What Do Professional Artists Do All Day?

More specifically, what does Chrissie Richards do all day?

Ever wondered what artists do all day? When I was starting to paint around ten years ago I had a rather romantic notion that they painted a lot, drank coffee a lot, had interesting conversations with fellow artists, drank lots of wine and then painted some more. To be fair this sounds like my ideal day, but it’s not always like that, in fact it is rarely like that.

At the end of March I finished a small series of ten paintings, I started them back in January.

8 Girls and 2 Boys

Grid showing 10 paintings by Chrissie richards

Finishing a series of paintings is one thing, but that’s not the end of the process. If I want to get them out into the world, there’s lots of things that need to happen. I decided that I wanted to make them available firstly for my subscribers and then to the general public. And, I also decided that I wanted to make them available online, on my website and create an e-commerce shop, I had no idea what I was letting myself in for! So, here is an insight into how I have spent the last month…

Finalising the paintings

Before the paintings can be sold they need to be finished off, this means checking the edges for rough paint and maybe sanding. My paintings can have anywhere between 10-30 layers of paint on average and it can build up at the edges. Then the edges have to be painted so that they look good when they are hung. I cover the paintings with Gloss Medium, this seals the painting and adds depth to the piece. Finally they are finished with varnish or wax to protect them. This whole process takes a number of days to complete. This stage can’t be rushed and it’s not one of my favourite processes, it’s very easy to mess it up and and get hair in the varnish or dust on the image. It’s vital to finishing off the work to a high standard and making sure it will look good for years to come.

Framing

If the paintings are on board or wood they need to be framed. Usually I frame them myself, but for this series I have asked a professional framer to do them for me. Some of the paintings are on canvas and they will be left unframed, but I still need to put hooks on the back and attach cord so they are ready to hang. Usually my husband helps me do this bit, I really need to learn to do it myself!

Photography

Each painting has to be photographed, then the photos have to be edited and saved in different sizes for various uses online, generally I save three images of each painting. I also took a lot of photographs of Brightlingsea, where I live as these were inspiration for the paintings. I currently have over 100 photographs for these ten paintings.

Room settings

I use a room setting app to create images of the paintings in various settings so that potential buyers can get an idea of what the paintings might look like on the wall. For this series of paintings I used WallApp but there are lots that you can find on-line.

Painting of girl holding fish by Chrissie Richards
Room setting for one of my paintings with WallApp

Cataloging the work

Once I have all the images I need I catalogue the work. Each painting is numbered and logged in a spreadsheet and also on a Trello board, if you haven’t used Trello, I highly recommend it, it is a fabulous tool for staying organised.

Titling the work

I add titles to my paintings and this took me a long time for this series. In the past my titles have tended to be a description of the painting, i.e. if there was a lady in a yellow coat in the painting, I might have called it ‘Lady in the Yellow Coat’. I have been thinking and researching painting titles and decided that I want them to add to the experience of seeing the painting rather than just describe the image, so I have come up with titles that describe the emotion, or feeling that the viewer might experience when looking at the painting. This was inspired by an article that I read by Nicholas Wilton on titling art so that it sells! You can read more here if you’re interested.

Share the work on social media

I use Instagram and Facebook to share updates and images of the paintings, this means regularly creating posts to engage people and let them know that the paintings are going to be available soon. I try to post at least four times a week, sometimes more often. It can be difficult coming up with a new post sometimes. I tend not to plan the posts as I find this a bit contrived, so I wait until I have something interesting to say or show. It can also feel as if I’m bombarding people with the same images, but I realise that not everyone gets to see them, and I assume that if they don’t like it, they can simply scroll past them.

Website

I decided that I wanted to make these paintings available to buy directly from my website, so I have created an e-commerce shop. I built the website myself about three years ago, I didn’t add a shop at the time. Now I know why, it was extremely time consuming and quite frustrating. However, I’m really pleased I did it, I learnt a lot and generally improved my website in the process. I know some people will prefer to email and discuss a purchase, but a lot of people like that it is automated and quick and easy to buy when you they see something they like.

Launching the series

The paintings will be available to buy exclusively by my newsletter subscribers for 24 hours before they are released generally. So that means I will send write a newsletter update and send it with a private link to my subscribers the day before general release. I use Mailchimp for this.

Learning

During March and April I have also been doing an intensive online course with an American artist Gabrielle Lipper, this has meant watching lots of videos, attending zoom calls, and trying to get studio time to put into practice what I have been taught.

To sum up

it’s been an exhausting month, there is so much more to being a professional artist than just painting and hanging out with other artists. I’m really proud and excited that these paintings are going to be available this week and I can’t wait to get back into the studio to start work on the next series of work.

What Do Artists Do All Day?

Want to know what other artists do all day? Check out this series that’s on YouTube, here’s one of my favourites with the fabulous Scottish Artist John Byrne. His life looks much more glamorous than mine at the moment, but we all have to start somewhere…

What Do Artists Do All Day? – John Byrne

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