Art of Pricing Your Artwork

Artist and their pricing – its a love hate relationship.  The task of pricing your artwork can make one feel all sorts of emotions from self-doubt to amazement.  I’m always in a confused loop and ask myself:

Am I charging too little/too much?

Should I charge by how many hours I worked on it or by size or by technique?

I spent more time doing this one, should I be charging more?

After some research, I think I found out some basic guidelines for pricing your artwork.

Know the market 

Find artists who work in  similar medium as you.  Look at the dimensions, their experience (prizes, exhibitions, etc.) and their prices for originals and reproductions.  Start with online auction sites like Saatchi Art, Fine Art America as general guidelines.  Try to also look for niche art market sites – sculptures, abstracts etc.

Common Pricing Formulas

a. Retail:

Materials + Labour + Packaging  = Cost x 2 / 3 = Retail

Labour is usually hourly rate x time creating.  Set a reasonable hourly rate or day rate for your work.  Charge at least minimum wage if you don’t feel you are worth more than that.  Always use market prices as a benchmark.  If you are priced too high, you may need to set a lower hourly rate.

b. Square Inch:

Artwork size  x  Dollar Rate + Material Costs/Extra Costs = Price  

Calculate the size of your work in inches (length x width).  For example 8″ x 10″ is 80 square inches.  Multiply the size in square inches with a dollar rate, ($1,  $2 or $3 based on the comparable artists). At $2 a square inch, an 8″ x 10″ is valued at $160.  Add your material costs, framing, any commissions, payment fees (transactions fees based on how you receive payment).  Let’s say your extra costs tally up to $80.  Your price should be $250.  How does that compare to other artists in your niche?  Let the market dictate what your dollar rate should be.

c. Linear Inches

Width (inches) + Height (inches) = Linear Inches X Multiplier = Price

For an 8″ x 10″ artwork, the linear inches is 18.  If you price your multiplier at $10, your price will be $180.  At $15, you can set price to $270.  Always let comparable artists prices help you choose your multipliers.

Be consistent in all your artworks.  Stick with one formula and use it all for all your artworks.  A buyer would appreciate that they are being charged fairly based on artwork size and market values.

stressed over pricing your artwork

Pricing Your Artwork Considerations

Set consistent prices per size.  Larger pieces should be priced higher than your smaller pieces.  While some smaller pieces are more intricate and take longer for me to finish.  People buy from me because its made by me and it connected with them.  It’s also taught me to focus more of my time on larger pieces and offer different size artworks.  Work smarter not harder.

Don’t overprice or underprice yourself.  Its easier to raise your prices after you make consistent sales than to lower sales.  Don’t make yourself look cheap either by pricing your original the same value as a reproduction from a similar artist.

Consider your output.  Are you an artist who creates new pieces every week or only a few a year?  The work of an artist who is constantly creating new pieces will be valued less than a similar artist who only creates one a year.

Keep sales records or three comparable artists price examples.  Be prepared to justify your pricing to other art professionals. Having this kind of record indicates you know your value well.

When To Raise Your Prices

Consider raising your prices 10 to 15% if you:

a. Had consistent sales over last 3 months

b. Sold over 5 pieces at your last event/exhibit

c. Won a notable prize / award

OR

d. Received strong social media attention ( articles in high-profile magazines/websites )

Pricing Your Artwork for Exhibitions and Special Events

Do your research. Check out the pricing of your co-exhibitors. Use the event directory to see their prices. You lose buyers if priced too high. Try offering an event only % discount to match your competition. If too low, your work may be associated with low quality.

Factor in extra costs.  Don’t forget to calculate commission, shipment, exhibition fees in your pricing.  Make sure to include these costs somewhere in your pricing.

View your artwork as a stranger.  Imagine what value a stranger will associate with your work.  They can only see the finished product not the stress and labour you put into it.  Just like you can only see the finished dish from a restaurant and not all the preparations made for it.

Your artwork price is not your value. Don’t ever think of yourself as cheap.  You will become discouraged and uninspired to create more.  You may even start to feel like a sell-out.

Price your event and gallery the same. Be fair to your galleries and keep the same price for your artworks. Don’t compete with them but rather work with them.

Consider the audience.  Know the tastes of your audience at an event.  If you are at a small-town event, they will have different preferences and budgets compared to an art fair in a big city.  Bring the artwork that best fits the situation.

While pricing is still not my favourite part, I hope that all this info can help you on pricing your artwork.  Your price should be the one you are happy with where your artwork is selling enough to support what you love to do best.

Much love,

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File Submissions Grants / Contests Tips

Image of woman stressing over file submissions

I’ve been eyeing some deadlines lately and wanted a refresher on how to prepare my file submissions for grants & contests.  Just wanted to share these quick tips for any friends feeling overwhelmed and stressed.  Always follow the organizations instructions for submissions first.  If there isn’t a detailed instructions then use the guidelines I found from CARFAC Ontario.  You can read it in detail here or check out my summary below plus my tips.

