The process of making art occupies considerable space in the stewardship of my time and energy. Not surprised, right? Isn’t that what artists do? Indeed it is. But if you imagine a day in the studio is always about me getting all starry-eyed while making the next idea tangible, I gotta pop that bubble. Yes, I do get into the zone, that right-brained flow when my sense of time stalls and nothing else matters and it’s all about the pleasure of creating. I do love that! But today I want to share with you another side of my art practice, the left-brained part that’s totally disassociated with making paintings or objects. Here’s where I trade the beret for a pocket protector.
I make spreadsheets. Spreadsheets? Really? Yes. Here’s why.
Every work of art that is going to see the light of day, that I deem good enough to make public, must be documented. Each work has an inventory number, title, and several descriptors. Knowing which pieces are off-site, like at galleries and exhibits is crucial info as well. Oh, and some pieces may have been accepted into upcoming shows. If the show is weeks or months out, those works need to be reserved. Some works are on layaway. Can’t sell those out from under the patron who has committed to making payments. It gets complicated, but my spreadsheet helps.
Spreadsheets are also indispensable for establishing prices. I use a formula of size (square inches or volume) multiplied by rate plus cost of materials plus gallery commission, if applicable. Now, to make that more interesting (or not—are you still with me?), the formula for works on canvas differs from the formula for works on paper, which differs from the one for three-dimensional art. That calls for another spreadsheet. Are we making any art yet?
Our digital world presents the expectation that just about everyone, artists included, accept credit cards. Having a service and the necessary devices to make transactions digitally requires another non-art activity: entering inventory numbers, titles, images and prices into the online database. I’ve found the art buyer’s experience is enhanced at checkout if my items are all listed, and with a swipe or the reading of a chip, it’s done. The service delivers a professional, descriptive email receipt directly to my patron.
Sharing my art gives joy to me and to the art buyer as well. Reaching the state of that particular joy requires another non-art activity–marketing. That includes gathering email addresses from interested folks, sharing images on social media, developing newsletters, and producing invitations for email, print and social media. Toss in writing blog content for good measure.
You can guess that all of this requires a time commitment. Yes, it does. But this might come as a surprise to you. I actually don’t mind the non-art tasks. I realize they are integral to making my art practice run as smoothly as possible. Having a system in place clears my head of minutiae, allowing me to plunge into an art-making session with gusto! Which is what I’m going to do next. Excuse me while I get into the zone. Have you seen my beret?