I suppose that it’s suffice to say that I became more proficient and was in time successful in locating galleries, and juried exhibitions. I was also quick to realize that in order to survive it was imperative that one produce a lot of work.
It’s not enough to produce a dozen, or so, paintings in a year and expect that sales from these paintings are going to see you through the year. Well maybe, but only if you’re famous, one of the few artists who are at the cutting edge of creativity, and are promoted by a high end gallery. Reality is that most artists, those with a bit of reputation, receive less than a couple of thousand dollars for their (major) paintings and after applying the gallery commission (40%), framing, and other related expenses, the net profit is less than a thousand dollars. So, you get lucky and of the dozen, or so, paintings that you’ve produce you sell 6 or seven. I’ll let you do the math.
To survive solely as an artist one has to realize early on that he, or she, must retain greater control over sales, and must have a multiple, such as a photo-mechanical reproduction, or be capable of producing original prints. Truth be known, most full time artists have financial support either from a spouse, or a patron of sorts, or are participants in a national artist grant program.
For the first few years of my working as an artist I relied heavily upon exhibiting at festivals as much as possible. I worked incessantly at producing original prints (multiple originals), and watercolour paintings. Despite my efforts, for the first few years, all that I was able to do was to break even. I didn’t suffer a loss, but I didn’t end up with much profit. Expenses were enormous.
It’s generally thought that working as an artist involves little cost, a few tubes of paint, some brushes, paper, a few frames, and you’re all set. Not so. Since I was producing original prints I required a printing press and associated materials such as printmaking paper, oil based inks, tools, and so on. Making paintings and drawings was a little less expensive, watercolour, acrylic, and oil paints, watercolour paper(s), canvas, masonite boards, many brushes, as well as other drawing materials.
And then there were frames of various sizes, as many as 50, and at times as many as 100. I made an attempt to cut down the framing expense investing in a mat cutter, a supply of matboard, and framing materials. As to why I required so many frames, I had paintings and prints out on consignment at many galleries, and needed additional frames for work exhibited, in the studio, at various exhibitions, and festivals.
Then there was the expense of setting up various work areas throughout my home that had become my studio. Tables and easels were required. Cameras and lenses were required. In time I purchased a computer. Then there was lighting for the studio gallery space, and so on.
Transportation was a huge expense. For the first couple of years I made do with a Volkswagen with the back seat removed. I later traded this vehicle for a van.
There were travelling expenses, gasoline, vehicle maintenance, hotels and food.
Fees……..exhibiting isn’t cheap. Most festivals charged a fee, and then charged a percentage on sales.
I’ll skip ahead a few years……..Eventually I tired of attending festivals and leaving my work at galleries, I actually built an addition on my home, a studio gallery. I now had (almost) complete control over my sales. All that I had to do now was to advertise and customers would flock to my studio. I’m kidding, of course.
And then there’s the need to project who you are and what you stand for, subject matter for another time. For the moment here are a few more slides of older work that I’ve digitally scanned.
Downy Woodpecker Watercolour Painting
Heading South (Canada Geese) Pencil Study
Mates - Canada Geese Watercolour Painting
Drake Mallard Watercolour Painting
Island - Georgian Bay Etching
Queen Anne's Lace Watercolour Painting
Red-breasted Nuthatch on a Birch Stump Watercolour Painting