All File Submissions:

  • Make your files PC-compatible (like .doc, .pdf, .jpeg)
  • Limit file sizes to be 500K (0.5 MB)
  • No powerpoints/presentations, zipped/compressed files, links (unless requested)
  • Be authentic in your text
  • Triple check everything – order, names, spelling

Images:

  • Images: 72 dpi resolution, max size 1024 x 768, RGB or sRGB colour only
  • Label with number, artist name and title (01 Artist Name Title.jpg etc)
  • Embed author metadata in your files (see more details)
  • Add watermark & flatten the image (see more details)
  • Never share print quality images or store them online
  • Start with the best – best image of best work

Videos:

  • Choose only 1 video, max 5 min length
  • Make it playable across various players: Quicktime, RealPlayer, Shockwave, Windows Media Player / Flash
  • 1 video = 5 images; If they ask for 20 images max and you send a video, submit only 15 images + video

Just wanted to share this with you as a checklist before you submit your files.  Do you do anything differently when submitting your files? Let me know if you want more details or anything I may have missed in the comments.  Hope this helps you in getting that grant or winning that contest. Good luck on your file submissions!

Much love,

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Growing My Creative Business

Lately, I’ve been overwhelmed with all the creative business choices out there. I’ve been researching about the art sales funnel, modern artist business models, studying print on demand, drop shipping, etc. Simply put, I want to find ways to create passive income streams without selling cheap garbage to people. Is it possible? I don’t know yet.

I’m a product designer so coming up with ideas to transform my artwork into merchandise is easy. What’s holding me back? I need to decide whether  I want to pursue the traditional business model or embrace the new digital way.

Traditional creation cycle and income stream
Copyright Elaine Joy Roach, 2018

Digital Creative Business Income Streams

Let’s explore some of the creative business income streams I’ve been considering:

  • Drop Shipping
  • Print on Demand
  • Online tutorials / classes
  • Patreon / Twitch / Kickstarter / GoFundMe
  • Youtube
  • Advertising (from sites) / Sponsorship
  • Affiliate Marketing
  • Podcasts
  • Medium
  • Art Licensing
  • Photos / Vectors / Fonts / Illustration Marketplaces
  • Online Marketplaces / Web Store

There’s always lots of success stories for each of this income stream and makes one want to try it.  When I delve deeper into the reviews or reddit forums, I then become discouraged to try some of them. I’m a bit confused and overwhelmed with my creative business options. I think the researcher in me plans to try each one out and document a case study.  It would be good if I can actually ensure success at it.

Drop Shipping

Drop shipping is really setting up an online storefront and selling other people’s products. Your store communicates with the manufacturer and they send the product directly to the client. You have no control on the quality, shipping and customer service. Many people vouch for it as it is low investment – low risk.  It is highly competitive and price becomes a factor.  The manufacturer/production partner takes most of the profit.  Your job is to find buyers, promote and market the products. Many entrepreneurs set it up to be profitable and sell their business.

Print on Demand

Print on Demand is using your images / artwork on merchandise like posters, clothes, mugs etc. Your production partner (site you choose to sell on) will handle all the production, shipping and customer service.  You have no control over quality, inventory, and shipping.  Some sites will help you promote your products with their established fan base. The maker in me is undecided if I can be willing to sacrifice quality control for ease of distribution. The best advantage is low investment/capital to increase your product offerings. Normally, you would need lots of capital to order various product at wholesale prices.  Some print on demand examples are Redbubble, Zazzle, Artist Shops (Threadless) and a few more exist.  I haven’t tried these sites and can’t vouch for them. I found two Canadian options, Notion which works exclusively with Shopify stores and Art of Where. There is another Toronto apparel print on demand that I’m 90% convinced to try who I will share who when I announce the case study.

I can see the charm of print on demand, you create images and they do the making.  I’ve seen a lot of good and bad reviews and that’s why I’m not rushing to any of the more popular options.  I think I would create an image set dedicated for these sites separate from my original artworks.  Do any of you use these services and how has your experience been?  Which one would you try?

Online Tutorials / Classes / Youtube

Yes, I will be releasing all sorts of videos in the next few months.  Video editing requires a lot of hardware storage and time.  I would release a video every week once I can arrange video editing time in my schedule.  I try to record videos as I create – so lots of footage.  Stay tuned for more of my videos.  I plan to buy lots of bubble teas, iced drinks to help me focus to edit.  You can create demo videos, how-to-tutorials or just work in progress.  Youtube, lynda.com, skillshare, udemy are just some of the potential places to have your videos.  Video is easy way to share information and a great aspect of any creative business.

Patreon / Twitch / Kickstarter / GoFundMe

Once you have a well established fan base, you can use these sites that allows your fan base to support you. Patreon is a membership based system that allows your fans to pay you for exclusive content. I think its a great tool for any creative business. Here is my pattern page, but its on hold for now.

My friends at Walnut Studio have lost so much of their practice and need support.  Their gofundme page is here if you would like to help a group of artist who lost all their work, materials and equipment in a fire last week.  Twitch was originally for gaming and now includes creatives in their streaming.  Since I love to game and create, I considered streaming my game. It’s the last thing I do before heading to sleep, so I probably wouldn’t be streaming anytime soon.

Kickstarter and GoFundMe are two crowdsourcing fund raising sites. I think once I have a solid value proposition for you, I may try my hand at one of these. Will you support me if I do?

Advertising (from sites) / Sponsorship & Affiliate Marketing

Google Adsense, corporate sponsorships and affiliate marketing is promoting products and services on your internet platforms (site or blog, etc).

Google AdSense (advertising), you tend not to have control over what is displayed.  Corporate sponsorship and affiliate marketing, you can select who to support.  On this site, I use affiliate marketing.  I only promote products and services I believe in.  Sometimes I do share where some of the supplies I use can be found.

In a family blog I’m working on, I plan to use Google Adsense and affiliate marketing as we will be offering a lot of free stuff. It’s in the set up stage, will release link soon.  It’s more about family fun and designs.  I can’t wait to share it.

