the craft show as a venue to establish collectors, then you have to work a LOT harder at the sales and there is no guarantee that you will make your booth fees. For larger shows, this is a particular risk. However, if your work is popular, you have a chance of making a large number of sales during/after the show and having repeat business. Also, you will suddenly have people looking for you, in particular, when they go to a show.

Once you know what works to sell, now comes the harder topic of whether or not you fit the show. If you sell abstract works, are you likely to sell large expensive originals to the local crowd? Most likely not. Shows that cater to tourists are your best bet. Even then, it's more likely you will sell prints to the tourists and, potentially, some originals. Tourists don't want to carry a lot with them, but they are willing to pay for shipping for something they love that reminds them of the area.

An important point to remember is to paint what you love. It's easier to find a market for your work than to work at something that you don't like to do. Although my pen/ink birds are extremely popular, it's not what I want to do. I'm willing to forego the sales to paint my particular topic (landscape with abstract shapes).

When defining what to sell you have to ask yourself the following questions:
1) Am I an artist or a crafter?
2) Will the show be worth the time/monetary investment for my particular work?
3) Who is my target and how much money do I realistically expect them to spend?
4) What do I want to be known as? A flower painter, a landscape painter, a still life artist, an abstract artist?
5) Do I only sell originals or makes prints/cards? Selling originals is cheaper and less inventory, but it's harder to guarantee that I will make my booth fee.

For me, I started out on one end and am moving to another. When I started craft shows, I was showing my pen/ink work, watercolor paintings, oil paintings, framed prints, unframed prints, originals, cards. My topics were birds, portraits, landscape, abstracts, etc. I was all over the board. I was able to sell a fair number of prints/paintings/cards, but those were short-term sales. I had no identity.

Now, that I'm more experienced with the shows, I display oil paintings on canvased (unframed with the sides of the canvas painted). For the paintings, I sell the equivalent print or card. The topic that I sell are landscapes with an abstract image/quality to them. That is what I'm going to be known as. It's a definite style and presentation that is geared towards someone collecting my work. I may not make my booth sale every time, but I have enough interest in the paintings that I can make the sales.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Pumpkin Study

Since it's the beginning of Fall around New England, it is appropriate that last night's study was to paint a pumpkin. Of the various pumpkins/squashes, I decided that I liked the look of this particular one. I was also intrigued by the challenge of making a fairly light colored object thrust forward.

In this study, I paid more attention to the massing of the pumpkin. I laid out the basic dark background (made it darker than usual so that the pumpkin would stand out) and then laid down the general light mass and dark mass color of the pumpkin.
An extremely important aspect, pointed out by my instructor (Karen Winslow), was that I needed to think of the painting as a mosaic. To this date, I've been over-blending and my colors have been more muted. However, using the mosaic approach, I can keep the strong colors and then get the blended effects near the color edges.

Using this approach, from a distance, the pumpkin retained it's strong colors and contrasts against the dark background. Also, the edges of the shadow area lose themselves into the table/background.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Evaluating your target audience at the show

When working a craft show, you need to remember that, although it is fun to interact with the other vendors, your primary purpose at the show is to sell your artwork. So, the focus has to be on your presentation and your audience. This includes setting up your presentation for your target audience. The question is: Who is the target audience.

At a craft fair, the types of people divide pretty well into several groups: 1) people who just want something to do, 2) people who are just hanging out with friends, 3) people who are looking for presents, 4) people who are looking for artwork for themselves.

The chance of selling to the first two groups is pretty minimal. Most likely, these sales will be based on the idea that they just happen to be walking by your booth and, lo and behold, they HAVE to have something. Some painting/print/card struck their fancy. In this situation, the price of the original doesn't mean much to them. All they know is that the painting would look perfect in their living room/library/office, etc. Sales are extremely random and, if one is made, it's a nice happy situation.

The third and fourth groups are the ones that you want to target. These are the people who have actively decided that they WANT to spend money and it's your job to get them to spend it on your product. So, your presentation and discussions are geared to those people.

