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Old 12-01-2008, 07:29 AM   #21
Ilaria Rosselli Del Turco Ilaria Rosselli Del Turco is offline
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I was asked twice to donate a portrait for a school raffle. The first time, a few years ago, the prize was won by the mother in law of one of the best art dealer in antique and modern portraits in town, she didn't bother getting in touch with me.
Last summer the prize was won by the mother of two boys whom I had already painted, and she was already on my waiting list for the third brother. Not only I did not aquire a new client, I also lost a commission !
I know better now.
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Old 12-01-2008, 10:11 AM   #22
Amanda Grosjean Amanda Grosjean is offline
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Thank you everyone for the responses so far. It has been very interesting to hear these different experiences. It is a little hard to know what to really take away from them (other than getting a little depressed). You can get work IF it a high ticket auction, IF they appreciate art, IF the organizers and auctioneers are helpful and well-organized, IF those wealthy art lovers feel like bidding that night and understood what they were bidding on correctly, and IF the stars and moon line up correctly, falling on the third Saturday of the month.

AND, there is no guarantee that if they bid that they will call you to complete the commission or that any of those little business cards you passed around will generate any work.

It sounds like many of you have had luck offering up drawings instead of portraits. My concern is that although I may get some more business I won't get to do what I really want to do (and what I think I am the best at), which is paint. I am also concerned that if I can't get a response from a full head and shoulders portrait being offered, a gift certificate for a percentage off won't really help especially when they have no idea what my prices are during a live auction.

Well, I have every intention to keep keep pursuing this avenue.
Thanks, and I'd be happy to hear any more suggestions if you have them.

-Amanda
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Old 12-01-2008, 10:17 AM   #23
Michele Rushworth Michele Rushworth is offline
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A raffle, as you found, Illaria, might not be the best way to go. In the first case you mentioned, not everyone in the raffle is interested in a portrait. At least with auctions, presumably everyone who signs the bid sheet is interested (though some don't follow up.)

A way to prevent the second scenario from happening would be to specify that it is for "new clients only".

My auction experiences have been mixed. Of the 10 or so auctions that I have participated in about half have been worthwhile. The worst one resulted in a damaged frame, having the sample set up in a very out of the way corner, being in the silent auction as opposed to the live auction as I was promised, and no bids.

The best auction experience I had led to one of my very best clients who has since gone on to commission five three-quarter length oil portraits, and also led to a contact with an art school where I teach an annual workshop.

All in all, I would still highly recommend participating in auctions for artists getting started with their careers. It gives you exposure (if you choose the right auctions), experience working with real clients, and portfolio samples -- and often, you do get income from many of them.
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Old 12-01-2008, 10:32 AM   #24
Chris Saper Chris Saper is offline
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I include several restrictions;

Certificates may not be combined.
One certificate per family.
Not valid with broker-arranged commisisons.
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Old 12-01-2008, 11:10 AM   #25
Amanda Grosjean Amanda Grosjean is offline
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What is the consensus on expiration dates on the gift certificates? I wouldn't want to discourage people if they are saving up for the second figure.

Amanda
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Old 12-01-2008, 11:45 AM   #26
Stanka Kordic Stanka Kordic is offline
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Amanda,

Hang in there. I know its hard not to be discouraged. This economy is really tough, especially when you're trying to get started. I've been painting like a fiend, but they are not commissions. In some ways, I'm happier just pleasing myself. So, that's what's happening now. It could mean a 'change is in the air' for my world too...

Anyway
..

I guess the answer is there are no surefire ways to 'break into' the portrait market. Results will always be different for everyone. Keep trying, and stay open to new opportunities.

Gift certificates..I usually say that they need to contact me to schedule within 6 months. Time frame to begin can be negotiated..

