Selina's Recent Author Blog Posts at

Selina's Recent Art Blog Posts at

Monday, August 8, 2011

Where you can find me

At some stage in my online-life, I've tried so many different blog options and social networks. Blogger here is one of them which I just never quite took to.

So, as you can see by the old dates on the posts below, and probably even this post, I am not exactly active here.

Where am I active? Facebook and Twitter are my main day-to-day online activity. You can find the links to them on the right.

I also blog infrequently on my official website about art related things.

I blog more frequently on my author website about books, writing, and other general thoughts. Also news about my young adult novel, "Memory's Wake", any sales, competitions, or news about upcoming releases are posted there too.

Links from the feeds of both these sites are above, so you can check out my most recent posts.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Arts Career- how to educate and add value!

Last week I had a little rant about pricing products as a business. I'd love to see artists and crafters charging what they deserve (and NEED!) to charge for their fine work! But this of course raised a lot of other issues. So as an artist, if we start charging more for our art, how do we get people to pay more? Here are my thoughts on this, and a few other related things!
Art is a Unique Commodity- There's a lot of art out there at the moment. But unless someone is directly copying your work (which does sadly happen!), your art is YOURS and no one else out there has that to offer. If someone falls in love with one of your paintings, and you're charging say $50 for a print of it, they can't turn up their nose and go, well, I'm going to go and buy it off that artist who sells prints for $8. They can't, the other artist doesn't have YOUR work.
This is good! But there is also bad! While you're not in direct competition with other artists, the other artist might have something else that customer might like. And customers will sometimes compromise on their favourite to get something a bit cheaper, there's no doubting that. Particularly when the other artists work might be a bit similar.
What do you do?
Quality and Innovation- Firstly, differentiate yourself and your product. Create something that is of a level of quality and innovation to stand out from among the masses. Too many people painting fairies? Paint fairy cats! (Waves to Tigerpixie!). Too many people doing Pet portraits? Do ASCI art pet portraits (I've seen someone doing this, it's cool!). Expand your artist horizons, explore what your inner artistic drive is capable of and loves doing!
Be the best you can be- I see some artists who never stop bemoaning their lack of sales and desire for more customers. But at the same time, I never see these same artists bemoaning their lack of skills in their craft and desire to be better. Most artists whose art or craft I admire, who I see succeeding and improving all the time are neurotic at best about their skills. We never feel good enough, we are always trying to improve, we are always challenging ourselves and living through the torture of not meeting our expectations of where we want our skill level to be. Of having to learn a bit at a time, learn through our mistakes as well as our successes. This may sound overly dramatic, but when people talk about the "tortured soul of an artist", this is where the truth of that statement is for me, personally, in that drive to always be BETTER! So be better, improve your art. It is, after all, your number one commodity!
Learn what makes art GOOD- Ok, this is a seriously touchy subject. Some people will defend to the teeth the concept that ALL art is good simply by being ART and being created by an artistic soul. I wonder whether these people are as quick to defend those modern artists that use dead cat heads in their art as they are to defend the amateur artist who they call friend? There are certain things that by design, by our culture and by our very biology make something visually appealing... or not. It doesn't mean style or genre or how deep or lovely your concept is. It's about values, composition, colour choices. There is a science behind the image that every artist should understand. Some artists are blessed with an eye and talent to creating perfect compositions innately, but EVEN THEY should understand and be aware of the science behind it. Study it, learn it. Never stop learning.
Educate the Customer- Your work takes a certain skill and vision that is unique to you, it takes time, energy, care and when someone else can see and appreciate that the resulting product or artwork will have greater value than any mass produced item. Show people how you work. Show how you never stop learning! Explain how you find your inspiration, the lengths you go to researching your craft. Tell them about the grand design and theme of the artwork. Why do you think abstracts that have pages and pages of frou frou outlining the artists motivation for the artwork sell for thousands? People want to fall in love with an artwork, they want to feel an emotional response and personal connection to it, and the artist who created it. Artists succeed through personal contact. Yes, you need to always be professional, but also just be yourself! People want to know the real you. Building real relationships with customers can turn them from a casual viewer into a buyer and collector, as well as a friend. :)
Don't be a boring commercial break- No one likes blatant advertising. When you're trying to explain to people the value of your craft, focus on the BENEFITS the artwork or item has for them, not it's features. That artwork there? It's 50cm by 50cm in size... yeah who cares... Will it look great on my wall and make everyone who comes into my home jealous?? Yes it will! There's the benefit! That necklace is made of silver and glass. Great, whatever. But did you also know it will be an awesome conversation starter and accentuates your.... er... eyes... yes, your eyes. Benefit!!!!
Still include the details and features, of course, people want to know these things, but they aren't the where the VALUE is.
Offer alternatives- If a customer loves an image, they don't always mind what format they get it in. If they can't afford a $50 print, maybe a $5 greeting card will do it, and yes, let them know they can frame the card! Or wait, if they want the print, how about lay away options? Or be even more innovative. Start a prints club for customers. I read about this one in the Artists Marketing 101 handbook (I think! It's still packed away so I can't check). It's a neat concept of charging a subscription fee to customers monthly, for which they get to pick an art print to receive each month... or save up to receive an original... at the same time as receiving other perks like newsletters, etc. However you want to work it! People can often feel better about expenses when it just *poofs* out of their account a little bit every month.
Be a pro- Being professional isn't about the $$$'s you make or just throwing the word around. It's about all the things I discussed above, and more. It's pushing your mind to greater limits, behaving respectfully, being innovative, always learning, researching, studying! Do you think I wrote all this by pulling it out of my... hat? Nope. I learned it from books and other websites and experience. I spend large amounts of my time still learning. I've been learning this business for almost TEN YEARS now. And I still feel like an amatuer in every way, not fit to run a business, lol! But I know I'm always getting better, slowly and steadily, in both my art, and my sales!

