Today’s podcast is short and sweet. I’ll be talking about ways to save money on art supplies. I’ll start with the short list and then go into a little more detail before wrapping things up with a refresher.
Before you go shopping for art supplies, get yourself the 40% off coupons for Michaels or Hobby Lobby--Unless you’re a Humanist, in which case you’ll only shop at Michaels because Hobby Lobby is, sadly, owned by people who don’t support women’s rights. If you have more than one item to purchase consider shopping with friends so they can purchase some items on your behalf using their own coupons. If you’re a student, a teacher, or a veteran remember to ask if there’s any discounts available for you. Lowes offers discounts to Veterans and Artisans offers discounts to students and teachers.
Look for specials at Art Supply stores. Before you go to the store do a search for the name of the store you’re shopping at plus the word “coupons”. Especially for major chains like Michaels, you’ll find a plethora of deals and discounts running. Print these out before you go.
Consider locations other than art supply stores to purchase some of your items. If you check the paint section of hardware stores like Lowes and Home Depot, you can often find mis-tinted paint available at discount prices. Look for locations that resell household goods, here in Albuquerque we have Green Sheen Paint and ReStore— both of which carry used and recycled paint. Use Craigslist. You can create a free account and log in. Then do a search for exactly what you hope to find, like “paint” or “picture frames”. Once the search is just the way you want it select the option to receive email notifications on that search. This way whenever “paint” or “picture frames” are posted for sale you’ll be notified.
Join Free stuff and trade groups on Facebook Harbor Freight is another great location to purchase some of the tools you need for less. Don’t forget to check for items at Dollar Stores too, and Thrift stores. You’d be amazed what you might come across in the Dollar Store. I’ve found boxes, picture frames, photo albums that work for prints, handy clips, markers, containers, and even displays at The Dollar Store.
If you’re shopping online, do a search for “apps to price compare and find coupon codes”. The one I’ve personally used and enjoyed is Honey, it works on Google Chrome. Honey automatically searches for coupon codes and applies the best deals it finds to your cart at checkout. To use Honey, go to joinhoney.com. To save money on shipping look for bulk deals online and always order in bulk. You can also coordinate with fellow artists and teachers on bulk orders to purchase items for less and save on shipping. You can get great bulk deals on some supplies at Uline.com--They carry shipping boxes, cardboard backing, and clear-bags you can use to prepare your prints for sale. This is also a great way to order shop towels and gloves.
If you purchase specialty items like Art Resin, write to the company and ask them if they offer bulk discounts to professionals. Art Resin does. They’ll send you a form to fill out your business information and then you can place your bulk order with them via email.
Also search for art supplies on Ebay. You might get lucky there! Just like Craigslist, Ebay offers you the ability to save searches and receive email notifications when items are added to your search. This could be a great way to catch the best deals first. Other places to shop online are DickBlick, which often has great bulk deals, Amazon which often has select materials available at the best price, Jerry’s Artarama which as a discounted section, and Utrecht.
To make your oil paint last longer keep your oils in a freezer. This will prevent them from drying out between painting sessions. You can vivify your Acrylics and extend them with Floetrol. Floetrol is a brilliant medium available at the hardware store. My experiences with Floetrol have been equally as good as any of the more expensive Liquitex acrylic mediums used for extending acrylics and mixing glazes. Adding Floetrol to your acrylics makes them less viscous and more transparent without breaking down the polymers that bond and harden as the water evaporates from your paint.
Save your dirty paint water in bottles so that you can use it for washes in later works. Get every last drop of paint out of the tube. You can find a Paint Tube Wringer for yourself or just use pliers to squeeze out every last drop. You can also cut the tube open and scrape out the last of the paint and use a palette knife to dig the last splash of paint from the funnel.
Aside from adding mediums to your paint to extend it, pay attention to how you mix your paint. Use pipettes to add drops of your medium to control exactly how much medium you add to your paints and prevent wasting any medium and use palette knives to mix your paint. Don’t ever mix your paint on your palette using your brush because the paint will get gummed up in the deepest crevices of that brush and lessen its life span and it will waste paint. If you use a palette knife to mix you can use the knife right on the canvas or lift off paint from your knife using your brush so that you get some use out of every drop of paint.
Use a Sta Wet palette if you’re using Acrylics. A Sta Wet palette comes with a sponge and paper you can prepare by soaking it, along with an air tight lid. These palettes will keep your acrylics wet and ready to go for days and days. Also use a spray bottle filled with water to mist as you work to keep your acrylics from drying out.
