Even Artists Have to do Inventory

My precious notebook, tattered an scribbled but it contains a record of ALL of my artwork since fall of 1995.

One of my goals this year is to complete a total inventory of my artwork. That may sound easy to some, I mean how hard is it to keep up with a painting? Well, I actually have 317 paintings since the fall of 1995. Plus 4 paintings that have Limited Edition Prints. That’s another 125 prints to keep up with plus notecards of various work. I have a ton of stuff from my elementary through college years as well but that’s another post!

This is all since I started ‘professionally’ in the fall of 1995. That’s when I started recording my artwork in a spiral notebook. That is a lot of artwork that is either in a gallery (or 2), owned by someone else, floating around my house or destroyed. And after almost 23 years of painting, I don’t remember every detail of those 300+ paintings or the prints or the notecards! I’ve written down quick notes like “Sold” “Destroyed” “Used in a collage” in my little notebook but sometimes I didn’t record what happened to a paintings. Plus I live in fear of losing that notebook (it used to go to art festivals with me for notes about the shows) or it being destroyed.

So a couple of years ago I decided I needed to get digital with my inventory and I started a spreadsheet. Here is what my system looks like today.

THE Notebook

The start of my system and my go to for a record of everything still. Click the photo above for a larger view. Note the elaborate (j/k) details like “Sold” written in the margins.

The Numbering System

Back of a painting. Note the numbering…this was the 3rd painting I completed in 2017.

This was probably the greatest thing I started for keeping up with my work. I HIGHLY recommend you use something to give each piece an unique identifier if you are a creator. My system is simple. The first 4 numbers are the year the artwork was created. Then I number in order from 001. I assumed years ago that I would never make more than 999 pieces of art in one year. So far my top year has been 57 so the third digit may be unnecessary but I am ambitious!

As soon as a painting is deemed ‘finished,’ I record it in the notebook, give it a number, sometimes a title, sometimes that comes later, and the medium and size. I then try to sign the BACK of the piece with the same information.

 

The Spreadsheet

For years, the notebook is where my inventory system stopped. I would scribble notes in the margin if a piece sold or if I used it in another piece of art but not a lot of details. I don’t have room to record details about the buyer or if a work is framed. Plus, I started putting prices in the notebook but as my prices change, that’s a lot of erasing!

So in comes technology and my spreadsheet. It is too big to put a snapshot of the whole thing (click photo for larger view) so here’s a list of my column headers:

Partial view of Art Inventory Spreadsheet

Photo – I put a small thumbnail photo in the spreadsheet. I can identify most of my paintings on sight but I can’t always remember numbers or titles.

ID – the unique 7-digit number each artwork gets assigned

Title – Title of artwork

Medium – Medium used in artwork

W – Width of artwork in inches

H – Height of artwork in inches

Completed – Best guess of the actual completion date (mm/dd/year)

Com -Commissioned piece. This gets a Y(es) or N(o) tag on whether or not I was commissioned to paint it.

Pet – Same Y or N on if the commissioned piece was a Pet Portrait

Fr_W – Frame width if the artwork is framed (and being sold or was sold with the frame)

Fr_H – Frame height

Price – Price of UNFRAMED piece

Fr Price – Amount I put in for the frame or stand, etc

Pr Final – This adds together Price and Fr Price for the total sales price

Photo – Have I photographed this piece. Gets a Y or I leave it blank for No

Listed on Web – Y tag if I have listed the artwork on my website. I currently leave it blank for No but I’ll probably add N for work that won’t be listed (such as destroyed work or used in other pieces) and leave it blank for those I need to list.

Listed on Etsy – Same as above but for my Etsy shops

Sold – Gets a Y if the artwork is sold. Will probably do the same code as Listed on Web

Owner – Name of buyer

Location – Town, State of the buyer OR where it was sold if I don’t know buyer.

Description – A brief description, especially if I have a series this helps distinguish any small differences.

Notes – Anything from where it sold, if it has won any awards or been in shows, does it have prints or notecards, etc.

I also will have a column for works that are in galleries or other physical shops. There was one year where I had artwork in a Texas gallery and in a North Carolina boutique plus still listed work on my website and Etsy. I was so worried I would have something listed online that wasn’t in my physical possession. This is one of the biggest reasons I created the spreadsheet.