So, those are my random art career thoughts of the week. One day I'll try and structure my little rants some more... maybe start from the beginning or something useful ;)

Friday, December 4, 2009

Thoughts on Pricing Art Products

There is this phenomena I have experienced myself, and day to day, see artists around me who are trying to build a career experiencing.
It's that "No matter how hard I work, I never seem to get ahead! Where does all the money go?" issue. You know the one.
I don't get it as much anymore, these days, and the reason why is that I've PROPERLY worked out the costs behind all of my products, and am now pricing my items accordingly! Yes, a lot of my products are a bit more expensive now than similar products available from other artists, but the simple truth is that they are underpricing themselves, and shooting themselves, and their careers in the foot. It's easy to do, and as a start up artist it's not such a terrible thing because you can normally subsidise your business from some other employment to keep it afloat. But the minute the change from "hobby" to "business" starts to happen, and those "Why aren't I making any money?" worries pop up, it starts to become a very serious problem.
I remember when I first started out selling merchandise of my art. How do I price things? What's fair? Well, first thing you do is go and see what everyone else is selling that sort of item for. You price based on the market around you. So, lets use fridge magnets for an example. I see others selling fridge magnets for about $3 a pop. Great, I think. If the magnet itself costs me maybe 0.80 or so cents in materials to make, I'm ahead right? So you go with the flow.
Everything is ok for a while, then you start selling products wholesale because stores want to stock them. Retail stores generally EXPECT and demand a 50% discount. They have their expenses they need to meet, and need that 50% profit to cover their expenses and make some money too.
So now I'm selling the same magnet for $1.50. Still making money right? No, actually, we're not.
We've missed a step along the way, a very important step. We haven't considered out costs properly. Just looking at material costs is a tiny fraction of the picture.
Let's have a look at the numbers closely.
We're selling the magnet at $1.50 wholesale.
Material costs are around .80c, leaving us .70c left.
In my business, I have to charge 10% tax on all goods, so that's another .15c gone, leaving us .55c
Waste- it happens. If 1 in 10 magnets is a bust for whatever reason, that's 10% of the material costs on top, so another .08c off, leaving us 47c.
I use sales reps for some of my sales, who take a 15% cut of the profits, so that's another .22c gone, leaving us .25c.
If the sale goes through paypal, they take maybe another 3% of the total, leaving us .21c.
Labour, yes, you absolutely must account for labour. What happens when you want to start employing someone to do it for you? If it only takes 1minute to make a magnet at a reasonable $16 an hour average labour rate, that's .26c labour cost....
Looks like we're down to -5c now. So we're losing .5c every time we sell a magnet...
In my situation, I also have other artists I need to pay a % sales commission to... where is that going to come from?
And all year long in my business I have to buy packaging supplies for posting, pay for advertising, buy art supplies, service printers, pay for all these other expenses that don't directly pay for themselves like product materials do. All these day to day running expenses have to be paid for somehow. You need to be making enough profit with each and every sale to cover all those other day to day expenses of running a business. Every product you sell should make you a CLEAN profit (after all those other expenses for the product itself I just talked about!) of at least 30%, or you're in the red and your business will never get ahead.
I look around the internet, from the amazing handcrafts on Etsy to beautiful jewellery and art prints coming from fellow fantasy artists around me, all selling for a pittance, and I want to grab people and shake them and yell "You're paying other people to take your work!!!!"
Because this is what so many actually are doing, at the prices they sell at. Not only are they undervaluing their product, they are undervaluing their ART. The artwork we create as a thriving and inspired fantasy and fairy art community (and other genres as well out there!) is a beautiful, unique thing of GREAT VALUE. And we need to start treating it as such, before I see any more of my collegues out their wring their hands in financial stress and say "I just can't do it anymore, I'm it giving up", and give up not only the business, but the art itself. That's the saddest thing I have seen happen, on more than one occasion.
Our fans and customers might love a bargain, but they probably also don't want to see us sell ourselves out of business.
Someone told me once, when someone buys an art print from you, they aren't paying you for the paper, or the ink. They are paying your for an artwork. An image they've fallen in love with. As artists, we need to stop charging for the price of the paper, and start charging for the price of our art.

