Monday, June 22, 2009

The New Economy

I feel a lot like the kitten in the picture above. Fairs are exhausting. Thankfully I am doing less of them this year. The economy made me take a long and hard look at my usual slate of fairs and delete some - the more expensive and further away.

Artists knew the economy was in recession a full year to two years before anyone in the government admitted it. It hit us first. Lots of my artist friends that existed on fair sales declared bankruptcy that first year. This year we have all pulled back severely on expenses because you cannot rely on previous sale figures to predict any given sales event.

This last weekend was a good fair. Not great but good. For this economy it was very acceptable. What I really noticed was my reluctance to spend any of what I made. Normally when a fair is good there is a lot of artists buying art or trading art. And that did not happen this fair. That extra boost on sales that comes from your fellow exhibitors in the closing hours was just not there.

I packed up and came home and ran my credit cards and prepared my deposit slip for the bank and then looked at what I "have to spend" before my next fair. It is relatively little. I need to paint a few more paintings and I already have the canvas. They will need framed and so there will be $40 to $60 for wood to make frames. And printer ink has gone up so much in price that I am going to have some cards printed instead of doing them myself. There is an Internet based company a friend has used and I should be able to get 500 done for $40. One print cartridge for my HP is $39.

I want the majority of this weekend's profits to stay in the bank. I never want another winter like last one when I had no idea where I was getting the money for the heating bills or pet food. Many of my fellow exhibitors at this weekend's event feel the same, and artists are not known for a conservative approach to the budget.

I am just thrilled that there are people who still have expendable income; money they can spend on art. They are buying at the lower price points on a whole but they are buying. And those artists that sold prints just sold prints. I have been debating prints for some time and I think I am currently on the "originals only" side of the argument.

I noticed when I was catching up with the news of the last three days last night that a recent poll reflected that most people believe Obama has improved the economy. But most also think he does not have a clear plan. Who does? We have not been this way before and I think we are all making guesses. In some cases more educated guesses. None of my artist friends have gotten past spend less as to a game plan.

Any thoughts among my readers as to what is a wise move in these days?


  1. Jacqui,

    I am wondering why you lean towards original-only. Your art is so lovely and I think has a very universal appeal. I believe prints would sell well throughout the southwest and the west, particularly around the parks and recreation areas you illustrate so beautifully. Do prints lessen the likelihood of sales of original art? This is all new to me since I'm not an artist, but I know I frequently buy prints when I visit museums -- particularly when on vacation.

  2. It is a matter of price point I believe. My originals are affordable enough that to sell prints would undercut my original market. When all my work is in the 4 or 5 figures I can see where there would be an advantage to prints.

    Or if Arches National Park came to me with an offer to buy print rights to a few of my originals of their arches I would not hesitate. But it is costly to do prints and for them to sell at a fair side by side with original work there has to be a significant difference in price.

    And you have to guess which pictures would be the best selling prints. I am considering having really high quality digital images made of 4 or 5 of my favorites that when they sell I would then offer a limited run of prints. So many artists are not limiting them and they are worth the price of the paper only.

    And if you image is out there 4000 times it lessens its impact.

  3. Really interesting reply. I hadn't known this either. Years ago when I went to fairs the artists had everything from note cards, Tee shirts prints what have you. I always thought that if you couldn't afford the original get a print...never considering the cost of all of these extras. I like your idea. This fair did prove that out. Economy....plan ahead as best as you can. I agree, another winter like the last thru spring and I'll be on food stamps.margaret

  4. Jacqui-- You are right on target re: prints! I've seen so many art show artists decide to "make their booth fee" with prints. Problem is, you end up helping someone for a long time picking out a print and you may in fact ignore a potential original buyer. Besides, prints are way expensive to inventory, probably more so than your smaller originals. My two cents---stay away from them.

  5. I certainly respect your input on this, Jennifer. I have been studying it for a while and it seems those that get into prints spend all their time and half the booth with prints of all sizes. Looks like a bargain basement.

  6. Interesting discussion on prints versus originals but I am not a visual artist so I don't have anything to contribute to this. For myself - I am just trying to spend as little as possible. I have retired hurt from the arts industry - it is financially and morally unsustainable for me. I am trying to transfer to another industry but am not sure what. In the meantime I am trying to spend as little as possible and stay out of the clutches of of those obstructive twits from social security for as long as possible.


I appreciate all kind comments on my art and poetry.