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Questions You Don't Have to Answer: How Long Did That Take You to Make?

by Luann Udell on 10/27/2011 9:38:15 AM

This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews.  Luann also writes a column ("Craft Matters") for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explores the funnier side of her life in craft.  She's a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry).  Her work has appeared in books, magazines and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer.  She's blogged since 2002 about the business side--and the spiritual inside--of art.  She says, "I share my experiences so you won't have to make ALL the same mistakes I did...." You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.


Today I met some friends for coffee.  All of us are artists, and we’d recently been part of a local art tour. 


One of our members made short videos of the artists in their studios.  One video in particular came up, where an artist is asked how long it takes her to make her art.  I commented that she never should have answered that question, especially the way she did.


For me, it was a no-brainer.  But the others questioned me, though they agreed they always get that question.  And they always, always hate it when they asked.


“Easy,” I said.  “Don’t answer it!”


But why not?


In the case of that particular artist, she makes very large work.  She stands in front of one such piece as she works.  She answers the (edited out question) by saying, “It takes me about three hours to do one of these.”


Now, right or wrong, here’s what your customers will do.  They’ll take the selling price (let’s pick a dollar amount out of thin air - $600) and divide it by the time the artist said it takes to make (three hours).  They’ll come up with an hourly rate of $200 an hour. 


You may tell people that doesn’t include the cost of acquiring your materials, or prepping, or finishing (frames, framing supplies) or the time schlepping your work to and from shows and exhibitions.  It doesn’t include the time and money you spent on educating yourself, nor the time you spent and energy perfecting your craft.  It probably doesn’t include the time and energy you spend on applying to shows, marketing, doing paperwork, or cleaning your studio.


And if you have gallery representation, you’re actually only netting half that amount. 


Nope, they won’t hear that.  They may nod their head, but they’re still thinking, “$200 an hour...that’s $400,000 a year!!”


They see you working quickly to make something, and getting top dollar for it—perhaps more than they make in a week.


And they may instinctively decide your prices are picked out of a hat.  They may conclude you’re a pretty pricey investment, to boot.


“So how do we answer that question??” both my friends exclaimed.


You don’t.


First of all, understand what role this question actually plays in the sales process:


The question doesn’t mean what you think it means.


You’re in your booth, or studio, and a potential customer enters.  You greet them, let them know it’s your work and you’re happy to answer any questions. 


Then a good salesperson leaves them alone to immerse themselves in your work.


They’ve been acknowledged, they know you’re available to help them, and that they are free to browse and look in peace.  Then, they’ll do one of two things:


They decide the work is not for them, they’ll say ‘thank you!’ and leave your space.


Or they’ll give you permission to talk to them more about your work.


And that permission--the first thing out of their mouth--is usually in the form of a question.  Often, in fact, a ‘dumb question’. 


In fact, many times, it’s that question about how long it takes you to make your work.


Now, ‘not answering’ doesn’t mean you stand in stony silence.  It simply means you can start talking about your work, and engaging them, without actually tallying up all the steps it takes to make your work.


And responding with sarcasm or even a joke will shut the process down in a second. 


Here’s a better way.  In that particular artist’s case, I may have responded something like this:


“That’s a great question!”  (You do not have to say you get asked that question 20 times a day.)  “And it’s also hard to answer.”


Now you can focus on whatever you’d found is a selling point for your work.


If time really is a factor, and that impresses customers, use it.  My artifacts take many production steps to make.  I describe that process, using lots of hand motions to illustrate.  I end up with, “I counted up all the steps once, and it was something like 38 production steps…” (pause) “…and then I start to actually shape the animal.”  At this point, people usually gasp. 


I explain why they have the shapes and markings they do; how I fire, sand and polish them; how I use a scrimshaw technique to bring up the detail, etc. 


By this time, time is obviously not a big factor in the price.  Most people are astounded at the attention to detail I’ve described. 


But I don’t stop there.  It’s time to take the conversation to another level:


“But it’s not really about how I make these artifacts.  It’s why I make them look this way.  I want them to look like ancient artifacts, something that was carved 10,000 years ago by an unknown artist.  I like to imagine her wearing this on a leather cord, or giving it to someone she loved to wear.  I like to imagine that that person wore it every day; that it was worn smooth by the touch of their hand.  And when they died, it was buried with them as a prized possession—until someone excavated it thousands of years later, with tender care and reverence.  And now we can look at it, and wonder about the life of that ancient artist.”


If I were a 2-D artist asked this question, I’d do the same thing.  Acknowledge the question.  Expand on the answer in a way that makes my work more precious and unique.  And share the true and powerful story behind your choice of technique, or presentation, or subject matter.  Share whatever will connect your audience, emotionally and spiritually, with your work.


Now, what about those people who really do want to know exactly how you do what you do?  The ones who really want to know what brand of paint you use, and what temperature I bake the clay at, and what ingredients you use in your glazes?  Yes, there are a few who persevere even after I’ve done the passionate-but-deflection thing.


In fifteen years of actively selling my work, I’ve found that most of those people who only want to know the ‘how’ are: 1) other artists, usually in my media; and 2) school teachers looking for a project to do in school. 


Only a handful of ‘real’ customers ever wanted that kind of detail, and then only after they’ve purchased the work.  (They want to be able to tell their friends something about your work.)


So the next time you’re asked, “How long does it take you to make one of these?” ….


Be prepared.   Think ahead of ways to answer that showcase your work in its highest light.


Don’t think it’s about keeping a calendar (or in that artist’s case, a stopwatch) to answer the question.  Don’t even give people a way to figure out (even incorrectly) how much you make an hour. 


Don’t exaggerate, either.  If you imply it takes months to make a piece and you’re only asking $125, you’ll be perceived as either nuts or independently wealthy.  When people ask how I can charge such a reasonable price for such labor-intensive work, I explain I make things in batches—like Christmas cookies—so I can work more efficiently but still give individual attention to each piece. 


Use the question to guide their attention back to the piece they’re looking at when they asked it.  (“But unlike cookies, I shape each one, one at a time”, and show them how each one is different.)


Remember, you don’t have to answer every question at face value.  Know that people are looking for a reason to validate why they are attracted to your work.  Give them that good reason and watch your sales soar.

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Related Posts:

The Politics of Price

Why Do YOU Make Art?

Don't Use Price as Marketing Strategy

Topics: art collectors | art marketing | FineArtViews | Luann Udell | sell art 

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Maria Brophy
Luann, this is a great article! Yes, it's the first question people always ask my artist husband.

He is a very fast painter. He can have an entire collection for a new exhibit painted in just a couple weeks. But he's extremely efficient and has been doing it a long time.

