Q: Would you speak about the practical realities – time and expenses – involved in making your pastel-on-sandpaper paintings? What might people be surprised to learn about this aspect of art-making?
A: I have often said that this work is labor-intensive. In a good year I can complete five or six large (38″ x 58″) pastel paintings. In 2013 I am on track to make four, or, on average, one completed painting every three months. I try to spend between thirty-five and forty hours a week in the studio. Of course, I don’t work continuously all day long. I work for awhile, step back, look, make changes and additions, think, make more changes, step back, etc. Still, hundreds of hours go into making each piece in the “Black Paintings” series, if we count only the actual execution. There is also much thinking and preparation – there is no way to measure this – that happen before I ever get to stand before an empty piece of sandpaper and begin.
As far as current expenses, they are upwards of $12,000 per painting. Here is a partial breakdown:
$4500 New York studio, rent and utilities ($1350/month) for three months
$2500 Supplies, including frames (between $1500 – $1700), photographs, pastels (pro-rated), paper
$2000 Foreign travel to find the cultural objects, masks, etc. depicted in my work (approximate, pro-rated)
$3000 Business expenses, such as computer-related expenses, website, marketing, advertising, etc.
This list leaves out many items, most notably compensation for my time, shipping and exhibition expenses, costs of training (i.e. ongoing photography classes), photography equipment, etc. Given my overhead, the paintings are always priced at the bare minimum that will allow me to continue making art.
I wonder: ARE people surprised by these numbers? Anyone who has ever tried it knows that art is a tough road. Long ago I stopped thinking about the cost and began doing whatever is necessary to make the best paintings. The quality of the work and my evolution as an artist are paramount now. This is my life’s work, after all.
Comments are welcome!
Posted on August 24, 2013, in 2013, An Artist's Life, Art Works in Progress, New York, NY, Pastel Painting, Photography, Studio, Travel, Working methods and tagged addition, advertising, allow, art-making, artist, aspect, awhile, back, bare minimum, begin, best, Black Paintings, breakdown, business, change, compensation, complete, computer, continuing, cost, cultural objects, current, day, depict, empty, entire, equipment, evolution, execution, exhibition, expense, foreign travel, frames, happen, hours, include, involved, item, labor intensive, learn, life's work, list, look, make, making art, marketing, matter, matters, measure, money, month, need, New York, notably, number, on track, painting, paramount, partial, pastel paintings, pastel-on-sandpaper painting, photograph, photography, possible, practical, preparation, priced, prior, progress, quality, reality, rent, routine, said, sandpaper, series, shipping, spend, stand, Studio, supplies, surprised, think, thinking, time, training, upwards, utilities, website, week, work, year. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.
Barbara, I am not surprised at the figures (costs) – mine are over the top too. Then, of course, there are no benefits, nothing else to compensate. Knowledge of the process, the material use, and everything else important to content and imagery becomes ‘priceless’ but in terms of the painter’s existence what does it do? What does it (the knowledge) do to aid in the creation, the making, the productivity? – which entail the quality of life? Simply put, what is the knowledge worth? Is its value an actual value?
yay! so glad you broke down your real expenses! so important for people to understand what it costs to make fine art. I think it would be great to add your time at a certain fee as well. most artists get paid less than garbage men when they add it all up.
Thank goodness your selling work – and thanks for the breakdown – of your working life as a artist .