Friday, January 2, 2015

Free Painting Demonstration at Jerry's!

Come watch me paint at Jerry's Artarama of Wilmington on Elvis' Birthday!  
January 8th from 1-3pm, watch me paint a watercolor seascape from start to finish! I explain my processes in great detail during my painting demonstrations, just like in my classes in workshops! Learn how I mix colors, plan a compostition, use values, manipulate the properties of pigments, use different types of brushes for effects, and more! Jerry's Artarama, 704 N. Market Street, Wilmington, DE 19801

posted by Annie Strack @ 3:06 PM   0 Comments

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

How to Develop your Personal Plan for Success!

Develop Your Personal Plan for Success

By Annie Strack 2006 © (First published: Art Calendar magazine, October 2006)

In business, success is seldom an accident.  It is something that must be carefully planned with defined goals, and a strategy mapped out to achieve those goals.  

Ask five different artists what the definition of success is, and you’ll get five different answers.  We all have different ideas as to what constitutes artistic success.  Some artists believe it is when sales reach a certain level.  Some believe it is the quantity or prestige of awards, while others may measure success by attaining educational degrees or teaching positions.  The common definition of success is, quite simply “achieving a goal.”  But before you can attain success, you must first define what success means to you.  In other words, you need to define what your ultimate goals are. 

Once you have determined what your ultimate goals are, you can then identify the steps needed to attain those goals.  You can then break these steps down into smaller goals, and develop a time frame for achieving each of them.  As you determine what your goals and steps are, assign them to spaces on a timetable.  Start this by creating a table of columns, and in the last column list your ultimate goals.  Once you’ve created that list, think about the things you need to do before you can achieve those goals, and list those items in the preceding column.  Now think about the things you need to accomplish before you can reach those goals, and list them in the next preceding column.  In other words, work backwards from your pinnacle goals.  Keep going in this manner, filling in the columns from right to left, until you reach the point where the things you need to do are things that you’ve already done.  

Now that you’ve filled in your table with your goals and the steps needed to achieve them, you need to assign a time frame to each of the columns.  You can assign any time increments that you want.  You can use biannually, yearly, skip some of the years, whatever.  You can also move goals into different columns if you think that those goals will take more or less time to achieve.  When you are finished, your plan will resemble a chart with all of the steps you need to achieve your goals clearly spelled out in chronological order.
Let’s say that your ultimate goal is to be a rich and famous artist.  Your business plan chart might look like this:

Year one goals
Year two goals
Year three goals
Year five goals
Year ten goals
Local solo show
 solo show in important gallery
solo shows in other states
Museum show
Major museum show
Set standard prices
Increase prices 20%
Increase prices 30%
Double prices
Triple prices
Produce posters for local sales
Produce S/N L/E prints
sell prints in multiple markets
License images for other products
Licensed images in national markets
Develop workshop teaching plan
Teach local workshops
Teach regional workshops
Teach national workshops
Teach workshops in Tahiti and Paris
Write bio, resume, statement
Design a brochure
Create a catalog of work
Featured in magazine articles
Publish art book
Sell at local festivals
Sell at juried festivals
Sell at regional festivals
sell at national festivals
Sell at national art expo
Enter local juried shows for awards
Enter regional juried shows
Enter national juried shows
Begin judging art shows
Judge national art shows

This is just a brief sample to give you an idea of how to create your own plan to achieve your goals.  Your business plan will contain different goals and steps from this one, depending entirely on what your specific ultimate goal is. For instance if your goal is to teach art at the university level, you would have to add a series of steps that included teaching experience and advanced degrees, but you may want to leave out steps that include items like art festivals which could take you off course.  However if your goal is to open your own gallery, you may find that teaching experience or advanced art degrees may not be among the necessary steps to achieving your goal.  As you develop your own business plan, you may need to add more spaces and years to your chart, and define and break down the steps even further.  For instance, if an opportunity pops up for to do something that sounds like a good idea, you can look at your business plan chart and see whether or not it fits in to your goals.  If it does, fine, you can add it in.  If it doesn’t, it could end up being a distraction that is not necessary to help you achieve your goals. 