When someone asks him how long it took to create a painting he says: "It took me over 20 years to learn how to do this!"

Carol McIntyre
Whenever I am asked that question, I always want to ask back, "Why are you REALLY asking that question?" Wouldn't it be interesting to find out what they are truly asking?

I loved your last two sentences, and perhaps the first answers my question above, "Know that people are looking for a reason to validate why they are attracted to your work. Give them that good reason and watch your sales soar."

Thank you for your insights.

Charlotte Herczfeld
Luann,thank you for a great article/advice. I've normally quipped "30 years and some more", which gets me an opportunity to talk about why and how I learned, but I'll learn your way, I like that very much.

It just happened to me, and unfortunately my helpful spouse heard it, and gave an answer -- in exact hours... so make sure to coach spouses and close friends, those who know how many days or minutes you did spend. Best is if they know how to pass the question to you.

Right, *any question* starts the conversation, and questions do not need to be answered, but the conversation needs to be started. Great reminder.

Kathy Chin
Luann, this is an excellent article and you've come up with great solutions!

Most people don't ask photographers how long it takes them to work on their images, they assume virtually no time at all, but because mine aren't always "straight" photos, yes, I do sometimes get that question. I like your answer better and will think of ways to add more than "It takes lots of hours because I go over every single pixel of the image" (which is true)

Thanks for making us think!

Bonnie Hamlin
Luann, I can't thank you enough for this subject and your solution. It is the most helpful advice I've ever been given.

Kathleen Krucoff
Thanks Luann!

I've been asked this question and depending on the particular piece, I find myself trying to recall how long it took to make and floundering. This is a TREMENDOUS help, but I do things in batches as you describe, yet give the attention to detail with each one.

You have helped me tremendously with how to respond! Thanks so much!

Lorrie Beck
This is one of my least favorite questions... I try to remind myself that a lot of the folks who ask are not artistic and are truly interested in the creative process. I have also used the "2 hours and 20 years" answer as I do a lot of plein air painting, but those accountant types do tally that money per hour. If someone comments on my "hourly fee", my answer is usually something like, "Just because I paint it and price it doesn't mean I sell every piece." Great topic, Luann, thanks.

jack white
Love this article.

I have found people ask the time question, because they don't know what to say. I do like the politicians you see in debated. I switch the subject.

My pat answer, "GREAT QUESTION!" Then I turn, shake their hand and ask them a question, "Where are you guys from?" I wait for them to answer then I fire another question. "What do you do in Alice, Texas?" I wait for the answer then ask another. The next thing that happens is I'm talking about them owning the art. They totally forget their original question.

Lynn is 100 percent correct. Don't answer a got-ya question. It's loaded. I have found the best way to cut them off without seeming rude is ask them questions. Lots of editorial questions.


Amy Guidry
This is a great reminder that we are providing the public with an arts education. I think that question is just code for "this is so great it must take years to do." I take it as a compliment and as Jack does, an opportunity to talk with people, find out more about them, as well as inform them about my work. Even if someone just tells you that you're talented, they are probably hoping you'll tell them more about your work, but don't know what questions to ask due to intimidation or fear of insulting you.

Kathy Johnson
When I'm asked how long it took to do a painting I always say 25 years and XX days/weeks. Then I say that if I hadn't been painting for the 25 years I couldn't have done it in the XX days/weeks, it would have taken much longer. Then I go into some explanation about my work. This comment usually makes them smile or laugh and gets the conversation going.

Donald Fox
It seems to me the real subject here is how to build a relationship on the spot with someone who may be a customer. I used to look for every opportunity to launch into some spiel about my working process or philosophy of art, but that will only interest a handful of people. It's far better to get them talking about themselves. "Oh, you like that painting? What is it that you like about it?" Generally it's easy to proceed from there. Jack's approach is great too. Always bring them back to the artwork.

Jan S.
I reply to the question with a question, very much like what Jack says. And, it's a perennial question. We have all had to answer it. AND - I would never ever ever gild the lily and say something took 38 steps and then..... because more often than not people will think they are paying for your lack of efficacy or your learning curve... depends on the art, of course, but I personally think it's best just to diffuse the question. And, that way you don't have to make something up. Or have a cute answer like 2 hours and 20 years.

No - the single question that I HATE - and don't know how to diffuse - is "Where do you get your inspiration?"

People want to know that, I suppose, as they need a story to go with the art or something they can tell their friends - however
I am a working artist and produce a lot of work- I tend to produce more of what I know people will buy than the occasional subject that speaks to me or would be interesting to tackle - it's a pragmatic approach, but it's reality. I know, within the scope of my work, what subjects, sizes, etc. will sell easily. I do not only produce those particular compositions as I don't feel that's a good idea, either, as I may find one of the new ideas might be another one of the "compositions that will sell easily" - but frankly, I am also not a good liar nor storyteller, and that's not something that's going to become part of my personality any time soon.

So, when people ask "What's your inspiration?" I tell them the truth - "Paying the bills." This is NOT the response they want to hear. I know that. However, it is the truth - and it does put a real face on a process or object that other people have some sort of magical idea about - i do not believe in mystifying the process of creating art (spent too may hours listening to artists who are also great SPIN artists. Gag.)

I do wish, however that I had a diffuser for the inspiration question - and not some cute response - because I can see in people's faces when I give my pragmatic answer it's as if I tossed a cold cup of water on them....

Carol Schmauder
This is a great article, Luann.

I am usually asked the "time it took" question about my shattered reality paintings and I usually answer that I don't keep track of my time. That usually brings a response of "it looks like a complicated process" or something along that line. I don't feel people really need to know how long it took me to do a painting. The only thing that is important is do they like the work and does it move them in any way.

George De Chiara
Thanks Luann for such great advise on how to avoid answering a bad question. It's one I've never felt comfortable answering and I don't like the "20 years and a few hours" answer. It just sounds too sarcastic when ever I try to use it.

Jana Botkin
As a very literal person who wants my own questions answered (politicians REALLY tick me off when they don't answer questions!!), I have struggled to answer this question for folks who ask me. I didn't really understood that they don't care - they are just trying to engage in conversation but aren't sure how to begin.

So, thank you for this very insightful and helpful article. I will print it and review it multiple times before the biennial studio tour in March.

And, true confessions: I have looked at a questioner and said, "Why? Do you want to figure out how much I earn an hour?" I can hear your gasps of horror - Relax! It was only to people I know and always with a big grin!

I like Carol's answer the best! I get this question too and I have always hated it. This has been one of the most helpful articles!