Podcasts / Medium

These are also in my creative business game plan for this year. I’ve already started to release some of my creative writings weekly here on medium. Medium is a writing platform for all types of writing. Podcasts are audio recordings available online on iTunes. They are highly popular and a great way to share information.

Art Licensing

You work with an art licensor to have your artwork on big name products.  You earn a royalty based for any sales.  Know anyone who is an art licensor? It be interesting to research what they are looking for in artwork.  With the scandals of large fashion lines “borrowing” indie designer’s works, it makes you wonder how many companies skip the licensor and just plagiarize.

Photos / Vectors / Fonts /  Illustration Marketplaces

When I first got my D7000 back when Ella was a baby, I was excited and took a lot of photos.  I even was approved to be a contributor to some photo exchange sites.  I eventually took them down as I was really too exhausted to try and work on anything.  But you can sell your high-quality photos, illustrations, vectors and fonts at many marketplaces. I’m considering doing it again since I have a few hard drives of imagery. Only issue is checking and processing each one so that it would be accepted by the quality checkers of these marketplaces.  Time I really should spend promoting my current work.

One marketplace, I want to tell you about is Fontbundles.net.  I’ve been using Fontbundles.net for years now.  I love the freebies and even bought some of their bundles.  Almost all font marketplace offers weekly freebies but I like the ones from here the best.  I like font bundles and decided to become one of their affiliate.  Every week you get free fonts and new design bundles. They have many packages at great prices, so check back often for new ones or score a great deal.

Online Marketplaces / Web Store

I actually have a few stores online for my work. I’m not very good at promoting them or sharing them.  I need to stop being shy.  I have my work listed at Saatchi Art, Etsy and my own store.  One thing I need to do is keep adding new content, actually promote and market them so people who like my stuff can buy it online.  Right now my work is limited to original artwork, stationery and quote art prints, would you be interested in seeing my artwork on merchandise like clothing or house goods or print posters? Or would you like me to experiment and find new ways to offer you some unique reproductions.

Conclusion

While the internet has increase the ways a creative business can earn income, it all depends on the creative.  I still wage a war internally whether I’m a legit artist if I start selling merchandise vs the designer in me who believes in functional objects.  I think there is no easy answer to how to grow a creative business for anyone.  Most important is to keep creating and find what inspires you.  I hope that I inspired you to look into trying new things or at least follow my journey as I explore the viability of each one.  Let’s explore this world of digital possibilities together and find a way to have sustainable practices.

 

Much love,

 

 

 

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Taking Flat Artwork Photos

Photo of Elaine Joy Roach camera during a photoshoot

As promised in my getting photos web ready, I’m going to cover how I take artwork photos in my studio.  You really should document each of your artwork with high quality photos for your portfolio, records, website and marketing materials.  This guide was created for beginners and creatives new to photography.

I’ve also included amazon affiliate links in case you need some of the supplies I use.  In this guide, I will cover as many aspects of how I take artwork photos but feel free to leave a comment below if you need more advice.

You will need:

1. Location

Pick a bright, well-lit wall in your space.  If there isn’t any spot in your home good enough, you can still take great photos.  Either take photos outdoors or try asking your local library/cafe if you can borrow one of the study rooms with a window. Do understand you will have to bring all your artwork and photography supplies with you.

Make sure you have a table or chair to display your work on for unframed pieces.  You can also use your easel.  I use a special corner of my studio, which has a desk surface beside a window.

2. Lighting

I prefer to work with natural light.  I find taking photos on cloudy, overcast days are best for artwork.  I find the light is more evenly distributed.  If you are taking sculpture photography, sometimes natural sunlight adds warmth to your artwork.

Depending on the direction your window is located (north, east, south or west), you need to find out if morning or afternoon light is better for your photos.

Elaine Joy Roach Set-Up of taking unframed artwork photos in her studio
Copyright Elaine Joy Roach, 2018

If you can’t shoot indoors by a window, you can use a lighting kit.  There are 2 ways to go about this.  The DIY version or purchase a complete set from Amazon (USA or Canada).

artwork photos camera set up with light kit
Copyright Elaine Joy Roach, 2018

DIY Version

Take two identical clamp lamps and use daylight led bulbs. Mount your two light sources onto a post or chair 45 degrees from your camera.  Tape white fabric or plastic over the lamps to diffuse the light.

3. Camera & Tripod

Grab the best camera you have access to.  You can also rent camera equipment. Toronto has a few locations that rent out equipment, one company is Vistek.  or even borrow from your school or public library.  Shoot with a tripod.  If you don’t have one or can’t afford one, make a steady stack of books to put your camera on.  No matter how talented you are in holding your camera, your photos will be better on a tripod for artwork photos.

Photography Basics

Before we tackle camera settings, let’s cover some basic photography terms.  I suggest using manual settings on your camera for best results.  Grab your camera manual to learn how to shoot in manual mode and how to change your camera settings.  Play around till you are comfortable changing the settings.

White Balance

Setting your white balance is important.  You need to let your camera know what is white so it can cast the right colours for your photos.  Make sure to adjust it every time you start a photo shoot.  Your white balance is affected by your light conditions (sunny, cloudy, indoors).  If your whites aren’t looking white in your pictures, it means you haven’t set your white balance properly.

Exposure

Exposure is how bright or dark you want your photos to appear.  By changing the following camera settings (aperture, shutter speed and ISO) you choose on the exposure for your photo.  If you ever wondered how did they make that photo have a certain emotion, the key is the exposure.  Shadows and other elements can make an everyday scene appear dramatic.  For artwork photos, we want bright and detailed shots.