 Remember, this is your business, your goals.  You need to set it up in a way that you can manage it.  If you need to make changes along the way, do it.  You want to write a plan that motivates and inspires you, but you also want to keep it realistic with goals that you can achieve in the time frame that you’ve allotted for yourself.

For example, my art business plan is written on a large dry erase board that hangs in my studio.  Next to it is another board that has “to do” lists on it.  The “to do” board reminds me to focus on things related to the plan that I need to work on now, either this week or this month.  Hanging on the walls of my studio, they serve as a daily reminder of what I’m working towards, and help to keep me focused and on track.  The dry erase board works best because as the business grows, the goals tend to evolve.  New ideas can be added, other ideas can be erased.  Goals and steps can be moved to different columns, and additional time can be worked in as needed.   
All too often, we artists find ourselves jumping around from idea to idea, getting distracted by other artists and trying to measure our own successes against the successes of other artists.  In doing so, we often end up spending enormous amounts of time and energy while accomplishing very little.  There is no generic business plan for you to follow; you have to develop your own.  Goals and steps that result in success for other artists may not necessarily work for you.  Those other artists probably have different ideas of what constitutes success, so trying to do everything that everyone else is doing may not help you to achieve your goals.  

One of the advantages of having this kind of business plan is that it will keep you on track for achieving your goals, and help to keep you from getting distracted by other things.  It will also help to remind you to work on your goals in a chronological order.  You can’t just wake up tomorrow morning and say to yourself, “Gee, I think I wanna be a rich and famous artist today.  I’ll start by having a show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.”  It just doesn’t work that way.  Major museums only want artists that possess proven track records of showing at plenty of galleries and other museums.  By the same token, you don’t want to start your art career by publishing an expensive coffee table book of your art.  If you haven’t acquired a list of galleries that are selling your art to eager clients, then you probably won’t have anyone eager to buy your book, either.  There are actions that you must take before you can achieve those goals, and by following a course of action that will take you through your steps in an orderly fashion, you will have a better chance of achieving those goals, whatever they may be.  

When finished, your plan will be a customized roadmap showing you all the steps that you need to follow in order to achieve your success, starting from where you are now.  It will serve as a guide to allow you to monitor your progress, and help you to identify any areas of your business that need additional planning.  Your plan is your guideline for the future of your business.  Once you create it, all you have to do is follow it to success. 


Annie Strack earned Signature Membership from 8 artist societies and she’s an Official Authorized Artist for the U.S. Coast Guard. Her art has received hundreds of awards and hangs in collections worldwide. She’s a popular juror for art competitions, and is a much sought after lecturer and workshop instructor. Annie draws experience from her former career in corporate management to build a successful art career, and she shares her knowledge of business and marketing in her articles for Professional Artist magazine. Visit her at

posted by Annie Strack @ 9:46 AM   2 Comments

Monday, December 15, 2014

New Classes Starting this Week!

My online art course, "Watercolor for the Beginner" starts this week at Artists Network University! This is a great class for beginners, and also for artists who want to take a refresher course to brush up on techniques. Students in my online classes receive individual attention and personal feedback, just like the students taking private lessons in my studio! Sign up now to kearn how to paint luminous watercolors from an award winning, professional Master Artist! 

Speaking of which, I currently have a couple of openings in my weekly studio classes on Tuesdays -- email me if you want to sign up. My studio is in the south east corner of Pennsylvania, near the border of  Delaware and Maryland. Half-day classes meet weekly in my studio for four weeks, beginning on the 1st Tuesday of each month. Students work individually and receive personal attention and guidance on their paintings and exercises.

As a classically trained artist with decades of professional experience, I am able to offer my students real instruction that is concise and easy to follow. My students learn how to use and manipulate their mediums and materials, and they leave my classes armed with new skills and the knowledge to use them successfully. My students learn to create -- not just copy! 

