Thursday, December 23, 2010

Creative silence

I enjoy silence. As a matter of fact as much as I enjoy visual/auditory stimulation, I am also drawn to the emptiness and silence. In those quiet moments I can hear the fizzling noise from my 7up, or I can hear the faint sound of a passing car through the closed window. One habit I kicked for good three years ago is to stop watching television. Today I can't even recognize some of those "famous" people names that everyone talks about. The noise of television and unnecessary information is being replaced with more purposeful search for meditation and silence.

In those moments when the loudest sound is the fizzling 7up in my cup, the creative thoughts and ideas come like never before. We really can't think of anything new if we are always filling our mind with what already is, or with someone else's words and thoughts. To start anything creatively, a pause is welcomed and absolutely necessary.

I am constantly being asked why I created a certain peace of art.... how do I get ideas....
I think that everyone can create and have ideas if they stop thinking about them... the art for me is more a matter of happening than thinking. The best creations are not intellectual but rather intuitive. The intuition is something that at least in my case was not nurtured very much until my adulthood.

The creative energy works the best when allowed to reign in its own unexplored direction of happenings... Once in this zone, I start loosing time. If I loose time, I am certain that I'll create something of value. It is an interesting experience that only happens in certain occasions. Little children loose time while playing, and many creative people loose time when immersed into their activity. What I mean by loosing time is that you have no idea how much time has passed since you started something. The energy draws you to finish no matter what.

I remember once I was helping with my children's school project. Even after everyone fell asleep, I continued on the project until finished. Once I finished, I was very surprised to find out that it was 5:30 AM. It felt like a blink of an eye and I was not tired one bit. It was a three-dimensional art project that involved building a model house.

For me, making art is like that three-dimensional project. I make art when I receive a surge of creative energy and it mostly happens out of a creative silence. To have a general direction is good, but to over-analyze everything is bad. Creativity is born out of silence.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Two year retrospective

It has been almost 2 years that I have actively promoted my art products with pretty good results. In retrospective, I really appreciate all the people who helped me along the way. While reflecting on all the rejection and success I have experienced, I am drawing some conclusions. One of those conclusions is that I have art that sells well. It is modern, occasionally amusing and childish and sometimes pretty crazy. The market for my product is there, and I am slowly learning how to capture that market. In two years, my paintings ended up in some of the most beautiful modern office spaces in Des Moines: Wellmark building overlooking the multi-million dollar Pappajohn sculpture garden, and Davis Brown Tower downtown. I could not be happier about that!

Being an artist is a tall order since we make product, and most product available today is made in other countries where labor is inexpensive. The American companies send really great designers to China and other countries to design fantastic products that are manufactured abroad at low cost and then imported to USA. Some of these items are pretty artsy and well made, and that makes it harder for US artists to create something that can compete, and win the consumer. A lot of imports are still poor quality and that is where handmade and US made can win the game.

I talked to more experienced artists - ones that have been full time artists for 20+ years. There was a time in America when an artist was able to make a living with their art. Today, it is very hard, for many impossible.

We also have a bunch of artists and creative people who are trying to motivate our shoppers to buy local. In my experience supporting local model is not working, and it is a very poor business plan. Since the consumer is the one ultimately deciding, prices play a big role on what is being chosen and purchased in every area, including fine art. Those artists who kid themselves with keeping the prices of 2005, find that the work is harder to sell then ever. The ones that negotiate and reduce costs a bit, do better.

When I run into obstacles, I don't blame any one reason for my problems. The obstacles are only there to teach us to become better at whatever we are doing. Therefore I try to always think how can I create better art, be more engaging and original, how can I offer better, safer value to the art consumers.

It is entirely possible that we overspend our time and resources on marketing to the wrong audience. While operating an art gallery in a declining mall, I have learned that who you market to is even more important than how much energy you spend in doing so. It takes some time to find that target audience, and I think that art audience will grow on-line.

My buyers range from a teenager to a retiree; it is a very broad range. Usually people who choose my art are pretty sophisticated and have quite a bit of cultural exposure. My first collector is a retired man from New York, where he spent most of his adult life. He gave me a lot of confidence to continue without changing what I think my art should be about. These individuals that supported me in the past two years are invaluable for my growth and future success. These art buyers have laid a foundation where I'll build my artistic brand for many years, or as long as the creativity muse sits on my shoulders and whispers in my ear.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The matter of experience - message to artists

I run a cooperative style gallery that features local artists for a little over a year. During this time, we experienced ups and downs, successes and disappointments. I consider this gallery to be a training ground for the one I want to accomplish in the future. If somebody gave me good start-up capital to do this the way I though it needs to happen, I would miserably fail. Learning how art galleries work is complex and it takes time, lots of time. Sometimes more time than I have.

