Tag Archives: making a living selling art

How a Clendaniel Art Print is Made

~ by Maria Benner

The work beast, a.k.a. our printer.

The work beast, a.k.a. our printer.

When Scott finished the 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall series, we went to a local print shop, and ordered 5-10 prints of 20+ paintings.  We ended up paying nearly $600 upfront, and stored the prints until they sold.  The hefty upfront investment deterred us from ordering more prints, until we had a game-changing idea in 2012 to buy our own printer, and make the prints ourselves on demand.  Epson had relatively affordable printers available, and one we chose, the Epson Stylus Photo R3000, was on sale.  The printer arrived via FedEx, and when we turned it on, it refused to work, because it insisted that the ink cartridges that it came with could not be recognized.  So we mailed that one back, and Epson sent us a replacement, which worked.  Our printer requires nine different cartridges, each one costing $31.99, plus shipping (they are not available in Anchorage).  I usually wait for a coupon code from Epson to arrive in my e-mail box before placing an order, but today I noticed that I was running dangerously low on one color, and ended up paying full price.  Doh!

The first step in making a print is taking a quality photo.  I take several pictures next to the large windows in our studio in the best possible light.  Then I choose the best photo and use Photoshop to adjust levels, brightness, contrast, saturation, etc., trying to match the image to the original painting as much as possible.  Next I connect my laptop to our work beast, the printer, load it with high quality Epson photo paper, and print the image from Photoshop.    Most of the time, the printer is a champ.  Sometimes it bleeds ink, or prints lines on the image, meaning the heads need a cleaning.  So we throw away the rejects and try again.  Then we consult our list of paintings that have been released as limited-edition prints, and find which number comes next, and we write the number at the bottom of the image, like 54/365.  Scott signs each print, and then we package them in plastic sleeves with heavy duty backer board, and a certificate of authenticity.  Then it’s ready to be mailed, or sold in our studio, or at a venue that sells Scott’s art, like Dos Manos, or Midnight Sun Brewing (in January and June).

Our prints come in three standard sizes that fit in store-bought frames.  Some people choose to have them professionally framed, but you can also buy a more affordable frame at many stores.  Unfortunately, the size of our prints is limited by the size of the printer, but maybe someday we can upgrade.  Our printer’s max paper size is 13 inches wide.

The name of our business is Real Art Is Better, because we believe that original art is better than reproductions, but we understand that not everyone can afford the originals.  The other major upside to making prints is that once an original painting sells, we can still keep selling the image, allowing more people to have it, and enjoy it.  Last year prints accounted for about a quarter of our sales.

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.