(Seagulls, 9x12 watercolor, sold)
I've got lots of new classes, demonstrations, studio events, and workshops coming up in the new year -- be sure to check out my Calendar Page often to keep up! New events are added continuously!

posted by Annie Strack @ 8:00 AM   0 Comments

Monday, November 24, 2014

Plein Air Painting at Wilson's Vineyard

One of my students opened a gallery at her family vineyard earlier this year, and it has been a wonderful destination for painting en plein air. Painting and wine tasting -- a perfect combination! Wilson Vineyard is located in Oxford, Pennsylvania, and the gallery is open weekends and for special events. I painted these over the spring and summer at the vineyard. See one you like? Send me an email to purchase it. Price includes domestic shipping and handling, frames are not included.
Wilson's Drive, 5x7 oil $79.

Wilson's Trees, 8x10 oil $195.

Wilson's Vines, 8x10 oil $195.

Blue Door, 8x10 oil $195.

posted by Annie Strack @ 4:04 PM   0 Comments

Thursday, November 20, 2014

More PLein Air Paintings!

I painted ten paintings in the Plein Air Brandywine Valley competition last month, and these six paintings are still available. Prices include shipping and handling, frames are not included. All are painted with Rembrandt oils on Fredrix canvas panels. Email me if you want to get one!
Little Stone Shed, 8x10 oil, $195.

Auburn Heights, 8x10 oil, $195

Fredricks Pond, 5x7 oil, $79

Gahagan's Maples, 8x10 oil, $195

Neilsons Farm, 8x10 oil, $195

Morning Glow, 8x10 oil, $195

posted by Annie Strack @ 1:29 PM   0 Comments

Friday, November 14, 2014

Artist Tips: Original Work in Art Shows

Several artists have asked me in the last few weeks about “originality” and how it relates to entering artwork into shows. So many artists misunderstand rules in art shows because they are vague and poorly written, and often times, the art show chairmen don’t understand the concept enough themselves to write clear rules about it. So, I’ve posted a conversation I recently had with one of my followers in hopes that it will help clear things up for other artists and show chairmen.

 Dear Annie,
I haven't shown my work except for my art group's art show. However, the comments you mentioned in your article seem to be common sense to me. One question about source material. Can you use someone else's photo if you get permission from that person...say if it's a friend?

Annie Strack:  That would depend on a show's rules. Each show has their own rules, although you often see the same rules with just slight variations in many shows. For the most part, most shows put it in writing that the entry "must be the original creation of the artist," and many get much more specific and state that any reference material used must also be the original creation of the artist. Many smaller shows and non-juried shows allow artists to more leeway when entering, but competition is pretty stiff in the more prestigious shows, and artists are usually required to develop and work with their own reference material for their paintings.

(Students in an Annie Strack Workshop in Delaware)

 Question:  So...better just to stay with your own reference material and not have to worry about it, huh.
 Annie Strack:  Exactly! Although not all shows require artists to use their own reference material, it's better to always use your own and then you won't be limited from entering any shows.
 Question:  Annie, I have another question about this. It is an argument I hear in my painting group quite often and it is something to the effect that it isn't "copying" if you change...I think it's something like 25% of the image used. So the idea is that you can crop an image substantially or paint only a portion of it. Does this hold any water with art show jurors?
Annie Strack:  I hear that all the time, too, and it's completely false. Most copyright infringement is a Civil law issue. If an artist thinks they've been copied, they can sue the copier. Each case is argued and determined individually -- there is no set formula like a simple math equation. If someone, anyone, can recognize the work of another in an artwork, then the artist could lawyer up and file a suit, or even just threaten.