During my tenure I have dealt with everything from a hobbyist artist to a professional with 30 years of experience under their belt. All these artists allowed me to learn from them and pick up bits and pieces of what it takes to make it in art. Also, they helped me define my own success in this field.

Since art is not something people necessarily need (like a toothpaste or food), it is difficult to sell. Art is a discretionary purchase that many people are not accustomed to. Especially here in Midwest, it is viewed as frivolous and there isn't much culture of art consumption. Therefore we are really catering to a very small percent of population, the sophisticated crowd. These people are difficult to reach. Even if you can paint a Mona Lisa per day, if you don't have access to a buyer it won't matter how good is your art.

Instead of catering only to those rich folks who don't ask how much is something they truly like, most artists produce art that is accessible and in low price ranges. Many nice pieces of art are available for less than $100 in today's economy. The people who buy inexpensive art are very price sensitive, and they show difference in purchasing behavior for as little as five dollars. For this group, which is the greater majority, the trick is to price art to the market. This is the main point where artists fail. Most artists tend to overprice their work and therefore don't sell anything.

If you receive consistent compliments about your art, organize art openings and shows, if your art is made well, there should be no reason that you can't sell it. The major reason we don't is because it is too expensive to the people who have all kinds of bills and worries.

There is something very valuable I have learned from art veterans. They have made tons and tons of art that nobody wanted to buy. As time went along, those veterans have specialized to make a line of artwork that is proven to sell at a given low price point. This lower priced line artists call their "bread and butter". Anything that you can sell a lot of is beneficial. The other group of items is upscale, expensive kind and artists don't sell a lot of these more expensive items but occasionally they do. The good combination of products seems to be the most successful.

The best advice I would give to any artist starting out is to 1. make a lot of art because not all art will sell, 2. learn what is their artistic niche and 3. price reasonably. The most common mistake is pricing your art as much as you see in some established art gallery. Those art galleries have access to buyers that you don't. Artists who enter the gallery system receive a glorified status, and their art may not be any better than yours.

If I look over my portfolio, almost every painting had a buyer at some point but many buyers have passed them because of the price. And that is OK. We don't have to make our art affordable to everybody. There are pieces that I am emotionally attached to, and to me they are worth more. Every artist knows when a piece turns out exceptionally well, and those pieces will be your premium product.

I hope this helps a bit, and don't hesitate to ask questions (if you have any). Good night!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Desk Calendar 2011

I have created this exceptionally fun calendar with a different mini-painting featured each month. The calendar sits on the desk, and a new card flips over for each month. Made on high quality glossy paper.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Skills required to be an artist

Our society doesn't value all professions fairly and equally. We can blame it on economic laws or try to justify the reasons, but the reality is that not every career pays equally for your skills or efforts. Let's examine the case of a fine artist.

First of all, a fine artist (e.g. painter) must be a person capable of creating something that is appealing or intriguing enough that somebody wants to own. For this, some people have a lot of talent and many pursue art education. Creating works of art that other people want to own is not an easy task. The art creation requires the following:
  • Knowledge of a particular medium, and learning how to effectively manipulate it;
  • Experimenting with different techniques until finding your niche;
  • Strong conceptual and technical skills to achieve intended results; Etc..
However, once this one-of-a-kind product is created, the fine artist goes to market the work in order to find the buyer for it. Here is where all the other skills come into play. While I was just painting and didn't market my art, I had far less skills.

What are some of the new skills I have developed since I started marketing and selling art?
  • Learned how to take good photographs of my art, how to crop the image and present it in high quality on-line;
  • Learned how to write on-line content, including blogging and social media;
  • Developed my own web site, learned how to insert paypal buttons;
  • Learned how to use widgets and set up syndicated content;
  • Learned how to launch advertising campaigns and how important it is to market your work daily;
  • Discovered how expensive it is to bring your art to the market, especially to apply and participate in art shows;
  • PR skills via participation in media interviews to include newspaper and television;
  • Held educational classes and participated in public speaking presenting the work;
  • Participated in art grants jury that effectively convinced me that grant writing should be a major in college;
  • Learned how to write effective proposals and win commissions;
  • Learned how to negotiate and price products;
  • Learned how to merchandise and display products in an appealing fashion;
  • Learned how to design and launch marketing campaigns;
  • Learned to deal with daily rejection but to keep going;
  • Learned how to do my own sales tax and keep track of expenses;
  • Learned how to package and ship artwork;
  • Learned that outdoor art shows are not that much fun;
  • Learned to be harassed by requests for donations;
  • Learned to network, collaborate and support other artists;
  • Learned to live with very little money.
This is, in a nutshell what it takes to be an artist. Did I forget something?