All the best,
Stanka
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Old 12-23-2008, 02:37 PM   #27
Joan Breckwoldt Joan Breckwoldt is offline
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Silent auctions . . . not for me

Hi Amanda,

I just found this interesting thread. I'll just share my auction experience. Our church has a silent auction every year, I have donated a landscape every year for 4 years. That goes well. Last year I decided to donate a portrait, as you did, in exchange for "advertising". I painted a beautiful demo to hang of a 3/4 ballerina, one of my daughters' friends modelled for me. The bidding started at $1000 and I got a number of bidders, you could almost call it a bidding war, BUT, here is where the mistake was, I think the bid increment was $10 or $25. All that furious filling in the blanks and by the end of the 2 hour auction period the bid was only up to something like $1175. That was disappointing to me. Of course I was glad to raise the money for our church but disappointed it was only $1175.

My husband was sure that I would get lots of calls after the auction and after many people saw my portrait. Not a one! I just don't think that many people saw the painting and there was no light on it, next time I suppose I need to supply my own light.

And before anyone says . . .oh, it was a church group. . . .this is one of the wealthiest churches in Houston and the members give millions each year to the church. It's the same church where I had a show and almost sold out - but these were landscapes, still lifes and figuratives. Actually, I got 2 commissions from the show just because people saw my figuratives.

The good news about that silent auction last year was that I sold the my portrait sample (of the ballerina) to her parents for full price. But still . . .

So, I won't be donating a portrait commission again. In 2009 I am going to PAY dearly for a booth at some of the holiday shows at the best country clubs in town. I'll display 3 or 4 portrait sample (which I haven't painted yet ) just to get my name out there. We'll see how that goes.

I will comment on how commissions are going with respect to the economy. I just sold a gift certificate for a double portrait, it will be a Christmas gift for someone. Things are actually busier than they've been, but I'm fairly new at portraiture, only doing 3 or 4 a year, right now I have a waiting list of 7. Not sure how that compares to someone who paints portraits full time, but for me it's the busiest I've ever been. A lot of it is by word of mouth and it makes sense that each year I get more commission, but word of mouth does take time. I also sold more paintings (landscapes and figuratives) in this last year than I ever had.

Hope this is encouraging, it just takes time.
Joan
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Old 12-23-2008, 03:29 PM   #28
Michele Rushworth Michele Rushworth is offline
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You might want to try a private school auction. Most artists I know have had the best results from them.
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Old 12-23-2008, 07:20 PM   #29
Joan Breckwoldt Joan Breckwoldt is offline
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Private school auction

Hi Michele,

Thank you for your suggestion. My kids go to a private school here in Houston and we don't have an auction, I guess maybe that's why it's not something that comes to mind immediately. Too bad, if I were going to donate a portrait I would want the $$ to go to my kids' school. Something to think about,

Joan
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Old 11-03-2009, 12:45 PM   #30
Patricia Joyce Patricia Joyce is offline
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Back to the business of Auctions

It has been good for me to reread this thread on auctions. I am always trying to fine tune my "circuit". Historically, I have been fairly lucky with auctions. I auction off a head and shoulder drawing, valued at $$. The Certificate states that they may use it for a single subject head and shoulder drawing or they may apply the full value toward a multiple subject drawing or an oil painting, etc. I also state in the Certificate that they must contact the Artist within 30 days.

This past year I have had a fortunate rash of families winning the portrait who have more than one child so I have been busy and making money. Unfortunately, I have had a recent run of auctions where the winner only uses the certificate for the single head and shoulder, thereby leaving me with empty pockets and out a mat and frame! Ouch!

I am thinking of changing my format and offering a Certificate of a DISCOUNT towards portrait artwork of their choice (i.e. drawing, painting, multiple subjects, etc) I'm trying to find a clear way to state exactly what they are bidding on.

Anybody have any suggestions?

I still believe donating at auctions is a great way for your art to be seen in public. To date, it has been almost the only way I have gotten any business. I did get one commisison from a framer handing out my card when a customer asked if she knew a portrait artist. And I have had one commission from my website, but that is all.

Tough economy, tough times...
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