Art Business 101

Thanks to everyone who has read my Art Business 101 posts over the last 3 months! I hope you have found the content useful and inspiring. If you haven’t checked out this series yet, or if you missed a few posts, now is the perfect time to get on board.

Here you will find links to each of the AB101 posts in the best reading order. Please take some time to learn from my experience!

Coming Soon: Art Business 101
preview of AB101 posts, and the importance of leaving a legacy

Art Business 101: My Story
“who is he to tell me what to do?”

Art Business 101: Economics of Art
if you are an artist, you are an investor; now what does that mean?

Art Business 101: Success in the Market
finding your niche, and taking on the role of a market scientist

Art Business 101: All About Price
you’ve made a piece of art, but how do you come up with a fair price?

Art Business 101: Building Your Brand
in the age of social media, what exactly does your brand encompass?

Art Business 101: Writing Your Bio
how to write the story of your career, even when you don’t have much to say

Art Business 101: Creating Events
pros & cons of galleries, art festivals, DIY shows and more

Art Business 101: Event Planning
everything you need to know (and do) to pull off an art show

Art Business 101: Fundraising
why pay for all your event costs when you can raise the funds?

Art Business 101: Promoting Your Show
you’ve booked your art show, but how do you spread the word?

Art Business 101: Social Media
hands-down top app for artists, and how to optimize it

Art Business 101: Taking Responsibility
you created it; now what do you do with the good, the bad, and the ugly?

ArtBusiness101: Your Art
there is a difference between a sellout and an artist who sells

Art Business 101: My Story

I’ve written a lot on this blog about the art business, and you may be wondering, “Who is he to tell me what to do?”

That’s a fair question. On one hand, I’m just one person with individual experience and personal biases. There are those who will try to apply my advice to their careers only to Dean matting gonzosee no positive benefits. Then there are those who will fundamentally disagree with the economic principles I have described. There are still others for whom this information will lead to increased sales. All I can do is tell you what has worked for me and why I think it has worked so well. You are the captain of your own ship, and you have to steer it according to your own beliefs.

While I may just be one person with individual experience and personal biases, I have also experienced a lot of success in my career. For the last 11 years, I have fulfilled 47 private commissions for clients. My original Chicago Art show resulted in a whopping 64 sales over the course of 6 months, and a follow-up show sold 92% of its inventory in 1 month.

I have participated in 11 exhibits, 4 of which I co-curated. One of these was an art walk that I organized for the East Village neighborhood — an enormous undertaking! I have led over 20 art workshops and was named a Top-Rated Teacher by Dabble. Through it all, I have learned how to design, promote, and install a variety of art events.

I would be the first to tell you that my artwork and events have not all been equally successful. There is uncertainty and risk every time I embark on a new project, and I always feel that I am learning. Every new art series teaches me more about consumer demand, and every new show teaches me more about event planning, budgeting, and promotion. To be honest, I don’t think I will ever be in a place where I know it all.

Still, I have come a long way. So how exactly did I get here?

My Journey

I was fortunate enough to go to art school. I had great teachers and challenging assignments, and I learned a lot. Even so, my mind wasn’t really on my studies. LikeDean Faces Only 1 many young people, I was more interested in partying, making friends, and dating. I sincerely regret not making the most of my time there.

When I graduated, I had no idea how to turn my education into a career. Fortunately, people started asking me to make things for them. These were all friends or friends of friends, but they were my first clients. The first experience that came close to an art show was a fundraiser event for a theater company. I contributed several paintings, two of which sold.

A few years later, one of my artist friends started holding private figure drawing sessions in her apartment. Whoever showed up on a given night would split the cost of the model. This process introduced me to many talented artists, including future NIA members, Terrie Byrne and Christina Bosco. We spent many months admiring one another’s work.

After awhile, Terrie came up with the idea of hosting a “gallery party” at her house so that we could show off our work and potentially sell some pieces. This was the first show where I really felt like a featured artist. Although I didn’t sell anything that night, I gained valuable first-hand experience about putting together a show and meeting consumer Chalk drawingdemand. We proceeded to design another 3 gallery parties over the next several years, and these experiences gave me the confidence I needed to begin creating independent events.

In 2013, John Wawrzaszek recruited me to serve on the board of directors for his non-profit studio space, Chicago Publishers Resource Center (ChiPRC). I jumped at the chance to connect with the larger creative community. I transformed many of my skills into art workshops, including Figure Drawing, Drawing Techniques, and Printmaking 101. I was also able to use the space for group art shows. Each of these experiences added to my skill set.