I’m not through with the spreadsheet. I have 260 artworks listed but only 2016 and 2017 are completely current. I’m working backwards one year at at time.  Also, I back this up on my Google drive so it is safe from any loss or home disasters, unlike my precious notebook.

It is taking a while but when I’m through, I will have every detail of every piece I’ve created at my fingertips!

 

Planning for 2018

This was part of my overall goals and priorities for 2018 (read the whole list here). I usually have some business goals and occasionally creative goals.

Creating

  • Continue to explore Art Resin
  • Watercolor portraiture

I don’t like setting hard numbers on creativity (ie. make 24 paintings this year) because, well, it stifles my creativity! Also I may work on a huge painting which takes much more time. Last year I set some rough ‘square inch’ goals but it really didn’t motivate me so I didn’t bother this year.

Exhibiting

  • 3 Exhibits
  • Gallery Space

I think this has been the same goal for as long as I can remember! The only time it changes is when I’m in a gallery.

Teaching

  • Create another Skillshare class

I’m setting just 1 as a goal but I hope that if I can get in the groove with video editing, I’ll be able to make more.

Connecting

  • Quarterly Newsletter (February, May, August, November)
  • Blog 26 times (every other week)
  • Post regularly on Facebook and Instagram

With the Facebook announcement about the changing News feed (read here), I may need to rethink Facebook. I’ve never had an ad (thought about it for 2018, we’ll see) or tried to openly sell artwork on my page. I use my page to interact with my fans. If you see less from me, it may be Facebook, not me. Follow me on Instagram and sign up for my newsletter to engage with me more fully.

Marketing

  • List ALL my artwork on my site (older work, bin work (aka small works), notecards and prints).
  • Set up a POD (print on demand) site.

With my new site being more ‘buyer friendly’ I want to get everyone in one place instead of going to other site like Etsy. I’ve researched making prints of my artwork for a while now and have decided a print on demand site will be much better than trying to print myself. They can offer more options and already have the equipment.

Business

  • Complete Art Inventory

I’ve been needing to do this for a while. I have a record of all of my art in a notebook, but if I ever lose that I’d be in trouble! I created a spreadsheet and have most of my art in it but I really need to do an actual physical inventory and make sure I know exactly where all my art is.

2017 Annual Report

It’s that time of year to look over my business goals and accomplishment for the past year. I started off the year strong but adding a part-time job into my schedule in May slowed me down a bit. By fall I was back into full swing though!

2017 Charlotte B. DeMolay Artist Annual Report

Creating

  • Explored new techniques with mixed media and art resin.
  • Created 18 new painting (See most of them here).

Overall I spent a lot more time in the studio than I have in the past several years. When I’m teaching, a lot of the time the work I’m creating is examples for classes. It has been a long time since I’ve been able to focus exclusively on my own artwork.

Exhibiting

  • Participated in 2 local art exhibits.
  • Accepted in to local gallery (read more about that here).

I had hoped to get my art out in my new community more than I did this year. I was really, really excited about the gallery (and made quite a few sales in the 6 weeks I was there). Maybe the co-op will find a new location or I’ll keep looking for another opportunity.

Teaching

  • Created first online class. (check it out on Skillshare. 3 months for 99 cents for a limited time)

I wanted to create more but I had a huge learning curve with videoing. After my first class I realized I needed to update my software, so I did. Then I started my other job…before I really learned how to use the new software! I’m hoping to get a few more done this year. Skillshare has been a great platform for this (plus I watch classes myself all the time!).

Connecting

  • Sent 2 Newsletters
  • Wrote about 6 blog posts (I think more but I lost some in the new website design)
  • Posted irregularly on Facebook and Instagram

Overall this was my most lacking part of my year. I set a goal of a newsletter per month and a blog post per week. I obviously didn’t even come close. This is an area I have flagged for work on in 2018!

Marketing

  • Redesigned my webite, again! I think it is just my nature to have to change it every few years. Read about my other reasons why here.
  • Updated my ‘brand’ look on my business cards, website, etc., to reflect my more current work.

This was long overdue. I had a sentimental attachment to the Beach Bunny painting that has been my icon for years. But the painting is 13 years old and the subject is almost 17 years old!

Stay tuned…next post will be about my 2018 goals!

 

 

The Good, the Bad, the Hopeful

As many of you saw last week, I was accepted into Arts in the Village Gallery.  This gallery is run by a cooperative group of artists through the Loudoun Arts Council. It is located in a beautiful, newish shopping center at the edge of Leesburg along one of the main road.

