Sunday, October 31, 2010

Breaking into Business: Cash Flow

The next topic that we covered in the workshop was cash flow. The basic questions were: What was your best month? What was your worst month? How are you adding income to your worst months?

For me, this is pretty easy. My best month is November. This is due to the fact that it's my largest show of the year (Barre Craft Show) and it's also Christmas purchase time. During this time of the year, I sell a couple of paintings, but a lot of prints. The worst time of year is generally the beginning of the new year. At this time, I don't make any sales, but I have to start sending in payments for craft shows that are running during the summer.

What do I do during the rest of the year? Nothing really. I hang my paintings in my office and sell a painting here or there to one of my co-workers. Nothing spectacular. So, I need to increase my cash flow during the rest of the year.

The first part of the plan is to increase the number of larger shows per year. Right now, I was doing about 2 - 3 large shows and a couple of small shows. I should increase that to a total of 10 large shows spread out over the year (Large shows are defined as having around 200+ vendors, 10,000+ people showing up and an average of $300 - $600 booth fee). To do that, I need to increase my range for shows. Vermont does not have many large shows, so I will have to include Massachusetts and New Hampshire into the list of available shows.

In addition to increasing the number of shows, I'll need to increase the marketing to those shows to attract more people to come and visit me. Not sure about how to do that. Most likely using press releases, coupons, and Facebook marketing. These ideas are still in the air.

The point is to create a market for my work prior to doing the show. We'll see how it goes.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Breaking into Business: Elevator Speech

One of the exercises that we performed in the "Breaking into Business" workshop was the elevator speech. The premise of this is that, if you are introduced to someone in the elevator, what would you say about your artwork/business? Remember that you have a short period of time. We came up with about a quick 100 word description that talked about our business mission, goals, objectives, and what products/services that we provide.

Mine was:

"Hi, I'm Doug Hoppes. I'm a local oil painter. I primarily create and sell colorful landscape paintings of Vermont and also provide prints of my original paintings. If you would like to see some of my artwork, you can visit my booth at the Barre Craft Show on Thanksgiving weekend or go to my Facebook fan page (handing them a card)".

In this brief discussion, I mentioned who I am and what I do (interesting hook: local artist painting colorful landscapes of Vermont). I also gave them a way to see my work at my next show or online. By handing them my business card, this gives them a chance to look me up.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

New Business Card Design

Well, finally decided on my latest design for my new business cards. As pointed out earlier, I needed a way to ensure that people 1) took my business card and 2) kept it for a reasonable time frame (or used the information on the card).

So, using the idea of my monthly drawing for Facebook, I designed my card for two major areas. The front of my card shows one of my landscape paintings with information about what I sell and how to get a hold of me.

The back of the card lets people know about my monthly drawing in the hopes to attract more fans, and, potentially, any new sales of prints or paintings from those fans.

Now, time to send it off to Vista Print. Their prices are pretty reasonable and the cards look nice. When using Vista Print, they have a downloaded Photoshop template that you can fully modify. Once you get your design done, then you upload the template to the Vista Print site for approval and final printing.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Breaking into Business: Four P's

During our workshop, we talked about the 4 P's: Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. These items help define your work and how people find about your work.

Product: My current set of products include oil paintings on canvas (where the sides of the canvas is painted, so as to not require framing) and 11 x 14 matted prints. The prints are sized to fit within a standard frame that can be purchased from any craft store or frame shop without the need for special framing.

Price: In terms of the oil paintings, the price range from $75 for a small 9" x 12" to $400 for a 22" x 28" painting. The typical painting purchased is the 16" x 22" for $275. The prints are priced at $20. The reason for the pricing of the print deals with the fact that I sell my prints at craft shows. When people get money from the ATM, for a craft show, the denominations are typically $10 and $20. Therefore, I try to make it easy for someone to pull out a single bill out of their wallet for the print.

Place: Most of my paintings are typically sold in two locations: my office and craft shows. For my office, I give office employees a 10% discount on all purchases. This tends to provide incentive when the holiday's come around (Mother's day is a popular one for me) or someone needs a personalized gift. Most of my sales, though, come from craft fairs. I've been doing a couple of shows, here and there, for a couple of years and have sold a number of originals through this venue (although, the prints are typically the item that move the most at a craft show).

Promotion: This is the part that I'm extremely weak in. For promotion, I rely on the advertising of the craft fair. I need to improve this area of my business.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Breaking into Business: Success

The first topic that we covered in my "Breaking into Business" workshop was: "How do you define success?". This is an important goal to help you define how you should proceed with attaining your goals.

