Sunday, April 6, 2014

Watercolor Painting Tutorial, Boats and Reflections

I started this painting a couple of months ago, but then I got distracted by classes and workshops and I didn't get around to finishing it until Friday at my Open Studio event. I had quite a crowd coming and going all day at my studio, and I always seem to get more work done when I paint in public!
Drawing the details. I draw as much as I can see, and a few things that I can't see but I know have to be there. I draw a suggestion of the reflections, but that is always likely to change as I paint.

I masked out the boats and painted in the sky and the lightest values of the water, using magnesium blue, cobalt, and payne's grey.

I used a wet into wet technique to create the dark background of the trees with indigo, payne's grey. sepia, yellow ochre. I also splattered paint, and dropped some intentional water blooms into the background to move the paint around and add interest.

As I worked on the trees and background, I also worked in the reflections at the same time, while I had the same  color on my brush to match the background.  

I used a Faux Squirrel Reservoir Liner brush from Dynasty Brush to paint the cypress trees in the background. The brush made it easy to loosely paint the branches and moss.

At this point, I wasn't happy with the vertical lines created by the reflections, so I wetted a few spots and wiped the paint out. I then went back and added more of the blues. It worked, and the water now appeared to be more "wet."

After the water and the background were done, I peeled off the masking fluid and began to paint the boats. I used my Faux Kolinsky from Dynasty Brush for this -- the brush has lots of spring and it's very responsive, and it keeps a fine point while holding los of water and paint.  

Some of the boats in my reference photo are different colors, with varying trims and canvases. I decided to make all the hulls white, and all the trims and canvases ultramarine blue.  

To add the focal point, I used the complimentary cadmium orange on a kayak in the "sweet spot" of the painting.  It looked a little off, so I added a red life ring on the boat next to it so that the orange didn't seem so isolated.

Lastly, I added the reflections of the orange and the red in the water, and this is the finished painting! I haven't titled this one yet, and I'm open to suggestions. This 14x20 painting will be going off to juried art shows soon, but it is available for pre-sale at $1095.

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posted by Annie Strack @ 7:32 PM   2 Comments

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

County Collectors Painting at Chester County Studio Tour

I've just finished this watercolor painting for the County Collectors series of the Chester County Studio Tour. Each painter in the tour will offer one 6x6 painting on panel in a black floater frame for $75. If you want to buy this one, you'll have to come out to my studio bright and early when the tour starts, before someone else buys it!
I started this painting by masking out the boat and painting the backgound. I painted this on rough paper with a light touch, so my brush skipped over the surface of the paper and left some white showing through like sunlight sparkles on the water. I used a soft brush for this stage of the painting, a #12 Faux Kolinksy from Dynasty Brush. This is a line of brushes that are soft, yet have a great amount of spring and a sharp point.
I often paint upside-down -- turning my painting and my reference photos upside-down, that is! This helps me see the perspective better, and identify the details more accurately. This is a small painting, so I'm using my #8 Faux Kolinsky from Dynasty Brush to paint the details.
After I finished painting, I trimmed the painting down to size and sprayed it with a couple of coats of clear varnish.
Next, I brushed a coating of acrylic medium onto my 6x6 Ampersand board. The acrylic medium is the binder that I use to adhere the painting onto the surface. Watercolor paintings that are mounted on board can be varnished and don't need mats or glass when framed.
And here it is, finished and framed! I call this painting "Waiting" because that little red dinghy is waiting to take me away. Be sure to come out to the Chester County Studio Tour, and come to my studio early if you want to get this before someone else snaps it up!

posted by Annie Strack @ 5:21 PM   0 Comments

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Developing a Strategy for Successful Pricing

How to create a sensible formula for pricing your artwork.
Several variables factor into art pricing.  To begin with, prices reflect the level of the artist’s recognition.  Paintings by well –known artists always command higher prices than work by unknown artists, often regardless of the skill involved.   Experience and credentials play a role in pricing as well, and works by artists who have acquired a history of awards, prominent collectors, and prestigious exhibits are perceived as more valuable than works by emerging artists.  Researching the prices of artists in your market who have a level of experience and style that is similar to yours can provide a starting point for formulating your prices.  

Market demand is also a large element in considering prices.  Artwork is worth what people are willing to spend on it, and the more people who want it; the more value it has.  The geographic area also plays a part in pricing, and art can be marketed easier and at higher prices in regions that are more affluent.   Art displayed in prestigious galleries in metropolitan cities is usually perceived to have more value than art exhibited in small town gift shops.  This doesn’t mean that an artist can charge different prices in different regional markets, or in different venues.  Artists should change venues as their prices rise, and recruit new sales venues and markets that can sustain those increased prices.  

