You don’t learn about Business in Art School. Part 2


Flourishes don't just end up in the right place by Magic. You have to make them.

Flourishes don’t just end up in the right place by Magic. You have to make them.

LESSON ONE! You need to charge enough to make a reasonable life for yourself. Period. DO NOT look at the bottom line for the project and compare it to what you can afford. You are not the client. You have no idea what value they put on your work. If you put a very low value on the project, your client will not appreciate the bargain they got. They will assign you a low value. After all, you did.

I had no idea what I was doing. How do you figure out what to charge? OH MY HEAVENS! People won’t pay that much! If only I’d known.

Market research? What’s that? I’ve spent a lot of time and energy looking at how I charge for my work. You should too.

The good news is that I’d had a business before. Clothing repair. I had a price list.  Hemming. Replace Zipper. Sew on buttons. Etc. Hey, I was 12. It was good practice. I never wanted to babysit or wait tables. Not that there’s anything wrong with those jobs either. Just not for me.

Working from home on Calligraphy projects, I made every single mistake in the “book”. If only I’d known there was a book. If only I would have read it. What, you may ask is this “book”? It’s a Metaphor. OK? It’s all of the books about business that you don’t want to read. It’s learning about business. One lesson at a time. Hopefully before you’ve been bitten in the ass enough times that you can’t sit down anymore.

By this time I was working at a furniture store doing layouts for ads. At least I was drawing…furniture…for ads. I hated my boss. He was an unreasonable jerk. I was being treated as a “Pile On”. If you don’t know what that is, then you may very well be one. I learned about this from “What men don’t tell women about business: opening up the heavily guarded alpha male playbook.” by Christopher Flett. Women, and maybe men too, you should get this book and read it, NOW.  Thanks Mr. Flett. You taught me a lot. A “Pile On” is someone that wants to be seen as “nice” and will accept any unreasonable task piled on to her (usually) desk.

Well, that job didn’t last long. Time to put it on the line and claim my own business. I was strongly motivated. And you. You’re an artist, right? You need to spend your time honing technique, right? Business is for those button-down types and that’s not you, right?  If you’ve got someone who can support you while you create, that’s amazing. You should appreciate how lucky you are. Otherwise, you’d better learn how to make it pay.


You don’t learn about Business in Art School

As a Calligrapher and Watercolor Painter, I’ve made my living for the last 40 years, and supported my family, doing what I love and getting paid for it. I’ll be offering information to other Artists that just might make the path easier.    -Riva Brown

You love to Paint, right? Or build Ceramics? Or carve Marble? You’ve educated yourself in these skills. You have not learned anything about Business. You are an Artist, right? Business is for them. You are most assuredly not one of them. You’re an Artist, right? You shouldn’t even have to think about this stuff. But, let me tell you….you have to think about this stuff. Because a funny thing happens. At some point you want to go out into the world and earn your money as an Artist. And there you stand with your mad skills on how to paint a Painting or build in Ceramics. And you, my friend, are completely f**ked. You might be a married person who has always been the stay-at-home partner and now you have no idea how to earn a dollar for yourself. Or, you might be a college graduate with no idea how to pay for your next meal or put a roof over your head. Now your options include something like

1. Remain dependent. You don’t actually have to earn a living…lucky you.

2. Join the Military, a real option for younger folks.

3. Hire on to any job you can find where your Art School skills will at least not get in the way. Great. A degree in Oil Painting and now you’re a Greeter at Walmart.

4. Hustle your Artwork to anyone you can think of. Any way you can think of. Imagine if you’d taken a class that helped you to prepare to do just that? At this point you don’t even know what you don’t know. Who do you to talk to and where are they? What collateral material do you need? What the heck is collateral material? How do you make a plan to attack these things? When will you do these things and still have time to paint?


BUSINESS CARD AND BIO SHEET. Why? Let’s say you’re going to approach a Gallery owner. You do not have a Business Card. So you fumble around looking for pen and paper to leave them contact information. And you do too want to leave them contact information. Without a Business Card, you ask them for a piece of paper…because you didn’t bring any paper….and write your contact information down by hand, hopefully legibly, while they roll their eyes. Don’t forget anything! You.. do.. not.. look.. professional.

SELF IMAGE.  What image do you want to project when you go? Professional? Artsy? Left of center? Slightly insane? Totally Psychotic? If you don’t choose how you want to look but instead you head out in whatever you happen to be wearing, what impression will you leave? If you wear your Painting Clothes will you look Artsy or Homeless?

DO YOUR RESEARCH. You can actually visit the gallery before you try to pitch the owners. Look at the work. Jot down the names of artists whose work is similar to yours and call them to ask about their experience with the gallery. Go online. Find out what kind of art the Gallery represents. Make sure your work is a good match for their offering. Find out the names of the Gallery Owners and the staff members. Look at their pictures. Be able to greet these people by name when you go in.

YOU’RE IN THIS FOR THE LONG HAUL. Don’t get frustrated by your first efforts. I once had to contact a gallery owner…who liked me…7 times before he agreed to show my work. It wasn’t meanness. Professionals are busy. Don’t take it personally.