For me, success is defined by 1) Being able to pay for all of my art supplies and lessons without having to tap into my personal allowance or the house fund and 2) being able to buy jewelry, expensive gifts and take trips around the world with Melissa (my gorgeous wife).

Nothing fancy. No need to be a great painter or change the world.

Now that I know what I'm trying to achieve, the next step is to set up a set of goals to make that happen.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Breaking into Business: Overview

Today's post begins a long series of topics based on notes from a workshop that I attended: Breaking into Business: Professional Development Workshop for Artists. This was put on by the Vermont Arts Council. The workshop is broken up into two-days: Business setup and Marketing. I attended both days.

It was a fantastic workshop!!!! I learned so much about what I did know and what I didn't know. Over the next series of postings, I will be going over a lot of what I learned in more detail. For now, here's an overview.

On the first day, we went over the basics of our business. At first, we had to provide an "elevator" statement. Essentially, this is a quick statement detailing who we are and what is our product. It was interesting exercise to ensure that we have a "identity". The most effective business model is to have a "brand" or "identity". Customers want to know you for a particular aspect, rather than being semi-known for lots of things. For the rest of the day, we went over basic business aspects: insurance, accounting, lawyers, business plans, knowing your customers, etc.

The second day was about marketing. Once we had the basics of business down, it was time to determine best methods for marketing your work. This included, first, traditional methods such as press releases, building relationships with newspapers, radios, etc, and standard mailing/brochure marketing techniques. The next methods dealt with using the Internet and social medias (facebook and twitter) to increase your customer base. Also, included were techniques for email marketing and surveys. A final procedure dealt with methods for building effective web sites.

There was a lot of information for the two days and I was pretty tired by the end. Now, I just have to get my final plan into motion.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Still Life: Bobber and Lure

Last night's still life class, I worked on a trying to mass in a fishing bobber and lure. In this situation, the light was directly overhead, which makes the shadows small and harsher.

As usual, the first process is to lay down the basic color masses for the background, table, bobber and lure. Ran into an issue when I first started: The relative value of the table was too close to the background. However, in the still life, it was significantly different. So, once the relative values were fixed, laid in the bobber color and the lure.

Once the basic color values were established and I had established the light/dark values, I began working on the reflective light from the table onto the bobber. Interesting point was that the table reflected into the base of the bobber, which, then reflected back into the shadow.

Also, it was interesting to note that there were interesting lost and found edges of the lure and the table. So, I played with more of the lost/found edges around the base of the bobber and other parts of the lure.

CVU High School Craft Fair: My Booth

Now that the craft fair was done, I'd already posted about how the show was run. The next part is: how my new booth fared. Overall, the booth turned out much better than I'd hoped. For sales, I had sold 14 prints (11 x 14 matted) and one small original painting ( ) . This was better than expected since I had never done this craft show and I had no idea what to expect.

Setup: The setup of the booth took a lot longer than expected. I should have figured on that. My old booth of four panels and two lights took around 40 minutes to setup and hang the paintings. The new booth of nine panels and eight lights took around 1-1/2 hours. In addition, the setup took almost the entire back section of my truck. This left very little room for my paintings/prints. I'm going to have to figure out a way of transporting more stuff (for outdoor shows, I need to be able to transport a tent/weights and for bigger shows, I need more inventory/paintings).

Lights: The new lights from Ikea worked out great. Easy to setup and the lamp hoods did not get extremely hot. For $8.95 a piece, they were a great deal. I may consider switching from the 40 watt bulbs to the 60 watts to see if there was an appreciable difference in lighting. The gym had considerable lighting, so I couldn't tell how much of an effect the lamps had on the painting.

People's reactions: This was awesome. Almost consistently, people would walk by fairly briskly, say "Wow" and slow down their walk, as they went by the booth. So, it got people's attention without being gawdy. In most cases, simply saying "Hi" brought people into the booth for closer looks at the paintings. So, the reaction was quite favorable.

Overall, I think that the new booth design works great. I'm going to have to figure out how to speed up the sales of the products and replacing of prints when they are purchased. The slowest part was the negotiation of the sales/receipts/bagging/print replacing. At times, it was a bit crowded with eight to ten people in the booth and trying to do the sale.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

CVU High School Craft Fair

Several months ago, I decided that I had enough inventory to start doing craft shows again, but wanted to try out something small and local to test out my new display and lighting system. I had heard good reviews from past exhibitors about the CVU Craft Fair (Champlain Valley Union High School, Hinesburg, Vermont). The fee was minimal ($100) and it was a n0n-juried craft show.

