Monday, May 31, 2010

Art "On Sale"?

©Dianne Poinski "Mail Call"

Why does putting art "on sale" feel so tacky and why am I doing it anyway?

When I first started doing art festivals I only sold “originals”. These were silver gelatin black and white prints that I made in the darkroom then hand-colored with Marshall Photo Oil Paints. From the start I made the decision to limit the number of “originals” to 25. Each individual print would be hand-colored one at a time, making each piece a unique, one of a kind work of art.

These early originals were very reasonably priced. 11 x 14 images matted and mounted to 16 x 20 mat board sold for $95. Many of my early images went on to sell out as “originals”. It became apparent fairly quickly that to keep up, I would have to add reproductions to my inventory and raise the price on my originals.

©Dianne Poinski "Orchid II"

As most of you know, a few years ago I went over to the “other side” and started shooting and printing my images digitally. This transition resulted in a change in hand-coloring from oils to pastels. For awhile I had a mixture of traditional and digital prints showing at the shows and in my studio. Since I like to keep things simple and explaining the difference started to feel awkward, I soon put away all of my early originals.

These older pieces came out for a bit when I banded together with the other artists in my building to hold our “Archive Sale” in 2008 and I was able to find good homes for many of those images. This past month I decided to revisit this idea as “Spring Cleaning” and again offered many originals (and older prints) at greatly reduced prices.

So why I am writing about this?..... Because I have mixed feelings about it (but I am doing it anyway). The truth is, since I took a break from art festivals I am sitting on quite a bit of inventory that is not moving for many reasons, # 1 probably being the economy. But putting art “on sale” is a tricky thing. I don’t want to feel like one of those furniture stores with the permanent “Inventory Reduction Sale” sign hanging on their building, but at the same time I want to clear out space for new work and new inspiration.

©Dianne Poinski "Quiet Blooms I"

I have tossed many pieces in the trash that clearly were examples of “early work”, but this is not the best solution for the inventory I have left. In my cleaning I have also discovered the original hand-colored print I used to make the reproductions of many of those early sold out originals. Should I sell those? What do I call them?

I am wondering what other artists do. I am also curious about the origins of the stigma about putting art on “sale”. Any ideas?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


In my first post of 2010 I listed my “aspirations” for the year. Not very fond of the word “goals”.

Anyway, I decided to revisit that post to see how I was doing. Normally I would wait until the halfway point in the year to do this, but for some reason this just felt like the right time.

So here is what I wrote:

Take more photographs!! - Judging by the small amount of space left on my hard drive and the recent purchase of a terabyte and a half external hard drive, I have to say I am doing this.

I have also been taking advantage of the amazing light I have in my studio and have spent many hours slumped over my tripod, photographing a wide assortment of flowers. (See “projects” below)

• Pay my debt down by $4200 - Afraid this is one place I appear to be missing the mark. After declaring this at the beginning of the year, I started to stress out about it. I am paying it down, (as well as not incurring anymore) but not the way I wanted to.

Be more conscious about my business expenses and how I spend money.I have made progress in this area, but it’s a daily struggle sometimes. No – “struggle” is too negative. How about a “daily creative challenge” instead?

Have a cash reserve at the end of 2010 of $5000. Again, I am having trouble believing this number will show up in my bank account at the end of the year . It doesn’t do any good to have “aspirations” if while trying to reach them, you become grumpy and anxious.

• Continue to offer workshops and come up with ideas for new classes (I am taking suggestions). - Even though I am on a “workshop sabbatical” at the moment, I did offer my new “camera” class this year and had a great time with it. Look for that one to come up again.

Try to stop worrying about what other people think about me and what I write about in this blog.Not doing very well here either, but it’s good to be aware of that.

Work on “projects” instead of random images.Like I mentioned above, my “flower project” has given me many hours of joy in my studio. This feels good and my vision for this project is getting clearer every day.

Practice feeling gratitude every day This can make such a difference in the quality of your life. I have had my shares of ups and downs this year, but when I stop and count all that I have to be grateful for, it’s impossible to feel anything but awe and wonder.

Most important – Have Fun! Working on this one too and it’s one of the reasons I have cleared my schedule this summer.