If you’re working with oils use a glass palette that fits in your freezer tray. This will be easy to clean and use again and again and again and then you can just slide it right into your freezer to keep your oils wet and ready to go.
Next I’ll discuss several ways to save money on Paint Brushes.
If you like natural hair brushes but can’t afford them, use packs of cheap, soft watercolor brushes, they’re really a close second! Take good care of your brushes (when you clean them, squeeze don’t pull). Don’t throw out your brushes, there are several things you can do to liven them up again…
Sometimes you can give your brushes new life by cutting off the crusty tips. You might have a different brush in the end but it’ll be one you can still use. If the ferrule is coming loose just re-crimp it. If the ferrule comes off put a dab of super glue inside of it and re-crimp your brush. If you have natural hair brushes and they’re getting dry and the bristles are starting to break and split, soak them in an oil bath to condition the hair and make them soft and flexible again.
If you need tiny brushes for detail you can use feathers to make your own brushes.
This technique is demonstrated in a BBC documentary on the Tudor Monastary Farm.
The artist takes a feather and cuts away half of the vane at the tip of the feather Then He cuts off the calamus (That’s The hallow shaft at the other end of the feather) and uses the calamus as a ferrel by sliding it up to the feather tip to leave a pointed brush. The clip demonstrating this method has been shared on Facebook. I’ve posted it on my page at Facebook.com/Neeleyarts
Instead of buying paper towels, Use microfiber towels that can be reused. Recycle your Gamsol. After you clean your brushes and your Gamsol is a tinted mess, pour it into a long thin jar to let the paint settle at the bottom than you can pour the clear Gamsol back into your cleaning jar. You can also use coffee filters to get the paint out of your gamsol by placing a coffee filter in a funnel and pouring your dirty gamsol through it to drain in a clean jar.
Save jars and cups when you do get coffee/drinks, reuse them for your work
Learn to stretch your own canvases and make your own wood panels. Use a gallery wrap so that you don’t always have to frame things. If you’re using wood panels you can mount them to your own gallery wraps using 1"x2”’s. Cut the 1"x2”s to cover the diameter of your panel and use the 2” side as the depth of your panel.
That’s every trick I can think of for saving money on art supplies
Extend your paint, and don’t let it dry out,
Get the most out of your brushes
Order in bulk, use coupons, shop online and use discount codes
Stretch your own canvas
Save on framing with Gallery wraps
Use Ebay, Craigslist, garage sales, flea markets, The Dollar Store and FREE STUFF groups on facebook
Don’t be shy about getting every last drop of paint out of the tube
Use Sta Wet palletes for Acrylics and glass palettes for oils
I hope that this will become a great resource for my fellow entreprenuring visual artists and anyone else who comes to find the Wet Stuff podcast interesting.
If there’s topics you’d like me to cover in future podcasts and questions you’d like my feedback on also tell me what you want to hear and what you’d like to know.
You can leave me feedback in the comments on www.Patreon.com/KDNeeley .
Today I’ll be talking about fear and task management. I’ll be sharing some of the things I’ve learned about dealing with my own fears when it comes to making a living as a visual artist as well as things I’ve learned about how to get things done when you’ve got all of the responsibilities of being a business owner along with continuing the production of your artwork.
The first thing I’ll tell you is that you want to have a good chunk of money to start up with, If you don’t, it’s no reason to give up or assume that you’ll never be able to call yourself an artist there’s still plenty of things you can do to prepare your career as an independent visual artist while you’re saving money.
I’ll be discussing some of the tips and tricks I’ve used to save money in the next podcast. You also need to get comfortable with the idea of being in debt because at some point on this journey you probably will acquire a good chunk of debt when you’re starting up. For those of you who have been raised to believe that you’re less of a good person for using a credit card or taking out a loan…this is going to be more challenging for you. You need to come to the understanding and accept that owing money doesn’t make you a bad person. Equal opportunity is a nice idea, but the fact is that not all of us have access to the same supporting resources of wealth that come to some through family, opportunity, or grace. It’s okay if you’re in a bind right now, it doesn’t mean you’ll be stuck forever.
If you can avoid the pitfall of going to an expensive art school, avoid it. If you’re lucky enough to have your schooling paid for somehow, then by all means, enjoy art school and make the most of it. Life as a visual artist is hard enough without student loans to pay off on top of struggling to make ends meet. In either case I do suggest taking some courses in business to learn the basics, and that doesn’t have to be a college course. I consider myself a lifelong student of Google University, and access to the internet as a resource is the most phenomenal tool at our fingertips today. I’d just like to take a moment to appreciate how incredibly lucky we are in this day and age to have the convenience of the internet and social media…when it comes to getting exposure, getting your name out there, and especially sharing your artwork with the thousands of people who can relate to you and will enjoy it we are all living in a day and age of fantastic opportunity. If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed and intimidated by all this technology just take a deep breath right now and get ready to embrace it, you’re going to love it!