"How long did it take to...?" My answer - 'a lifetime'. Recently I addressed that very question on a blog post. My 'lifetime' answer does not include hours. Really, how can an artist truly answer that question with 'hours'?!

Carolyn Henderson
Luann: When I take my kids to the orthodontist's, they spend 15 minutes in the chair until the next month. This for a year, and the guy gives me a $4,000 bill.

We all gag at this, but we also recognize that the man's paying for years of education and student loans (as well as for a pretty nice car, big house, up-scale lifestyle, but we won't go into that) -- and that, if your child's teeth have issues, you don't have much choice.

There is, unfortunately for the artist, choice in buying a painting, and people get really picky about. It never ceases to amaze me that people will haggle about the price of an original work, and yet they'll plonk down money for a print and then spend five times that amount getting the thing framed.

Your observations and suggestions are right on the mark.

Part of the problem is, cheap art abounds. It may not be good, but it's cheap, and we serve a populace that has been cheated when it comes to art education.

I also like Carol's answer, that I don't keep track of my time, even though it's not true. I actually keep very careful track of it! But I too am not a storyteller, and have, as Jan says, often gagged listening tales told by great spin artists, probably because, like Jan, my inclination is to say "Pay the bills" I kind of thought the 20 years and counting quip was OK, but not so sure after reading all the above. But rather than going into the details of materials, education and all the things that lead up to the piece, I'm thinking it feels natural to say that it's really hard to say because the painting starts a long time before brush hits canvas (or in my case, pencil hits paper). It's a concept that I work with in my head for weeks, or even years, perfecting what I want to say in the drawing before I ever start the physical work. OTOH, telling people that a drawing took 40-50 hours to complete, in 4-6 hour intense segments, does work quite well. "Drawing" doesn't have the same panache as "painting," so it helps to get the message across that it's not "just" a pencil sketch.

jack white
I feel compelled to jump back in the thread.

Remember the reason people ask the time question is they don't know what else to say. They go into galleries and ask, "Do you carry such and such artist." They don't know what else to say.

I have always thought answering 30 years and a few hours to be lame. This tells me the artist saying this doesn't know how to sell. Face it that's not a very wise answer. It is clear you are being evasive. People will think you are being a smart-butt.

Do as Luann suggested, don't answer their dumb question. Answer them with a question. A smart lawyer always answers with a question.

jack white

Kathy Johnson
When I say 25 years plus XX days/weeks it is with a smile on my face and a laugh -- it is not sarcastic! I have never had anyone be offended -- they always at least smile and usually laugh. It breaks the ice and a conversation follows about all the things that go into painting before the brush hits the canvas, while the brush is on the canvas and after the brush is laid down.

I think using whatever question is asked to promote a conversation will do the trick. The main key is not making them feel like it is a 'dumb' question. As long as they feel respected and accepted it will give you a chance to continue the conversation.

Evening saying 'pay the bills' can lead to a good conversation.

Kathy Johnson
Saying 30 years plus XX Days/weeks is less evasive than not answering it at all. If you say it in a light-hearted way it isn't being a smart-butt. There could be a way to say it and sound like that, but that is not the way I do it. I think that if you take whatever question they ask and use it as a way to get a conversation going it will work. At least they are respected by having an answer and then the conversation starts.

Debra LePage
I, too, feel people are probably just making conversation and so make light of how many "misses" there are before an acceptable painting is accomplished then turn the attention back to the art being discussed. Though, truthfully, some happen very quickly, others may take many attempts and lots of time. It would be tempting to put together an explanation about the "life of a painting" in terms of energy, time and cost: studio rent, cost of materials, time spent in preparation, the process itself, framing, application and fees to shows/exhibits, transportation to and from same to deliver (for me, a cab ride or expensive parking if in the city), commission, paperwork/taxes, repairing nicks and other minor damage to frames on work unsold. Too much of this kind of information would likely put a damper on the whole exchange.

Esther J. Williams
Luann, being an open individual, I usually answer the round about length of time, like 2-6 hours if I am painting en plein air. Now I see what you are talking about, now I know why those people walked away when they asked the price question next! But not all do walk away, some people are very educated in plein air and have purchased it before, even paying more than my prices. So, I get some people who want to buy it off the easel, I tell them I need to do some finishing work and they understand. Other times they won`t let me do anything more, they want to pay for it and take it away wet. That probably saved more than one piece from being overworked.
For the people who do not understand plein air impressionism and ask that question, I will start to answer it differently from now on. Thinking back on those folks who saw me start a painting on a trail is going to take some explaining, they actually witness the length of time to produce a painting from a blank canvas. They see the plain canvas, went on a five mile hike for three hours and when they come back, I have this landscape covering the canvas. I usually get gasps and wows, not to brag, it is what I have heard and even I am surprised they love it. That is when they say, I saw you start that and now it is this beautiful painting, how do you do that? Right there is the true question people are really thinking about. What is your painting process? Going on that thought, we can write down our process on several pages and try to remember this when we get the dumb question this whole article is about. I think I want to answer, my painting process has been built around many years of experience in the study of impressionism. Watching countless demonstrations, traveling to famous museums to study the masters, reading hundreds of books on art, color, composition and design, hours of sweat and pain going out into nature to attempt to paint her glory. This did not come easy, but now that I know what I am doing, all those years have funneled into this ability to create these works of art. It is not just the three hours I painted this, it is the countless hours beforehand that led to this point, without which this artwork could not have been produced with such skill.
Thanks for bringing this to our awareness!

Teddy Jackson
This is a great article. I usually say, "I started painting at the age of 10." Then with a relaxed smile, the conversation takes off from there.
Recently, I have had a number of my artist buddies asking me - how do you do that? You engage everyone and seem to be enjoying it.
I view it my responsibility to share my God given talent with others and completely enjoy talking with people about my art.

Jolyn Wells-Moran
My favorite answer to that question is one I heard from Camille Przewodek, "Thirty years and two hours."

Jackson Dunes, Pug At The Beach
Great article Luann! As a writer, I get a variation of the same question - "How many books have you sold?" I'd like to think that the reason behind the inquiry is less about how much money we make but a validation of sorts. That is, if we can achieve success doing the things we love then perhaps they can too.