Aperture

Simply put, aperture is how much light you want your camera to let in for your photo.  The lower the f-stop (f#) the more light you are letting in.  The higher the f-stop (f#) the less light you are letting in.

Aperture also controls depth-of-field.  Its how much of the picture is sharp and how much is blurry.  For artwork photos, we want to use shallow depth of field (low f-stop).  You would use high f-stop when you want to shoot a landscape photo and want everything in focus (no blurriness).

Shutter Speed

If aperture tells your camera how much light to let in, shutter speed controls how long you want the aperture to be open.  Slower shutter speeds (1/60, 1/80) allows for brighter pictures and higher chance of blur.  Faster shutter speed are great at trying to capture freeze frame type pictures in fast situations like sports or bird flying.

Blur occurs when the camera captures a subject moving while the aperture is open or if your camera shakes while the aperture is open.  Whereas faster shutter speeds (1/320) allows for darker pictures and less blur.

ISO

ISO really stands for International Organization for Standardization.  It tells the camera software to make it extra sensitive to light. High ISO leads to brighter pictures and more noise.  In contrast, low ISO brings darker pictures and less noise.  Noise is all that grainy details you see in your pictures.  It sometimes look like lint.  We want your artwork photos to be print quality so low ISO.

4. My Camera Settings

For artwork, I tend to use this setting

Shutter Speed: 100

ISO: 200

Aperture: I take many photos at various apertures (also known as bracketing).  I tend to go between f2 to f2.8.

Here’s what it looks like picture by picture.

Sample of aperture bracketing of artwork photos
Copyright Elaine Joy Roach, 2018

In this example, I think that f2.5 has the most accurate colours when viewed at 100%.

I basically take photos at different apertures for the same artwork.  Why? Natural light fluctuates from one minute to the next.  If a cloud moves over, the amount of light changes.  Also, you also give yourself insurance this way.  If your picture looks dark, let more light in by picking a lower aperture.  If your picture looks too bright, choose a higher aperture (higher #).  This is the only setting I change when taking artwork photos.

Use a tripod.  Shoot hands-free by using a timer or shutter remote to take our artwork photos.  This also prevents us from getting blur and can use slower shutter speed.

Taking Unframed Flat Artwork Photos

Here’s my set-up:

Copyright Elaine Joy Roach, 2018
  • Grab a foam core larger than your artwork
  • Place pushpins on it for your artwork to sit on
  • Rest the foam core on a flat surface (table or chair) and the wall
  • Set your tripod so the camera is even height with the artwork
  • Adjust the camera so that you are parallel to the image (if your artwork is a little slanted then slant your camera)
  • Leave a little white space around the artwork in your camera for editing
  • Start taking photo with aperture at f2
  • Change aperture one up and take a photo up to f2.8
Photo of Elaine Joy Roach camera during a photoshoot
Copyright Elaine Joy Roach, 2018

I use the pins to create a shelf for my artwork / print to sit on.  I prefer using these flying paper airplane kind.  It has a flat top which I don’t have to worry about editing out in Photoshop.  You can go with clear pushpins if you like or even bulldog clips but you will need to crop or edit them out for your prints.  For my Canadian friends, these are the best push pins I found on Amazon.ca.      I picked up mine from Staples on clearance, so I don’t think they have them available anymore.

Close of the push pins
Copyright Elaine Joy Roach, 2018

Taking Framed Artwork Photos

Here’s my set-up:

  • Hang your artwork on the wall
  • Level your artwork (Small level from Amazon.com)
  • Level your camera / tripod (Small level from Amazon Canada)
  • Set your tripod so the camera is even height with the artwork
  • Adjust the camera so that you are parallel to the image (if your artwork is a little slanted then slant your camera)
  • Leave a little white space around the artwork in your camera for editing
  • Start taking photo with aperture at f2
  • Change aperture one up and take a photo up to f2.8

Dealing with reflections / glass frames

I set up black curtains around where I shoot photos.  You can also suspend black paper roll behind the camera.  Also, I remove all reflective / shiny objects out of the area.  I even cover the table with a black cloth.

When I take photos, I tend to wear dark clothes and also hide behind the curtains.  Depending on the light, sometimes I even wrap cloth around the tripod.  The less areas the light have to bounce, the less chance you will get a reflection in your picture.

Ideally, you would take a photo before you have your work framed professionally.  But it happens, you are in a rush for a deadline and drop it off before documenting it.

I hope this helps some of you take better photos of your artwork.  Once you have your photos, don’t forget to prep them for the web or for printing.  There are places where you can pay a fee to have your artwork photographed.  I hope this guide shows you how to do it yourself.

Do you take your own artwork photos? Do you do something different when shooting your artwork?  Any advice for sculpture product photos?  Would it help if I made a video guide?  Till next week.

Much love,

P.S. If you found this useful, please leave a comment or share.  I love getting feedback so I can keep improving.

 

Dealing with the Creative Slump

Elaine Joy Roach modelling as someone frustrated and having a creative slump

Last week, I had the chance to talk to a friend who was in a creative slump.  Every one’s situation and circumstances are different.  The best I can do is use my experiences as reference and hope that you may find a way out of yours.

We all make excuses.  For the longest time, I “knew” what I should do but I found many reasons not to do it.

Excuses

Excuses Ahead warning symbol
Yes I made this for fun!

Whether it was really fear of the unknown, laziness, no time/too busy or no money, I would use any of those or a combination to stop myself from doing things.

Excuses turns into Laziness which becomes Avoidance.

