Concept: I read in Professional Artist ($37/year, 2 hours to read) about a show at the Foundry Gallery in Washington, DC which sounded right up my alley - Celebrating Gay Marriage. The problem was I didn't have any pictures which would work for a painting about gay marriage. I wrote an email to my wonderful contact at the Gay Community Center of Richmond (20 min) asking her if she knew anyone she thought might be willing to/interested in modeling for me for this show. She put out an email to the community and, serendipitously, within 20 minutes I received an email from a woman who said she and her partner would be interested. I wrote her back immediately to set up a time for them to come over (I was under a huge time constraint since the entry was due in 3 weeks, and I had to paint the darn thing! (30 min for emailing, organizing). 10 days later, the couple showed up with props and great ideas, and we had a wonderful photography session. (3 hours). I gave them a CD of their pictures in exchange for their posing for me. ($2)
The next day I spent some time (3 hours) going through the images, sorting out which ones I like best, which ones I could use (no faces), which ones I could do given the time constraints, then cropping and preparing the piece, applying a grid, printing out the prints. ($5) Then it was Chris's turn - he made me a canvas 18"x18" - small so I could get it done quickly. ($3 for canvas, $5 sticks and hardware, 3 hours). I photographed them 11/15. I started painting them 11/21. I worked that entire day on the canvas and got mostly finished. (8 hours) The next two days I spent a couple of hours/day refining it and finishing it up. (4 hours) Back to Chris who made a frame for it ($5 wood, 5 hours routing the wood, fitting it to the canvas, me staining it the right color, attaching hardware). I photographed the piece (20 minutes), worked with the photos to get the perfect version, adjusted the color, cropped it just right, put it in the correct format for this particular contest (each contest has different requirements) (1 hour), put the picture on a CD, wrote my artist statement for this particular show, focused towards Gay Marriage (1.5 hours), filled out all the other application stuff for this show (1 hour), wrote my models to ask them to prepare a statement for me to send along ($35 application fee, 10 min, then 20 min to edit, put in right format, include in application), received their statement, prepared it for application, prepared application for mailing (30 min), put the thing in the mail - finally!
Then came the waiting... (that doesn't count for the time count!) A few weeks later I was thrilled to receive notification that my piece had been accepted and would need to be at the Foundry Gallery on a certain day at a certain time. I drove it up to DC (160 miles R/T @$.40/mile = $64, lunch $15, 6 hours) and dropped it off. A week later Chris and I went to the opening. ($64 travel, $50 dinner, 9 hours) The models went as well - it was absolutely wonderful to have them there! A couple of friends came too - it was a great time! The wonderful thing that happened that night (besides the delight of being with friends seeing terrific art) was that my piece won 2nd prize which came with a $200 check! That helped balance the costs a bit.
At the end of the show, I had to retrieve the piece ($64 travel, $10 lunch, 6 hours).
For a time, that was it. It spent time on my wall being enjoyed by me and my family (and hopefully by visitors to our home as well!)
I put it into a show at Crossroads Art Center - I figured if it won a prize in a National Show, it might have a good chance of winning in a local show. ($10 entry fee, $6.40 travel, 2 hours). I won Honorable Mention (no prize money, just glory) ($6.40 travel, 4 hours for reception). I picked it up two months later. ($6.40 travel, 2 hours)
Another quiet period. Then I put it into Not Barbie, but I won't count the costs involved with that because they were so complicated, and so many pieces were involved, but it included the following:
- creating and printing and mailing and otherwise distributing postcards
- writing all the copy for the advertising
- creating Beyond Barbie, organizing it
- being interviewed by the press
- transporting and hanging the show
- the opening
- each night of Beyond Barbie
- taking down and transporting the show back home
If I consider what it cost to put on Not Barbie, it would probably be close to $600, 50 pieces, or about $11/piece. The time is incalculable, but it took me a solid 5 months of 8-12 hour days painting, marketing, writing, etc. I don't mean to give the impression that I am sorry about any of this - I loved almost every minute of it! I'm just trying to give a full and detailed, comprehensive list of what goes into the cost of a painting.
Once the piece was back home from Not Barbie, I heard about a show at Clatsop Community College in Astoria, Oregon called Au Naturel. (Professional Artist $37/year, 1 hour reading) and decided to apply to it with three pieces: Susie Kissing Sally, Woman with a Hat, and Che'. The process of processing the pictures to upload, writing the artist statement, filling out other paperwork took about 1 hour and the application fee was $35. It was all online so it was a bit less time-consuming than finding an envelop, putting stuff on a CD, going to the P.O., etc.
The administrator there was exceedingly helpful and friendly, so when I applied to have a solo show there with my nudes, it was a delight filling out all that paperwork, etc. (That show may or may not include Susie Kissing Sally, so I won't include it in the time needed.)
I found out I got in the show with Susie Kissing Sally, but not with the other two. That was kind of funny, actually - I was checking my email early one morning and saw one was from Au Naturel. I clicked on it - rejection letter. Well, that happens. Here's what I read:
This year’s juror, Bonnie Laing-Malcolmson, The Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Curator of Northwest Art at the Portland Art Museum, was faced with a very difficult task, and after much deliberation, 52 works of art were selected from over 700 images submitted by nearly 200 artists from 35 states plus international submissions from Japan, India, Denmark, Italy, and Canada. The 2012 exhibit will represent 48 artists from 18 states as well as international artists from Canada and Denmark.
Those are high, very high, odds, so I didn't feel so bad. Then I noticed another email - from the same place. I thought about deleting it, but went ahead and opened it. The first paragraph was the same then I read:
Congratulations! We are pleased to inform you that your work specified above has been selected for the exhibit. Please mark these important dates on your calendar:
Wow! That was exciting! Glad I opened the email! (5 minutes - very valuable 5 minutes!)
From there it took a while to post it on Facebook and to email my husband, etc. , but I won't count that time since it wasn't necessary!
Getting the piece ready to ship - I had to find a box, find packing material, modify it, pack the piece in it safely. My resistance to doing all that definitely took longer than the actually work doing it! I was very thankful to find a box I could mail it in - one from Dick Blick in which I had received paper. I also found some foam to protect the painting with on both sides and the edges. (1.5 hours to pack) Next step was to take it to UPS to mail it. That's where I almost had a conniption fit. I was stunned to find out it cost $19 each way to mail it and $16 to insure it each way, or $70 total to get the piece to Oregon and back. OUCH. Double ouch. Triple ouch. I have a thing about paying for postage - I don't like to do it - don't know why - it goes back to being a kid - it always seemed outrageous to buy stamps even though I LOVED to write and receive letters. I swallowed my horror and paid the daggone $70 then left, feeling like I was stomping out of there like a petulant kid. Hopefully I managed to hide those feelings at least til I got out of the door!
So... that's the reckoning of costs so far for this one painting. $304.20, 66.25 hours.
I have chosen to charge $1500 for the painting. The gallery retains 40% of that or $600. That means IF it sells, I would receive $900 for the painting. (The postage and insurance I already paid will go to waste - no way to re-use it.)
$900 - $304.20 (expenses) = $595.80 profit / 66.25 hours = $8.99/hour
The almost $600 probably sounds like a decent amount to make on a painting until you consider the time that goes into it - 66.25 hours in this case. Then it's only $8.99/hour! To make that amount of money, I could work at Target working as a cashier.
Again, I don't mean to complain - I love my work. I don't want to be doing anything else. I want to be a full time artist. I just thought it might be helpful/interesting/fascinating to find out what sort of time and effort goes into creating and selling a painting and why they cost so much!