I’m going to talk about fear a little more now.
If you don’t know how you’re going to pay your rent next month, or this month, you’re probably in a state of fear. This is one of the most terrible places to be in, not knowing if you’re about to be homeless or, perhaps you are homeless already. Many artists find themselves in this kind of dire situation and the more you struggle with this the more impossible it seems to ever be able to call yourself an independent artist. It’s not to say that some of us don’t become remarkably creative under pressure, but the fact is that the pressure of wondering how you’re going to survive isn’t the kind of pressure that helps anybody think more clearly.
Being independent doesn’t mean being entirely self sufficient on an island, it means learning how to work with the people around you in your community to provide a service that is needed in exchange for what you need. Sometimes this means working jobs we don’t like very much for a time just to get on our feet. It doesn’t mean you aren’t an artist or that you have to give up the dream of being an independent artist. Hang in there, take a deep breath and keep on learning, keep on creating, and keep doing whatever you have to do to survive. It’s okay.
I’d like to give you three titles of books that changed my life. If you’re taking notes, jot these titles down
Starving to Successful by Jason Horejs
Getting Things Done, The art of stress-free Productivity by David Allen
The Business Model Canvas by Alexander Osterwalder
I’ll be discussing several of my carry away’s from these titles and if you benefit at all from what I share next you’ll benefit even more from getting your eyes on these pages.
One of the most uncomfortable but valuable insights Horejs shares in Starving to Successful is the workload that a professional visual artist needs to attain every year. His father is his example and in his book he presents us with the statistic that the artists who make it produce on average 55-230 works per year. To put this in perspective producing 55 works in one year means finishing 6 1/2 works every month, if you finish 7 pieces every month you’ll be producing 84 works per year. If you create 2 pieces every week you’ll have 96 pieces at the end of the year. It’s not about sacrificing quality for quantity either, it means mastering your techniques and planning whole bodies of work, it means being in your studio constantly creating.
Don’t be disheartened if that goal seems impossible for you to achieve, it isn’t. Start by setting yourself a realistic goal, say finishing one piece every month and then start working on multiple pieces at once. The more miles you put on your paintbrush the better you’ll get at doing what you love to do and you will become more efficient in your process.
Horejs recommends having 25 pieces finished and ready to sell before approaching a gallery. It’s a good recommendation. There’s a lot to be said for the perception that making art is a slow and miserable process. If you aren’t willing to work hard and produce that kind of output then you may want to accept just making your art as a hobby on the side of doing something you can be more productive at. It doesn’t make you less of an artist it’s just the fact that to survive in a world running on capitalism requires repetitive production of some kind.
Horejs tells us that we should be able to create 25 new works in approximately 13 weeks.
While the internet has revolutionized our ability to both learn and communicate it also means that having such easy and immediately gratifying access to the internet leaves us with the need to resist and exercise a self-discipline that in former years was more easily solved because the other things we could be doing weren’t in our pocket or at our fingertips all the time.
There’s nothing impressive about contacting an artist and getting an immediate response via email or text, it’s even less impressive if you don’t hear back for days but if someone is seriously working they’re going to have a reserved time for when to reply to messages in their inboxes and on facebook and even via text.
On the other hand, having that immediate access to a plethora of knowledge larger than any in history and growing exponentially every year means it’s never been easier to dedicate ourselves to discovering new ways to improve the quality of our work, new techniques to incorporate into our work, associate with other artists from all over the world and constantly educate ourselves with lectures, workshops, and instructional YouTube videos.
I’ve been exposed to the meme that teaching is somehow belittling of an artist, as though becoming a teacher is a sign of failing to “Make It”. In my experience nothing is further from the truth. Dedicating yourself to your craft means constantly learning and nothing will teach you faster or more efficiently than teaching. The greatest teachers learn the most from their students. Teaching is a resource in itself, exposing us to face what we really know by putting us in the position of having to communicate that knowledge from some kind of beginning.
In Starving to Successful Jason Horejs also discusses some great points on Quality, seeking advice, and finding the right mentor. I highly recommend this book if you haven’t already read it. It’s short and concise and it’s one you’ll pick up and read more than once.
