I decided not to renew my art website last year. It was not longer serving a purpose. However, I do still have an affinity for the egg carvings I had there so I have decided to create a blog post where they can continue to live.
I have been teaching printmaking for the last five months now. Recently though we took a run at reduction printing. Reduction printing is a multicoloured print where all colours are made from the same plate. In our case I suggested white, the colour of the paper, and then two colours on that, giving the appearance of a three-colour print, kind of. So how does this work?
Basically, there are two steps. First you carve away, we worked in lino, everything you want to be white, or the first colour. The trick with reduction printing is that the second colour goes ON TOP of the first colour. That means that your second colour needs to be either opaque or darker than the first. I did a raven. Honestly, if I had known this was going to work so well I would have chosen a cooler image.
Once you have a run of prints made, generally you will lose some of the original prints during the registration process, which we will cover later. I suggested to the students that we might get 50% total in the end. So if you want 10 good prints, then print 20 of your first colour.
The next bit is to carve away everything you want to keep from the first colour. Whatever is carved away here will not get inked and printed onto the previous prints. This whole process was mapped out prior to starting so once here there shouldn’t be too much mystery as to what is being carved away.
The hardest thing in this was figuring out how to do the registration. Registration is putting a print down on the newly cut plate so they line up perfectly. If your print is laid down on the plate even 1mm off it will show as the two images will be skewed from each other. This was the most stressful part of this. Although I am sure that the solution to this is on the internet, I really wanted to solve this problem myself (isn’t that half the fun?!?!?!). After a few ideas I came up with our eventual solution. Our lino plates are 6X8 and our paper is 8X10 to fit our 8X10 display frames. I took a piece of mat board, close to 8X10 and measured 1” from the top and 1” from one side. I laid the lino on those two lines and traced around the lino block. Then I cut away the mat board and the lino fit into the hole I cut. I then used double-sided tape and adhered the lino and the mat board to a larger mat board. The purpose of this is to stop any sliding while running it through the printing press (we use a hand cranked small press on a table top). It is important that the corner of the cut mat board and the lino are both 90 degrees and equal to each other. The other bits don’t matter for printing. Once these three parts are adhered to each other I could ink the plate and lay the paper down in that 90 degree corner and as long as the top of the paper stayed in line with the top of the mat board and the side of the paper lined with the mat board running down then when I do the second colour they should match up.
Once I had the second cutting of the lino done I did a print of it.
Then I was ready to print on the previously printed sheets.
Sorry I don’t have any process photos to share. It was pretty hairy during the printing sessions and I honestly wasn’t sure any of this was going to work so I didn’t document the process at all.
I’m teaching Printmaking this semester and have been enjoying the learning curve that comes with teaching a new course. I am focusing on four types of printmaking: relief, intaglio, planography, stencil. Under the stencil category I had the students choose some kind of image that would lend itself to this type of printmaking. Technically this may not fall under the traditional definition of a print, in the sense that you can recreate the image again and again. This would be more of a monoprint style, although you may be able to use your stencil more than once. I haven’t tried that yet.
When I created a prototype for the students to see I used airbrush frisket. It produced some interesting and unforeseen results. The effect is cool in that it creates a lunar feel.
With the students we used Mask It, which worked really well. I made another t-shirt today and want to share the process so you can make these as well.
Step 1 – choose and image and transfer it onto the Mask It using a pencil or marker. Avoid fine image lines as the bleach will sometimes migrate under the stencil and blotch out your detail. I now know that’s what happened with my first attempt.
Step 2 – transfer the image onto the t-shirt (100% cotton works well, this shirts change quickly thicker ones take more time. I had a student use 50% cotton 50% modai (?) and it worked really well), or whatever you are using. I had two students use pillow cases! Make sure to mask off any areas you do not want to bleach. In both examples I enclosed the piece inside of a circle. You can easily do the reverse and have the bleach “splatter” out as well.
Step 3 – the bleaching. I recommend using gloves here and opening a window. Some people are really sensitive to bleach or even allergic. I use an old bug spray bottle (CLEARLY MARKED THAT IT’S NOT BUG SPRAY). Some people will use a normal spray bottle, but I like things refined so a small spray is more to my liking. This step is where the magic happens. Spray your piece and then lay some paper towel over the image to soak up the bleach so it does not migrate under the stencil. This is key to keeping your image sharp. For this shirt I just let the bleach sit on the shirt for 4-6 minutes between sprays. I probably sprayed it 4 or 5 times. The students lack the patience for this so they would spray, paper towel, repeat until they were happy with the amount of bleaching. This worked well also, but time gives the bleach the ability to eat the colour more than “more bleach” does.