Another factor in pricing is the choice of medium used.  Some mediums are perceived as being more valuable than others, and buyers are usually willing to spend much more on an original oil painting than they are for watercolors or other types of paintings.  Generally, oil paintings are at the top of the food chain, followed by acrylics, watercolors and pastels, hand-pulled prints and drawings, and reproductions.  

Most artists price their work according to size, and the most popular method is to formulate a base price unit for each square inch.  But the value of art is only what someone is willing to pay for it, and an artist needs to know what the current value of their art is in order to accurately create a formula for pricing.  A simple way to determine current value is to compare the retail prices of the paintings that have recently sold, and determine which sizes and prices are the most popular sellers.  Knowing which painting sizes are the most popular, an artist can then develop a base price unit for his work by dividing the retail price of the painting by it’s total of square inches.  For instance, if most of your sales have been for 16 x 20 paintings at around $900 to $1000 each, then your most popular paintings are valued at a unit price of about $3 per square inch.  This price per square inch can then be used as a base unit to ensure consistency when calculating prices for new artworks.  

If you compare the unit prices of the paintings that haven’t been selling as well, you may find that the reason for some of the more sluggish sales could be because some of the prices are inconsistent or out of whack with your base unit price.  Paintings that are priced considerably higher than your current unit price may be over priced for your market, while other paintings with price units that are considerably lower may be sending the wrong signals to your customers about the value of your art.  Whether too high or too low, inconsistent prices are confusing and sometimes even suspicious to buyers, and can severely hinder sales.  That’s not to say that every painting of a certain size has to be exactly the same price; allowing a small range of about 10% when setting prices provides adequate room to allow for exceptions in pricing, such as paintings that may be slightly more or less complex, or paintings that have received awards or other recognition.  Additionally, having a sliding price schedule where larger works are priced at slightly less than the base price and smaller works are priced at slightly more will alleviate huge price differences between sizes.

For instance, this sample is a sliding (10%) pricing schedule with a 10% range, and with the median painting priced at $3 per square inch.  

8 x 10 = 80 sq in, x $3.63 = $275 to $305
12 x 16 = 192 sq in, x $3.30 = $602 to $665
16 x 20 = 320 sq in, x $3 = $912 to $1008
20 x 24 = 480 sq in, x $2.70 = $1231 to $1301
24 x 30 = 720 sq in, x $2.43 = $1663 to $1838

So if the retail price of a 16 x 20 painting is $1000, and the artist pays an average of 50% commission on sales, then the artist is getting a wholesale price of $500 for the painting.  However that $500 is not all profit, there is still the COGS (Cost Of Goods Sold) to calculate before a profit can be determined.  COGS include all the supplies and materials used to create the artwork, as well as equipment, overhead, marketing, professional, and other expenses related to the sale of the final product.  To determine these costs, a business adds the totals of all the expenses for a given time period (such as quarterly or annually), and divides this figure by the number of items sold during this period.  For instance, if an artist’s business expenses were $10,000 in a year and he sold 50 paintings, then the COGS average out to $200 for each painting.  If the paintings sold at retail for an average of $1000 and the artist received an average wholesale price of $500, then he is making a profit of $300 on each sale.  Although this sounds like a successful profit, there’s still more to consider.    The sale of 50 paintings at a profit of $300 each means his total profit for the year is $4,500.  If the business is a full-time endeavor, then this breaks down to an hourly wage of a little more than two dollars an hour for the artist.  Even if we re-calculate this as a part-time business, the wage then climbs to only a little more than $4 an hour.    

Many artists choose to supplement their sales income by providing art related services, such as teaching lessons or workshops, painting custom ordered paintings, consulting, and other services.  Just as with anything else, artists need to figure out just how much time and expenses are actually involved and calculate an acceptable wage for their service.  

Artists also need to understand the differences between wholesale prices and retail prices, and what circumstances are appropriate for wholesale.  Many artists mistakenly set higher retail prices on works that they place for sale in galleries and other venues that charge a commission.  This unprofessional practice of wholesaling directly to the public results in artists underselling and alienating their galleries, and even alienating their customers.   Artwork should only have one retail price, regardless of where or how it was purchased.  Some artists try to justify the practice of setting duel retail prices by believing that direct sales encompass fewer sales related expenses, such as paying sales commissions.  However the actual costs related to selling still exist, even when selling directly to a customer.  For instance, direct selling at an art festival has the expenses of the booth fees, travel and lodging, equipment and merchandising displays, marketing, and other costs that can quickly add up to hundreds  of dollars or more per festival.  Not to mention, for every festival an artist attends, he loses four or five working days that could be spent on production.  These extra costs of sales can easily equal or even exceed what an artist would pay for sales commissions to galleries.    