One of my favorite passages is when he says, “Follow your passion do not follow trends. Gallery owners and collectors want to believe that you are so passionate about what you do that you have no choice.” So if you’re afraid that the particular kind of art or imagery that you make is not what sells, rest assured that if you need to make it there is someone else in the world who can relate to you and wants to see it made. Don’t be afraid to be true to yourself.
The last thing I’ll say about fear is try to be so busy making your work that you’re too distracted to be afraid.
Now I’m going to touch on a few of my favorite take aways from Getting Things Done: The art of Stress Free Productivity by David Allen
The concepts in this book took me more than a tripple take to grasp and at first, I didn’t realize how novel his notions were regarding how to go about doing things.
How we go about actually doing things is so subconscious that it’s difficult to realize…kind of like trying to pay attention to how exactly you walk in particular. There are a couple common words used in the book that need defining…not because we don’t know what they are but because we don’t know what they are.
The first word is Task. Anything that can ever be accomplished and everything that has ever been accomplished has only been accomplished one task at a time. So What’s a task? A task is something you can actually see yourself doing. Getting into a gallery is not a task, but preparing and loading your artwork into your car to drive to the gallery is a task. Taking good care of your kids is not a task, but waking your kids up for school in the morning is a task. Making dinner is not a task, but boiling water and cutting potatoes is a task. Get the idea? By realizing exactly what a task is and making those to do lists in task mode instead of…not really a task but a thing that needs to get done mode…makes a big difference in how easy things become to accomplish.
The next word is Project. A project is a thing that needs to get done that has an ending, a point at which it is in fact finished. A project is finished by completing several tasks. Getting into a gallery is a project. The first task in that project could be completing a painting. A project within that project could be completing 25 paintings. Locating galleries and visiting them to see which ones are a good fit could be another task within that project.Taking care of your kids isn’t a project, it’s a responsibility. It never ends.
Allen’s system really works for me and I think even if you feel like you hate making lists, like that’s too linear for the way you think, you might be surprised by simply discovering a more efficient way to make those lists. It takes some time to learn and understand his organizational system but my God…if you are feeling stressed about life it is worth the effort to learn the system and you won’t be able to unlearn it, you’ll just love how much easier everything becomes to get done.
One of my favorite take aways is his opinion on how to use Calendars. There’s only three kinds of information that should ever be put on a calendar, and nothing more,
1. Appointments: a task that needs to be done at a certain time.
2. Tasks that need to get done on that day, not things that could be done on that day but things that have got to get done at some point on that day. Other tasks go on a list that you check off outside your calendar. Otherwise your calendar just becomes less useful and you waste your time putting tasks on there that don’t need to be there. This could be something like take out the garbage (if it’s getting picked up the next morning) or water the plants.
3. Relevant information: this could be an event you’re interested in maybe attending, holidays, and birthdays, or maybe when a road will be closed or Recycle day.
If you stick to this rule about what to put on your calendar it will make your life easier. It’s made my life easier. What’s beautiful too about using either Google Calendar or iCal is that you can also create reminders and alarms to go off. It means that once you think of that appointment you need to make it to or that birthday coming up that you won’t have to keep reminding yourself because you can trust that you’ll be reminded by the notification you set for yourself or by glancing at your nicely organized calendar. I use Google Calendar synced with iCal and I have 3 separate calendars that show each type of information in a different color so I can quickly see what’s most important.
Oh and you keep separate lists, you have a list you keep of your next tasks (most of which will probably pertain to a larger project) and keep a separate list for things you’re waiting on. The “Waiting on” list is full of things you’re waiting on and tasks that can’t be done until then, like waiting on a phone call to be returned before you can schedule an appointment on your calendar.
One more thing here and then I’ll stop with the task management because I know this is probably hard to listen to. Unless you really get it, in which case you’re probably making lists already… check out GTD> Workflow Map. (Those of us who’ve had our lives changed by this Getting Things Done system just call it GTD). The workflow map illustrates exactly what Allen’s book talks about.
This way of thinking is how I’ve managed to go from having piles and piles of unorganized mess on my desktop and in my life to just kicking back in between tasks that are all lined up and I know I’m getting done what needs to be done when it needs to be done. It’s pretty sweet.
In this last section of today’s podcast I’m going to tell you about the Business Canvas Model by Alexander Osterwalder. This is the best way to think about business if you’re a visual person.
