Tag Archives: full time artist

Income Sources of an Alaskan Artist

~ by Maria Benner

At the end of 2015, we entered the last income and expenses transactions into QuickBooks, feeling proud of every penny we earned with our own business.  So then the big question is, how do we manage to achieve growth in 2016?  As the business manager for our little operation, I decided to take a look at our income sources.  So here’s the break down for 2015.

Etsy sales: 50%. Clearly, our Etsy shop Real Art Is Better is the main sales engine, and we’ll keep optimizing listings, and promoting the shop.  The goal is to increase traffic to the shop, and to increase the conversion rate from views to sales.  There are many ways to do that, and the key is to devote more time to these tasks.

Commissions: 15%.  There were more commissions in 2015 than ever before.  Having a studio where clients can come meet with Scott about their painting concept has been very useful.  We hope to do more commissioned work in the future, so spread the word!

Sales at craft fairs and at our studio: 12.5%. 2015 was the first time we did craft fairs, and had a studio where clients could purchase art.  We’ll probably try to do at least two craft fairs in 2016, and will host a couple events at the studio.

Art shows: 11.6%. We had five art shows in 2015.  Three of them were in breweries in Anchorage, one at a chocolate lounge, and one at a coffee shop in Juneau.  We already have four shows booked for 2016 (check out the one at Midnight Sun Brewing on display until February 4th), and plan on booking at least one more.  We’re still trying out new venues in Anchorage, and have thought about having art shows in the Lower 48, but haven’t found an opportunity that would generate enough income to justify the cost.

Custom stickers and graphic design: 8.3%. Currently we’re trying to figure out how to promote our graphic design and custom stickers business. So far we’ve been relying on word-of-mouth.  If you know of someone in need of these services, please send them our way.

Galleries: 2.7%. Selling art at galleries accounted for the smallest percentage of income, because galleries take a 40% commission, so we only sell prints there.  We prefer to sell directly to clients, not only because we avoid paying the high commission, but also because galleries try not to connect clients directly with artists, and we like staying in contact with our clients.  That’s one of the funnest parts of our business!

In addition to working towards increasing revenue from each source, we’re also working on adding new sources, such as public art projects, beer label designs, and publishing a book.  The possibilities are endless, and we’re looking forward to seeing what 2016 will bring.

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A Day in the Life of an Artist

Artist Scott Clendaniel working in his studio

People often ask my wife and me what we do all day, because we both work at home on our art business.  I work as an artist full time, and my wife, Maria, is the business and marketing manager.  She also spends about an hour every morning trading stocks.

We wake up around 6 AM, excited to start the day.  First thing every morning is Coffee Time, during which we spend an hour reading the news, checking e-mail and social media, and perusing Craigslist ads while we drink espresso and smoothies.

After Coffee Time I take care of any graphic design work on the iMac, while Maria manages her stock portfolio on the PC laptop.  One of the facets of our art business is being distributors for a custom stickers manufacturer, so some days I prepare bid requests for stickers at this time.  When I am done with graphics/stickers work, I change into my painting clothes and head into my studio.  I check my paint palette to see if the paint is too old, and if it is, I mix a new palette.  While I’m working in the studio I listen to the radio, music, books on tape, or Russian language learning CD’s.  I work for about 90-minute stretches, and take 15-30 minute breaks in between.  Around 9:30 AM, when the sun finally rises, both of us stop working to take time for our health.  We stretch, do push-ups and go jogging.  This takes about an hour and a half.

After lunch, I return to the studio and work for a couple 90-minute sessions.  I try not to rush, so usually I only complete part of a painting, but on days when I’m on fire, I can start and finish a couple small paintings.  While I’m painting in the studio, Maria works on the computer in the living room.  She searches for companies that license art and contacts them if she thinks my art is a good fit.  She also manages my Etsy shop, and my website, contacts bloggers asking them to feature my art, and follows up about potential art sales.  

During my 15-30 minute breaks from painting in the studio I make phone calls to patrons, and reply to e-mails.  Other tasks include photographing my work, checking on my paintings and prints at galleries and shops, packaging and shipping art work, and shopping for supplies.

We stop working around 5 PM, unless I have an art opening, in which case, our work day is much longer because we usually have to hang the art in the evenings, and art openings the next day last until about 9 PM.  We rarely take a whole day off, and try to keep our schedule flexible so we can take advantage of fun opportunities.  Everyday I go to bed feeling satisfied about my work.

5 Things People Ask Me When I Tell Them I Work as an Artist

Oil paint palette

My palette with freshly-mixed oil paint.

When I meet people for the first time, they normally ask what I do for a living.  Here are the top five questions I get when I tell them I’m an artist.

1. But what do you really do?
I’m tempted to say that I sell drugs on the side, but that wouldn’t go over well.  Despite the starving artist myth, it is possible for an artist to make a living.  Being an artist is a real job.  I sell paintings and prints online, in galleries, at gift shops.  I am also a distributor for a custom stickers manufacturer, and occasionally I do graphic design.

2. What kind of art do you do… what do you paint?
I’m an oil painter, because I like the bright vivid colors of this medium and it’s most durable.  As for subject matter, I sell a lot of still-life paintings of beer, but I also paint trees, landscapes, bicycles, antique autos, but the sky is the limit and sometimes I paint that too.

3. How much money do you make?
I can’t believe people ask me this, but they do… a lot.  I would never ask anyone that.  I make enough to pay the bills, but when I’m dead, I’ll make a lot more.  But seriously, I understand why people are curious.  Everyone wishes s/he could be an artist (because people don’t know how much work it takes).

4. Where do you sell your art?
I sell paintings and prints at art shows, in galleries, brew pubs, coffee shops, cafés, gift shops, and from my online shop on Etsy.com.  My wife works as my business/marketing manager, and helps me with networking online and in person.  I have upcoming shows at The Maury Pottery Sale in December, two shows at the Loft at Midnight Sun Brewing Company in January and in June, a show at Tap Root Public House in August, and a show at Modern Dwellers Chocolate Lounge in October 2014.

5. Do you make ends meet?
From what I’ve heard, many Americans can’t make ends meet (yet they still drive fancy cars, and live in huge houses).  We used to substitute teach to make ends meet, but realized that that was counter-productive to our long-term art business vision.  So we quit subbing last January and have been working on the art business full time, and yes, we have been able to pay the bills.  My wife also trades stocks and gets a couple tour guiding gigs each summer, but most of our revenue comes from selling my art.  We wake up and get to work early each day and sometimes we work on weekends as well.  Being your own boss takes a lot of discipline, but if we want to make money we have to do the work.  A major key is to keep overhead low.  My wife and I live in a small condo, drive an old truck, rarely go out to eat, and tend to spend money on quality experiences rather than material possessions.

Phew, that was a mouthful, and that’s why I get a little tongue tied when people fire all these questions at me one after the other.