With the group who is spending money, it is extremely important to evaluate the time of year.

During the Fall/Christmas season, you can almost guarantee that most of the purchases will be as unique presents for friends/family. For this situation, the primary amount that people tend to spend is around $25 to $50 per person (that they are buying for). This is a good time to have a lot of cards and prints made. Framed prints are even better. You also may sell some originals at this time, but that is due to the fact that 1) they absolutely love the painting and the painting is for themselves or 2) they don't mind spending hundreds of dollars for a special gift for someone special.

During the Spring/Summer season, most of the purchases are going to be for themselves. This is the time that you have the best chance of selling the really expensive paintings. So, the best thing to do is to present your absolutely best work and most expensive paintings that the market will support.

Remember the key word, here: "market will support". If you are doing a small craft fair that costs $50 to set up a booth, the probability is pretty small that you will find someone who will pay $500 for a painting. The type of person who goes to those shows will typically not spend that amount. For the larger shows, you definitely can show those more expensive paintings. The chances are good that they will sell.

For me, I have on my display panels, paintings that range from $100 - $500. Based on the shows that I do, this is my target audience price range. To ensure that I get other sales, I also provide prints at $20 and cards at $3. Although I'm targeting the more expensive purchasers, I'm covering my bases by enticing people, who do not have/wish to spend a lot of money, to come into my booth. They may tell someone else about it.

Next topic: What to sell

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Reaching: Concepts

The next painting that I am working on involves some pictures of mountains that I saw when I was kayaking in the San Juan Islands. There are so many landscape scenes available and it is pretty hard to choose what to paint.

After working on various concept sketches involving this mountain, I have decided on three potential ideas.

The first concept shows a road/foreground going towards the mountain. Adding atmospheric depth will make this a fairly interesting painting. I could envision the foreground being a
desert with a really dry ground... maybe some patches of green here and there to represent some life.

The second concept sketch would have two large greek pillars present behind the mountain. The foreground is reduced to be a minor player in the scene. The main thrust of the painting would be the majesty of the moutains contrasting with the pillars.

The final concept painting involves more of an interaction of the mountain scene with the spheres around it. This was the first drawing and I think that it has some serious merit to it. Of all of the drawings, I like the feel of this one the most. To make this painting work, the contrast of the mountain (dark) against the sphere (light) has to really stand out.

Therefore, the final painting will be my choice. Since this is a mountainous scene, it will also be on my largest canvas: 22 x 28. The purpose is to make sure that the mountain takes up most of the scene and is the predominant object in the painting.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Craft Show: Recognition Level

In the continuing talk about Craft Show Levels, today’s topic will be the Recognition Level. This level can be described as those shows that have an entry fee ranging between $100 - $500. The shows usually last for 3 days (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) and are heavily marketed in the local area. The attendees for the shows know about the event and plan their schedule around it, every year. In addition, tourist areas usually make use of the event as an activity for incoming tourists.

For the Recognition Level shows, the booths are generally larger (10’ x 10’) and electricity is provided. There are also quite a number of vendors who do this show on a regular basis, even going so far as having the show as one of their traveling stops. The booths around you will be larger and more professional than the Entry Level booths. For the most part, a lot of the vendors will have a niche product to sell. A prime example of these shows is the Holiday (Christmas) fair that begin around the day after Thanksgiving.

At this level, it’s okay to still be working on your setup, but you have to realize that, the less professional your setup looks, the less likely you will make sales. Having a hodge-podge of items to sell will guarantee that a lot of people will look at your stuff, but the likelihood that you will sell a lot of your inventory is minimal. This is especially important if you want to at least break even and get your entry fee back.