Step 4 – remove the stencil. This part is important also because you want to make sure there is no bleach left on your stencil or it will transfer to the shirt, discolouring whatever it touches. Once the stencil is removed it’s time to pull out the hair dryer to dry the shirt fully before the final step. I helped my girlfriend make a shirt and was so excited for her that I went to step 5 too early and it ruined the shirt. Let the hair dryer do its thing on your shirt for a few minutes. I actually tucked the hair dryer into my shirt and let it blow for five minutes or so and then turned it to blow on the other half of the image. You will see the image changing colour as you go. Once the whole image is the same colour, or dryness, it’s time for the next step.
Step 5 – the home stretch. Put it in the dryer for 30 minutes. Once the shirt is dry enough that when you put it in the actual dryer it won’t bleach other areas of the shirt (this is what I did to the gf’s shirt :( ). There are tiny bleach crystals that form on the shirt and tossing it in the dryer will knock those off. Once the buzzer goes on the dryer, voila!!! you have a new custom t-shirt to add to your collection of awesome t’s.
Here is a student’s piece. This style is easier in the sense that you do not need to quarantine the rest of the shirt off! You can also get a neat effect with the splatter dots that randomly show up.
on soaked deck
with autumn leaves
Wow, it has been a long time since I have posted anything. Of course, a lot has been created since then. Off the top of my head, I created a bunch of pieces for an art show I co-curated this previous March called “The Art of Paper” where the pieces in the show had to be made of/from paper. Here is one of my favourites, a piece called “The Sacred Within”. It is paper cut approximately 36″x50″.
I have also written five classical guitar pieces, small pieces. You can see those here.
In August I had a piece in the Terrace Art Gallery’s summer member show. The piece I entered is called “We Give OURSELVES Permission to Kill You” and came from this realisation that we are the ones that say it is okay to kill other people. It is an altered book.
Thanks for reading. Keep on letting out the artist you are into this world. We need you to be YOU.
Here is a great article by Melissa Dinwiddie on how she prices her art. If you are selling your work, then this is a must read.
A few months ago I started sharing snapshots of works in progress on social media. Not long afterwards, someone I know on Facebook asked if my work was for sale, because she wanted to buy a particular piece I was working on.
It gets better: turns out she was interested not just in purchasing the canvas-in-process; she also wanted me to create a second, “sister canvas” to go with it.
Just from posting my process pics on Facebook, I had a buyer for not one, but two paintings! Great!
The only problem? Now I was going to have to come up with a price…
I am convinced that pricing is always the hardest thing I do as an artist. How the heck do we decide what to charge? Pricing just feels like a big, black void, and one with a lot of pressure: charge too much, and they’ll run away; charge too little, and you’re shooting yourself in the foot.
Ultimately, this spontaneous Facebook commission made me determined to set an entire pricing structure for my work, rather than just grabbing a number out of the air every time I create a new piece. Here are some of the “ground rules” I followed, and some tips that I hope will help you confidently set pricing for your own art.
1) Remember: your pricing gets to change.
If, like my story above, you’ve got a client waiting to hear back about a price, know that as you become more established, you’ll be able to command higher prices. You may even raise your prices on your very next sale.
In other words, whatever you charge this one client is not set in stone, so don’t stress too much about it. Keep in mind, though, that it’s always a better business move to raise your prices than to lower them, so leave yourself some room for growth.
2) Never undercharge.
That said, leaving no room for growth is not actually most artists’ problem — most of us have the opposite issue: charging too little. Once I brought art to be juried into a show, and was horrified that one of my fellow artists was charging less for her work than it had cost her to frame it!
Needless to say, this is a big no-no. Always make sure your pricing covers your actual costs (canvas, paint, framing, shipping if applicable — unless you’re going to charge a separate, additional amount for shipping/packaging).
You also want to take into consideration how much time you put into creating your work. Emerging artists may not be able to command high enough prices to pay themselves fantastically for their actual time spent, but that’s definitely the goal for the long term!
If you’re lucky enough to work fast and loose, you can get away with charging less, because each piece just doesn’t take long to produce. However, if your style is very detail-oriented and meticulous, what another artist could sell happily for $500 might mean you’d be earning pennies per hour, which is not sustainable. Your choice, then, is to grit your teeth and charge a lot more, and/or to figure out how to offer less-expensive work (smaller and/or looser originals, prints, etc.)
Not sure if you’re undercharging? As I wrote in this post on 5 Pricing Lessons Learned the Hard Way, I have a practically foolproof gauge: resentment. If I notice myself feeling resentment about a sale, it’s a good bet I need to raise my price!