It is a beautiful space, the gallery is well run and gets a good amount of foot traffic because of its location. I’m excited to be a part of this group. That’s the Good.

The Bad is that we are closing December 31st. I learned this the evening of the same day I hung my artwork! Talk about a let down!

The shopping center had graciously allowed the gallery to be in that location for 6 years with a very reduced rental rate. They have a tenant ready for that space now. They offered us a another space but it is smaller and less trafficked so we are passing on it.

The Hopeful is that we’ll find another place more suitable. I’d love a space where I could start classes again. Finding that balance between affordable rent and foot traffic is the key. Fortunately, I’m on the board of the Loudoun Arts Council so I get to be a part of all the discussions (as a Council and as an Artist).

I’m a big believer that when one door closes another opens so we’ll see. But if you happen to be in Leesburg, Virginia, before December 31, 2017…come check out my work hanging on the walls at Arts in the Village!

Breaking Some Rules

Holly Study #1, watercolor, 5″x7″  ©Charlotte B. DeMolay

The big reveal! No, it’s not a baby thing, it’s a website thing.

I decided a month ago my website needed a new look. First, it was time. Trends change, my artwork has changed a bit, it was time to update. The second, and driving reason, was…I sell my artwork.

What?!? You can buy all these amazing paintings? Why didn’t you tell me? Ok, I’m probably being a little dramatic here but there is a bit of truth as well.

This started in September while I was browsing the Leesburg Fine Art Festival in downtown Leesburg, VA. It’s a small art festival but has quite a bit of talent in it. One booth had striking abstract paintings. I stepped in to look closer and looked around for tags for more information (media, price, etc). There was nothing. The artist was nowhere in site. There were no brochures, business cards, signs or anything telling me about this artwork. I have no idea if I could have afforded a piece of that artwork or not.

Falling Leaf, acrylic & mixed media, 8″x8″ ©Charlotte B. DeMolay

About a week or so later I was looking up some of the artists I visited that day (that had cards) and I started browsing other artists’ websites in a couple of art organizations I belong to here in Virginia. I saw the same problem again. Beautiful work, minimal information, rarely a price or a way to buy except “Contact the artist.”

Then I realized that is how us artists are taught. We should be ‘above’ sales. We should strive for galleries and museums, and our art booths and websites should reflect that. Let the art speak for itself.

I looked at my own site and realized I was just as guilty. I put up my art and prices but tell people to ‘contact me’ or I point them off to Etsy to buy. Can you imagine if Amazon or Target said here’s the stuff and here’s the price but email me to figure out how to buy it. Now I’m not selling essentials for living like Amazon or Target, but I AM selling a product. A product that will inspire you or speak to you or create beauty but still a product to be bought.

This week I got an email from my favorite art business guru, Alyson Stanfield, The Art Biz Coach. The title was Ignore the Rules and it was a write-up for a free webinar she’s hosting. It covered several topics of “Art Rules” but, I smiled when I read it. It dawned on me why I felt very daring in this web redesign; I was breaking some rules:

  1. I’m actually admitting I would like to sell my art. I love seeing someone connect with my creations. Seeing paintings on a wall where it belongs instead of stacked against mine. And, yes, I like to see the money sit briefly in my bank account before it flies right out to buy more supplies to keep creating! My site now is be set up as a store with purchase buttons.
  2. I want anyone to be able to afford my art. I have a few pieces in my home I’ve bought from other artists. They are small and were affordable to me. I have sold large paintings but I know most people who love my art can’t justify hanging an $1800 painting above their couch. I’m ok with that! My site now has prices ranging from $7 to $4700.
  3. I will show all of my artwork, not just ‘curated’ pieces on my site. Not all of my art is a grand masterpiece. Some are studies for larger paintings, some are me playing around with a new technique or idea. But it is still art. My handsome business partner (aka my husband) is constantly telling me that where I see the study or experiment he (and other people) see a beautiful piece of art! My site now include all types of my art on it, instead of being pointed off to Etsy. (I’ll still retain my Etsy shops during the transition but eventually all work on Etsy will be found on my site.)

I did buy a piece of art at the festival that day. The booth walls and tables were covered with a variety of sizes and price points. The artist willingly discussed one of her techniques with me. Prices were obvious and she made it clear how she took payment. She made it easy and I bought.

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