I’ve always gone a mix between doe-eyed and got this hazy snot coated glaze fog whenever I’ve looked at outlines for a business plan…I don’t know about you but…it never seems like a realistic endeavor to list out exactly how a business is going to work…kind of like using more logical scenarios to attempt telling the future. When I learned about the Business Canvas Model I was blown away, first and foremost, because planning a business actually made sense to me for a change.
Just type the words Business Canvas Model into a google image search and you’ll be able to see what I’m referring to here. There’s also some fantastic videos on YouTube from Osterwalder showcasing how this thing functions. I’d even recommend pausing this podcast for a few minutes and looking it over or watching one of Osterwalder’s explanations on YouTube. You really do have to see it, but there’s still a lot I can talk about.
First and foremost DO NOT WRITE on your business canvas model! I can’t stress that enough. The reason is we’re forming a business hypothesis for the real world and in the real world nothing is certain. Use post it notes. Just use post it notes.
I’m going to talk about the different parts of the business canvas model, think of each part like a magical puzzle piece that can fit together with all the other parts in innumerable ways (If you’re a mathematician you can probably write a formula to count the number of possible arrangements but…for all intents and purposes it might as well be infinite).
There’s nine parts:
Now I’m going to give you Osterwalder’s short definition of each building block before talking about each part in a little more depth.
The Customer Segments Building Block defines the different groups of people or organizations an enterprise aims to reach and serve.
The Value Propositions building block describes the bundle of products and services that create value for a specific customer segment
The Channels building block describes how a company communicates with and reaches its customer segments to deliver a Value Proposition
The Customer Relationships building block describes the types of relationships a company establishes with specific Customer Segments
The Revenue streams building block represents the cash a company generates from each Customer Segment (cost must be subtracted from revenues to create earnings)
The Key Resources building block describes the most important assets required to make a business model work
The Key Activities Building Block describes the most important things a company must do to make its business model work
The Key Partnerships Building Block describes the network of suppliers and partners that make the business model work
The Cost structure describes all costs incurred to operate a business model
For those of you who are still with me, rest assured that this is not as complicated as it sounds so far. When you see all of these parts and can visualize their relationships you start to get a miraculously clear perspective about how each part effects this dynamic whole and how your business model can be adjusted and transformed with the unpredictability of the real world. You’ll be able to see which parts are working and which parts need improvement or how some parts can be redefined to transform one business model into another.
Once you begin to define what these building blocks actually are in your own business model you’ll start to see the magic of it all. Hang in there, I know this can be tedious to listen to.
Next I’ll go over each building block again and tell you how that building block is defined for one of my own business models.
I’ll start by discussing customer segments. An artist is just as much an artist with or without customers but a business isn’t a business without them. The most important thing to realize is who your customers are. This is also the reason behind the mystery of why artists are so often pigeon-holed, especially by galleries. I’m a very eclectic artist with a variety of styles and techniques and content all used throughout my work, and not consistently. We’re often taught not to do that and only to present galleries with one kind of body of work and a recognizable style with steadily predictable content. The reason for this is that by having significant differences from one image to another we cause ourselves to need different business models. My face-palm statue of liberty painting, my baby breastfeeding painting, and my Dallas Cowboy dias de los muertos skull all have different customer segments. But hey, as you learn how to create business canvas models you’ll enjoy this fact, so don’t sweat it!
I’m going to use the painting titled ‘My Soul’ as the example for my business canvas model in this podcast. It’s a painting that features a metaphysical depiction of a baby breastfeeding. It’s extremely colorful and figurative and the baby and breast are realistic but the elements of the background are a fantastic mesh of abstract waves full of every color in the rainbow with a stream that flows through the breast and overlaps to give a 3-D appearance of moving from the breast into the baby as it drinks.
The demographic for this piece isn’t just mothers, because many people find it awkward or even disturbing. I’ve found that it is very loved by people who are spiritual in their own way and who support natural methods of birthing and breastfeeding. They are people who are comfortable with humans as animals and with people being connected to the environment.
This is not at all the same group of people who adore my Dallas Cowboy dias de los muertos skull, although there is some overlap it’s for reasons unique to each image and has nothing to do with the fact that I happen to have created both of them. It just means that the Business Canvas Model for my Dallas Cowboy Dias De Los Muertos skull will find itself on a different business model canvas that I’ll have to create for it to succeed as well.
I recommend that when you do this you take an objective look at your works of art and categorize them according to groups of similarity. When your customer segment adjusts it influences other aspects of your business canvas model that are directly related to your customer segments, like customer relationships, key activities, and channels. These will change depending on who your customers are.