(Students in an Annie Strack workshop in Madisonville)

But this has nothing to do with art shows -- despite what some ill-informed art show chairs believe. Art shows are not courts of law, and art show chairs and committees have no right to determine what is - or is not - protected by copyrights. Many show chairs and committees confuse the words "original" and "copyright." This is where the question of using someone’s photo with permission creates confusion -- is it copyright infringement? -- no, not with permission. But -- is it original? -- no.
Art shows must write concise rules and then follow them, and if they do not write something into their rules then they cannot punish an entrant for it. Show rules have to specifically state what can or can't be entered -- rules cannot be made up after the entries are received, nor can they be enforced retroactively. For instance, if an art show doesn't state that artwork must be original, then they must not reject something that is copied. Many artists are students, and they enter work in smaller local or school shows that they did in classes or workshops.  

(Students in an Annie Strack workshop in Baton Rouge)

Feedback from outside sources such as local shows is important for amateur and student artists so that they can continue to learn and grow. It is quite common for these types of shows to accept copied work, especially from students. My own students often exhibit work they’ve done in my classes, and I’m quite flattered by it (Although, I’m not flattered when I see copies of my paintings by artists who don’t acknowledge or credit me as the original artist!).  
Generally, the smaller local and regional shows are a little more lax on rules, Local and regional shows tend to have more amateur and student artists entering, and their shows are more to encourage these artists. The mission of local art leagues is usually more social and educational, whereas the mission of artist societies on the national level usually lean more towards rewarding established professional artists.
National and international shows have big money and credentials at stake, so they draw the big name professional artists. Competition is stiff, and the rules are stricter. They usually have very specific wording in their rules and go into fine details to describe exactly what is eligible, and what is not.

(Students in an Annie Strack workshop at Nunez College)

With regard to jurors -- that's a different story! If a juror recognizes the work as belonging to another artist, or if the juror thinks the work is partially copied, then she will likely regard it less and may even dismiss it. Jurors look for originality and creativity as well as other elements, and most will reject work that they think is not original, even if it is skillful. Occasionally an inexperienced juror will let copied work into a show, just as occasionally an inexperienced juror will let bad work into a show -- jurors aren't perfect. But for the most part, jurors will penalize work that appears to be unoriginal.
Any time an artist needs to defend their copying -- that is a sure sign that they've obviously copied too much. There should never be any question about the originality of an artwork.

posted by Annie Strack @ 8:07 PM   0 Comments

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Hands On Creativity Event at Plaza Art, Philadelphia

I really enjoyed the Hands On Creativity event at Plaza Art Supplies in Philadelphia! For two days, professional artists demonstrated the latest and greatest art supplies and gave out free samples. I demonstrated oil painting on Arches Oil Paper -- if you haven't tried it yet, you need to get some now! The paper is primed to use with oil paints, but it has all the best qualities of traditional 140# CP Arches paper. It has enough tooth to use with dry media such as pastel and charcoal, and it's is absorbent enough to use with watercolor, inks, or printing mediums. So besides being ready to use for oils, it's also perfect for multi-media artworks! Here's some photos form the event...
Sarah Hunter and the other employees of Plaza Art made me feel very welcome!

Oil painter Cathe Deets enjoying some of the Rembrandt paints I gave away.

It was a pleasure to meet Don Brewer of Philadelphia's Don Art News.

Besides demonstrating all weekend, I also gave away stacks of free art supplies from Canson / Arches and Rembrandt.
Plein Air painter Joe Rademan stopped by to try some new art materials.

posted by Annie Strack @ 3:13 PM   0 Comments

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Plein Air Brandywine Valley!