Monday, October 18, 2010


Once upon a time there was a little farm. If you never visited Iowa, this is how it approximately looks like :) While I don't think Iowa is all that interesting, many people here love these minimalist landscapes. Perhaps if I was a smarter artist, I'd dedicate myself to landscapes instead of my completely crazy abstract body of work. At least I know that I am pretty versatile, but my artistic vision is to create things that are beautiful and interesting.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Should you negotiate art prices?

Art negotiations, are they appropriate? Well, yes, anything can be negotiated down - even art.
However, there is a proper way to do this, and here is how.

Today, art is sold in many different ways: direct from artist, art shows, artist web page, physical galleries, on-line galleries, e-bay, etsy, auctions etc. To negotiate a piece is fine, although it can feel uncomfortable for someone to ask, artists are already used to people haggling prices.

Keep in mind that most artists have some kind of method of pricing their art, and what they price it is a clear reflection of time, materials and investment that they dedicated to the piece. Just because you think artist should get a certain price for something, it doesn't mean the artist will sell it at the price that you think is fair. Usually, artists accumulate a lot of work, and once time has passed and they have a piece for too long, they may be willing to negotiate.

Let's say the painting is priced at $800. And, let's say you can only pay $650. Here are some scenarios that I have experienced and what works the best:

* You buy art outright without negotiation. You swallow the $150 you thought the item is overpriced, but didn't want to offend the artist. This is when you are entering Artist's Hall of Fame Collector status, and that is great. Thank you!

* You tell the artist that the price is more than you can afford at this time. The artist can't do anything about that. Complaining that you can't afford something will not reduce your price. In all reality if you can't afford the tip, you shouldn't go to the restaurant. Same with art: save your money until you can afford it. This negotiation ended badly and you didn't receive any reduction in price.

* You tell the artist that you love their work and would like to eventually own something of theirs. The artist will be thrilled to hear that, and may even ask you what do you like most. You may want to say that you love a specific piece and that you are planning to purchase it. In this situation most artists will offer you a little discount on the spot to help you afford it. Artists motivation, believe it or not is not necessarily to make money. We want to make enough money to keep going. But, primary motivation is to create beauty that is shared with other people. When you love something, you deserve to have it.

* You decide to enter straight negotiations. Since you want to pay $150 less for the piece in question, you start bidding with the artist. So, for a piece that is $800 you ask if the artist would take $500? Well, now that is called low balling. Remember, the artist knows best how much the piece is worth. You will most likely be turned down here because you not only treat art like it is a used car, but you are offending this artist by not respecting their product and their prices. Remember the last article where we talked about artist income.

* You like the piece, look at the tag and you ask the artist what would be a discount on the piece if you purchased it today. Now, this is possibly the best way to negotiate art because now the artist is motivated to move the piece and will offer you a discount. If what they offer is not enough you walk away from the piece. That is a classy way to do it. At this point, don't ask for an even deeper discount. Just walk away. If you received a satisfactory discount, go through with your purchase. Just remember, the piece may not be there the next time.

So, there you have it. Art negotiations in a nutshell. Hope it helps you acquire your valuable art collection. Happy art shopping!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Village of Ponderosa Art Show

Signing up for an October outdoor show in Iowa was risky. However, as unpredictable Iowa weather can be, we had 80 degree weather, and the ArtFest was enjoyable. I have met many great artist and these events, although being very hard work, can create some wonderful friendships.

I brought in a mixture of small and big art and a mix of two year worth creations.
The ProPanels worked really well and provided a wonderful backdrop for my magical booth.
The art is like fireworks: most people want to see it, but they don't really want to pay for it.

As an artist tending my booth I have heard all kinds of stories. One engineer explained to me why he decided to not become an artist although he had interest in music. Good for him! Another person asked me if I painted all those by myself, which was obvious. Many people made great comments, some of them made purchases that helped me justify all the effort.

Every new sale is a new thrill because it opens up a new opportunity to create something else in its place. I have worked long and hard to create all the artwork and have come to understand some things about art, artists and art consumption during this event. I realized that I am already wealthy since my focus in life is creating fun and beauty. Being successful in art means that I can succeed at anything.

The art buyers are those individuals who have a wealth mindset. They don't dwell on pettiness of trying to figure out if they are getting their money worth. No product made in America can compete with cheapness of imports. Fine Art belongs into that category and artists unfortunately can't charge Walmart prices. Therefore, people who buy original art are simply those who don't believe into scarcity, who don't have a "I can't afford that!" symptom that is so pervasive in this society.

Artists on the other hand finance the art shows by paying booth fees, and it is really tough if they don't sell enough to at least cover the expenses of the show. These events can be a mix of excitement and disappointment. Everybody puts their heart and soul into creating the work and hauling the merchandise to entertain the masses. Artists are really unpaid entertainers and I can't help but think that people should pay a nominal fee to see the art. Since they are not so eager to buy, $5 per person entry fee would at least help defray some of the cost. Everyone should have fun on these events, and that includes artists and exhibitors, don't you agree?