When to discount artwork, and by how much, is another axiom that artists often face in routine business.  It’s perfectly acceptable to offer a wholesale price to galleries, decorators, and other professional retailers.  And if a retail customer is purchasing three or more paintings, I have no objection to offering them a ten percent discount for a preferred or loyal customer.   But an artist can’t discount everything for everybody who asks; the profit margin simply isn’t large enough to allow for this, and consistent discounting can have an adverse effect on the value of the artist’s work.  When bargain shoppers ask me if I can give them a discount, I politely tell them that I have some paintings that are similar but less expensive, and then direct their attention to those instead.  Another alternative that I’ve found effective is to counter-offer a discount request with an offer of something else instead, such as free shipping or an upgraded frame.  This type of negotiation allows the price of the artwork to remain constant, but still lets the customer believe that they’ve still managed to bargain for a better deal.    

Knowing when to raise prices, and by how much, can be a bit trickier.  All artists want to get the maximum price for their work, but raising prices too high or too quickly can cause sales to stagnate or fall.  Ideally, prices should rise when they are justified by a steady and sustainable market demand.  In my own art business, I consistently raise my prices once a year.  If I’ve had a particularly good year, I might raise them as much as a whopping five or six percent, while in slower years I might only raise them one or two percent.  These small increases may not sound like a lot, but they add up over time.  The knowledge of impending price increases also increases customer confidence in the value of the artwork, and helps them to self-validate their purchases.  

There are no set rules for pricing artwork, and there is no single formula that is going to be perfect for every artist.  But these examples and guidelines can assist you in developing or adjusting your own pricing formulas and standards.  By adhering to policy standards you will ensure consistency in your pricing, and portray your business in a professional manner that will help to instill your customers with confidence in their purchases.  

Copyright:  Annie Strack 2008©. A professional artist specializing in seascapes and maritime paintings, Annie Strack has earned Signature Membership in numerous international artist societies and is an Official Authorized Artist for the USCG. She draws from her previous career in corporate management to build her successful art career, and since 2005 she’s been sharing her business and marketing expertise with the readers of Art Calendar, Professional Artist, and other magazines. This article originally appeared in the May 2008 issue of Art Calendar Magazine. 

posted by Annie Strack @ 1:10 PM   4 Comments

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Painting Trees in Watercolor

I had a very productive class yesterday in my studio, focusing on drawing and painting trees! Here are my demonstrations from my workshop.
 I started with drawing basic shapes and "scribbles" and showing how those shapes could be arranged to depict trees and shrubbery. I demonstrated shortcuts and tips to help my students remember simple shapes and ways to draw realistic trees with just a few lines and scribbles. We worked with pencils and pen and ink in out drawings.
After my students had drawn several types of trees and were confident in their skills, I moved on to painting and showed how to mix a variety of colors that "read" as green, and help keep landscape paintings from appearing too monochromatic and flat. We also had time for me to demonstrate how to use values and color temperature to create depth and visual interest. This class is always popular, so I'll be teaching it again soon!

In the meantime, be sure to check out my other upcoming workshops at my Kennett Square Studio, and if you can't come in person, you can always take my basic watercolor classes on-line at Artists Network University -- where I teach classes year-round and I have a new class starting every few weeks!.

posted by Annie Strack @ 5:43 PM   0 Comments

Monday, March 10, 2014

Driven by a little old lady...

I bought a new car today, so I'm selling my little pick-up truck. Chevy S-10 LS, 3-door extended cab, with a camper top, bed liner, cruise, tilt, alloys, CD, automatic transmission, 6 cyl, RWD. 124,000 miles. $4,700. Very good condition, and only driven by a little old lady to art shows on Sundays.

posted by Annie Strack @ 4:45 PM   0 Comments

Friday, March 7, 2014

New Orleans

I've been down in New Orleans for the last couple of weeks, and just got back to my studio in Pennsylvania in time to open this morning for the monthly 1st Friday Open Studio event. It was a whirlwind trip, and it was so wonderful to get to the beach for a few days and soak up the sunshine!
(I always travel light!)

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(Annie shooting reference photos on the lakefront)

(I would have come home sooner, but I had to stay an extra few days at the beach until the roads up north were clear of snow and ice. True story.)