I’ve had many setbacks and life isn’t perfect.  I really doubt a perfect life exists.  My life hasn’t been a straight path.  I’ve always taken the indirect path to my goals, sometimes by choice and sometimes by things out of my control.  My sensei once told me to just persevere.

Other times, I just needed to stop what I was forcing myself to do.  I literally stop anything unnecessary.  I reassess my goals and my needs.  Do what I need to do to clear out the cobwebs in my head and choose a path of action that I feel 100% behind.

Creatives are emotional and passionate beings.  When inspired, we pour in the energy and resources.  We find ways to make the impossible possible.

No Time / Too Busy

Yes sometimes, sacrifices will have to be made especially with time.  Unless you can learn to focus better and work smarter with a limited time frame.  I cleared my cobwebs/distractions and now I’m excited to tackle new things.

Right now, my creative schedule revolves around my kids.  I work while they are at school.  Once school is done, my family and the house is my focus.  I then spend time with them and handle all the house related stuff.  I know not everyone can do the same schedule based on their circumstances.  Before you think, she so lucky.  My husband works 10 hour shifts, sometimes more.  If he’s not around, I am the only one there.

But the message is simple, focus on one thing.  Be present, be in the now – you’d get more done.  If you don’t give yourself time to handle something (house chores/project), no magic fairy will come and do it for you.

Although if a tax and accounting fairy reads this, please visit me during tax season next time.

Here’s what my days look like:

7 Wake up.  Cuddle the girls to wake up happy & prep the kids for school.

8:45 Drop them off at school.

9 Try and be human – eat breakfast, coffee, shower, etc

10 – 2 Focus Creative Work.  I usually have 1 to 2 goals I try to have a day.  One of them being my new social media content schedule, I’ll list below.

2 Eat lunch.

2.30 Leave to pick up kids

3:45 to 9:30 Kids, family, house needs.

9:30 Debate if I have energy levels to head to studio

9:35 to 10:45 Studio / Read / Casual Gaming / Netflix / Time to unwind

10:45 to 11:30 Head to bed

Before this new found focus, I would work till 2 am.  But my head was all over the place and trying to do too many things at once.  I barely got anything finished.  I was upset at myself for not having the house in order, my work piled up and barely taking care of my needs.  I was finding myself eating lunch outside my kids’ school just before they got out.  Yes lunch at 3 pm in a car.

Something had to give.  So I did sacrifice serious gaming.  I’ve been an avid gamer since I was little.  It was too distracting and time consuming.  I wasn’t enjoying it as much and started to feel more like work.

Now I actually spend less time working, but I shut down everything (social media included) until my goals for the day are done.  When you are focused, you’d be amazed at what you can do in short time frames.  Hitting my daily goals I feel accomplished and energized to tackle my next challenge.

My new social media content schedule is:

Mondays – work on the content for the rest of the week + bonus pics/vids

Tuesdays – Blog Tips / Lessons for other Creatives + New Project To Be Announced Soon

Wednesdays – Share Work In Progress photos on Instagram, FB & Twitter

Thursdays – Add #throwbackthursday photos on Instagram or old creative writing on medium.com

Fridays – Show a recently finished project on Instagram OR add a short video to Youtube.

Fear

Now with this focus, I’m also willing to try things I avoided before.  I’ve recently added content to youtube, and medium.com.  I’m also constantly updating my web site and adding content.  I still have many things I need to work on but moving forward is better than standing still.

I was afraid to do these things in the past because:

  1. I believed no one would look at my stuff
  2. the potential “bad” comments I’d get
  3. I’d have to learn a whole new platform
  4. I don’t have the know how to make great content for [insert platform]

Simply, I told myself.

  1. If I don’t post anything, my views will remain at 0.
  2. I can’t control how people will perceive my work but any negative comment can be removed or reported unless justified.
  3. I’m smart.  I’ll just take it one step at a time.
  4. Oh wow, look at the resource / knowledge / help section at Youtube/Medium/etc.

One step a day.  Don’t just read it.  Implement it.  Do it right then and there.  

No one’s asking you to do it all.  Pick one thing to focus on and tackle it daily.  I’d like to think of the turtle, taking slow sure steps and eventually reaching its destination.

No Money / Resources

The no money reason is valid for many.  I feel you there.  Having relied on a single income family for so long, I really do feel you.  But as a creative, I challenge you to try use the resources currently available to you.

Any chance you can use what you have now to do what you want?  I’m sure you would like pro equipment to do your project but until you can purchase them, can you make small projects with your current equipment to generate some income?

Can you borrow the equipment from family, friends, local library, church or even some community group?  There’s a lot of different groups out there, google what you need and your city.  You’d be amazed at what you can find like a tool library program.

Also don’t be afraid to check meetups.com – if you have the time to meet similar minded people, you may find some new friends.

A lot of companies also rent out the equipment, if you can’t purchase what you need at least check rental rates or buy second hand.

You can also barter / trade services with other creatives / professionals.  You may have skills in one area that they need help with in exchange for something you need.

When you are in a slump, its hard to think of other ways to accomplish what you need to do.  Stress stops you from being able to think outside of the box.

One thing I’ve learned is don’t be afraid to ask for help or point you to someone who can.  If you don’t reach out, nothing will change.  Even if they say no, you are exactly where you started.  Most people are generally helpful.  If they can’t help, they may at least lead you to someone who can.

I hope that my experiences and tips help you find some clarity/options to your problems.  I’d like to hear how did you get out of your creative funk?