In order to attract the most number of people to your booth and guarantee sales, you should have an established presence/look for your booth. Lighting becomes important and helps ensures that your paintings will be seen from a distance. Consistency and professionalism is the term that most people want to see. At this level, when people enter your booth, they should know immediately what you have for sale and how your prices range. For art work, this includes having originals on a vertical display. If you do prints or cards, make sure that they are in a nice print bin with prices clearly marked or on a Spinning card rack.

Most people coming to this show are typically going to be spending around $10 - $200. Having products spanning this price range will guarantee that a lot of people will stop by your booth and, hopefully, purchase something. This is another good time to work on your showmanship and how you interact with customers. Having a mailing list signup is a good idea for letting the customers know when you will be back at this show again, or at another large local show.

This is the level that I am currently selling.

Finished: Spirit of the Bonsai

"Spirit of the Bonsai" is an original 16" x 22" oil painting created on a 1" stretched, high-quality canvas. The painting has been securely varnished and is presented as unframed.

The concept for the painting was to highlight the beautiful curving lines of the traditional bonsai tree and show how it always stands out in the world around it. The flowing shapes of the trunk and tree structure are sharp contrasts to the linear and direct lines of man-made objects. The simple elegance of the tree contrasts nicely with the darker and colder regions of the world that it inhabits.

All Artwork is copyrighted to Doug Hoppes Studio and is not to be copied or reproduced in any form without the permission of the artist. Sale of this item does not transfer its copyright.

Purchase Prints

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Craft Show: Entry Level

When looking at the craft show market, there are three distinct levels of craft shows, in terms of the artist: Entry Level, Recognition Level, Serious Money Level. None of the levels are better than others, but they do serve a different purpose. So, when you are participating in that event, you need to be particularly focused on certain aspects of the show.

Today’s topic will be the Entry Level. This level can be described as those fairs that are inexpensive to enter (less than $50), do not have a large attendance, and, typically, last one day or a single afternoon. These fairs include Farmer’s Markets, small holiday craft shows, small town craft fairs, etc. The attendance can be seen to be around 50 to 1000 people. The people who come to these shows are tourists, locals who love craft fairs, or random people looking for something interesting to do. The marketing effort by the craft fair producer’s is generally minimal.

At this level, it’s okay to experiment with your setup. This is a great time to put out new and experimental pieces to determine what the public’s reaction to them is. It is also helps you get out of your comfort zone and forces you to engage the customer. You can work on what to say when a customer approaches, how to engage your customer in the booth, how to collect your mailing list name, and how to set up your booth to allow the most customer flow. Since the cost is minimal, you aren’t really worried about making back your booth/stand fee. The point is to work on your show presence and presentation.

For the entry level shows, it’s generally a good idea to have prints and cards made of your artwork. Most of the people coming to these shows will generally spend around $20 - $50. There are rare occasions where you may get someone to buy a larger piece and, if the timing is right (i.e., Christmas time), you may make quite a number of sales of originals. However, for the most part, the print/card will be your bread and butter.

Personally, I love the smaller shows. My first year of doing a craft show, I minimized my outlaying costs by doing these shows. I spoke with a lot of the other vendors and studied their setup. I watched what worked and what didn’t. I watched how they made sales, how they completed the sales and how they engaged people before they came into the booth.

In addition to setting up in the smaller craft show, it’s a good idea to visit some of them. Watch what sells and what doesn’t. Talk to the vendors and see what type of sales artists make. There are some shows that are perfect for artists and some that are perfect for jewelry. Even with the small outlay, you are only wasting your money if the people coming to the show aren’t interested in purchasing paintings.

The next topic to follow will be the Recognition Level shows.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Evaluating the painting

The final process for the painting is to evaluate it. Now that I've finished the detail and laid out the components, it's time to let the painting sit for a day or two and see if there's any portion of the painting that needlessly draws the eye.

In the current painting, I see three items that bother me.

The first one is that the plants around the base of the tree are too small. I think that the brighter area should spread out more and meld a little better with the foreground.

The second issue is that the ground is too vertical. In this case, I will need to glaze a thin layer of the sky onto the upper edge of the ground. That will do a better job on simulating atmospheric perspective.