Monday, November 23, 2009

My art around the world.

I like to keep records of where my art gets sent! My orders program actually makes it pretty easy, and I was suprised to see my "country count" has gone up to 36 countries that people have ordered my art from now!
My art has been ordered by people in: Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Swizterland, China, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Spain, Finland, France, UK, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Korea (South!!), Latvia, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Phillipines, Poland, Peurto Rico, Portugal, Romania (one actually went to Transylvania!!! One of the best *order filling* days of my life, hehee), Seychelles (which I'd honestly never heard of before, and I thought I was ok with geography!), Sweden, Singapore, Thailand, South Africa, and good ol' USA.
I feel like in Pokemon... must collect them all! I'm always excited when an order from a country I haven't sent to before pops up!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

New Art- Arianrhod

Another artwork finished! It's nice to be painting again. This one was fun, because to get that really vibrant background, it's a case of throwing as much paint on as the paper will hold! I played with thick, wet in wet washes, spattering, and pastels to create the nebula feel. I think I originally intended to base it more precisely on "The witches nebula" but it evolved on it's own as it went... soooo.... just gave up after a while. The stars above her head though are the constellation of Corona Borealis.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

New Art- Nemetona

I'm starting to get back into painting again, I've got SO MANY artworks I have to get done for my next card deck with Lucy Cavendish.
Here's another just ticked off the list. This is Nemetona. She is the goddess of the grove, so I really wanted to portray her as almost dryad like, but still being "human" formed, and combine that with fairies and the tree of life symbol!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Home from Holidays

Hey everybody, I just got home from my trip to Vietnam! Feeling some major jet lag right now, so I'm making this quick just to say I'm home and it's good to be home! The trip was awesome and I'm planning on getting some photos online this week to share, along with some stories of our adventures :) There were typhoons, mermaid caves, landslides, the butterfly spotted emerald waters of Halong Bay... More later ;)
Today, tomorrow I am mostly relaxing and cleaning and catching up at home, then monday is diving right back into work again, got some awesome things on the to-do list to share!

PS: 2010 Calendars are in stock and will be listed online tomorrow!!