Tag Archives: the business of being an artist

The Cost of Running an Art Business

~ by Maria Benner

A few months ago I wrote a blog post about sources of income from our art business, and today I’m going to let you know how much we spend to keep the business going.  Here’s a list of our business expenses from the last 30 days.

Advertising $29.98

Business Insurance $32.25

Commissions & Fees $289.4

Federal Tax $988

Health Insurance Premium $211

Materials & Supplies $1,279.95

Office Expenses $193.02

Other Business Expenses (this includes shipping costs, software fees, and the cost of custom stickers that we order from a manufacturer) $2,108.87

Parking $5.05

Studio Lease $550

Utilities $56.43

TOTAL $5,743.95

One of the major reasons we are able to live off of our income from the art business is because we try to keep our overhead low.  This last month was more expensive than normal due to taxes, several sticker orders, and stocking up on supplies before the summer rush.  Hopefully next month we’ll manage to keep our costs down.

Our First Cease and Desist Letter

~ by Maria Benner

Well, we kind of expected this to happen sooner or later, because Scott paints portraits of beers with trademarked labels.  After painting over 400 different beers, Scott finally received his first cease and desist letter.  Lawson’s Finest Liquids from Vermont asked us to stop selling images of their flagship beer called Sip of Sunshine IPA (click on the link to see the painting).  Scott painted it because a beer art fan from NJ contacted us and offered to send a can so Scott could taste her favorite IPA and paint it.  We released the painting, and only 52 limited-edition prints on Thirsty Thursday, and received the cease and desist notice a couple weeks later.  We sent a polite response to the brewery’s owners, and immediately removed the painting from our Etsy shop.  We did explain to the owners that Scott’s art is not in direct competition with their beer, in fact, his art promotes brands, and makes beer drinkers thirstier for more beer (our customers have told us so).  Scott doesn’t ask each brewery’s permission to paint portraits of its beer, but we always contact the breweries afterwards and show them the paintings, and include a link to this blog.  Many breweries buy the original paintings, or the prints for their tap rooms, or as gifts for the brewers, or owners.  John Meier’s wife purchased the Beard Beer painting as a gift for her husband, the head brewer at Rogue Brewing.  The Trogner brothers’ father bought a painting for his sons who started Tröegs Brewing.  Several breweries not only purchased the painting, but commissioned new ones of their other beers.  Kenai Peninsula Brewing has bought every painting of their three canned beers, and Anchorage Brewing bought at least four.  Pabst contacted us and not only bought an original, but asked Scott to repaint two other paintings for them that had already sold.  Scott has painted live at more than ten breweries, and  Allagash Brewing in Maine, HooDoo Brewing in Fairbanks, Alaska and Brewery Ommegang even posted photos on their social media accounts of Scott painting in their tap rooms.  The point is, Scott’s beer art is free advertising for breweries, and also a compliment.  He doesn’t just paint any beer, only beer that’s worthy of being immortalized in oil paint.

Andy Warhol’s famous Campbell Soup can paintings come to mind, which set a precedence for artists painting portraits of trademarked logos.  I wondered how Campbell reacted to Warhol’s paintings, and found this letter online from Campbell Soup Company’s Product Marketing Manager to Andy.

Campbell Soup Company letter to Andy Warhol

In contrast, here is the e-mail we received from Lawson’s Finest Liquids.

Cease and desist letter from Lawson's Finest Liquids

They were very polite, but we were a bit upset when we read it.  Wouldn’t it have been great if Lawson’s sent us cases of beer instead, like Campbell’s offer to Andy?  We would never want to harm a brewery’s brand.  Scott’s art does quite the opposite.  Unfortunately, this particular brewery is very protective of its brand, to the point of losing out on free advertising.

What should we do with the painting now that we can’t sell it?  We don’t really want to keep it, because it reminds us of this uncomfortable confrontation.  I’m hoping that Lawson’s will offer to trade beer for it, but that’s probably a long shot.

By the way, we’re offering a 15% Valentine’s Day sale at our Etsy shop.  Enter coupon code VALENTINE2016 at checkout.

Lessons from the Life and Art Career of Rie Muñoz ~ by Maria Benner

Rie Muñoz

Rie Muñoz

Since I became the business manager for our art business, I started paying more attention to art careers of prominent Alaskan artists, in hopes of learning from their journeys. Sadly, one of my favorite artists, Rie Muñoz, recently passed away at the age of 93. I had seen her work several times, but had never met the artist, or known much about her until local papers published a brief account of her life. So I did a little more research about Rie, and was able to gleam a couple things about her that may be inspirational to aspiring artists.

She was devoted to art, and was a very productive artist, completing about 2,000 paintings, and filling 140 sketchbooks. Although she had worked as a teacher, a writer, a cartoonist, and a museum curator, and was a mother, she still found time to paint. A full-time job has a tendency to use up all creativity, leaving an artist tired and uninspired by the end of the day. If you want to eventually work as an artist full-time, keep making art, and showing it to the public, as much as you can. Rie was eventually able to live off her art, and having her son manage the business end of things freed her up to paint and travel more.

Rie was adventurous and independent, and traveled and painted with other artists. She traveled all over Alaska, and said that the only two places she never visited are Anaktuvuk Pass, and Kake. Traveling and meeting new people is the best way to find inspiration, so take the time to explore new places, and don’t forget to bring your sketchbook.

One of the reasons Rie was able to live off her art was because her work was distributed through prints, gift items like cards and coffee mugs, and book illustrations. Some artists are hesitant to turn their art into merchandise, because they don’t want to “sell out”, but if your goal is to make a living off your art, then selling an image more than once is a good way to do that. Rie’s paintings made people happy, and she made her art available to more people by making reproductions. Not everyone can afford an original piece of art, and many people are happy to purchase an image that they want to hang on their wall, or give to a friend, even if it’s not an original.

Rie’s advice to other artists is keep painting… and paint what you want. Sometimes the best advice is the simplest.


Rie Muñoz Celebrates 90 Years, Juneau Empire

Well-known Alaska Artist Rie Munoz Dies at 93, Anchorage Dispatch News

Rie Muñoz, Wikipedia