I find that most of the times I was in a trap because of the conflicts inside my head.  Once I cleared my head and stress, creativity flew.  Till next week, take care of yourself.

much love,

P.S. Don’t forget comments and shares are always helpful!  Let me know what kind of things, you want me to write about.

My Blogging Mistakes As Lessons

A friend recently told me that she started blogging.  It made me think of when I first started blogging.  I couldn’t even remember when I first started.  So I looked up my old email account at blogspot, and spent some hours rereading my old posts.

I started blogging back in 2008.  Back then I was in 2nd year university, we were told that blogging was key for our careers.  Being a private person, I wasn’t sure what to write about.  So like many first time bloggers, I treated my blog as a mini diary.  My entries were almost twitter short.  I could tell that I was uncomfortable.  So based on my blogs from 2008 to now, I compiled a small list of things to consider when you blog.

Lesson #1 Be authentic

Write about things that matter to you.  Why are you writing a blog?  To share your knowledge, story or entertain people?  Your readers are smart and will know when you are being fake.

Lesson #2 Know who you are writing for

Find out who your readers are.  If you don’t have many, who do you want to be reading your blog.  Other creatives? There are many tools and resources to help you.  You can create a persona (your ideal user/visitor/buyer type)survey with Survey Monkey, or use a web traffic tool. Google “your niche” blog and you can find other examples out there.  If you know what’s important to your readers, it will help you…

Lesson #3 Write relevant & great content

Write about things that are of value to your readers.  Some readers are looking to educate themselves, find inspiration or courage to try something or see the world from someone else’s eyes.

For example, I admire my friend’s time management, ability to keep her house in order and how she always finds the best deals for stuff.  She is also a trained early educator.  So I always like to listen to her advice about parenting or just other childhood development stuff that we as parents like to worry about.  I believe if she wrote about the things that she’s amazing at; she won’t ever run out of content to write about.

Now if you feel your writing skills are not up to par yet.  That’s okay.  You can take courses, some libraries offer free online ones.  I know that Markham Public Library does.  You can also just write random things in medium.  By the way, I’ll be releasing my old creative writing work in medium quite soon.

Lesson #4 Commit & Be Consistent

I started so many blogs at different points of my life.  I wish I just stuck with one and kept it active.  Now that I’m focused, I will commit to this content schedule below.

  • Tuesday Tips for running a creative business on my blog
  • Wednesday Work In Progress on Instagram 
  • Thursday Throwback Photos/Writing on Instagram or Medium
  • Friday Finished Work Updates on my blog

I wanted to try and add Monday to the mix but real life demands make it hard for me at the moment.

Lesson #5 Promote your Content

Don’t be shy! Share your new post on all your social media channels.  There’s so much great content out there.  No one will know about yours if you don’t share it first.  Connect with people you feature (ping) and they may share your post.  Email your subscribers and if needed run an ad on Facebook.

Lesson #6 Build an Email List

You can organically grow your email list.  You can attend events and hand out business cards or collect emails in person.  I’ve also done the tell someone new everyday about your blog/business/site.  Ask them to share it if they like it.  Be proud of what you have and don’t be afraid.  Problogger.net has a great in-depth advice on getting your first 10,000 subscribers.

I’ve yet to try them all but I wanted to point you in the right direction.

Lesson #7 Have fun with blogging!

Even though my wrist is hurting a bit and my youngest is under the weather, I still managed to write this post for you.  I’m enjoying blogging again.  I feel like I’m writing to my friend about things that can help them.

I love to help when I can.  I hope you find this post helpful when you are thinking about blogging or just started a new blog.  Tell me about your blogging mistakes.  What lessons have you learned from your experience?

 

 

 

 

13 Steps in Getting Photos Picture Perfect for the Web

My photo station during a photo shoot.

Hi friends!  I’ve been spending the last few weeks working on the non-making side of artist life (taxes, updating websites, setting up online store, etc).  I also spent a lot of time taking photos and processing them.  Today, I’m going to share my photo process/workflow.  There are many wonderful guides online on taking photos and I’ll write my picture taking process soon.

How I developed my process

Now, I’m a researcher and info-seeker and not a professional photographer.  The following is what works for me but I’m just sharing my process to help other creatives.  I’ve combined all I learned from a high school photography class, lynda.com, reading a ton of other guides and through trial and error.

Before digital cameras, I remember having to maintain a record log of camera settings and spending hours in a darkroom testing.  Now, its all digital.  I’m fortunate I get to use Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom and Bridge.  For those who don’t have Photoshop or Lightroom, there are many free software options (another future post, I promise) available.

Regardless of what software you use, the steps to do remain the same.  Save often after doing anything.  This habit will save you lots of tears in the future.

My Getting Photos Picture Perfect for the Web process:

1. Save  your work as “YourProjectTitle-master”.psd (file type for your software)

This allows you to work on the photo without touching the original.  I just like having this kind of back-up option when things don’t go the way you want them to.  Save often.

Navigate to File > Save As > “YourArtwork”

Choose Photoshop as file type.

2. Rotate the photo

Navigate to Image > Image Rotation > Arbitrary

Navigating the photoshop menu to rotate photos
Image Rotate on Photoshop Menu

If the photo appears off kilter, then rotate the photo until it looks pleasing to the eye.  I go the slow way of .1 degree per click.  You can go 1 degree or 10 degrees or use the transformation arrows.  CW is clockwise and CCW is counter clock wise.

Showing Elaine Joy Roach's settings for rotating photos
Rotate Canvas Menu

Save.

