Monday, June 1, 2009

The art business waltz, lesson 5

Tonight's fashionable portrait painter is an American, Gilbert Stuart, 1783 - 1872
images from the artrenewal .org.
Living in the Boston area I have a fondness for Stuart. We have a lot of good ones here in the Boston Museum, he was a local hero. His portraits have a silvery tonality that I find really attractive.Stuart also was a a very fine draftsman. He was sort of a rounder, accepting payment for portraits that were not produced and using way too much snuff. I think down the road on this blog, I will do a series of posts entitled something like 25 artists you should know, profiling them and showing samples of their work. Or perhaps I could just start throwing them in to the rotation. Incidentally the next thing in the rotation is the reader critique, if you want to e mail me an image, I may include it. ( It has to have something wrong with it ) My e- mail address is

I have a couple more points on web sites. The first is a recommendation from one of you, concerning a host that has a site tailored to the needs of artists. Here's what she said:

I chose to use Fine Art Studio Online, a web hosting service specifically for artists. There are a couple of different levels, mostly depending on how many images you want to display. I have been totally pleased with their service. I have the highest level and it is only $28 a month. For that, I get 24 hour customer service, some marketing newsletters with really some very practical information in them, and I can add, delete, or edit images on my site in a snap. I am moderately computer savvy, but I do not know html code or Morse code or any other kind of code, and this is the easiest thing to use. I can re-design it at any time I wish. They also offer a FREE 60 day trial - it is really free.. they don't even ask for your credit card info.
I have no financial interest here, but I've recommended this service to many artist friends, and I think its a good one. You can get a site for as little as $10 a month. They will also register a domain name for you.

This may be a good way for you to get a site up and working. I have not actually used this site.

The second item is this: A lot of people have been doing the "painting a day" thing and selling very modestly priced art over their websites. I think if a gallery goes to your website and sees you are selling 100 dollar paintings there, yet you want to sell more expensive ones in their gallery even of a larger size, you may have a problem. I think if you want to go the commercial gallery route you may have to quit posting cheap paintings on the web. Now someone is going to e mail me and tell me about so and so who is doing both. I know a guy who claims to have driven 100,000 miles without an oil change. Maybe they have, but I wouldn't recommend it as the best course of action. The same thing applies to doing a lot of charity auctions where your work sells for far less than you want to receive in a gallery. Customers do research online, and if they keep finding your art selling for far less than in the gallery you will probably lose sales.

Does he have more hair than me?

The next item on our list of must-haves for hunting galleries is picture frames.While touring those galleries you have been noticing what sort of framing seems to be expected by those galleries. You provide the frames, not the gallery. There are essentially three types of frames. There are "modern frames" like shadow box frames and narrow lipped frames, the occasional metal frame and who knows what else. I think that painting the edge of the canvas and hanging the painting like that is even acceptable in some of those venues.That's not my world I don't keep up with it.

If I ruled the world, picture frames would be made out of wrought iron, rusted wrought iron. I have had so many frames damaged by dealers and even damaged a few myself. You can keep the percentage down, but I think there will always be some attrition.

The two kinds of frames in the galleries in which I show are metal leaf and 22 carat gold, closed cornered frames. When you go to a local frame shop and order a frame or buy one from a wholesaler, they are generally "open cornered frames" That means that the frame was made by taking prefinished sticks of moulding and chopping them to the right size and joining them.

The better fix is a closed cornered frame. That means the raw wood moulding was assembled and the frame was covered with layers of gesso and then leafed. Since it was joined and finished before the leaf went down, the leaf and the finish go right around the corner with no line or crack where the two pieces were joined. That's is pretty much standard in most of the galleries I am in. There is a lot of variation and quality differences among these frames. There is a company called Omega that markets very inexpensive frames that are just OK, they are good for shows where you would be afraid to put a gold frame, or for galleries that want to sell the art at a slightly lower price point. These Chinese frames look like they are carved wood but actually they are molded plastic mounted on wood and metal leafed.

Metal leaf looks like gold, well almost,next to a real gold frame the difference is obvious, the metal looks dead. Often times stores will call it gold leaf but it is actually bronze. It is the cheap fix. If it is done properly it can be acceptable, if it is done badly, it looks like the box Velveeta comes in. I use some metal leaf frames, but I put my own aftermarket tone on them.

The very best galleries generally will expect 22 carat frames. These are very expensive. They are also fragile. But they look GREAT! It can make a painting that looks good into something that will really make a big impression. I use about half metal leaf frames and half 22k gold frames. If you take the metal leaf frame off a piece and put it in a real gold one it makes a a big difference. If you are starting out in the gallery scene you probably won't be using these frames unless you are married to a thoracic surgeon. A frame should at the most cost about 5% of a paintings retail value. ( That is incidentally a valuable thing to know) if a frame costs 250 dollars you should be getting ( and not just asking) 5,000 dollars for the painting.

That's it for tonight, I will return tomorrow with more.


Bob Carter said...

Your reader's experience with Fine Art Studio Online sounds very similar to mine with Artspan. I've been very pleased with the look and ease of editing of my site on Artspan. The cost and capacity sound about the same (Artspan costs me less than $300/yr). These providers give you a range of templates to chose from, with a lot of options to customize, so it doesn't look as cookie-cutter as one might expect. As you note, I have had almost no direct sales from my site (although I happen to be in negotiations with a potential buyer at the moment). It does the job, however, for all the other things you talk about. One tip I would offer is to secure your domain name for as long as possible. I started out with only two years and nearly let it slip by before renewing. I renewed earlier this year for nine (hope I live that long).