Jan S.
I agree that sometimes people don't know what to say and so that's the question they ask - and normally I do answer the question with a question to them to get them engaged, but- about half the time, before I open my mouth, I hear from them something along the lines of " I know, you're going to say 15 years and two hours" or something of that nature, as if they have heard this response from all the other artists they have come across (which is why I never say it) and sometimes I raise my eyebrows at their response and joke "Oh, you must have heard THAT one before!" to which they inevitably respond yes, and then pursue the question anyway (which I then deflect)

Part of the reason for the question is that non-artists need a way to quantify this thing they are looking at - not too dissimilar from loaves of bread in the store (some are Wonderbread, some are handcrafted artisan loaves) and the time question is one of the only ones that can be asked - since the price of a given size of artwork can vary SO widely from artist to artist

In ordinary existance, for example, you might plunk down a lot of money for a pair of Jimmy Choos, as opposed to a pair of shoes at Payless, Jimmy Choo is widely known and that familiarity can be used to justify the expense which is a quantifiable thing -

But as to why one artist might price a painting at $40,000 and another artist who paints a painting the same size of the same subject might charge $400 is part of the reason that these people ask the time question, because to many many people, the cost of artwork seems completely arbitrary, and they need a means of qualification.

Donna Robillard
The "Great Question" is a good response. I think people are interested a little in the process, but actually they just want to converse about the piece.

Jo Allebach
I too am actually asked to question as frequently as everyone else. Thanks for the great insight into why people ask it and how to "answer" this no answer question. I already feel better about the next show when I know this will as usual be asked.

Brian Sherwin
Great article Luann -- you beat me to it. LOL

That question can be dangerous to answer. For example, I know an artist who creates these fantastic gesture drawings -- often in under 5 minutes... but the skill present in the work is masterful.

Long story short -- this artist did very well selling said gesture works in a small Midwest art community. Many were sold for around $75 a pop -- Again, the community I'm talking about is very small... so the fact that she was bringing in a few hundred every month from these works was great. But then came the question...

During an exhibit opening she was asked by another artist how long it took her to make the pieces. She, thinking nothing of it, answered... "5 to 15 minutes.". With information in hand the other artist went about telling as many people in the community as he could that she was a "hack". Soon after that the craze for her work and style dried up in the community.

She didn't mention to him that she had been doing it for over 20 years -- and that out of hundreds of gesture pieces created back-to-back only a few were considered 'gallery worthy' to her. I don't think it would have mattered if she had told him that though... he was annoyed that she was "cashing in" on "quick work" while his work remained on the walls.

She is doing well in another community now... and guess what... his work is still rarely sold.

This is a great article. I'm trying to turn my passion for art into a sustainable career. In the mean time I pay the bills by working full time at a call center. A lot of my job is retention. Which is basically sales. Building a relationship with some one over the phone in 7 minutes or less takes some practice!

I've been doing a lot of volunteer work at a local theater and with the Board President and Secretaries support I will be propositioning them for a studio space and am planning my first series.

My most popular pieces are very, very intricate. So in my case when I tell people 12-20 hours they usually respond well. It's a truthful answer. With my pieces I ask them if they saw a particular aspect and refer back to the art.

I have gotten a lot of business this way just by showing my portfolio. I absolutely love this article! Manners, courtesy, and truthful aloofness go a long way. I treat every client as a potential collector.

Thanks again for the great article! And to Maria Brophy for sharing it!!!

Phil Kendall
I answer with I produce on average 20 paintings per year...

But then there was the lifetime of figuring out what to paint...the time spent in planning it...the time translating it onto canvas[often 30 hours or more]...they are never interested in this...

The actual painting for me is the quick bit...Its all 'imagined' on the canvas and all I have to do is fill those blocks of colour in.

then there is the administration and marketing time...they are never interested in this...

Funnily enough they never ask about the chosen canvas size...

I agree another great article Luann

Sari Grove
This question always used to make me uncomfortable...I decided that my own discomfort stemmed from the fact that I myself was uncertain over how long I took to make something, and also that I possibly was working too quickly...So, in my process, I slowed everything down and slowly started to spend longer and longer periods of time on one piece...This 2011, I spent the whole year on one giant sculpture...What I have found was the longer I took on each work, the more I felt myself confident in talking about the time factor...The truth turned out to be that I myself was that difficult customer...So now I work harder and longer, and am a more satisfied customer, myself...

Susan Holland
I smile, and nod to acknowledge their question. I sometimes say "it depends..." and then move into the story of the painting.

Truth is, I don't do it to pay the bills. The bills get paid by something other than the necessity to sell paintings -- clearly I am not making commodity paintings, and never will be able to perform paintings as a product.

My paintings do each have a story, and, like introducing a son or daughter to strangers, they can be brought into focus by telling their story.

People may not want that answer right away. You might have to ask if they would like to hear the story of the painting. If they say yes, you are "on." Make them look for the things you are telling them...get them engaged in the wonders you saw that made you paint that way. They may not be able to forget that when they go home, and will possibly be back next week to buy it. One woman came back to my seller and said, "I just had to come get just spoke to me."

Telling a story gives your paintings a voice! This is part of the good stuff about buying an original painting.

Marian Fortunati
I think you're right, Luann... use the "dumb" question to help you frame what you really want to talk about... Share your passion about your work... why you paint/create... The joy you feel when (in my case) finding that perfect "spot".... The satisfaction you feel when you capture it so that it speaks to you and the viewer can feel the spirit of the place....
Good suggestions!!

Mckenna Hallett
ALOHA Luann!
Your brilliant answer and general expert knowledge is in full view in this article! BRAVO!

To add one thought seems presumptuous, but really I must add to YOUR "concept":

Make people feel important. Make people feel smart. Make people feel like they are NOT asking a stupid question no matter how stupid it is. We all want to "appear" clever, intelligent, and "in the know" and it is our job as salespeople to make sure viewers of our work are acknowledged as important in the conversation.

As you say, people really just are trying to find a way to become engaged and the first moment when you and they begin to converse is the moment in the dance that will matter the most for the rest of the song. If you have two left feet or - if you "insinuate" they are stumblers who don't know how to dance, they will just leave the ball room.

Love them - be fascinated by them - and then fascinate them.


That's a really great point... thank you so much for posting!

Great article! It does seem like a bit of a rude question to ask- I would never walk up to a lawyer or teacher and say "how many hours did you have to work at your job this week?" but when it comes to asking artists I guess it's curiosity killed the cat- especially if I'm amazed by their work I want to know all about.