3. Clean up the image

I love the spot healing tool in Photoshop.  It allows you to fix any noise (dust looking things) or any spots that don’t just belong in your picture.  This is especially helpful in preparing artworks for reproduction.

It lets you pick another spot as your source from the photo and “place” it on top of the part you want to.  Holding Alt (Option key in Macs) while clicking on the image lets you mark that as your source.  Make sure you zoom in and out on the photos to see how your corrections blend in.  Undo any that looks unnatural with control Z or going to history window.

Showing where the crop tool bar is on the photoshop buttons
Healing Brush Tool Options

4. Adjust the levels

Navigate to Layer > New Adjustment Layer>Levels

How to find the levels control panel on photoshop menu
New Adjustment Layer on Menu

Levels lets you adjust brightness, contrast and tone by moving a white, black and grey arrows.  It lets you tell the software, its completely white/black at this point.

showing how the levels windows look
Levels Panel

Moving the arrow towards the big mountains (peaks), add more of that (arrow) colour to the photo.  I normally move it till it looks spot on then back away a little from the peaks.  Why? I find it helps prevent the picture from looking over processed.  Remember to save your file again.

5. Colour correction / Curves

Navigate to Layer > New Adjustment Layer>Curves

If your photo is well taken and well lit, you can avoid this step.  I don’t always do this one depending on the photo or subject of the photo.

When I do, I adjust it colour by colour starting with red then green then blue.  There are 2 arrows you can adjust for each colour mode.

Curves Panel with the Red, Green & Blue modes

Here’s from adobe help file:

“Moving a point in the top portion of the curve adjusts the highlights. Moving a point in the center of the curve adjusts the midtones, and moving a point in the bottom section of the curve adjusts the shadows. To darken highlights, move a point near the top of the curve downward. Moving a point either down or to the right maps the Input value to a lower Output value, and the image darkens. To lighten the shadows, move a point near the bottom of the curve upward. Moving a point either up or to the left maps a lower Input value to a higher Output value, and the image lightens.”

I normally just stick to moving the arrow most on the red adjustment panel.  I choose the arrow that makes the colours on my pictures pop more.  Its okay if it your whites are turning a little into that colour tint.  I use the green and blue adjustment panels to bring them back to white.  I move the arrows on the green panel less than I did the red (just trying to balance the colours.  Lastly, I barely move blue panel arrows.

Now if you are moving the arrows a lot to get the colours right – I’d suggest you stop and retake the photo in better lighting.  This step is just to make the colours on your photo sing not fix a badly taken photo.

Don’t forget to save your file again.

6. Zoom to view the image to 100%

Yep.  You will have to look over the whole picture using your arrows.  Here you will check to see if anything needs to be undone or redone.  If your eyes are tired, do this on your next session.  Its better to review photos with fresh eyes.

7. Crop the image

Location of the crop tool on toolbar

Crop out the unnecessary stuff, or something you forgot to hide in the background.  I now save a copy of the file as “Yourproject-master-edge.psd”.  This way I have 3 files the untouched image, the master with all the image correction and the cropped version.

I do this for consistency and added options.  If you decide to just have a master file saved and decide to crop again.  You may not end up cropping it the same way you did in the past or you decide you want to crop the image a different way.

Some suggest cropping as your first step, but I do it after major edits in case of spot correction.  You may find good sources from the parts you plan to crop.  Once you crop, you lose that info on your photo.

Don’t forget to save again.

8. Resize the image

Image Size on Menu

Depending where you are putting your photos or sending it to, you will need to follow their requirements.  My Etsy team suggest images with a max width or height of 1000 pixels.  As screens and devices are getting better resolution, some new places advice having 1200 pixels.

For my artwork, I tend to go with 1500 pixels.  You will find you have different requirements for each submission.  If you tend to use a certain file size often, I will save another version called “Yourproject-size.psd” e.g. Marigold-1500.psd.

9. Sharpen

Unsharp Mask in Menu

Sharpening is subjective and can be skipped.  I find that it adds a little more oomph to my photos.  What’s perfect for one person may be too much for another.  As the creator/artist of your work, you decide how you want to share your work.  There’s a really handy guide here from Damien explaining the feature and how he does it.

Unsharp Mask Panel

The settings I use for Unsharp Mask is 100, 0.2, 1.  Its not a magic number for all images but it works for mine.

Radius of 0.2 / 0.3 px for web images.  Prints need around .3 to 1.0 or more based on size.  Yes you should have a different final file for web and print.

Threshold is adjusting the balance between detail and noise.  I start with 3 to 5.

Amount, you start with 250-300.  Lower numbers are more subtle lines, higher are more dramatic lines.

We’ve come to another save point again.

10. Add a watermark

Adding my watermark

Damien has a great tutorial on creating watermarks.  I know many of us don’t want to mar our images with big ugly names/signatures.  You probably feel you don’t need it until your image gets stolen.  Protect yourself, it is so easy to share and screen capture photos.  Let people know you care about your work and who made it.

Make sure you place your watermark and flatten the image.  I usually place my watermark on an important detail where people can’t crop out easily.

11.  Save your file as jpg for web

Save for web menu

I use the “Save for web” option in Photoshop and select JPG around 80% for quality.  I like 83% but that’s my preference.

Save For Web Panel

 

12.  Fill in the metadata

Here’s a great site covering various softwares on how to embed metadata.

My metadata for one image

I fill out these fields on IPTC (legacy) & IPTC core using Adobe Bridge.  I tend to highlight all the photos of the same project and edit them in one go.

