Migraine struck today. I am writing this with a wince, and with all the lights off in the tiny studio. And with the screen brightness dimmed to a tolerable level. I cannot not write so despite my other desire to just lie still in bed in silence and darkness I made myself get up and write.
It is way past noon and I am propped up by a fresh hot mug of coffee. The morning was spent drifting in and out of waking dreams and story plots and painting pieces. I should have eaten lunch but I am not hungry. Not for food anyway.
My head feels heavy and full and tight. My eyelids feel weighted with stone. My body is on shutdown mode, shuffling along as if asleep.
I might as well write. The migraine has a will of its own and will stay or go as it wishes. I might as well write while it makes up its mind.
I am pulling myself together to recover. Not just from this headache but from the assaults of reality in the past weeks. It is like wading through thick churning water. I am pulled in every direction and I keep on falling away from where I am supposed to be.
I am in limbo. And this writing is a thin thread that keeps me tethered to my true self. I have been unable to sustain any creative task as I easily get distracted or exhausted or both.
The closest to useful thing I have ever done for the past few days is to create presence for my artwork and the art shops online. At least there is that. I have been doing a lot of behind-the-scenes work to create image files and to post and to promote. The visibility of my art has multiplied as I gained followers and promoters in Society6 and my Art Page. I have also elicited more responses than ever across my social media. The tribe has been most helpful in spreading the links as well, bless their hearts. Movement and momentum. This is probably what a salmon feels like swimming uphill (and then being devoured by a waiting bear).
I am in suspense waiting for recent orders to reach their destinations. Already, one seems to have lost its way. An original painting named Saturnina. I have a high-resolution file of it which I have uploaded for sale as prints and as product design. I will make another to replace the lost one.
In case you want a piece, head on over to my Society6 Shop,
This post isn't really much of a piece in itself. Mostly rambling and way too much whining perhaps. But it is all part of this artist's creative journey. And sometimes it helps to show that not everything is sunshine and roses. That it is a natural way of every life to have difficulties, even those that seem so blessed and fortunate. Not everyone wants to share nor see shadows when standing before an audience.
But do not mistake this for ingratitude. I remain grateful for every good and kindness. I remain hopeful. With less than a week left for miracles. I am preparing myself for Plan B.
I ended up with the too-long canvas stretchers because of previous projects that did not push through. I got over-excited and bought the materials before the supposed clients confirmed the commissions. So for a long time I had these half-ready canvases languishing in my storage gathering dust.
A few weeks ago I was in a frenzy of setting up the art shop to pull in some extra income while I wait for dayjob projects to save the day (or month, preferably). I felt cornered. And then I saw the stack of large empty canvases. I needed to tip the "balance" inside me so that the world felt less like about just paying bills and more about making contributions to everlastingness.
I took the smaller of the two -- the 30 x 30 inches. It stayed blank on my easel for a few days while I waited for the picture to emerge. It goes like this -- I repeatedly trace the space in my mind, all that blankness open and contained at the same time. Then I start to see whispers of lines, appearing and disappearing. Every time I would glance at the canvas, look at it, think of it, the lines flicker like the noise on an old film. Then at some point there will be fleeting bursts of full shapes and colours, fragmented pieces, still incoherent. All this time I would be feeding myself images from the made-up forest in my head where I take a long walk every day and every night. Then the pieces start to fall into place, start to connect to one another.
When I have a semi-solid image in my mind that is when I pick up the pencil to make soft lines. I complete the sketch on the canvas, filling in the blanks that my imagination left open-ended. When the lines feel right then I start to paint.
While painting there are still things that could change. Small ones but may also be significant. Colour selection must be done with the same care a cook will blend flavours. The decision to add other materials such as ephemera and sparkly objects is often a spontaneous one and yet also a carefully weighed choice. As I progress through a piece I make a lot of experiments and improvisations. I occasionally make mistakes but not that often really. Once I start putting on the paint, the picture is more or less complete in my head already, and it is akin to taking down a dictation from the Muse, to put it one way. It is clean smooth line of inspiration, which I think is helped by my own clarity with the kind of art I want to make, and the images I want to manifest. It was a short process for me to accept my own style because if I dithered on that I would never have gotten anywhere at all. I am self-taught, without any formal training, and I have limited materials. If my own mind will criticise my artwork above all that then there would be no point.
So I worked on the big piece. My main challenge was whether I could manage to expand myself that much. Would I have enough to "show" on all that blank space?
It turns out I do. I did feel the stretch as I worked on this big piece but it was a good kind of stretch. It means I can do more. It means more possibilities.
I received quite a few inquiries on the piece after I posted its finished state. I've worked out a price but I've decided to hold on it for a while until the dust settles a little bit more on the art shop opening and all that. I also need to be very certain with my shipping arrangements because I do not need the added stress of delayed or missing deliveries.
So here's a visual process of the painting that I have named "Sabine". (All my artworks have female names based on saints, goddesses, mythical creatures, book characters, and the like, that resonate with me in one way or another.)
I had this perfect fantasy (don't we all?) of how it will happen for me.
And then there is now.