So - not too bad………………I have admitted and accepted that some of what I wanted to accomplish this year will probably not happen. Most of these items fall under the “financial” category - which is fine. Actually, more than fine. The other areas may not feed my bank account, but they feed my soul and I guess that is what I need right now.

Did any of you have a list for 2010? If so, I would love to hear how it’s going!

PS - Speaking of "progress".........remember my post about gardening? Well, my side yard is looking a little better..........................

Monday, May 17, 2010


“Sand Dunes” ©Dianne Poinski

I am not a very good multi-tasker. If I try to do too many things at the same time, I lose focus, productivity and purpose. This is very evident in my art career and the reason for a decision I recently made.

When I first started showing at art festivals I displayed my hand-colored black and white photographs alongside Polaroid transfers and some of my recent portrait work. If you didn’t need wall art, maybe I could offer you a hand-colored portrait of your child. One stop shopping.

I clearly remember the moment I made the decision to limit what I was showing to just my hand-colored photographs. Once I became clear about this, it was easy to move in that direction and improve my skills along the way.

As most of you know, at the end of the 2008 art festival season I made the decision to take some time off from shows. I believed that a break from festivals would lead to relaxed weekends, lot’s of new work and time to develop a new business model that would be more satisfying and help decrease my debt. That’s not what happened. In fact, the way I have been working for the last year, reminds me quite a bit of how I operated during art festival season.

At the same time I made the decision to take some time off from shows, I started teaching hand-coloring workshops out of my studio as a way to supplement my income. There were a few months there where I had a class scheduled every other weekend (just like I scheduled my art festivals). In addition, the week leading up to the class would get crazy as I prepared for the workshop right up to the last minute (again, just like I did when I was doing shows).

Don’t get me wrong, I loved teaching and am so grateful for the wonderful people that have taken my classes, but I have found it very difficult to balance workshops with my intense need and desire to work on my own images. I know artists that have been quite successful blending both worlds and for a time I thought there was something wrong with me because I wasn’t able to pull that off. I have been trying to accept that it’s just the way I am and that I do much better when I can focus on just a couple of things.

After giving this a lot of thought, I have decided to take a break from teaching until the fall (probably October). When I start up again, I will try to limit myself to one class a month and attempt to be more organized about it.

For now, I have a project I want to work on in between taking care of myself and relaxing on the weekends. The “relaxing” part may prove to be a challenge but I will keep you posted on how that goes.

Monday, May 10, 2010

What I Learned From My Pitney Bowes Machine

I recently made the last payment on a 5 year lease on a Pitney Bowes machine. It’s funny how I never sat down and calculated what that machine would cost me when I made the decision to get it. After writing that last check I added it up - $3400 – for a machine I have to send back! That doesn’t count the cost of the ink needed to print the postage.

Why? Why did I think I needed this very expensive piece of machinery? I needed it because don’t you know……………I was too busy to place stamps on postcards. I needed a machine to do this for me.

In my defense, this was during the height of my art festival frenzy and I was mailing out hundreds of postcards for every show…..but really…..was the time I saved worth around $4000? What about the two able bodied teenagers I had living in the house?

I am not bringing this up just because it uncovers some truth about why I am in the debt I am in, but it also sheds some light on how I was living.

That time where I thought I needed a Pitney Bowes machine seems like a lifetime ago and it was – a different life, one I can’t imagine living right now. Do you know that for a few years I spent Thanksgiving setting up for show in another town while my family enjoyed a turkey feast without me? Not something I am very proud of.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that lately I have been devouring books about people who quit or got laid off from their fast paced, important jobs only to discover a life filled with more meaning and in most cases, more fun. There may be some clues too as to why I am considering taking a 15 hour train trip to a destination an hour away by Southwest Airlines. I believe my inner Thoreau is looking for my inner Walden Pond.

I thought that taking a break from shows would automatically lead to a slower lifestyle, but that hasn’t happened yet. It is still a work in progress. I recently found myself drinking two triple lattes a day, eating on the run and staying up late to get work done. Would Thoreau approve?

As I get ready to send back my postage meter, I am again reflecting about how I can work and live differently. Awareness is the first step. That and giving back machines I should have never had in the first place. Another lesson learned………….