Business · oil painting · Pastel painting

Hobbiest or Pro or Both?

Until last month, when I sold more than one painting, my husband insisted that there was no cause for me to take on a professional stance with my art. He still struggles with identifying me, introducing me, as a painter or artist. But he’s getting there. He’s clearly, of late, been both surprised and pleased with my sales.

But in his defense, it is taking me a while to adjust from the mindset of a government worker to retired government worker to artist. When people ask me what I do, I am still initially saying I’m a retired government worker in most settings. But I’m catching myself more and more often and saying I’m a painter (of pictures, not buildings — which is where most folks go in their heads when you say “painter” around here.). For some reason, “artist” sounds more pretentious to me than “painter” and I’m having a hard time going with the former rather than the latter. That’s an ego/identification problem I need to get past.

I’ve also been challenged on my prices of late. At the Small Works show at the Rappahannock Art League, I sold two of three paintings. At their Labor Day Show, I sold both of the works entered. Several folks there have asked me to display in the gallery but all of them (including one of the people who purchased one of my paintings there) have suggested rather strongly that my prices are too low. Apparently way too low as when I explained that I’m very new at this business and what did they suggest; almost all have suggested doubling at the very least and in most cases, tripling my prices. Sort of makes my heart race.

So, on line at Daily Paintworks, I’ve increased my prices on my newest work. For one, I think the new series of pastels I’m doing of the fruits and veggies with glass objects are very well done. They are also larger than I have worked in the past (for the most part). So I’m okay with that. Except they aren’t selling there.

Now this could be because not much of anything is currently selling on that site. My views have increased, however, so folks are at least looking and that’s a good thing. I also have come to realize that the pastel paintings do not translate well into photos. The glow is gone. The real intensity of the color just isn’t showing up in a photo.

And it may also just be the medium itself. Many people still don’t think of pastel painting as “real” painting, but more of a drawing or sketching medium. They don’t know that pastels are not chalk (which would indicate cheapness) but pure pigment just like the stuff that goes into high quality oils but without the medium/filler that goes into oil paint. They think pastel works are fragile or at least more fragile than a liquid paint applied to a canvas or board. Over time the pastels are less likely to fade, yellow  and deteriorate than oils or acrylic, but your average art viewer doesn’t know that. There’s also the problem of the framing. Oils don’t need glass. Sometimes, with a stretched canvas, they don’t even need a frame. Pastel must always be framed. So, there is a cost factor involved. Selling on line, they are not framed.

And, I’ll be honest, at this point in my painting experience, I believe I’m better at pastel then I am with the oils. In my opinion. I’m also limited on how much I can afford to spend on framing something that may or may not sell. Hubby has suggested that I focus on working pastels in standard sizes which will help with some of the framing costs; the trouble is that frequently the muse that talks in my ear while I’m planning a painting doesn’t take that into consideration. She wants what she wants.

So, that all said, I think I need to figure out different price points for both oils and pastels. I also need to start painting more and more often. So, I’m going to try hard to improve my oil work by painting lots of small works at the rate of three or four a week. And take my time with the larger pastels and crank out at least one a week, if not two. I can sell the oils for less but use them to support my pastel habit and when I do sell the pastels, use them to support me!


2 thoughts on “Hobbiest or Pro or Both?

  1. I can recognize all of your thoughts here, it’s difficult to find a balance between what feels good and what works. I’m just trying to push the various boundaries slowly and then wait and see what happens before I push once more.


  2. My husband always used to say ” what’s it supposed to be” until he went to an exhibition which included some of my work and listened to some of the comments. Now he tries to look as though he understands. I am not fooled 😉


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