Depending on the diversity of your artwork and the products you offer, originals, prints, postcards, or print on demand services—you may have a Niche, Segmented or even a Multi-sided market. You can learn more about these and understand them better by taking a deeper dive into Ostenwalder’s book: Business Model Generation.
The next building block we’ll look at is Value Propositions. As Ostenwalder explains in his book, Business Model Generation, “A Value Proposition creates value for a Customer Segment through a distinct mix of elements catering to that segment’s needs.” He presents examples of both quantitative and qualitative value elements such as price, speed of service, design, and customer experience.
One of the most common Value Propositions that many artists aim for and that galleries seek out is the element of “Newness”. Something people have never seen before and never previously perceived. It’s the element of wonder and excitement that funds innovation.
Examples of value that an artist can provide are offering to help the collector frame their new original work of art, transporting the original fine art, and assisting the collector to hang the work in their home. Offering to visit on occasion to check and clean an original oil painting can be another service offered to increase the value of collecting art from you.
Offering the image in a variety of products such as limited edition prints or print on demand processing is another example of a value proposition and one that may cater to a variety of customer segments. It is likely that your customers who collect original fine art are a smaller customer segment, and perhaps a sub-segment of the collectors who buy your prints or who order your artwork as a decorative feature on something of use to them.
An element of value offered in Print on Demand industries like Fine Art America is customization. If your customer is ordering your prints and having them framed they have the opportunity to customize their choice of matting and framing to their own taste or the ability to choose what material the print is produced on such as a wood, aluminum, or canvas print. If your customer is ordering your prints on something of use they have the opportunity to crop the work to their liking and choose their own background colors on products like shirts, pillows, and wall tapestries.
Channels are how you reach your customers. This includes every possible way to communicate with your customers from a handshake at an event to a photo on your Instagram feed. Channels are more than just a way to showcase your artwork to potential collectors, they allow you to provide your audience with valuable information that adds credibility to your reputation.
As a visual artist today one of your most important channels is your own website. If you write descriptions of your artwork it will allow people who are searching for that subject matter to happen across your work at the right time, when they already have an interest in the topic of your work.
Consider this when creating your website. It’s not enough just to post images without textual information because it’s the textual information that search engines can read to find you and get an idea what your artwork is all about. To give you an example, I have two articles for paintings on my website that were published at the same time: Ascension of the Soul and Locked Doors. I’ve written a short description about how I created Ascension of the Soul on the webpage for that image, but I’ve yet to write any kind of description for Locked Doors so it appears as only the image alone. As I am writing this podcast Ascension of the Soul has had 118 hits and Locked Doors has only had 30. That is a huge difference for two articles that were published at the same time on the same website in exactly the same section. It means that the textual data I provided on Ascension of the Soul is causing that page to turn up in a niche of search results and attract visitors.
When you’re sharing your work on social media it is also important to consider various parts of that social media to be a variety of channels. Facebook has an audience within that audience when you join groups and share your imagery to groups that your work is relevant to. My artwork featuring the baby breastfeeding has had wide exposure across Facebook because groups who support breastfeeding and celebrate new mothers have both shared the image on their group pages.
Next I’d like to talk about Customer Relationships. This is one of the most important building blocks for visual artists and at first can seem stressful and complicated if you’re uncomfortable being social with strangers or insecure about selling your work. For visual artists I believe that this relationship requires that we first develop a healthy sense of value rooted in the reality of our financial needs.
The kind of customer relationships that a visual artist can expect to cater to over the course of our career is more dynamic than it is for most businesses so this part of our business canvas model may be more complex. The kind of customer relationships that Osterwalder discusses in Business Model Generation are: Personal Assistance, Dedicated Personal Assistance, Self-Service, Automated Services, Communities, and Co-Creation.
When you’re a visual artist selling original fine art every customer relationship entails a degree of dedicated personal assistance on some level. Sometimes this will occur between the collector and a gallery manager and sometimes this will occur directly between the collector and the artist. A word of advice here is that you must not become so desperate and disheartened that you begin making assumptions about who will or won’t buy your work. Every person who experiences your work is equally important and should be extended your consideration and attention to their inquiries.
Purchasing an original work of art often takes time and serious consideration and this means repeated visits to see the art and usually asks some degree of personal knowledge regarding the artist and possibly a meeting with the artist. This isn’t always the case and in some cases a collector doesn’t want to know or meet the artist which can also be awkward, but if a collector desires to have their experience with the work uninterrupted or free of anybody else’s take on the work, including the artist’s, let them and don’t take it personally. Remember that it has nothing to do with you, especially when they don’t know you.
