Pet Portrait Posters

I have mostly relied on word of mouth for my business, but decided to start advertising.  When I mentioned my vet’s office idea to my art friend, she suggested making a poster, and then I had the idea of using some blank 6 x 5 cards I have printed on before.  They are very inexpensive at Michael’s.

They open up to 6 x 10.  I printed them up on my Canon Pixma 9000 as shown, with the fold just above the bottom cat.  Then I made it into a business card holder by cutting about 1/2″ off one business card and taping it words down with clear packing tape to the blank side of the card behind the upper cat’s head.  It is taped on just the upper and lower sides so that about eight of my business cards can slide into it and just peek out to the right of the upper cat.  I wrote “Take One” there.  Even with only one card in it it seems to hold well.

Then I folded up the card, inserted a cover letter, and put it in the envelope.  When you open it, it looks like a cat card, but it’s a business-card-holding poster that can be hung up either as shown or if space is a problem, folded under with just the top half showing.

My original idea had been to use the inside of the card as the request-to-post, so no separate cover letter.  To do that I’d need to put the business cards behind the big cat instead, which would mean no fold-up option.

For the closer vets, I included in the cover letter an offer to bring by some framed prints as display samples for their walls.  My friend suggested offering those removable 3M Command hooks.

I’m feeling pretty clever!  Now all it has to do is work.

Prints for Sale

I finally got my act together and posted prints for sale.

I decided to go with a pretty low price point for the smaller prints, so that my art is affordable for everyone.  These prints are beautiful copies, and I’ve offered a real bargain.  They’ll look like original art on the wall.

I verified with Hahnemuhle that Canon Fine Art Museum Etching paper is vegan and went through my WordPress photo files and figured out which paintings I can sell prints from.

Unfortunately, some of my favorites are from photos I don’t own, particularly my early paintings of the animals from Farm Sanctuary.  I am still hoping to be able to work out something with the photographers, in the way of donating profits to Farm Sanctuary.

Selling My Originals

When I started this business two months ago, I bought the book How to Survive and Prosper as an Artist – Selling Yourself Without Selling Your Soul.  I noticed very quickly that it was not exactly aimed at me.  Most of her examples involved artists selling their large-scale works at galleries for many thousands of dollars.  That isn’t the market I’m going for.

But I liked how she helped me think through what my market is.  After reading her book, I knew I really wasn’t interested in dealing with dealers, but I also didn’t want to go for what she calls the consumer-oriented market and I’d call the discount art market, which you find on sites like etsy.com.  I looked at how other artists were marketing and pricing their work there, and it was very discouraging.  Some artists were selling beautiful commissioned watercolors for a third of the average rate – considering overhead and time spent on business matters, they can’t have even been making minimum wage.   Don’t they believe in their art?  The whole etsy experience seems to cheapen art.

I decided I wanted something in the middle.  I fully support consumer friendliness; I want my art to be approachable, and the purchasing to be unintimidating.  So I’ve avoided the printed mugs and shopping-cart sites while making purchasing more personal and easy to understand.  I plan to promote my art by word of mouth and other inventive marketing instead of praying for search engine hits.  I’ve avoided selling my art at starvation prices, choosing instead a fair rate in line with most competition and based on the amount of time it takes me to paint.  Larger works take longer, but it also takes longer for certain subjects.  I have no interest in selling my work for outrageous prices – I would rather see my art on the walls of average people.  Art is for everybody!

I also liked how the author refuted the idea that artists need to be in cutthroat competition with each other.  That sounded great because that’s not the kind of person I am.  I’m not sure she really spelled out why artists will do better in cooperation than in competition, but it seems to me that there is not really a saturation of good art in people’s homes.  I have room on my walls for art that means something to me.  Artists can work together to promote art appreciation among the general public, and the rising water raises all the boats in the harbor, so to speak.  An example of this would be an exposition where we genuinely promote each others’ work.  I’ve reached out to artists in my personal sphere with offers to collaborate, and welcome other artists to contact me for sharing ideas.

As I read the book last month, I dog-eared pages with ideas I think will help me move forward gradually with my business.  There were about 30 tab-downs, and when I revisited the book this morning, I was pleased to see I could check off the first four: a web gallery, a blog (voila), social networking (this blog automatically reposts to its Facebook page), and a discount policy (I give discounts on subsequent purchases).

From there I decided today’s art work was to go through my paintings and decide which I could sell.  Some I can’t because they are based on someone else’s photos and I haven’t been able to obtain permission, and some I just can’t bear to let go – people will have to settle for prints.  Six months ago I wouldn’t have parted with any originals, but I’ve decided they’re doing no one any good entombed in my portfolio.  Someone may as well put them up.

DNS?

I used to be a computer programmer and help-desk, but a lot has changed in 12 years.  My “art” work today consisted of setting up a Facebook page, connecting it to my new WordPress gallery, and trying to figure out how to get my newfangled “domain name” (expandingcircle.net) to point to WordPress.

Thanks to my husband for purchasing the domain name.  He got one for himself at the same time for his new Android app business.

I’m really impressed with WordPress’ ability to adapt to different uses.  We were discussing it with my dad, who is interested in having it be the web presence for a non-profit he heads, using the blog part for news releases.  Yep, it can do that.  I use it as a food blog, using the blog posts for meal menus and comments on articles, and using the static pages for recipes.  Works great.  And now I’m using it as an art gallery with a casual blog on the side.  My husband plans to use WordPress for his app business as well.

When I was looking for online art galleries this week, everything looked like ebay or etsy, with the white background, menus all over, lists of other people’s art, anything they could think of to distract people from…looking at art.  They make me feel twitchy.  Here’s a typical one, and it seems as though the art has been commoditized, daubs on a canvas you can drop in your virtual shopping cart.  I like the part about making it easier for people to buy art.  I don’t care for the part where all human connection has been stripped away.

I spent many hours on this search last week, and it was very draining.  My husband asked if WordPress had a gallery option, and while it’s not obvious, indeed it does.  WordPress let me build a nice clean site.