Headline and Title:  “Title of the Artwork”

Description, Copyright and Caption: “Copyright, My Name, Year Artwork Made”

Artist, Credit: “My Name”

Source: “http://www.myartistsite.com”

Rights: “Copyright ©Artist Name, Year”

Lastly, set copyright status to Copyrighted.  Apply and save your changes.

13. Post your image online

You are now ready to post your pictures online on your blog, website or store.

Here’s a summary checklist for you to have while working:

  1. Save  your work as “YourProjectTitle-master”.psd (file type for your software)
  2. Rotate the photo
  3.  Clean up the image
  4.  Adjust the levels
  5.  Colour correction / Curves
  6.  Set to view the image to 100%
  7.  Crop the image
  8.  Resize the image
  9.  Sharpen
  10.  Add a watermark
  11.  Save your file as jpg for web
  12. Fill in the metadata
  13. Post your pictures

Why I wrote this guide

I hope this guide helps you in creating a photo-editing workflow.  I found many guides covering different parts of this process but not all in one go.  I’m always willing to learn, so please feel free to share any advice.  I wrote this for my friends who have access to photoshop and similar software but not sure what to do.  I will post a guide on preparing photos for reproduction printing soon.

Until then take care and enjoy your day.

Much love,

 

 

 

3 lessons in keeping my sanity

Hi friends!  I know its been awhile since I posted.  Good news is I’m ready to rock and share my adventures in trying to make this practice fly.  After a few years, I finally found a schedule that works for me and my priorities and still maintain my sanity.  Yes that means I plan to blog more too!

Be Gentle With Yourself Red Quote Art Print with hand cut letters on red silkscreened paper
Copyright Elaine Joy Roach, 2018

Tip#1 Be gentle with yourself

Yes, I know you have so much things to finish and do.  But you aren’t going to do yourself any favours by doing everything at once.  Many of us demand a lot from us and ask why are we so stressed.  We do it to ourselves by having high expectations and endless demands.  Yes you are fully capable but it doesn’t say anywhere that you need to do it all at once.  What I could accomplish pre-kids isn’t possible for me now, I’ve learned (the hard way) to let those expectations go.

Tip#2 Make time for everything

When I first started, I was barely sleeping and skipping meals.  All I wanted to do was create and create.  Set a schedule for all parts of your life.  If you don’t give yourself time to do something, it won’t get done.

I was too busy with the girls and trying to create that yes I neglected the house.  Let’s not even talk about the associated guilt of being a messy home.

Once I made more time for things that I’ve neglected, my to do list started to shrink.  I’ve been promising myself to have my online store ready since I started, well now I just finished it enough to be worth promoting.  I still need to remind myself to stop working sometimes but I feel more human and less stressed.

 

Done is not perfect quote art with hand cut letters mounted on silkscreened paper
Copyright Elaine Joy Roach, 2018

Tip#3 Focus on getting things done not perfect

Lastly, I began to accept that being done is more important than perfect.  I’ll always strive to improve and learn.  Yet, the peace of mind from accepting what you could accomplish with the time given is irreplaceable.   I’m more calm and inspired.   I’m even starting a side creative project with my family – more news on that next time.

So to my friends and fellow creative, it don’t matter what stage you are in life.  Please be gentle with yourself, make time for everything, and focus on getting done not perfect.  You might not get where you want to go faster but I know your days will be brighter and more enjoyable.  I’d love to hear what mantra’s do you use in your daily life.

Much love,

 

2017 mini recap and future directions

It’s been an amazing year with so many new opportunities, directions and friends.  Super grateful for all the love and support I’ve received – gives me encouragement to focus on growing my practice.

 

 

In 2016, I began to practice again as a creative – finding time to create despite being super busy caring for 2 wee ones without any help.  My original direction was to grow a handmade stationery business – less scary than growing an art practice.  I applied for Artrepreneur, made new friends, learned new things and most importantly start believing in my talent again.  I did a few shows, taught a few workshops and introduced myself to the community as a creative.  The feedback I received was my art was desirable.  2016 was my year of firsts: sold my first paper art piece, did my first expo as a paper artist was in July, my first market was in August and organized my first community art event.

Fast forward 2017, I was given more chances to grow and develop my art practice.  I taught more, made more, played more and became more confident.    I also began to strategize a little better and learn to set up routines / organize my process better.  I took better pictures and tried new things.  It’s definitely been a journey and challenging at times.

My take away is don’t stop making.  Create for yourself, for love and things will eventually work out.

I’m currently finishing the commissions before Christmas, preparing for my last market, building an online store and planning new ways to play next year.

 

Thank you 2016, hello 2017

As my daughter returns to school, I finally have time to catch a break and reflect on how life changing 2016 has been.  I was faced with a few setbacks physically and time wise but still persevered.

It is a year of many firsts for me especially becoming a professional artist.  After years of hiatus, I started 2016 in the Artrepreneur program.  I can not say how thankful I am for the friendships, lessons, networks and opportunities this program has graced me.  I am fortunate to find wonderful artists to collaborate with for life.

It has been an exciting year and I am truly thankful for everyone who guided me and supported me.  I was able to start selling some of my new work in September and proud to say that I was able to make sales each month. I still have a lot of work ahead of me.  I hope that 2017 grants us a better year than the last.

Most of all, I’m just glad that I had the support and courage to take a step towards creating Treasured Paper memories.  There are many things I need to improve upon such as blogging.  May God bless me again this year with wonderful peers, friends and family.

Thank you and please continue to support me in 2017.  Let’s meet again this year.

Much love,