In either case it requires a degree of personal assistance in assessing every individual guest who visits your studio or gallery. Any time that you spend providing that assistance isn’t an investment but is an everyday practice that you must become accustomed to regardless of sales. By seeing the extension of your consideration as a regular part of your job you can see how it’s never a loss scenario to take interest in someone in return for their interest in your work. Visitors must feel that they are welcome to enjoy their own experience with the art.
When I was young I once visited a beautiful little gallery in Denver Colorado and was all but kicked out because I didn’t look like a “buyer”. The way in which I was approached and asked to leave was extremely rude. I’m older now and am a business owner with my own art collection. Never be rude to a person just because you think they can’t buy your work and never assume who will or won’t buy your work at some point in their life.
This includes fellow artists. It’s adolescent to behave as though other artists are your competitors. Don’t do that. Remember that they too are as much potential collectors as anyone, if not moreso as anyone who makes art already has an appreciation for the work and several of the greatest art collections in history are collections that were made by artists themselves.
Personal Service and Dedicated Personal Service are the first customer relationships you will probably have. You can also consider that your fellow artists are a community, if you’re a teacher your students are a community, your fans are a community, and your collectors are a community. Interaction with all of these communities is valuable.
Taking on commissions is an act of co creation. This is another unique kind of customer relationship that is another form of dedicated personal service.
If you sell your art online you will also find that you have relationships with customers that are self-serve and automated. These buyers are also a community of customers who may have questions about the process of making a purchase or may enjoy feedback in forums and comments.
So, as you can see visual artists are in a unique position when it comes to customer relationships. Every type is an important aspect of our business model canvas.
Now let’s talk about Revenue Streams
To quote Osterwalder, “If customers comprise the heart of a business model, Revenue streams are its arteries.”
He tells us that a business model can have both one-time Transaction Revenues and Recurring Revenues.
Many artists are intimidated by the idea of “doing business” and there’s a common meme that has spread which says that art and business are totally different when it comes to creativity. This is bullshit. You can be just as creative in how you look at revenue streams as you can be in how to create a work of art. This is a fantastic place to use your imagination!
In Business Model Generation Osterwalder talks about six different ways that revenue streams can occur along with four variables for both fixed and dynamic pricing and this is only touching on what’s been imagined for ways to generate revenue thus far. I think it’s possible to imagine new ways and that there’s no telling what those will be as our species is transformed by technology and discovery.
I’ve purchased a copy of Business Model Generation on Kindle and here I’m briefly touching on ideas from pages 30 to 33. You’ve got to get your eyes on these pages, it’s worth it.
Six ways of generating revenue streams are discussed: Asset Sale, Usage Fee, Subscription Fees, Lending/Renting/Leasing, Licensing, Brokerage Fees, and Advertising. Consider each of these methods as a process that can be applied in an infinite number of creative ways and think outside the box. Remember that every kind of revenue stream talked about can be a form of either fixed or dynamic pricing.
An Asset sale is what occurs whenever we sell an original work of art to a collector. Ownership of the painting is transferred to the collector upon purchase. This is also the kind of sale that occurs when we sell reproductions and utilize print on demand services to sell our work on other products. An Auction is one example of a dynamic form of an Asset sale.
I’m not going to dive into all the details of every kind of possible revenue stream here because this podcast is already long enough you’ll just have to get the book. When you do, get ready to get excited by the creative adventure of imagining all the possible ways you really can generate revenue using your artwork! Start by trying to think of an example of how artwork is already sold for each kind of revenue stream and realize how these options are all possible for you. You’re probably already familiar with forms of licensing and advertising and you’ll be surprised by how you can imagine the use of every kind of revenue stream.
This is where we find ourselves in another uniquely wonderful position when it comes to the complexity of our customer segments, although it is also a challenge to model, because we visual artists deal with every kind of customer segment, the ways in which we can match revenue streams to customer segments are limited only by our creativity.
Key resources are the most important assets required to make a business model work. These are the resources we need to create our artwork, share and communicate through our channels, develop customer relationships, and maintain our revenue streams.
Any supplies you need to produce your work is a key resource. Your website and social media platforms are key resources for your channels. Remembering names, guestbooks, email lists, and maybe even thank you cards are key resources in the development of your customer relationships. Galleries, Square or Paypal Here, and an online shop are key resources for revenue streams.
Think of all of the physical, financial, intellectual, and human resources that you require to make your business model work.