This is my "busy season" so I'm a bit behind on blog posts! Last weekend was the show and sale of Plein Air Brandywine Valley, which is the top juried Plein Air competition in the region. Artists have 4 days to paint up to ten paintings, which are then entered in the show for sale and compete for  $15,000 in awards. This is my third year competing in this event, and once again, it was awesome! I painted 10 paintings using Rembrandt Oils on Fredrix Canvas Boards, and these 4 paintings sold right away.
Neilson Farm, 8x10, sold

Shed at Gahagan Farm, sold

shed at Haskil's Farm, sold

Haskill's Farm, sold
Paintings have to be framed and turned in each day of the event, so these were still wet when I photographed them, resulting in the glare in these images.
Rosemary Connolly and Annie Strack
 This event is practically held in my backyard, so I always open my home to host an artist from out-of-state. Once again, I was happy to have Rosemary Connolly stay at my house during the event. Because we were both so busy running around to the various locations to paint, we hardly saw each other all week!

By the time I remembered to take a photo of my paintings in the show, several of them had already sold and were gone! The remaining paintings will be posted for sale online at the Children's Beach House soon, so there's still an opportunity to purchase paintings from this event!

posted by Annie Strack @ 12:44 PM   0 Comments

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Artist Tips: How to Sell Custom Ordered Paintings!

Selling Custom Ordered Commissions
By Annie Strack 2006©
(First publication:  March 2007, Art Calendar Magazine)
Creating art on commission can be a significant source of income for any artist.  However, most of the artists that I know routinely turn away commissions, fearing that the work is either too difficult or just not worth the effort.  We’ve all heard horror stories from other artists about commissions gone bad, clients from hell, rejected paintings, etc., but often these situations arise from misunderstandings and lack a of communication between the artist and the client.  Successful commissions are the result of clear understanding of the process and requirements by both the artist and the client. 

When customers initially inquire about commissioning a custom work of art, I start the process by giving them my sales brochure, which shows color samples of my work and describes the commission requirements and benefits.  Prices are clearly listed according to the size of a piece of art, and the brochure clearly states what is included and what is not, such as framing or matting.  Other pertinent information and limitations are also stated in the brochure, including the clear statement that the price includes a single subject and simple backgrounds, and the invitation but clarification that surcharges are added for multiple subjects or complex backgrounds.  Having this printed information readily available helps to introduce the client to the commission process, and clearly spells out the basic terms of the commission agreement.  The brochure allows the client to take this information home with them to review before making a final decision, and it also alleviates any confusion that would ultimately arise later if the commission prices and terms had been relayed verbally.

Rather than following a set contract, I prefer to work out the details of each commission individually with each client.  Although my prices are firm, I may offer to adjust the schedule or stretch out the payments to better suit the needs of the client.  I avoid the use of the word “contract” when discussing or writing out the terms of the commission, preferring to use the friendlier term “sales order.”  I try to make the process comfortable for my clients by avoiding the use of terms that the customer may find confusing or intimidating. 

To write the sales orders, I use a separate order book that is larger than a regular sales receipt book, and allows for plenty of room to write down all the necessary details of the customer’s order.  I write down the specifications for the painting such as colors, size, subjects, perspective, background, in addition to price, payment schedule, etc.  While talking with the client during this process, I write every detail down in the order book.  After the customer confirms and agrees to the written order form, we each sign it.  The client receives the original as their receipt, and I retain the duplicate for my reference.  Before the client leaves, I know exactly what they want and they know and understand exactly what they will be receiving.  I don’t start the painting process until we are both in total agreement of expectations. 
Connie C, Commissioned Watercolor Painting (sold)

I prefer to shoot my own reference photographs for my paintings.  I let the client select the final reference photos before I start the painting, but I don’t allow him to to view the painting in progress.  Occasionally I will work from photos provided by the client.  When the client provides photos, I record these on the order form to alleviate any confusion that might later arise concerning the number of photos that later need to be returned, and I make sure we’re not violating someone else’s copyright. 

I don’t start a painting until I am confident that the client and I are completely sure we understand each other.  Since my paintings appeal to a specific audience and I’m known for a particular style, my clients know that they can expect a painting reflective of my established style and they have always been happy with the final product.  Many become repeat customers and send me referrals. 

