Tuesday, February 27, 2007

New York, New York

Well, we're off to New York tomorrow to attend a show opening on Thursday - it'll probably be the only time I ever show my work in New York City, so I figured I'd better go!

Back in August I had the opportunity to spend nine days painting the Forbes ranch near Ft. Garland, Colorado with nineteen other extremely talented artists. It was such a good experience - I got to bump elbows with a lot of artists who are far more established in their careers than me, spend nine straight days painting, and soak up some valuable business advice from gallery owners.

Anyhow, we all had a few months to produce paintings inspired by our time on the ranch, and this show is the culmination the experience. Paintings will be on exhibit from each artist, and it should be fun to see how everyone interpreted their time on the ranch differently. I completed a bunch of small plein air studies while I was at the ranch, and did five larger studio paintings when I got back home (shown above). Three of the larger paintings are going to be in the show.

Many of the paintings that will be in the show were printed in the March 2007 issue of American Artist magazine, which is completely devoted to the residency. You can read the article here if you don't have a print copy. I just have to make a disclaimer (as usual) that in the print version of the magazine, my paintings reproduced more dark and dull than they actually are. I'm slowly learning that it's tough to get a magazine to do an accurate reproduction of your work - my last article in Southwest Art made my painting look too bright and saturated, and this article it's the exact opposite!

We're only going to be in the city for three nights, but that should be enough. We'll be flying with Aspen for the first time, so I'm praying that she does well on the plane, and that it's not too cold while we're there so that we can do a lot of walking around the city. Regardless, it should a fun, albeit short, trip!

Monday, February 19, 2007


Well, after all my whining last month about the US Postal Service misrouting one of my show entries, it turns out it made there just in the nick of time. I got my SASE back from the OPA yesterday with good news - my painting "First Light" was accepted into this year's national show.

To be completely honest, I really needed that this week. I've been down on myself about my art lately, and needed some sort of ego boost, as immature as that may be. I've been feeling like I lost all the momentum I had going last year with my painting. It has seemed like nothing is happening, I'm not ticking any goals off my list, and worst of all I haven't been painting nearly enough. So, it's nice to know that I got into this show again this year - I just needed to know that I'm still building my resume somehow.

I missed the opening for the national show last year to attend Nate's MBA graduation, so I'm planning on definitely going this year. The show is in Fredricksburg, Texas, so we're planning to spend the weekend there for the opening, then head down to Houston to visit relatives and friends that we don't get to see much now that we don't live there. Should be fun!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Money Matters

Oil on Canvas

Since tax time is coming up, I sat down this morning and made a spreadsheet of my 2006 earnings and expenses from my art business. 2006 was my first year of selling my paintings, so it was interesting to tabulate all of the numbers and see how things turned out.

As far as earnings go, 85% of dollars spent on my paintings came from gallery sales, while 15% came from commissions. Since the gallery takes 50%, this actually means that 30% of the money I actually saw from my artwork came from commissions - to be exact, from two commissions (three paintings). Considering that the gallery sold 26 paintings, I find it funny that three paintings were responsible for 30% of my profit for the year. This illustrates how significant the gallery cut can be**. It also reminds me that while I may not love to do commissions, they're a good way to financially support my art habit.

As far as expenses go, my biggest expense by far is framing. By the numbers, I spent an average of 10% of the sale price of each painting on framing. A couple of artists I've studied with use 10% as a rule of thumb for frame price, which means that as your work increases in value, you should be able to use higher quality frames. I try to follow this, but in reality I prefer that my framing costs come in lower that 10%. At the start of 2006, I was working with two framing sources that were a bit pricier than those I currently use. Midway through the year, I got my tax license and started using a couple of wholesale framers which allowed me to cut my framing costs significantly. I'm hoping that I can keep the framing costs down to 5-7% in 2007.

Actual painting supplies (paint, brushes, canvas) were on average about 2% of the price of each painting. Other miscellaneous costs (entry fees, shipping, office supplies) ended up being nowhere near as significant as I had predicted, which was a nice surprise.

Overall, I brought home 43% of the sale price of each painting sold in 2006, which isn't too bad considering the gallery cut. One of my general art business goals is to keep this number above 40%, so I'm very happy with that for 2006 - the commissions certainly helped!

** Note that I'm not complaining about the gallery commission. The gallery I worked with in 2006 was responsible for getting my work into many people's homes, and I think they earn every cent of their commission!!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Back to Work?

Oil on Canvas

I don’t talk about my day job here very often, because, well, you never know who is going to stumble upon your blog. But even though this blog is pretty much about art, I do in fact have a job that has been responsible for funding my art habit thus far. Since having Aspen, I’ve been sorting through what to do with my day job so that I could be the mom I want to be and still have time to paint. My maternity leave is up this week, so after pretending I didn’t have a job for twelve weeks, I was forced to make a decision.

I graduated from college in 2000 with a degree in Chemical Engineering. After graduation, Nate and I got married and moved down to Houston since we both had job offers there. I worked for ExxonMobil right out of college, and my job essentially entailed creating computer programs to optimize the amount of money that the chemical plant would make on a given day, depending on the purchase price of different kinds of oil, and the selling price of various chemical byproducts. Exciting, eh? I spent all day every day working to fill the pockets of one of the richest companies in the world – not exactly the most fulfilling job in the world!

I was so miserable that I picked up oil painting to give me something that I could be passionate about outside of work, and after two years I decided that Houston just wasn’t for me. I spent a few months searching for jobs in Denver, Nate got his company to agree to transfer him, and we moved back to Colorado in 2002.

When I interviewed for jobs in Denver, I interviewed with my current boss under the assumption that I would be hired to work in the oil and gas industry. As luck would have it, when I finally hired on, I got put to work in a different division of the company working on air pollution control systems for the power industry.

For the past four years, I’ve spent my time designing emissions control systems for power plants and oil companies, and doing comparative cost estimates for different emerging control technologies. I’m not in love with engineering, but as far as engineering jobs go, it was right up my alley. I’m a bit of a tree-hugger at heart, and I liked being involved in the effort to keep our air clean.

I did well enough at my day job that I had a lead position on my last project, and was moving up the corporate ladder. Problem was, I wanted to to have a family, and moving up the corporate ladder in an engineering job isn’t really conducive to the type of family role that I wanted to have. When I got pregnant, I knew I was going to have to step down in responsibility, or quit my job for things to work. Before I went on leave, I told my boss that I would only be returning part time.

Today I went to lunch with my boss and project manager, and told them honestly that I just can’t see myself putting Aspen in daycare this year, so I won’t be returning to the office. The thing is, I’m hesitant to quit my job completely at this point after building up some expertise in my area, so it was a tough conversation to have. After a bit of discussion, we agreed that I can switch my status as an employee such that I’m still on the payroll, but don’t get benefits or have an office. If there’s any work that comes up on an occasional basis that I can do from home, I’ll do it on an hourly basis. Otherwise, if I don’t do anything for months, no big deal.

I think it’s a good solution, as I’ll be able to keep my foot in the door and keep up to date in my area, but I’ll be able to stay at home with Aspen and work on kicking my art career into gear. When I do work, the paycheck will be a welcome financial bonus, but when I don’t I can focus on my art.

This morning I figured I’d be quitting my job, but now this is where things stand. Guess I’ll just have to see how it goes!