On the other hand, if my prices don’t make me feel at least a little uncomfortable that I’m charging too much, I’m probably undercharging!
Your mileage may vary with this: start to pay attention to whether you tend to undervalue or overvalue your work, and adjust accordingly.
3) Be clear and consistent.
Of course your goal is to be paid well for your time, but the truth is, some of your pieces probably take a lot longer to create than others.
You know how much work went into each piece, but customers don’t know (and don’t usually care) how long a piece took you to create. Charging by the hour is likely to result in a lot of confusion as potential customers look at two pieces of the same size and wonder why piece A is so much more expensive than piece B.
Customers who are confused do not buy, which is why I’m a believer in clarity and consistency.
If you’re a painter, one way to ensure you’re clear and consistent is by using size-based pricing — either by the square inch (h x w) or by the linear inch (h + w). This makes your pricing easy for potential clients to understand, and it prevents you from charging more for pieces you’re particularly fond of, which makes your pricing seem random and confusing (and remember, customers who are confused do not buy).
With size-based pricing, you simply need to determine your current multiplier (the number you multiply by the canvas size) in order to immediately know the price for any given piece (okay, possibly with the help of a calculator…) .
If you create in a lot of different sizes, you may find linear inch pricing more sensible than square inch pricing. Why? When you charge by the square inch, the price difference between a small painting and a larger one can become astronomical.
Here, for example, is square inch pricing, using a multiplier of 2.5 (ie, $2.50 per square inch):
4×4 inches = 16 square inches x 2.5 = $40
8×8 inches = 64 square inches x 2.5 = $160
16×16 inches = 256 square inches x 2.5 = $640
24×24 inches = 576 square inches x 2.5 = $1,440
32×32 inches = 1,024 square inches x 2.5 = $2,560
I don’t know about you, but $40 seems awfully small price for a painting by someone who commands $2,560 for a 32×32 canvas.
Here are the same canvas sizes using linear inch pricing, using a multiplier of 20 (ie, $20.00 per linear inch) — as you can see, the difference in price feels a lot less out-of whack:
4+4 inches = 8 linear inches x 20 = $160
8+8 inches = 16 linear inches x 20 = $320
16+16 inches = 32 linear inches x 20 = $640
24+24 inches = 48 linear inches x 20 = $960
32+32 inches = 64 linear inches x 20 = $1,280
Neither of these pricing methods is “right” or “wrong,” but once you determine your method and your multiplier, charging by size can be a very helpful way to eliminate the guesswork, and feel confident about your pricing.
Different Pricing for Different Media?
One possible modifier to your size-based pricing structure is the media you paint with. If you only paint watercolors, or only paint oils, there’s no problem, but if you paint both on canvas and on paper, as I do, it gets a little tricky.
For whatever reason, paintings on paper tend to sell for less than paintings on canvas — even though they require framing, which is an added expense. In my case, if I were to pay to have a piece framed, my costs become much higher for a work on paper than for a canvas painting! What’s an artist to do?
I don’t have a final answer to this question, except to refer you to the item below…
4) Do your research.
It can be useful to look around at what other artists are charging for their work: artists in your local area, and especially artists at a similar stage in their careers.
What are people charging for framed works on paper? For unframed works on paper? For stretched canvases?
The challenge here, though, is that what other people charge is likely to be all over the map. So when you do your research, be sure to take into consideration how you want to brand yourself: do you pride yourself on making “art for everyone,” at “everyman” prices? Or do you want to make your mark as a high-end, premium-pricing artist?
When artist Matt LeBlanc was deciding what to price, he looked at what kinds of art were available in his area and noticed the low-end and high-end of the market were rather saturated. The mid-range, though, didn’t have a lot of competition, so that’s the price range he decided to set on his paintings — at the time of this writing, Matt has work for sale from $50 to $900.
This kind of research worked well for Matt: he went from selling no art, to being featured on HGTV, and being one of the hottest selling artists in his area.
5) State your price, then shut up.
My most expensive moment as an artist was several years ago, when a couple flew out to California from Philadelphia to meet with me about commissioning a ketubah for their anniversary.
I’d already told them my price range, which at the time was something like “from $1,500 to $5,000″ (mistake #1: never put an upper limit on your pricing!), and when they told me what they were looking for, I realized it was going to be one of the most time-intensive pieces I’d ever made.
In other words, this was a top-of-the pricing scale commission.
However, I’d never yet commanded $5,000 for a piece, and I was afraid this number, which felt so big to me, would scare them off! So when it came time to give them an estimate, I hemmed and hawed, and said something like, “Well, what you’re looking for is at the top of my price range.”