(I got a little shopping in while I was in Mississippi. Doncha just love these formal sequined camo slippers!)

posted by Annie Strack @ 10:13 AM   0 Comments

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Painting Snowy Landscapes in Watercolor

Here's some of my 12x16 demonstration paintings from my watercolor workshop on snowy landscapes that I taught yesterday. The first one is a limited palette landscape, using only Payne's Grey and Ultramarine. I started by masking out the white areas -- the snow on top of the fence rails, a few branches of the maple trees,  and on the pine boughs. Then using a 1" flat brush I painted wet on wet to get the dark snowy effect in the background and lifted out a few of the branches with a damp brush. I used a #12 Faux Squirrel Reservoir Liner from Dynasty Brush to paint the fence and some of the branches in the maple trees in just a few simple calligraphic strokes. After is was completely dried, I used sand paper and a razor knife to scrape off a few more highlights in the snow.
 In the next painting, I introduced a full palette of colors as well as all of the techniques that I introduced in the previous painting.
I also show my students how to use different types of brushes and tools on their paintings. Here's Linda trying out one of the Dynasty Brush liners on her painting.
I've got lot's more classes and workshops coming up, be sure to check out my Calendar Page to see the full selection!

In other news, I'm heading out in a few days to go back to New Orleans during Mardi Gras. If you're in the area, be sure to give me a ring or follow my Facebook page for info on where you can meet up with me!

posted by Annie Strack @ 2:36 PM   0 Comments

Saturday, February 15, 2014

When to Give it all Away (and when not to)

A lot of artists ask me what they should do about the never ending stream of requests they get from charities and non-profits asking for donations of artwork. Many artists donate artwork time after time, despite the fact that they can only deduct the cost of the materials (not the actual value of the art!) from their taxes, and they usually get little or no recognition from the charity for their donations. Many artists have a hard time determining whether they should donate their artwork, and how much of it they should donate. Here's an easy Decision Making Flow Chart to help professional artists make sound, logical decisions:

One of the most important things I teach in my Art Business and Marketing classes is that if you don't have respect and value for your art, then no one else will, either. If you price an artwork at a thousand dollars and you willingly trade it for ten bucks worth of "exposure," how do you think potential clients will value your art?  Remember, too, that although a charity might be worthwhile, would you want to give them that much money if they were asking you for a cash donation, instead? And would you give away as much cash, and to so many charities, that ask you for donations every year? Part of being successful requires using good business sense and rational thinking. This flow chart will help you with some of it.

posted by Annie Strack @ 2:04 PM   0 Comments

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Snowed in

This week, I'm working on a painting of boats on the Tchefuncte River. I shot the reference photos for this when I was in Madisonville teaching a recent workshop. The workshop venue was right across the street from this lovely river view, making it perfect for my seascape painting workshop.
 I paint watercolors in layers, starting with the lightest colors and values. Here I'm using my #12 Faux Kolinsky from Dynasty Brush to layer in some details. The Faux Kolinsky from Dynasty Brush is a synthetic with lots of spring, and it keeps a very fine point while holding a lot of water and paint. It performs just like a natural Kolinsky, but with the added benefit of perfect consistency that you can only get from a synthetic brush. I'll let you know when I'm done with this painting, but in the meantime, you can watch me finish it at my next open studio event.
 I'm also trying out these really cool gel pens this week, from Zebra Pen. These are the Sarasa Rapid Dry Ink Gel Pens, and because of their rapid dry technology they don't smear or smudge, which makes them perfect for artists. It's fun to sketch with these vibrant colors! Each week, Zebra Pen is giving away sets of these awesome gel pens to 6 random winners. To enter for a chance to win, follow them on Facebook and Twitter and enter their contest on their Facebook Page.
This is my patio this morning. We got close to 2 feet of snow, and it's still coming down heavy. Thank goodness I teach most of my art courses online! My next online painting class at Artists Network University starts February 25, and it's filling up fast. Don't wait and miss out -- sign up now!

posted by Annie Strack @ 11:30 AM   0 Comments

Friday, February 7, 2014

Register now to learn how to paint winter landscapes!

Lot's of great events coming up! This month you can sign up for Painting Snowy Landscapes in Watercolor, a one day workshop in my Kennett Square Studio on February 21st. Learn how to mix colors for light and shadows and the art of negative painting for creating stunning winter landscapes. Learn how to manipulate your brushstrokes and use the texture of your paper for depicting the texture of snow, and learn some of my favorite tips and secrets for creating masterworks!  10am to 4pm, $58 per person. Lunch in included. Email me to register. 
Also coming up in February, my next 4 week long online course begins February 25, -  Watercolor Painting for Beginners! My 4-week long online class is the most popular course at Artists' Network University. My classes at ANU always fill up quickly, so artists need to sign up early to get into one of these classes!

posted by Annie Strack @ 12:12 PM   0 Comments

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All images and content copyright Annie Strack 2008 Although I occasionally receive compensation for some posts, I always give my honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experiences on those topics or products. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely my own.