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Color pigments

As an artist, I love experimenting with specialty paint and intense pigments. Everybody knows that original art carries a truer, deeper, more luminescent pigment than any print or reproduction ever produced. The artist paint is expensive, made by having some kind of a medium immersed with variety of pigments. In the past artists have mixed their pigments that many times come in a powdery form and have risked their health and well-being. Today, we are lucky to have a wide range of availability of premixed paint.

Have you ever desired a specific color art and was wondering why is it so hard to find? For one, most artists having financial difficulties tend to compromise when buying their paint colors. Burgundy is for example 2-3 times cheaper than Maroon pigment. On the list of expensive ones are Teal, Deep Red, some interference and metal pigments like gold. Generally speaking the more toned down the color looks, the less expensive the paint. Whites and grays tend to be inexpensive as well as black. The more you move into cadmium based spectrum (intense yellow, orange, red), the more expensive the paint. The reason: different pigments are being used in producing different color paints. The higher the pigment price, the costlier the paint.

Therefore, when artist prices their work, they not only price in the work and canvas, but also what kinds of paints were used in the project. No two pigments are the same, and some paint costs a lot more than other. I've bought jars of paint that cost couple hundred dollars. Since I am very generous in my applications, the paint goes quickly, very quickly.

Did you know this? Different paint colors have vastly different price points. Find me a true teal piece of art, or a rich red piece, and I'll tell you that it must be expensive.

Monday, May 10, 2010

My old drawing

I found my old drawing/painting of Lady Lara Croft. This was the time when we played this video game a lot - a time when I was really young. Here my drawing will be saved on the web, well, as long as this blog exists... I have no idea where this work ended up...

Friday, April 9, 2010

One piece of classic art "The Rivals"

If there was one painting that I keep thinking about; well, there probably are plenty; yet, this particular one is beautifully interesting. I think what makes it so unique is intense red color, considering that during the Munkacsy's era, there were no strong synthetic paint colors.

Perhaps they just did a great job framing this one as gold and red are way classic combination. There is simply something unusual about this painting; perhaps the tropical palm was not common in households, or the fact that there is a painting within a painting, or, perhaps figuring out who the rivals are.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Home Paint - A personal view

As a fine art painter, I've been through experimenting with many brands of artist paints and there are huge differences between brands. Ultimately I've learned to only purchase my favorite brand, American-made GOLDEN paint, which comes with the high price tag as well.

As a painter I am happy with my choice after much experimentation with acrylics. There are other good brands but the one I like the most is Golden! It has brilliant pigment, many choices, applies beautifully and smells pleasant.

When it comes to home paint, the same principles apply. Over the years I've painted with many different types of home paint and after many painted walls in my two homes I found my favorite - Ralph Lauren home paint! Boy, was I excited when I found out how beautiful this paint works on my walls. It started with a paint chip from Home Depot and I decided to buy couple of gallons to paint a room. Since then I never looked back and only wanted to use RL paint.

In the past I have used other Home Depot brands. The one that is pushed on the consumer the most is Behr paint, that in my many experiences can be OK paint but nowhere close to the properties and behavior of RL. Comparatively speaking Behr cost more than RL once I account for things like quality of pigments, uniformity of coverage, dripping etc. I refuse to use Behr any longer. My standard has increased and my heart set on RL!

Last night I made a trip to Home Depot to choose some white shades in my favorite brand and was disappointed to find out that Home Depot is no longer carrying Ralph Lauren. Instead, RL is being replaced by Martha Stuart! Martha Stuart was selling her stuff at Kmart for years and now is going after one of the biggest home improvement chains. I have nothing to say about her paint, but I honestly doubt that I am willing to try it, especially because she pushed out my favorite.

I also found out that Behr is now a lot more costly because it is renamed to be ultra premium, and apparently now contains primer mixed inside the paint so that it covers better. Compared to approximately $22 per gallon that it used to be, Behr is now priced at around $32. Nice price increase! Home Depot also has some green paint that costs around $37 per gallon. I like the idea of this no VOC paint but again, I am not sure I want to try at my own expense.

So, now I am grieving the loss of RL availability and waiting for their customer service to call me back and tell me where can I now get it!

The point that I want to get across is that our consumerist society buys products without much scrutiny to their quality. Whomever has the biggest marketing budget and the glossiest label wins! It is not about what is inside the can, but what is being pushed at people.

If I fail at finding RL dealer locally, I'll explore Sherwin Williams, Benjamin Moore and other reputable home paint lines. I simply refuse to be forced into using Behr or trying Martha because my favorite is no longer there!