Now, I’m doing pretty well as an artist. None of this success would have been possible without initiative, hard work, and open-mindedness. I hope my story inspires you to put yourself out there, make things happen, and learn through trial and error. You really can create your success!

Art Business 101: Economics of Art

In this series of Art Business 101 posts, I discuss economic concepts such as price, branding, and marketing as they relate to artists. I would be remiss, however, if I did not take the time to give you a broad overview of Economics itself. You need to understand the big picture, because you will then be equipped to see where your art business fits.

Economics 101

Economics is the study of wealth creation and wealth transfer. Wealth is created and transferred in two basic (but intertwined) ways:

  • capital investment
  • the production and consumption of goods and services

The second method of wealth creation is easy to understand. Most people sell something, be it goods, services, or some other form of labor, in exchange for money. They turn around and use that money to buy goods, services, or labor from other people. Thus, wealth is created and transferred between people.Dean drawing Ellie

None of that would be possible without the first method, capital investment. Before your job could exist, someone had the idea for your company. They used their own money (or a loan) to get it started, paying for your work space, your telephone line, your website, your tools and supplies, advertising, and whatever else was necessary to get the enterprise going. If stock in the company is publicly traded, then shareholders provided the capital. If you own your own business, then it was you that set the stage. All of these investors participated not to lose money, but because they anticipated earning back everything they spent and more.

In a nutshell, capital investment is the commitment of money to a particular enterprise with the promise that profit will come back to you. This return on investment (or ROI) can be expressed as a percentage by dividing the money you gained by the initial amount you invested. For example, a return of $100 on an investment of $1000 would give you an ROI of 10%.

Tool of the Trade

Dean teaching

There are many opportunities for investment, so how do you decide where to put your money? Specifically, how can you anticipate a strong ROI?

Your most important tool is price, which reflects supply and demand. People will pay more for a good or service that is scarce and/or popular. The reverse is also true: people will pay less for a good or service that is abundant and/or unpopular.

Investors use price as a guide. They will invest in a particular opportunity that is commanding an ascending price in the market, because that opportunity is likely to yield greater profit than its alternatives. Likewise, they will decline investing in an opportunity with a tumbling price, because that opportunity is less likely to yield greater profit than its alternatives.

Savvy investors try to anticipate market trends. They might invest in an opportunity whose price has fallen below the norm, because they expect that price to rise again. (A security that investors perceive as undervalued is known as a bargain.) They may also ride out temporary downturns, because they expect long-term gains.

Investment opportunities are numerous, but a few examples are stocks and bondsprecious metals, and business ventures.

How Do You Take Your Risk?

Dean at Belmont HarborInvestors vary in their tolerance to risk. Conservative investors will flock only to those investments that are stable, with prices that don’t fluctuate much in the market. For these investors, capital growth will be slow but steady.

Some investors are more aggressive and will seek out opportunities that are riskier but leave more room for capital growth. High risk opportunities bring both the possibility of a higher reward and the possibility of great loss.

You Are An Investor

The kind of investment opportunity that is most relevant to you as an artist is a business venture. You are investing your resources — time, labor, and capital — in the production of goods, which you then sell for a profit.

As an investor, you will need to honestly assess your own risk tolerance. If the idea of risk scares you, then you should put your time, money, and skills into producing a kind of art that a lot of people like and are buying. Work in a style and medium that are popular. Hire a professional print service to turn your images into low-cost, usable items like t-shirts, messenger bags, and calendars. Order prints in bulk to cut down on costs, or, to further mitigate risk, have an item printed on demand only after a customer has placed an order.Sketching webcomic

Keep in mind that you will have to be competitive in order to be successful in a market that is already saturated with product. You will attract consumers by being more innovative than your competitors, or by undercutting their prices.

 Risky Business

My set-up at Art of SolsticeIf you are more comfortable with taking on risk, you might try to produce something totally unprecedented, or to succeed with a kind of product that has not historically sold well. There is nothing wrong with this approach, but it is not for the faint of heart.

Consider a balanced investment strategy, which combines the safety of low-risk investments with the growth potential of high-risk investments. This strategy can be a good business model for an artist, as she divides her resources between popular, salable items and more personal experiments.