Ann Brooks
Ah, that question! When I did major shows with my knit wire jewelry (see 'Jewelry Archives' on my website) I got the question often. I found that answering, "Many happy hours" with a little grin worked wonders. Then I would engage them in the story of the inspiration for the work, learning knitting and sewing at my mother's knee, or whatever seemed right in the moment. ~ Ann

floyd smith
Jan S. mentions "I am a working artist and produce a lot of work. Does that mean that most artist make their living at art, or do many as I do have a second job to pay the bills. These days would that be the case more then not. Or is it "Taboo" to say how it really is, "yes" I work full time at another job and paint after work. Does that make one a lesser artist. "I think not." These days many of us trying to be a full time artist,(no second job)make a living at it and take care of the family making at least $100,000 to $150,000 plus a year - if the underlying truth were to be told, fizzles out like a shooting star across the night sky. Is it possible to make a living in this business? "I say yes." Maybe some people out in the art world, would like to hear more from artist on the real stories of the day. Not on past etc. etc. that go back years in time. Sure its a feel-good thing. But many on the hard-knocks-road to the artist life, would like to know how get there before that pain in the body kicks-in - and the glimmer of hope as a cash in the bank artist fades fast.
Lets hear more about this....Is that silence I hear? Oh well, just a thought.

Floyd, you will almost never get a silence out there from me! Here goes...

Mother and Dad were spot on when they told me (in about 1956) that you can't expect to make a living as an artist.

After I listened to them mention that not everyone has the fortunes of Dali and Picasso and Michelangelo,I stuck my chin out in determination and headed off to art school. I did well.

Out of college, I got an "art" job as an advertising manager at a department store, which lasted until I went away to get married and start my family. (It wasn't an art job-- just a layout and paste job with a bit of fashion illustratio.. a good dose of image-making but not "real art".)

I've sold a modest number of paintings over the years, won some blue ribbons and some honorable mentions. A pet portrait business was popular enough to burn out my enthusiasm for commission work.

Family called and I set down my brushes when needed-- while making dollars at mundane jobs that had perks to cover a growing crew. Art waited for lulls. But never went away.

I'm just now cruising into the best part, I believe. I have a lot to say in my art now, with some definite points of view and a lot of mistakes that taught me what alleys are definite dead ends-- don't go there.

Life is good! If art is what is coming out of the brush onto the canvas, then the person driving those painty bristles is an artist. Whether I am running to the bank often or not.

Linda Crane
I never answer this one directly either. The closest I come when someone is really pushy on the subject, is to tell a story about one piece that I started in 1998 and finished in 2010. always with a big smile. Or describing the process in detail, I emphasize the numbers of marks or layers involved. That usually is impressive enough for the listener. Even Michaelangelo took 13 years to do the Sistine Chapel-and the guy who hired him was on his case most of that time.

I think most non-artists have a mental image of the artist standing torturedly at the easel and then suddenly, overcome with inspiration, dashing off some masterpiece in a day or two. I think there's also a little bit of envy that we seem to have such a cushy job. We get to play and they have to work at something they may really dislike. I'm also pretty honest about the fact that I have often had to work at jobs I didn't like during slow times and still work as a full-time artist around that. Bottom line is I try to connect personally with every person who expresses an interest in my work. It's all about relationships.

Alexandria Winslow
Great advice and validation! We just did a show this past weekend and had someone ask me that question. I was not as eloquent as I now know I can be! Thank you for sharing!

Brian Sherwin
Just a thought -- I know some artists who have 'dodged' this question by setting up a video space for their exhibits. Basically they have a video of their studio practice playing in a loop... obviously with time lapse often to show how the painting advances. It is not hard to do as long as you have a cam and a basic editing program on your computer.

Susan Holland
Good idea, if you have the equipment available at your exhibit. But a poster showing a series of stages would work, or a brochure would be even better because the people could take it away with them with your info on it. You can get nifty brochures for a decent price from

jack white
I just have to stick my thoughts back in. Don't look at people asking how long it took to do the painting as a negative. See the opportunity as a chance to turn their question into a selling moment.

They ask how long, because they don't know what else to say. They don't really care how long. You are falling into a trap by responding. I know a lot about selling art and you never reply to things that may appear negative with an answer.

Susan, while it sounds good to give them a brochure on you making a painting, that still doesn't tell how long. The brochure is nice, but if you want to sell the art reply with a question. All professional salespeople know to respond to a question with one of your own. Make it an editorial question that cannot be answered with a yes or no. Draw them into a conversation in the direction you want to go.


Susan Holland
Jack, you are spot on! I certainly didn't intend to suggest that you just stick a brochure out at them and call it a day! Of course people here don't automatically realize that I am a vociferous enthusiast when given any crack in the door, and will move right into conversation about the work at hand. I second your advice heartily, and will add that standing up when someone comes into your booth-- simply standing up and making eye contact -- will work to open many a door. Be ready to engage, but wait for the door to open. Then pick up the train of thought and go with it to where you want to take them.

Mckenna Hallett
I concur with Jack and would add another "selling" principal - I call it, "Card Closing".

I advise my seminar attendees to never (ever) have biz cards or brochures available to just pick-up off a table. The sale is in front of you now. The decision maker (s) is in front of the actual item now. Take the time with them now to make sure they have all the reasons (benefits) for collecting your work and don't (please don't) allow them to leave pre-maturely with a biz card and the fantasy (that they may really believe!) that they will go home and "think about it" and "buy it on-line" or email you. You must understand that even the most enthusiastic and excited buyer, will lose that enthusiasm very quickly when the rest of life is back in front of them instead of your art. OR”¦ worse, they will walk a few yards and spend the budget on someone else! They have (in their minds) left you and now feel that they could/might "need" to buy something and now”¦ it's from a neighbor.
Get them to really consider the spot in they are thinking of in their homes and get them to talk about what they like about the piece and what it would mean in that room to see it as they enter. If they are really serious they will be open and if not they will clearly be vague in response.

True Collectors will be reminded of how important and inspiring ownership of art has been to their daily lives. It's important that they are given the chance to purchase your work while they are there so as to not miss the lifelong pleasure that you know they will experience. I always say: "You owe it to your work and your collectors to allow the sale to happen."

Meanwhile, if they ask for a biz card, be very slow to get that card (and any additional info) into their hands, because the longer they are in front of your work, the more their desires become clear in their hearts. If they want to see a website, I would hope you have a "informational only" website and continue to encourage that they consider the pieces you have in front of them today. If they do leave, you must have everything written down - size, price, title, AND then... as you hand them the card (card closing)warn them that you may have an email or call waiting at the end of the show from someone who has seen the very piece they are looking at and they will of course sell it to the first who asks to buy it. That statement (sometimes) can lead to a simple question/close: "Are you sure you don't want me to send this to your home?" And continue selling and encouraging ownership as long as they are still there - even an hour after the card was passed to them. If they are still there, they are still considering ownership.

Long...and off topic slightly, but all part of the art of selling.