Key activities are the most important things that you must do to make your business model work. These are the actions you must take to produce your artwork, utilize your channels, and develop customer relationships and revenue streams. The kinds of key activities are production, problem solving, and Platform-Network.
Producing your artwork is your most important key activity. This brings us back to Jason Horejs’ advice about producing 55-230 works of art every year.
Problem solving is the activity of solving how you’ll afford your materials, how you’ll price your artwork, how you’ll calculate shipping and package your artwork, how you’ll transport your work, how you’ll frame your work, how you’ll advertise and market your work, how you’ll be remembered, how you’ll approach galleries, etc. Any key activity that you need to do but must figure out how to do is coupled with the key activity of problem solving. This is also what you’ll do when designing a commission to fulfill a collector’s dreamwork or even realizing what makes a challenging painting appear finished and taking you back to production.
Maintaining your website and social media presence is an example of the key activity of Platform-Network, this also includes the activity of remaining visible and present to galleries you plan to show in again.
We’re almost there. There’s just two more parts of the business canvas model to discuss.
Osterwalder tells us that Key Partnerships are the suppliers and networks that make your business model work and these are formed to optimize business models, reduce risk, or acquire resources.
If your work receives exposure for using a brand name product then that brand is an example of a key partner. When you plan a group show with fellow artists and everyone works together to advertise, host, hang, and cater the show than those artists as well as the venue are key partners. When you work with UPS to package, ship, and insure a painting that shipping company is one of your key partners. If you rely on a company like Uline to order a bulk of packaging materials, bags and backings for your prints, and boxes for your artwork that company is one of your key partners. Any gallery that has your artwork on consignment is a key partner.
By considering who your key partners are you can realize who your key partners can be. This allows you to transform the way you do business and by choosing the right key partners you can make your business model succeed.
And at last, we must discuss the Cost Structure. This describes all the costs to operate your business model. Osterwalder tells us that our costs can be calculated easily by first identifying our key resources, key activities, and key partnerships. He also explains that Cost-Structures fall between cost-driven and value-driven structures.
One way that we know our artwork is in fact a value driven structure is that we must, first and foremost, offer personal and dedicated personal assistance to all of our customers.
There are four characteristics for Cost Structures: Fixed Costs, Variable Costs, Economies of Scale, and Economies of Scope. Fixed Costs do not change regardless of the volume of things we produce. The cost of renting your studio space is an example of a fixed cost. Variable costs change based on the amount of goods or services you produce: the more paintings you make the more paint you’ll have to buy. Economies of Scale are cost advantages that are given for bulk purchases. These are important to consider when you seriously pursue the goal of outputting a large number of works every year, you may realize that to meet your goal you will save money by purchasing supplies for a year’s worth of production. Economies of Scope are cost advantages that result from a larger scope of operations. A marketing example of this is advertising you as an artist to represent any number of your current works, shows, and projects.
And those are the nine building blocks of the business canvas model. To give you an idea just how valuable this book is, all of the information I’ve shared with you falls up to page 41 of the 281 page book! And all I’ve done is define and present you with examples of the nine building blocks for starting to design your business model canvas.
If you can only get one of the three books I’ve recommended today, get Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder.
So that was a lot to take in, here’s a brief review of the Business Canvas Model’s nine building blocks and the brief definition of each from Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder:
1 Customer Segments: The Customer Segments Building block defines the different groups of people or organizations an enterprise aims to reach and serve
2 Value Propositions: The Value Propositions Building block describes the bundle of products and services that create value for a specific customer segment
3 Channels: The Channels building block describes how a company communicates with and reaches its customer segments to deliver a Value Proposition
4 Customer Relationships: The Customer Relationships building block describes the types of relationships a company establishes with specific customer segments
5 Revenue Streams: The Revenue Streams Building BLock represents the cash a company generates from each Customer Segment
6 Key Resources: The Key Resources Building Block describes the most important assets required to make a business model work
7 Key Activities: The Key Activities building block describes the most important things a company must do to make its business model work
8 Key Partnerships: The Key Partnerships building block describes the network of suppliers and partners that make the business model work
9 Cost Structure: The cost structure describes all costs incurred to operate a business model
This podcast has been about fear and task management and the three books I’ve discussed are
Starving to Successful by Jason Horejs
Getting Things Done, The art of stress-free Productivity by David Allen
The Business Model Canvas by Alexander Osterwalder
Remember that anything anybody has ever accomplished or will ever accomplish is only ever done one task at a time. So take a deep breath and don’t let the business side of art freak you out, you can do it! You can learn it! You can succeed.