The art shop was not supposed to open until everything has been prepared for, planned for, perfected. I imagined perfect product shots, and a perfect selling system in place, and a perfect promotion campaign that begins with a most inspiring creative exhibit attended by friends and fellow creativity enthusiasts. I also imagined a perfectly smooth shift of business registration from my old dayjob to my dreamjob. I imagined a lump sum of capital to invest in making all the perfection manifest. Nothing big. Just enough to pay for venues, and frames, and registration fees, and of course art materials so I can keep on making, making, making. I imagined grand themes and grand stories threading through a series of collections. I imagined maybe a dozen printed copies of my first self-published book of illustrated poetry.
The art shop is open now. On an impromptu trial run. I tore down all that I had imagined and instead rebuilt something practical and immediate. Something that could stand and walk and run now. Something that will start putting me out there and bringing me back bits to live on, to keep this life alive. The reality is that there is never enough money. Not when you are a breadwinner. And no, I don't have a family of my own. I am supporting my senior-aged parents and a struggling sister. It is fortunate that having a family of my own has never been a priority for me. I like being an artist too much. Two households would have killed me in more ways than one. (Unless perhaps I married a billionaire. But anyway...)
So. The imagination was not to become a reality. I opened the shop. Almost furtively and guiltily at first. Like I was betraying a version of myself somehow. I started selling a few pieces here and there. I was mostly disappointed by many people. And I was also surprised and heart-warmed by many other people. I pushed myself into a "production" mode, to gain some traction, to coax something out of what seems like nothing. I was scared. I was thrilled. I made mistakes. Lots of mistakes. I earned money. I lost money. I learned my lessons. I worked so hard and believed so fiercely that sometimes I caught myself trembling from the overdose of hope.
Today I posted some of the pieces that I have been reserving for that dreamed-of personal exhibit (that would have been set up in one of the cafes in the neighbourhood). Last night I hurt my head working through the pricing scheme so I don't undercharge. Of course I am starting on the low range. When things start getting better I can increase my rates. For now I can only cross my fingers that anyone would even decide to spend money on what I made.
I am not putting myself down. I know I did good work. I'm thinking about the depth of resonance. A lot of people like my work in social media but do they like it enough to buy? There is too much of the intangible in what I am offering. Not everyone likes to go exploring in that part of the forest.
Suddenly there is a shop. And there is a mind-boggling number of tasks that need to be done behind the scenes. And now I am juggling those along with the making. And above me hovers the thunderclouds of uncertainty.
This is not how I imagined it would be. I was imagining it later. Unfolding with proper cues and timely turns. Graceful entrances. Not now. Yet it looks like now IS the time. And I should heed the signs and the call and do no less than what I have been imagining I would do to make it all real. This foolish dream. This forging of something new. This too-late bloom. This too-soon awkward stumble.
There is a strange mad part of me that actually wants to tell the world what's happening with me right now. But the sane part is still stronger most of the time, at least when it comes to posting anything on the internet!
I am in a new situation. New in the sense that I have never been in this stage or phase of my creative journey since I started out. What I mean is that, before, all the paths had been quite familiar and relatively safe. I had Ariadne's thread in my pocket. Now, the thread seems to have run out, and a different magic is needed. The paths are not too familiar though they hint at known Things.
It is Tuesday morning. I have to begin on a painting that will be a gift to my best friend who is visiting from Canada. I will meet her on Thursday and it will be such a boon to my spirit! But first, today, I must paint.
Then I must tend to a very long list of tasks that I made yesterday afternoon while I splurged on a very cold chocolate hojicha in a Japanese cafe. So many small things that need doing. So many big things that need money to move. So many accomplishments that are so close and yet remain untouchable.
The art shop still beats and breathes. It is an infant in an incubator. I want it to survive. I want it to grow wings. Soon. Now.
You know that scene in The Two Towers when it was almost dawn, and King Theoden rode out with what remained of his allies, ready to die, and at the last minute, the wizard arrived with the Rohirrim. And Eomer shouts, "To the King!" and the sun rose behind them, blinding their enemies, bringing victory.
Two weeks to go. The old patterns stutter. Chaos trickles in, terrifying and teeming with possibilities.
I am in between worlds. Hurtling through an eternal space where a smudge of doubt in oneself can prove fatal.
I have taken risks. Taken chances. So long. So alone.
I need a miracle.
This post is about how I have decided to price my artwork, based on two very helpful articles that came out on top of my Google search:
A Simple Formula For Pricing Artwork by Lori Woodward
How To Price A Painting by Jake Gafner
I combined elements from both articles to come up with a pricing scheme that worked with my own local context and artistic status.
I was pushed to formalise my pricing strategy after I have completed a large piece and was at a loss on how much to sell it, especially after inquiries began to pour in. I was both pleased and surprised, and then I panicked.
I started out by looking at Etsy, which has items closest to my kind of work. I narrowed my research to watercolour florals in their original forms, not prints. I found that the prices swing too wildly from one end of the spectrum to the other, and thus did not help me very much except make me feel bad about how much I have been undercharging. (One painting cost $489 and another of the same size cost $127 and still another of same size cost $25 -- all cost more than a piece of my work in the same size.)
