5th November 2015

Having a plan… and my first Christmas cards!

Autumn's Rainbow - Abi BurlinghamIt’s now been a year and a half since I started taking my art seriously, and by that I mean painting more, sketching more, showing people what I am working on and the finished product. It has also meant setting up an Etsy shop, putting my writing on one side (in my previous life as an author I had six children’s books published), moving house to gain a space (a utility room) that I could use as an art studio. It’s meant changing my social media bio’s to something that puts my art at the forefront and not my writing… at first, I hedged my bets and was ‘author who paints’, then ‘author/artist’, then ‘artist/author’, now ‘artist who has written a few books’. This is all part of the process isn’t it?

It’s a year and a half since I said, “Look, this is what I’m doing now – I want you to see what I’m creating and I’d really, really, really love it if you like it and, even better, if you buy it.” It’s a bit like coming out of the closet! It was the same with writing too… and it’s scary! It’s also exciting, challenging and invigorating, and it re-defines you – as above, with the shift from author to artist – it takes time to gain confidence in yourself, in this new pursuit. I have always drawn and began painting in my twenties, so it’s not as if this is new to me. It was what I had always wanted to do… but something held me back. Fear, I think – fear of being no good. Fear that other people were a lot better. There are a lot of AMAZING artists out there and it’s really hard not to draw comparisons. It was the same with writing. At the end of the day, you just have to get on with creating what you want to create, appreciate and be interested in the other stuff that’s out there, but not let it affect your confidence in what you do – hard, I know.

A year and a half later, the barriers have fallen away. Fear has been replaced by love, joy and pleasure in what I do. When I paint, I am completely in the moment. It’s me and the paints and the ideas in my head. It never occurs to me what other people will like or want on their walls, despite the fact that I want my work to sell – I NEED it to sell in order to continue doing it. I paint what feels right and hope that people like it. Luckily, I have sold quite a few originals which has been wonderful and fills me with joy every time I think about it. But I started to think about what else I could produce, not only that but what could I produce for people who couldn’t afford an original? What could I produce that would give me wider appeal, that would mean that other people would see my art, like it and maybe, just maybe, buy it?

So, I found a good printer and started to reproduce some of my paintings as prints and cards. This is not a cheep process asCard selection my paintings are often quite large so have to be scanned a number of times before being made into a smaller print or even smaller card. I worked out all my costs – not just the graphic work involved and printing, but also envelopes, plastic sleeves, ‘blank for your own message’ stickers for the backs of the plastic envelopes. I worked out a price that would give me a small profit if I sold them independently – this reduces when products are sold in a shop – although the overall retail price is higher, shops mark ups are around 50%. With art galleries, the mark up is about the same.

Unsure of where to go with this idea, initially I sold cards via my art page on Facebook and to friends and acquaintances, and through my Etsy shop. More recently, I’ve managed to get my cards into a shop in the local town, an art centre and an art gallery, who also stock a few of my mounted prints. I’m still at the beginning and I’ve such a long way to go – I’m not a natural with marketing (the creative process is the most important thing to me because that’s what I enjoy) so it takes time and I have to mull things over and think about what I want to achieve whilst also keeping an eye on the cost – it would be so easy to get carried away and end up with a groaning bank balance!

So, I devised a plan, based on the things I’d discovered during my first year or so, which goes as follows:
1) paint – lots – and keep painting what I like to paint
2) get future paintings made into prints ONLY when someone requests one (more cost effective)
3) get most paintings made into cards (they are good sellers)
4) put all my images on to a tablet to show potential sellers
5) beg an old (but adequate) tablet off someone so I can do no.4!
6) produce some Christmas cards
7) once I have a good selection of cards and a few mounted prints, make a list of possible shops, craft centres, art galleries, who may be interested and visit them.

I have worked my way through the list and just completed no.6 *does happy dance* which you can see in my Etsy shop here – my very first Xmas cards – it feels great! Below is just one of the four designs, ‘Foxy’s Walk’.
'Foxy's walk' cardsI am hoping that I can get these into some shops in the next couple of weeks too and I plan to tackle no.7 on my list with a vengeance in the new year – I will probably have a whoooole new list to work through then… watch this space!


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