So, doing this craft show, I didn't have high hopes of making a lot of painting sales. The show was only running for one day (9 - 5) and it is in the high school gym, which is a bit away from the usual tourist areas in Vermont. I just wanted to check out people's reactions and, at least, make back my booth fee. More of a learning/marketing experience.

I was extremely surprised at the level of organization. Several weeks before the show, the vendors were sent various emails about the loading procedure, etc. I also saw signs around my town about the show and listings in the local newspapers. When I arrived that night (night before the show), they had a number of dolly's and pull-carts available for the crafters to use to transport their materials inside the building. Students (who were hired) were helping direct people to their booth areas and helped people bring in their supplies. The students even assisted in setting up the crafter displays. Setup went extremely well.

For the craft show, the next day, the amount of traffic was nominal. In addition to the craft show at the high school, it was also Spirit day and a boy's football game and girl soccer game was scheduled (The soccer game was canceled due to rain). Between 9:00 - 10:30, I saw very few patrons with bags. If they did purchase something, it was pretty small. However, from 10:30 - 12:30, the place was packed. I was selling a number of prints during that time. At any given time, there was usually 3 - 8 people in my booth. Not everybody buying, but a lot of people were interested in my paintings. Between 12:30 - 5:00, there were a lot of lookers. Some sales during that time, but not a lot. Most of the people had gone out to the football game.

Also, during the show, a number of students were walking around taking cafeteria orders for people. This was extremely helpful. Would have been nice if they had offered to watch the booth for bathroom breaks.

Breakdown was just as good as setup. At 5:00, we all started breaking down the displays. The hired students then came around helping people load their cars and break down the display. There were a number of exits from the school parking lot, so that there wasn't a massive traffic jam.

Overall, for a small show, it is extremely well run. I would highly recommend this type of show for a lot of new crafters in the Burlington, Vermont area.

Later, I will post about people's reactions to my paintings and what I learned.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Still Life: Drawing Study

Last night's class dealt with drawing on the canvas. Up until now, we've just been doing the basic massing of shapes. However, no matter how good the massing of shapes are, you are still relying on the under-drawing of the objects to make sure that the placement/composition are correct.

When drawing the basic pot, a good idea is to draw a line down the middle of the pot. From there, you can make sure that the roundness of the edges of the pot are consistent on the left/right side of it. For this pot, the first thing I did was draw my horizon line and then a line down the middle of the pot. This allowed me to define the height of the pot. Once the height was specified, I measured the neck of the pot and drew lines where the neck ended, top of the pot ended and the base ended. I then measured to define the width of the pot. All of these lines generally form a general shape.

Once the general shape was defined, I laid down my background and basic middle color values. The hard part about this was that the pot contained lots of decorative detailing. I needed to make sure that I ignored the detailing and just made the general pot round.

Once the base of the pot was done, I added the handle. By adding the handle last, I can make sure that my background is correct around the pot. It's a lot easier to put in the thin handle after the background is done in that region.

The final portion was to layer the table so that I added more of the background color and greys to the back of the table (to help it recede). I also made sure that I added some of the table highlights into the pot. As a final push for this (I ignored the highlights, for now), I made sure that the edges of my pot contained a grey with some of the background in it. This helped "round" out the vase.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

New Light

So, this last year, I've been having some major issues with the lighting setup in my "studio"... ie. my living room. This has mainly affected my still life setups, more so than my landscape paintings (from sketches/plein air work).

The major issue is that I had a floor lamp to the left of my easel (not shown here). The light would shine directly on my canvas and I would get an enormous amount of glare. Also, I was using a larger, non-directed lamp for lighting my still life setups, and the larger light would shine through my canvas. So, needed to resolve it.

After a while, I found some people talking about the Ott-light easel lamp with daylight bulbs. Decided to try it. I LOVE IT. The lamp clamped onto my easel and is tall enough that it is not in my way. Also, I can shine the lamp down and reposition it so that it illuminates my canvas and not produce a glare.

So, started working on still lifes, at home, again. As you can see, I've started work on one of the paintings for my wife. Flowers are tough for me, since I don't do a lot of them, but, you don't get better by avoiding the subjects that you can't paint.