Have you ever used Summit Gallery out of San Diego for metal-leaf frames? Years ago their quality was so-so (Mexican made?), but they have been pretty decent in recent years. I think their frames are made in Eastern Europe now. They are closed-corner, real wood, and hand-carved. They aren't cheap, but they are reasonable. I'd like to check out Omega. Do you have a web address for them?

Unknown said...

If there were ever police on ice rinks, the guy in the top portrait would fit the bill.

Very valuable information on framing. I wouldn't have know the difference between the levels of frame quality otherwise.

willek said...

I like the idea of putting some color on the gold frames to go with the painting. For a while I had some very bright gold frame moulding I was using for frames. The brightness was detracting from the paintings, so I would take some of the mixings I had left over after painting the picture and dilute it with some thinner and put it on kind of thicky. Then I wiped most of it off so some was left on the flats and more was left in the corners, etc. It made a pretty good job of killing the glaring gold and picked up some of the colors of the picture.

by the way, I think we could start a wonderful language with the verification words below. They seem to be much better words than the proper English words we are stuck with. WillEK

Stapleton Kearns said...

There's another choice.I did use summit once several years ago and I was not overjoyed with the frame they sent me. I think that Hackman is a good supplier who is median priced.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I am surprised that living in southern California you recognized ice . That's because you've seen it in a slurpee, I suppose. =

Stapleton Kearns said...

That's about what I do . I pounce them with a house painters brush, and I use liquin not thinner. That makes em builletproof.

Unknown said...

wow, this was really new information to me.. about the frames. Who knew? I absolutely did not know this stuff... I mean, obviously there are better quality frames out there, but I didn't know how to define that, and what to expect and where to get them.
thanks, Stape, again for a really educational post.
That skater dude looks like a sketchy character.

Stapleton Kearns said...

There is so much so all of this stuff. I am trying to condense it and keep the detail to a minimum.As you can see I have rattled off about 6 of these waltzing posts already and it will take a couple more to get the subject done. Then the great criitique.That reminds me I need to find some gruesome dissection art to accompany that.

Sandra Galda said...

Oh dear, now I have to rethink my enthusiasm for the new art trend of daily painting. I did not know there was such a conflict of interest when one partakes of the trend. My involvement in this new art movement comes from one of its premises-- that daily practice on a small non-threatening sized canvas yields many more benefits for the developing artist than laboring on a complex composition on a larger format. (I have done lots of theater set design, so large format is not as inhibiting to me, just time comsuming)I do not have my daily painting art blog linked to ebay at this time, but rather, I use my daily work as a "doodle," exercise, or "warm up" to the labors of larger work. I consider them small snapshots of my style developing, or a small work that helps me work out kinks in my brushstyle and painting problems.... It has been especially good for me because with schoolwork weighing heavy on my life, small artwork is all I could do. Now that I am done with school I had hoped this daily work would rev up my engine for more fine art in my life. It may be that I find producing these small images appealing becuase my undergradute degree was graphic art...and I think pop art and graphic art design seems a big fun part of the exercise for me. I know larger works are forthcoming in preparation for a gallery but now I fear my activity in daily painting will jade galleries against my work! Some of the very successful daily painters contract with galleries with the stipulation that works under say 8"x10," will not show up on their daily painting blog. All their artwork abouve that size is earmarked for the gallery ...

Sandra Galda said...

oops, I meant works UNDER 8"x10" would not show up on their daily painting blog....another words...only very small work would be allowed on their blog while in contract with the gallery....

Stapleton Kearns said...

I believe that althiough you mmay find a gallery that will allow you to do both, You are going to negatively affect both the sales and the value of your art. Why not raise your prices and feed them into a gallery? You could then sell them on your site, but at a more professional price. Ultimately all of this is only my opinion, and as I said in the post, I am sure someone can be found who is doing both.People have asked me why I don't do inexpensive paintings and dpo the painting a day thing. The reason I won't is because of what I just told you. (Also I get about $1,000 for an 8 x 10)and I can't make enough on them in the galleries at that price. Did you read my essay about price?

Sandra Galda said...

I am trying to stop laughing after that amusing post--I just read your Monty Python style "price" post you recommended to me! Very witty. Anyway, your posts are really eye opening for me. I did not receive my undergrad degree in fine art, but in graphic art, so I am nearly clueless about marketing my fine art. The pricing of fine art is another topic that I must be enlightened with, along with so many others. Your post was helpful of course. I would love to raise my price as you suggest:) The idea of the daily painting custom as I have been told, is to sell them on ebay and "let the market decide how much your work is worth." The daily painting product is a very small painting created in one hour or less, put on ebay auction, and subject to the market demand. These small works are of course very different in aim from your professional works of art. (I stood drooling over one of your paintings at the Rockport art association last fall--it was miraculous...) After reading your opinions about the value of daily painting, I will have to rethink my current activity. I think my art has improved thru this custom. I am shocked and sorry to hear that I will not have much chance of succeeding at gallery work doing both forms of art... if the galleries will dislike me for doing that. My goal was to eventually get good enough to be admitted to galleries. At a daily painting workshop it was mentioned that marketing art thru galleries and thru daily painting auctions on ebay should not be viewed as in competition with each I see that sentiment is not universally held ........