Susan Holland
Really a good thing, McKenna. And closing is what I am not at all good at. Thanks! Susan

Ann Brooks
Closing - Susan you and how many of the rest of us. I'm certainly part of that - I hope it's not - 99 percent. That's what it is all about and the hardest.

Any more on closing would be really appreciated. Thanks. Ann

jack white

When you give them a card you are also giving them permission to leave. You are saying this is your slip that allows you to leave.

You have to ask for the sale. There is no great mystery about closing. Make the client feel safe and trust you then help them buy what they like.

Email me and I'll send you a free copy of The Magic of Selling Art. I cover all aspects of how to sell art. Including not giving out anything until all hope is lost.

I never carried business cards. I got them to give me their information with a promise I'd send them my card. This allowed me to follow up.(smile)


Mckenna Hallett

You and I have the same philosophy. I encourage that a biz card is a last resort and hoped it was obvious that you don't give a card without getting their info, too. Your idea of not even giving a card, could be effective in most situations, but when I say that, it seems most people pull out a phone and say, well just give me your email.

I find using the card as a "slow close" and a way of showing I am happy to be helpful and then writing down "slowly - very slowly" information they will "need" often turns into a sale on the spot and saves me contacting them later. I really want the sale now more then the contact info, because with the sale, I get the contact info anyway. When I eventually give out the card and IF they are still around and continue showing interest, I now have a BIG clue: THEY want to buy. Now I just need to ask for that sale. I even say: "you have my card and you are free to go, but I think you really need to just say yes to yourself. You know you want it, and I must ask - what is stopping you from owning this great piece?" It's always a moment of truth, but mostly, it ends as a sale. Worse case, they say, I just need to think about it, and then I send them with the piece to a quiet spot nearby to do that NOW and "talk it over" (very important!)and at least they need to return to me with an answer - even if it is still no. And then I will ask for the card back to add "something" that I forgot and keep selling with that card in my hand.

I am sure that your Magic of Selling Art moves in similar ways to my "E's of Sellingâ?¢" Seminar because it's all pretty standard stuff. I look forward to getting a copy! Please send to me:
mckenna AT lowerimpact DOT com

Jan S
OK - now I have a question that sometimes happens INSTEAD of the how long question - or perhaps precedes it - it's more of a statement than a question ( and I personally feel it's a defensive statement ) "Oh, I'm just browsing" or "I'll know it when I see it" - what do you say to THAT?

jack white
Jan, they always say, "I'm just looking." (smile)

In short I ask them a question in return that cannot be answered with a yes or no. That's called an editorial question. What works well for me is, "Where are you folks from?" I wait for them to answer.

Then I ask what do you do in New Elm Texas or wherever they may live? I wait for them to answer.

Then I ask more questions about them. The person they are most interested in talking about is them.

When you get the people to open up and trust you, then and only then can the selling begin. The reason it's called selling is we take people just looking and make them buyers.

Email me and I'll send you my book on selling. I can't teach you how in a short FASO message. Selling is much more complicated.


Susan Holland
Jan, you have described me, when I am the shopper. I have a terrific sales resistance-- it's really a seller's nightmare. (and mine, as a seller, since I assume everyone is like this.)

But, thinking how Susan the Buyer might be brought into engagement, the seller might hook me by saying something like: "what kind of art do you collect?", or "do you like super colorful art, or more low-key work?" If you can get them to talk about their preferences, you are letting them talk about something they LOVE to talk about, usually.

Just me, trying to figure shoppers like me out. I almost NEVER buy things. Really. I actually dislike shopping! Love the internet becasuse no one is pulling Jack White techniques on me. :)

Carole Raschella
Wow, thank you, Jack (whose books I have and whose words are inspirational to me, always have been) and McKenna! This is some great info for those of us (OK, me) who understand the principles behind selling but whose brains fall out their ears when confronted with the situation. These are actual words, ideas we can use. And thank you, Luann, for writing the great article that started this wonderful discussion!

Luann Udell
JACK!!!! McKENNA!!! (Nice to see you here, M.)
You're treading on my NEXT article!!!! :^D

Mckenna Hallett
OPPS! Sorry Luann. But you know how passionate I am and well, I will shut up now. Except to add one little thing:

We all sell our friends and even complete strangers every time we have a great meal, see a great movie, or read a great book. THAT is the energy of selling. Capture THAT and use it for your own fabulous art and you can't help but close more sales. People who love your art *deserve* the same enthusiasm from you as you present your art work as you have when encouraging them to eat at your favorite restaurant.

Ann Brooks
Susan - I'm laughing. That's me too. I hate shopping and almost never buy - except online. ~ Ann

Jan S
Susan and Ann - well, you guys are 90 percent of my customers. Almost surly when you walk in the door. The problem is, with you guys, that you actually ARE looking for something otherwise you wouldn't be here. And I know it. BUT - because you have a defensive approach, it's tough for me to help you. You are the type of shopper that I whip out every conversational nothing in the book and throw it at you to get you to talk to me.... I would truly like to help you, but I need to break down a wall to be able to do that. I may actually have what you are looking for, but it may not be readily visible to you. If I am able to tear the wall down before you leave, I might have a shot at actually helping you, but sometimes people are so truly surly and defensive, like I am trying to rob them or something, that it just doesn't happen.

jack white

Beat me with a pepper stick for stepping on your next article. It's all Mckenna fault. (smile)

I'm like Ralph Kramden, I have a BIG MOUTH!


Susan Holland
So, Jan... You have found out that we don't want to talk because we don't want to be sold stuff. And when you bring out all the tricks in the book, we scurry outta there, right?

Yes, I will scurry out. I may come back another time and look some more, but I won't buy if I feel persuaded by you. I will do everything I can to not hear any reasons why I should buy something! Really! I am trying not to buy!

PLUS, if it's Susan the Shopper, she is always contending with the effects of too many stimuli at once! So if I am "thinking about it", that is what I am doing, and if you are talking to me, you are interrupting! And that makes me frustrated, and I take it out on you by walking out!

Yes, defensive. And I am the more defensive in this tough financial passage we are going through nationwide. I am really skinning my life down to a precious few things so I can live within my means, and the shrinking means of tomorrow!!!

So, if it is me, you will say "let me know if you have any questions" and go back to your pretend busy work. This sort of shopper is in your shop for a reason-- she is liking what she is looking at. But sashaying around with sales techniques will be counterproductive. You see, we are good at this, having taught ourselves to be wary.

I am not being twitty here...just letting you in on what's going on in the mind of at least one of those elusive shoppers who gets away a lot, and may not come back if she finds a sales pitch unsavory.