Then, instead of keeping my mouth shut and seeing how they responded, I stupidly barreled ahead to say, “…but if $5,000 is too much for your budget, I can always scale back the design to make it less expensive.”
The husband said, “$3,000, $4,000, $5,000 — it’s all the same to me. But I’m a middle-of-the-road kind of guy, so let’s go with the middle price — $4,000.”
Yep — because I couldn’t just state my price and shut up, I lost a thousand dollars in a heartbeat. (And “scaling back the design” is a myth. It never happens!) Lesson learned.
This one is important, so I’ll say it again: state your price, then shut up. Period. Do not explain, do not apologize.
(I’ve done that too — gotten defensive about my pricing — and oh, the pain! Now I’ve learned to say, “If you like my work, this is the price. If you don’t want to pay that, you don’t have to buy it.”)
If you’re sending an email to a potential customer, “state your price and shut up” might look something like:
“For this painting, the price is $X [plus shipping/packaging, if you’re charging for shipping separately].”
“I charge $Y per linear inch, and this painting is 24×30, which is 54 linear inches, so the price is $(Yx54).”
“If you’d like to purchase it, just let me know and I’ll send you a link to a payment page where you can pay either with a credit card or your PayPal account [or whatever payment method you use]. Once I receive your payment and shipping address, I’ll ship your painting to you via [shipping service].”
[Be sure to indicate when you’ll ship — a day? a week? does the painting need to cure first? does it need to be varnished first?]”
The really challenging thing about pricing is that there are no hard and fast rules. Everything depends on you, your work, where you live, where you are in your career — there are so many variables it can drive us nutty!
The tips I’ve shared here have helped me get more confident with my own pricing. I won’t lie to you, pricing my work is still really, really hard, but hopefully these ground rules will help light your path as you negotiate this trickiest of areas for artists.
Good luck, and let me know how it goes!
Melissa Dinwiddie is an artist, writer, performer, and creativity instigator, on a mission to empower people to feed their creative hungers. She coaches and consults with individuals and groups, and leads creativity workshops and retreats in inspiring locations around the world as well as online. Get a FREE mini-poster of Melissa’s Keys to Creative Flow and her Imperfectionist Manifesto at Living A Creative Life, MelissaDinwiddie.com.
I completed a portrait painting of Ramana Maharishi yesterday. I’ve been learning a technique that makes portrait painting, in this style, much easier than anything else I’ve tried. I have never considered myself a person who can paint people, but the responses I got from my painting of Palden Gyatso had me rethinking how I see myself in that regard. I’ve since taken on portrait painting and have done three or four of them.
Ramana Maharishi is a unique and important individual for people who practice spirituality. I won’t go into a long diatribe about it here as I assume if you are interested in him, then you will seek further for yourself, but I do want to add this quote from wikipedia. “He radiated a silent power which stilled the minds of those who came to him and occasionally gave them a direct experience of his state. In later years, he became more willing to speak and respond to questions, though he always insisted that the silence he emanated was his purest teaching and that his verbal teachings were only for those who could not understand his silence.”
Wet red leaves
fall to frozen
Not allowed to run
the race of life
only to fall
So I’ve been a Professional Coach for a couple years now and not ironically, I guess, have been hired by a number of artists to support the expansion of their art and life.
The most profound experience I’ve had through working with these amazing creators is how their art changes as a result of connecting in a clearer way to their essence; the most fundamental reflection of their being, their light, their true nature. It shows up in their paintings as their “voice”. Some call it style, but I’m not sure that captures it because you can work in different styles and yet be creating through your essence. It’s an expression deeper than the style or medium chosen.
I watched Katy Perry’s “Part of Me” movie last night and I got even more clarity on this process. My analogy is a tube between your deepest self and your medium (canvas, paper, instrument, etc). The clearer the tube the clearer the true expression of your essence. Then I started realising that we are all at different levels of clarity within our own “tubes”. So even when an artist paints and the result isn’t their clearest expression, it may just be perfect for someone else who is at that exact level of clarity in relationship to their own essence. I now wonder if that’s part of what happens when an artist is unhappy with their work, but others are blown away by it. If the negative self talk is not involved, then maybe that artist just knows that their tube had some translucence to it instead of transparency?
If you are an artist and looking to clear the tube between your deepest self and your medium I’d be honoured to work with you. This is open to the artist working in their home studio who never shows their work to the established artist making a living through their work.
Make 2013 the year of you. Make it the greatest year of your life. You won’t get it back, and you can only run this calendar once my friends.