A useful tip -- I don't call these works "commissions," I refer to them as "custom-ordered commissioned paintings".  My paintings for general sales and display are priced much less than commissions; for instance, some of my 12x16 spec paintings start as low as $395, but my 12x16 commissions start at $600.  Sometimes I have to remind clients that it’s like ordering custom made drapes from a decorator, versus buying curtains off a shelf at Walmart.  Anything that is custom ordered costs more because it is custom tailored to the client’s individual specifications, increasing the degree of difficulty and requiring more time for production.  When I explain it this way, customers are more likely to understand why the prices are different.  Women especially understand the drapery analogy.  We've all been there, and we all know what custom made drapes cost!  I also remind them that spec paintings are priced lower because they are merely generic samples of my work, and are created to appeal to a broader audience rather than to any individual collector with more specific expectations and taste.  These lower priced works of art do not contain the same level of detail and perfection as the custom ordered paintings.  I gently suggest that if the price of a custom painted original is currently beyond their reach, then perhaps owning one of these less expensive paintings would be a more affordable alternative for them at this time.

Custom ordered commissions account for 80% of my sales of original paintings.  Because I do so many commissions, I am usually fully booked a year or more in advance.  

When I inform potential clients of my waiting list, I also remind them that I raise my prices after the first of each year, however if they book their custom ordered painting now, they will lock in at the current price rate.  This strategy helps me to maintain a steady schedule of commissions by encouraging potential customers to book well in advance, and not procrastinate.  Additionally, the client gets excited at the prospect of purchasing a work of art from a “hot and popular artist”, and is pleased by the idea of saving money by ordering in advance.  They also like the fact that my prices are pre-scheduled to rise annually, and therefore their purchase will likely also rise in value.  Telling clients they are going to be on a waiting list often clinches the deal!  
I usually schedule around four paintings for each month, but some I schedule with more or less working time due to the size or complexity of the painting.  For example, I have a couple of large commissions scheduled for January and February, and they are very complex so I scheduled each of them in a month all by them selves.  I also figure into my schedule extra time to create paintings for juried shows, time to sell at art festivals, etc.  For instance I know that October and April of each year I can't work in the studio at all because of my hectic seasonal exhibit schedule, and I also need to dedicate at least two solid months to creating paintings for juried shows, so I schedule the commissions around these times.  If I finish a painting ahead of schedule I use the free time to either get an early start on the next scheduled commission, or to paint spec paintings to build up my inventory.  

The primary keys to guaranteeing successful commissions are clear communication with the client, advance agreement of services, and realistic scheduling.  There is nothing inherently scary or mysterious about the process, nor is there any need for either the artist or the client to be confused by the proceedings or disappointed by the results. 
Commissions not only provide a reliable and steady source of income, they can also be downright enjoyable. 


Annie Strack earned Signature Membership from 8 artist societies and she’s an Official Authorized Artist for the U.S. Coast Guard. Her art has received hundreds of awards and hangs in collections worldwide. She’s a popular juror for art competitions, and is a much sought after lecturer and workshop instructor. Annie draws experience from her former career in corporate management to build a successful art career, and she shares her knowledge of business and marketing in her articles for Professional Artist magazine. Visit her at

posted by Annie Strack @ 8:56 AM   1 Comments

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Vineyard Plein Air!

Raw Wine, 8x10 oil, $195.
I've been so busy with art shows and classes this month that I forgot to show you my recent painting! I painted this with Rembrandt Oils on an 8x10 Fredrix Canvas Panel last weekend, at Wilson Vineyard in Nottingham, Pennsylvania. I painted 3 paintings in two afternoons there, along with chatting with visitors and sampling the wines. I'll be back there later in the year, exhibiting all the paintings that I painted there en plein air this summer. Here's a tip on finding the winery -- if your GPS system can't locate the address, try typing in "Oxford" instead of "Nottingham." Both my Garmin, and the built-in GPS in my Mercedes couldn't locate the winery in Nottingham, but both worked just fine when I typed in "Oxford."

posted by Annie Strack @ 12:55 PM   0 Comments

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