The final issue is to extend the lower branches to be below the horizon line. They actually are below the line, but the green in the ground blends too much with the tree. This gives the impression that the tree branches are sitting on the horizon line.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with the composition and achieved the image that I had in my mind.

Monday, September 14, 2009

How to setup for a Craft Fair

One of my major markets for selling my artwork is the Craft Fair. I like them. The craft fair is a great way to meet new clients and get their immediate reactions to your work. In addition, rather than focusing on your painting, you are really focusing on the client/customer.

I've been doing craft fairs for about 1-1/2 years and have graduated to the larger shows. I generally sell around 2 - 4 original paintings for each show and miscellaneous number of prints/cards. Of all of my income sources, the Craft Fair is the most reliable and valuable one that I have.

Over the next month or so, I will be discussing the various factors on how to sell your work at a craft fair and effective ways to set up your display/stands. Topics will include who to market, how to present yourself, how to present your work. If there are any specific topics that you would like to know about, definitely let me know.

Topics to be covered:
1) The different levels of Craft Fairs
2) Evaluating your target audience at the show
3) What to sell
4) How to manage the inventory of your work
5) How to make prints of your work
6) How to make cards of your work
7) How to transport your work to the show
8) Consistency in the booth
9) How to present your artwork to customers
10) What do when when customer's approach
11) The all-important Director's chair
12) Different ways to collect customers information
13) How to receive payment for your work
14) What to do, once you made the sale
15) How to interact with the vendors around you

Friday, September 11, 2009

Still Life Study: Vase and Eggs

As I’m currently working on a painting that involves painting a more realistic bonsai tree, I decided that I need to do some more work on rounded objects. So, for last night’s painting session, I set up a still life that contained only rounded objects: a vase, two eggs, a lime, and a bottle. Overall, I’m fairly pleased on how the painting worked out. Unfortunately, I ran out of time so I was not able to finish up the bottle, besides laying out the basic color and general shape.

For this painting, I decided to work on sanded gesso-board, rather than a canvas pad. The gesso-board was a lot smoother and, frankly, I’ve never worked on it and wanted to see how it behaved with water-soluble oils. The first step was to tone the entire board by laying down the base color of the wall behind the still life. In the past, I would never use any mediums at this stage, but have realized that the paint would be applied too thickly. Therefore, mixing liquin with the oil paint created a thin enough layer to cover the panel and still be able to lay more color on top.

Once the panel had been toned, the next step is to use Terra Rosa and a round brush to draw out the general outline of the shapes. The nice part about this is that you just need the general position for the composition. When painting, you can actually increase the accuracy of the shape by pushing/pulling the paint around. At this point, you are just working with the composition.

Now, it’s time to lay down the colors. As before, I laid down the mid-tone colors and used various levels of grey and surrounding colors to get the correct look. This is where the work really begins. Color matching is not my strong point. So, as I’m mixing the color, I hold up my palette knife up to the object to see how close I am. I then use the grey levels to modulate the color.

Now that the basic colors are down, the fun part begins: Shaping the structure. Using information I learned from Jack Winslow, I defined the upward and downward facing planes of each object. At this point, since my light is above my still life, the upward-facing features will be lighter than the side and downward-facing features. So, the entire painting was working with this principle.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Color Layout Finished

Now that the basic color layout phase of the painting is completed, time to add the detail work. For the color phase, I like the dark sky/water scene such that it really balances out the painting and forces your eye to the tree area. Also, there is enough detail in it so that the eye has interesting items to view while working its way around the painting.

In order to not draw too much attention to the dark areas, I’ve decided that no more detail will be added to it. The tree, however, will have a significant amount of detail. Changing the value patterns on the foliage will allow the tree to become more rounded. I will probably add more bark to the tree to make it more lifelike.

In addition to defining the tree more, the ground needs to be darkened and the large yellow shape will need to be shortened. I find it too distracting that it interacts with the corner or the tree.

