It’s a Record! – Your Art Business Records

My father often told me that being able to make art is a Gift meant to be shared. In order to share it, artists have to put their work out on the open market. Once you do this, and achieve sales, you realise that your vocation has become a business. To run it successfully, you need to keep records.

Of prime importance is the record of the paintings you have produced. First, you need a pictorial record of them. Just as necessary is the record of their specifications. For this, I recommend using a hard-cover Journal with multiple columns. In these, you will enter such information as: Media (e.g. “Oils on Canvas”), Dimensions (unframed), Date Completed,Date Sold,Venue (e.g. ‘XYZ Gallery’), Buyer’s name and contact details, (*if these are available from the gallery), Framing style**(You can fix a code for this to save space.)

*Few if any galleries will give you this information when you start out. They have to protect their business against the possibility that you might contact a buyer direct, to offer a discounted price on your work. Never do this! Not only will you get yourself black-listed by all the galleries in your town, but contrary to what some young artists believe, it does not work. You see, the majority of buyers enjoy a bit of a ‘haggle’ over the price, but feel uncomfortable about doing this with the artist. (It is a major obstacle to be overcome by artists who go on to run their own galleries.) **This item helps you to quickly calculate your real before-tax income from a sale. Even when you make a gift of a painting to relatives or friends, or donate one to a charity, or even have to destroy one – record this in the journal.

A great help in finding info quickly, is to organise your output into Categories and enter these on a Contents page at the front of your Journal. You might list by subject matter, date of completion, or by Series, whatever is relevant to how you work. Simply entering them as they happen causes confusion after your body of work reaches into the hundreds.

Of course, both types of record above are ideally suited to being filed on a rewritable CD or DVD. Your investment in a second disk drive will repay you handsomely in the savings on space – fewer filing cabinets in your studio office,and in time – no more searching through piles of trannies or invoices. After all, you would rather be painting. You may like to use a CD or DVD burner to make a record that cannot be changed or lost by accident. But a rewritable record allows you quick access to your images when you need to reformat them for various purposes. And you will need to do that. Please do not underestimate the value of filing all correspondence between you and your galleries, your collectors, and your suppliers. Absolutely vital is to get any contracts and agreements in writing from galleries representing you or from collectors commissioning a work directly. Be sure both parties understand exactly what is being promised before you sign, then file the papers away safely. Attach to them any notes or letters from the other party, and memos of any related phone calls. Friendships in business can last a lifetime, but can quickly founder on misunderstandings. Best not to just assume that you, or the other party, has fully understood. Get it in writing!

You are no doubt aware that the graphic images of your paintings have a monetary value in themselves. They can extend the reach of your work by being produced as Prints or as book Illustrations, greeting cards and calendars and so on. They need to be kept safe from: Fire. Keep a second set of trannies or CDs in a building separate from the studio. Moisture. Keep trannies in a Dry Box (electrically regulated de-humidifier) to prevent the growth of destructive moulds and fungi. I keep my cameras here too. Scratches and bending. Frequent searching of over-stuffed folders to find that one image you need, usually in a hurry, can damage the film. Make sure you use a pair of plastic tweezers not fingers,when removing trannies from their keepers.