Thank goodness, for you and me and all of us who sell things, there are not many of me! The whole buy-sell system would completely collapse!!!

Jan S
Luann - hope that you address the defensive shopper in your article - they are the toughest! Almost as if they want to pick a fight. Curious to know what folks do with those kinds of customers!

Jan S
Susan - What you may not have "gotten' is that I am talking about my ART GALLERY customers - I have a gallery that is out of the way, and people who walk in here are here for a reason. All the "tricks" that jack is talking about isn't what I am referring to - as I am FINALLY able to tell customers who are surly and to whom I am finally able to have a comversation past the weather conditions, we have over 200 artists work in the gallery, more come in all the time, and it's not a big place, I do rotate stuff in and out and things may not be readily visible always - I may have what you are looking for, but I need a little communication! I also (to my detriment) am able to tell you WHERE ELSE you might find what you are looking for, how to contact whomever it is, as I know a lot of artists, and am simply trying to be helpful not only to the artist but the customer so that the art buying experience is a good one! It's art! It's supposed to be enjoyable! But it's tough when people walk in and, I think, expect me to try and sell them some sort of snake oil and are wearing a verbal suit of armor as a result, it's tough! There is no mistaking that you are in here for a specific reason. You are looking for something that suits you. I may have that thing that suits you, it may be out and visible, in storage, or I may be able to let you know where else to find it! I believe in being helpful, not being a salesperson. But, if the customer is thinking I am an evildoer usedcar salesman (which I am not - I am about as low-pressure as it gets) I mean, all I want to do is to help people find art that they like! Whether it's from artists that I have in the gallery or not, I have a pretty good database of where they might find what they are looking for! If somebody (in this area anyhow) is actually WILLING to entertain the idea of looking for some original art, I want them to succeed in finding something they love, and once they do that, they will be more receptive to buying original art in the future! Which just helps all of us artists out! It's not that original art isn't affordable, but most folks around here have bought print after print at Pier One or Bed Bath, and that's what they know so that's what they have stuck with - or, they have homes with nothing on the walls at all (Seen faaaar too may of those) but they think nothing of blowing $250 on dinner. It's a culture thing, not an ecomomics thing.

Susan Holland
Jan, I'm sorry I got you so upset. Yes, I am a frustrating person, and I suppose people get upset with me when I don't give them a chance to talk to me about their wares.

You are correct, that if I were to go out of my way to a small hidden treasure trove like yours, it would be because I was looking specifically to find something, or to find something out. And likely I would not be a "browser" at all.

I might even have called ahead to find out something before making the effort to get to your shop!

But I am really a pretty nice person about saying no.. and I am not offended when someone wants to sell me something. Just afraid! So I do have a sort of armor on.

There may be a history behind the behavior of someone like me. I'm old enough to have heard first-hand stories of the hard times during the Great Depression. I grew up hearing "we can't afford... (fill in the blank) about nearly everything. So I even still hurry up when making a long distance call... it used to be terribly expensive so we would talk in short hand and promise to write later.

Frugality drives people like me. We have not enjoyed our go-rounds with credit-card madness, and some of us don't use them any more. If we haven't got it in the pocket, we don't spend it. We do a lot of soul searching.

You are listening to the consumer here-- just the plain shopper who agonizes over whether to get new socks or decides the old ones still have some wear in them. Literally!

I am not someone who buys giclee prints. If I buy it, it's an original, because I plan to enjoy it and pass it along to my children.

But I will buy original art rather than go to the restaurant! So I am, in a way, a great friend to artists who paint original paintings. I see art as one of those true values, whether the price is large or not. (And my own art is made and sold with that sort of mind-set too.)

Don't be afraid of or angry at customers like me. Just know that your customers are as varied, and with as many stories as are your artist colleagues! We shoppers may be eccentric too!!

But probably most of us are not mean spirited or hostile. Sincerely, Susan

Susan Holland
By the way, I do go to galleries now and then just as I might go to a museum...not to buy, but to research what's out there.

Jan S
Hi Susan,
Didn't mean to imply I am upset! I am not! I just wish (and yes, I grew up in that same sort of family that you are referring to) that people would not assume that I am trying to sell them something they don't want! All it takes is about 15 seconds of talking with me to find out that's not the case! I mean I suffer from people who are too accustomed to going to places like best Buy where the salesmen swoop in out of nowhere - I get that, but I wish folks would not assume I am the same!

Susan Holland
When I win the lotto I'll come in and buy something beautiful by a great artist, ok?
But not before I hear what you have to tell me about it, and that will be a pleasure, I am sure.

Glad you are not upset. :)

Esther J. Williams
Jack and McKenna, I have had sales experiences in clothing stores and other jobs, but art is a different painted cow. Some of my art sales occurred exactly as your advice was stated on how to sell without pushing the business card or postcard as it seems most artists are now giving out. You see, I run out of those dang cards since I do outdoor art shows several times a year. I get busy with my life and money goes out the bank account without funds left to order new cards. Happens often, that`s life when your a mother and artist.
So, a few weeks ago I was painting on location, I was minding my own business and people kept watching me paint from a restaurant close by. First couple comes up, asks if the painting is for sale and I say yes. They ask for a card and I say I don`t have any. But I had a sheet of paper and asked them for their names and email addresses as I engaged in a conversation of, you guessed it, "Where are you from?" What are you doing while here in town, Do you like art, do you collect it, do you like seascapes...That was when they said, yes, we like this one and want to buy it. So, I had all their information and closed the sale for a pickup the next day. An hour later another couple comes by and asks for the painting, I say I think it is sold, but I can paint another of this same scene, just a little different. I go into the same stream of talk about where are they from and get their information. I explain how I painted this scene and ask what they like about it. They say things that prompts me to change the scene a little to satisfy them. So, it is now a commission. I closed that sale for shipment when that painting was done. Well, an hour later another man comes by and he wanted the painting, I think this was when I ran out of gas or was overwhelmed because I just couldn`t paint it three times. So, I think I scared him off even though he was willing to raise the price to buy the one that was already sold. I did take his information, he wanted a card too but he took a picture of me with the painting and my email address. He did contact me later, still wanting to buy that painting that was sold. I still have to paint him something else, I told him I needed to change to a different scene. The same scene was driving me mad, although I looked at it as a series. I think by not having cards to hand out and by taking their information was the key or gateway to a sale besides that bucolic seascape that everyone wanted. I also now see that by telling the second and third person it was sold, well, that made them want it more. I would not tell that if it wasn`t true, but boy does it spark someone to value the painting more if I said it was sold. Years ago in a plein air competition that happened to me with another painting, I could have sold it several times on the spot, but the show directors dictated that we could not sell until the reception night. In all this experience I see how important it is to get that person or couple to give you their information, name, email address and phone number. But also to make them feel comfortable and trust in you.