Then I looked at the shops of my favourite artists who do similar work and thought I could maybe charge half of what they do. But being already well-established and quite popular, their price ranges, even at half, still seemed too high for a start-up like me. And it just did not feel good to say I'll charge a quarter of what they charge -- I simply started feeling too small.
So I finally Googled for articles -- which I did not do first because most articles were from the US, and the dollar conversions tended to really drive up my prices when compared to local prices. But this time I was lucky with the search results. There was a computation in one, and an acceptable price range in the other. I mixed and matched, and this is what I ended up with.
I price by square inch, but with adjustments when the piece is small (less than 80 square inches) and when the piece is big (more than 108 square inches).
I used the lowest price in the price range which is $0.25, translating to about Php12. For reference, a well-established artist like Lori Woodward (who wrote one of the articles) charges $6 per square inch. If we use that as a basis it becomes clear that I am being very reasonable.
But I used the Php12 (about $0.25) as my upper limit, which I apply to my smaller works. Smaller pieces get a slightly higher price per square inch because the small size tends to pull down the price too low, and yet a smaller piece gets as much attention, effort, and skill as a big piece.
My regular rate is Php10 (about $0.20) per square inch which I apply to my most common artwork size, which is 9 x 12 (108 square inches). Minimum size for the regular rate is 80 square inches (or 8x 10 inch paper or canvas).
For larger pieces, those more than 9 x 12 or 108 square inches, my rate is Php8 (about $0.17). Larger sizes tend to bloat the price because of the size numbers so to balance this, the rate is reduced.
The total I get then comprises my fee for the artwork -- my skills, imagination, idea, creativity, technique -- basically all the intangibles that make my art a piece of art, what makes it beautiful, what makes it resonate, what makes it capable of evoking emotions or pleasure.
Then I add to the total a percentage to cover materials:
+ 10% for pieces that use watercolours and regular inks
+ 15% for pieces that use watercolours and special inks; also for those made on canvas because canvas cost a lot more than paper
+ 20% for pieces that use mixed media (paints, inks, ephemera, beads, etc.)
I actually may lose a bit on the materials side especially for those on canvas and those in mixed media, but at this point I am not particular about it. As long as I am fairly compensated on my skills, I can write off the extra cost in materials.
When I tested the formula I came up with rates that were slightly higher than what I have been charging since I opened the shop. But still within reasonable range, now that the calculations behind them are clear.
What I will do now is keep my current prices for artworks already posted in the shop. But I will use the new prices for new pieces -- particularly for the pieces that I will put in the Enchanted Section.
I have also devised a separate rate for my simpler pieces, which, I admit, were easier and faster to do. So factoring in the time consumed in making, I am able to have an art series that are, for lack of a more glamorous word, affordable. My rates here are from Php5 to Php7 per square inch (about $0.10 to $0.14), maximum of 108 square inches. New pieces will reflect this pricing. For the simpler pieces I have waived charging for materials.
I am just starting out so I do have plans of adjusting those rates as my artwork becomes more in demand or gains more "market value". But until then, I hope this post will at least settle some wondering and questions on why art cost the way it does -- more specifically, why my art costs the way it does.
Questions or comments? Let me know your thoughts. ^_^
Thanks to David of David Beaver Art, I better understood the option of pricing by linear inch which offers a more reasonable rate of increase in price as the size of the artwork also increases.
The reference article is from The Abundant Artist.
This time I had to decide on a rate multiplier that will go for all pieces instead of adjusting per size to balance the increase. I am torn between prioritising a pricing scheme that will favour the local market, or one that will play fairly in an international market. I have been told that my current prices are very low if taken into context out of the country. I will admit that I have also been careful to make my prices friendly for local customers. In fact, I had hoped, and I was optimistic, that most of my customers would come from local customers. It would have been so much easier in so many ways to start local, get strong locally, and then expand outward. But it looks like this is not the trend for me.
The reality is that most of my recent buyers came from outside the country, whether foreigners or migrant Filipinos. So shouldn't I cater to them more than pinning my hopes upon a less reliable local market? The advantage I see here is that people from outside seem to have a better appreciation of my art style and are more willing to invest in it. So perhaps in the long run, I have a better chance of establishing myself beyond the borders of my own country.
Even then, I must leave room for growth, so I start low. For now I am thinking of a rate of Php70 (about $1.50) per linear inch. Plus a percentage for materials, from a minimum of 10%. The resulting price is certainly higher than my current prices, and likely to be either discouraging or prohibitive for local buyers. But what I realise too, is that the pricing scheme now gives a fairer chance for my bigger pieces. With the linear inch strategy, the price gaps are more reasonable between sizes.
So let's try this with these pieces :
In the previous post I mentioned having a separate rate for my simpler pieces. I think I want to have that around for a while until I have figured out more on how I want the art shop to grow. For the moment though I need to build some momentum and earn some cash to fund future projects, so I am keeping the "Everyday Art Series" which are lower-priced.
So as an example, again:
Thoughts? Questions? Violent reactions? Other suggestions?