Final consideration would be to decide what the sky will look like behind the tree. At this time, I’m thinking that soft white puffy clouds would be best. Something subtle. Maybe a hint of pink

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Color Layout: Water Section

The next phase of the color layout was to decide what the water section was going to look like. When originally designing the composition, I imagined that there would a land section and a sunset/water section. The crucial part is to have the two sections somewhat overlap, but ensure that the water section did not take the focus away from the bonsai tree.

I decided that, by creating a dark water section with minimal shapes, I could further emphasize the bright section containing the bonsai. In addition, by using purples and reds (creating a cooler plane, the water section would then recede. This would push the warmer tree section forward.

The final color layout section is to define the sky in the water section. The plan will be to use various levels of grey and slight coloration of the blues/reds for interest.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

First Color Layout

Now that I've decided what size canvas that I would like to use, the next phase is to just layout the general shapes on the canvas. This is done using a 2H pencil and Terra Rosa oil paint. For any vertical and horizontal lines, I want them to be absolutely accurate. Therefore, I will use my T-Square with a thin pencil line and lay out the lines.

Once the painting is subdivided, I'll use the Terra Rosa oil paint and a thin brush to decide what organic shapes go where and their relative size. Notice that this does not follow my concept sketch exactly. This is the time to do, essentially, what feels right. In the concept sketch, the tree was too small and thin. I decided to make it wider and larger, so that, combined with the red sphere/yellow platform, your eye is immediately drawn to it. I also widened the water area to the left to balance the painting more. If it was too thin, then your eye would be too distracted.

Now, that the general shapes/layout have been place, it's time for coloring. Rather than painting detail, I am strictly painting the general mid-value colors that I will be using in each section. I mainly want to see how the colors relate to one another and if, accidentally, the colors take the viewer's eye away from the main focal point (Bonsai Tree).

As I'm reviewing the painting, I notice that I don't like the portion where the platform touches the tree. I also am not sure that I like the large sphere (no color applied, yet) sphere to the far right. Both items seem a bit distracting. I may shorten the platform and reduce the size of the sphere. A lot of it depends on what I plan to do with the blue sky. I think that white puffy clouds are in order for that section.

The final section of the painting, I'm still mulling over... what to paint the color of the water section. I like the idea of an orangish red sun-down, but not sure.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Canvas Size

Once I’ve defined a concept sketch (previous post), the next phase is to decide what surface that I should paint on. For me, I’ve tried paper, illustration board, etc and have decided that I prefer the standard stretched canvas. I like the feel of the canvas beneath my brush and I like the light weight. However, the biggest benefit, for me, of a stretched canvas, is that I can paint really large or small and do not have to worry about framing.

Since I do craft shows, I’m constantly transporting the paintings in my car. Over the years, I’ve had the typical issues of having the frame be dinged or damaged. If you are looking at costs, a well-primed canvas can be purchased/stretched for less than $20 (depending on the size). If you frame it, that would add another $50 - $100 for framing. Therefore, you have to sell the painting for a bare minimum of $100 just to break even. This doesn’t include the fact that the frame can be damaged, the cost of transport (more costs due to the weight of the frame), the cost of a show, etc.

Therefore, I work on canvases that are stapled on the back and I continue the painting on the side of the canvas. This way, the painting looks nice from any angle and, if there is some damage to the canvas, I can easily repair it by painting over the damaged part.

So, what sizes do I work on? This depends on the topic and how much of an impact I want to make. I typically work on 4 different sizes: 22 x 28, 16 x 22, 14 x 18, and 12 x 16. This allows me to have a variety of price ranges at a show. When doing craft shows, it is important to have some pricier items/larger paintings and a LOT of smaller/more affordable paintings. You want the larger paintings to bring people to your booth, but, most likely, people will walk away with the lesser expensive paintings.

So, for this painting, I’ve chosen the 16 x 22 canvas size.