Brian Sherwin
Susan said, "Don't be afraid of or angry at customers like me. Just know that your customers are as varied, and with as many stories as are your artist colleagues! We shoppers may be eccentric too!!"

That is very true... I've been researching art appraisers lately and I must say that I'm surprised by the number that treat art buyers/collectors as if all are from some cookie-cutter factory.

Each buyer is different -- some will be turned off by what works for others. One potential buyer might feel that you are very informative while the next leaves thinking you learned your trade from a used car salesman.

There is no golden manual for handling every customer -- but there are a few guidelines... and many have offered opinions about that on FAV.

As for art galleries in general -- keep in mind that not every person who visits a gallery does so with the intention of buying art. Some just want to view art. Some are just killing time. You have to keep that in mind.

*and when a man and a woman walk in together, please don't say: "How are you guys today?"...I don't care if it is grammatically correct to use the masculine when it is a male and female couple...A friend from Georgia used to say: "How are you all doing", which avoided the guys thing...I am not a guy...If you call me a guy I already don't want to buy anything and am angry...Pet peeve I guess...But really, I don't want to be asked how I am at all if possible...because, you don't really want to know the answer most of the time...Just saying...(on the subject of how to treat buyers)...

Luann Udell
Susan Hollander, you actually made the point I was going to write about after the point Jack and McKenna made that's what my NEXT article is about.

Oh, you are all so prescient! LOL

Short story: You are all right.

Susan, when you said we should say, "IF I can help you, just let me know" is spot on. I got that from Bruce Baker, who teaches selling skills for artists. That little word--IF-- is huge. Not "How can I help you?", not "Do you need any help?" Just....IF.

Then let them look. If the look and leave, they are not attracted to your work. Trying to 'pitch them' is a waste of their time, and yours.

If they look and stay, OR if they look and ask you that question (for example, "HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE YOU TO MAKE THAT?") you know they have given you permission to engage them further. Ignore the actual question. They are intrigued, and they simply want to know more. That's when you engage in an AUTHENTIC and HONEST way, like Jack does.

There are ways to do this that still don't involve actively selling, and yes, I have an article coming about that, too. :^)

Susan Holland
@ Sari .... I am guilty of saying "guys"...old schooldays habits die hard, and I will try to reform! But I would like to add this: don't call me "hon" or "dear" or "luv." PLEASE!

Susan, you won't hear a Canadian saying hon or dear or luv, unless we are insulting you on purpose...

Susan Holland
Sari, I'll have to go shopping in Canada more often!!! :)

Susan...and everybody else...Please DO!!
Ever since our Prime Minister made a political faux pas 10 years ago, nobody has been buying Canadian...We are eating grass here...(green grass not the other stuff)...

Susan Holland
I think Vistaprint is Canadian, yes? They get my business a lot. I'm pleased with their products. And prices! Best to all and a neighborly hug to Canada!

VistaPrint is The Netherlands...The dot ca site is tho... not sure if money stays here or goes back to head office...But every penny counts...Thanks! Hugs back to America?

Simonne Roy
This is an excellent article. I went back to it today after reading your blog of today about the question "Do you have a website?"
Thanks so much for sharing your experiences with us.

Brian Sherwin
Went back to this after reading the latest. Another thought -- if they jump into questions about products you use it is best to try and direct the conversation back to the art itself.

I've seen artists talk for several minutes about the brand of brushes they use after being asked -- unless you are being paid for promoting that brand DON'T DO IT. The gallery visitor may leave with some nice info about the brushes you use... but what did they leave with concerning your art?

Just wanted to point that one out because I've seen conversations go in that direction many times over the years.

jack white

If someone asks what brand brush or paint they are artist.

When the economy in Texas went down in the mid 80ies I went on the road. I sold wet paintings. I loved it when they asked such questions. I knew immediately they were artist.

My standard answer, "You being an artist know I have very little time to sell. If you will drop back at the end of the show I'll be happy to answer all of your questions. I know they are not prospects and dismiss them as kindly as possible.

You mentioned chemicals. I have more than 40 years experience with oil mediums and paints. We no longer have lead white and some of the bad stuff of the past.


I'm just starting out as a career artist. Going from lifelong hobbyist to professional is quite a process... I've found that I'm being embraced by all these wonderful people. I've found that this is a profession where we help each other and have open discussions. I just want to thank you Luann and all of the artists involved in this discussion. You have no idea how helpful all of this is to those of us just entering the trenches.

I'm a web designer/developer, so I'm surprised at how well this article, about physical art/products, was so applicable to what I do, but it is. Your product shouldn't be valued at less if you have gotten the production aspect (three hours' worth) down to a science, as so much creativity, skill, knowledge, and history always goes into it, too. It makes the work even more valuable. So, thanks!

Michael D
Or you could take a shot at what $/hr the client would be ok to pay, then divide that into what you think you should charge and tell him that number of hours...

My answer: (And not said in a "joking" way). Actually, it's taken me 30+ years (I don't want to sound TOO old) to get to this point, from the days of my formal schooling in art, to gaining actual lifetime knowledge and experience and bettering my work bit by bit over time, to get to the point I'm at today. But aside from that, to focus on this painting of a willow tree, for example, I spent many weeks just studying the tree and it's surroundings first. I started out by walking each day by this tree, experiencing it in all kinds of weather and times of the day. I read about the symbolism of the willow tree - and actually, there is quite a bit of ancient symbolism connected to willow trees. I concentrated on the personal symbolism of the willow tree was for me. I discovered that willow trees, in the fall, particularly, actually bring forth two, perhaps conflicting, emotions in me. They are at once beautiful but melancholy. They are bright in color in the fall, but the drooping gold leaves also remind me that time is passing and I become wistful for summer. And in thinking these things, I also came up with the title later on - "Wistful Days". Then of course there were many sketches. Then, after that, I painted the first willow tree. Yes, the first - because I ended up not being quite satisfied with it so I painted a second willow tree with a different composition. After that, I went back to the first willow I'd painted, and decided to crop it. I was happier with it cropped, but still don't know if I like it as well as the second. In the end, when you count up all of the steps I actually went through to complete this painting, I know that I spent way more time than the asking price would suggest. (By the way, this still doesn't allow them to figure a charge per hour). By the time I go through describing the process and my thoughts and emotions as well, by the time I'm done I can see by their faces they've forgotten what question they asked in the first place.


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