Life Lessons

"Figuring out our gifts in life is part of our journey to becoming enlightened human beings.” – Allison DuBois

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Business Side of Art

Song - Norah Jones - Painter 

Whenever I tell people that I am an artist, I get the feeling that they think I sit in my studio all day and play with my paints, eat bon-bons and drink scotch....with an occasional break for a wonderful artistic event.  Well, that is somewhat true.  

I love waking in the morning with nothing but a blank canvas to cover with color. Pure joy.

But those days are few and far between.  There is a lot of paperwork to take care of (you mean I really have to pay TAXES just to paint?), frames to be purchased, show dates to prepare for, answering emails, staffing gallery slots, designing, advertising, keeping track of expenses and maintaining an up to date website.

Recently while preparing for a show, I realized that I couldn't find where I had stored several paintings.  I have my studio walls for storage, a wonderful storage area under our staircase and a closet in the "guest" bedroom all for art storage.  So I pulled everything out of all three storage areas and organized it by numbering each place a painting was stored.  

Well now I am home from that event and I have to figure out where each painting goes so I can find it again! I think I need to paint smaller......

Several artists asked me the other day how I keep "things" organized.  Here is my system.  I would love to hear from you if you have a simplified one!

1. As soon as I finish a painting, I take a photo and make an inventory page. On this page is a thumbnail photo of the painting, the title, the size, medium, the cost of the frame and what galleries/events it has been in.  I also like to keep track of the pricing (sometimes it changes depending on the overhead of the event) and if any comments were made or if it sold, it was donated or given as a gift.


2. Each painting has a number.  The first two numbers are the date it was painted and the second two are the sequential order of my paintings for that year.  That number goes on the inventory page as well as the back of the painting.

1112 - This painting was painted 2011 and was number 12 during that year.

3. The painting also gets a title and any other pertinent information on the back. I recently read that you should not date your paintings because if a painting has an older date, it looks like it has just been sitting in the closet to a customer.  I personally think this is valuable information and if a customer likes your artwork, they won't really care what date it was painted. Heck, I'd buy a painting from 1856, wouldn't you?  I also add the size & medium for my personal notes.

4. Originally I began keeping track of paintings by date but then I realized I had trouble remembering if I painted it in 2007 or 2009.  So I began an ABC list as well.

The painting number comes first, then title, medium & size.

The painting number, the title, medium, size and storage place ( 3D = under stairs in the 4rd slot)

 5. Then for each show or event, I look up that painting and add any changes.  I also now add where it is stored.  

6. For commissions I have a form letter for pricing but I also include photo's of framing ideas for clients to consider.

 Gallery wrapped canvas with the painting continued around the sides (this painting is not completed)
Clear Maple floating frame - my favorite these days
Gallery wrapped canvas with one color around the sides
Another Clear Maple floating frame with a thinner depth

Clear Maple Floating frame with black interior

"The trouble with organizing a thing is that pretty soon folks get to paying more attention to the organization than to what they're organized for."  - Laura Ingalls Wilder


  1. loved seeing and hearing about the business side of art this am. although i like more to imagine you, the artist,  like the beautiful photo portrays you .................

    have a great day!

  2. J,

    How organized can one artist be? You are amazing.

    Question: where do you get your floater frames? That maple frame looks nicer than the ones I buy. Also, my supplier doesn't have 30 x 40 inch frames anymore, so I'm looking for a source of large floaters.


    1. The company I use is Franken Frames and the guy is Roger. He is very helpful!


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