There’s more to it than just painting

Oct 19, 2022

Being an artist and small business owner, there are multiple “departments” like any other company. There’s inventory to count as well as determining the total cost of the goods that were sold. When one works alone as many artists do, (he) is design, manufacturing, buyer, sales, marketing, and shipping as well as accountant. (I for one track everything but the tax return is done professionally) All the phases of business that large companies go through, so does an artist. It’s not done for fun but as a requirement. Without these “departments” documented, the state tax office will define you as a hobbyist. Demonstrating an intent to make a profit and you are serious will allow deductions for the expenses necessary to run a business and make your product.

When I started this profession in 1990, I had the Dome Book for accounting. When I was going to sell my first works in public, I was required by the state to have a tax ID number. I did not understand how what I was doing tied in with the dome book and its purpose. Afterall, the headings in the book had little to do with my purchases and actual expenses. Little did I know when I decided to start selling my artwork, how quickly my casual hobby painting became more than anticipated. I liked the idea of deducting my paints and paper along with other necessary items what artist wouldn’t? As time passed, I learned more about the ins and outs of a business. Remember, artists work alone for the most part. If one is fortunate enough to have an assistant that will handle the non-production workload the artist is free to create his art. I’m not that fortunate.

Here’s the short list of what I (artists do). (It may seem a bit dry, but this is the reality)

Conception of the idea, Design, Prototype, Product development, Production, Inspection, Finishing, Assembly, Packing, Shipping, Inventory, Sales, Marketing, Transportation, Purchasing, Accounting, Communications, Teacher, Advisor

You may ask what these rather industrial headings have to do with art.  Well, once we start selling and collecting an income, we have taken on the identity of a business. These headings are established as a common organized group of categories. We all fall under these headings in some manner. If you cut grass, there are headings that apply. If you sew dresses, there are headings that apply. The government has set these parameters so we all must follow along or have problems. Let me give a few of them some detailed descriptions.

Conception: Consider or define the basic idea for the painting from information or other sources.

Design: Determine the structure the product will have at the time of completion. This also includes colors and mediums to be used.

Prototype: The sketch or value study created to familiarize the eye with the development of the concept or idea.

Production: The creation of the product involving time, paint and any other added features of the work.

Inspection: Is the work satisfactory in accomplishing the intended goal? Are the colors applied the best possible way? Are there unknown issues with the materials? Is it ready for the signature? Inspection is an ongoing action during the entire painting process.

Yes, it all seems to put a different light on the artists roll in the world, doesn’t it? As I mentioned, for most, there is a staff that handles these areas while the artist has only to conceive and create. He requests materials based on the design. Purchasing gets them for him.  He is left to the studio, or manufacturing space to do his work. Imagine that you could be the artist. Awake in the mornings, have your coffee, turn on the music and paint or do whatever your skill is. You don’t answer emails, you don’t drive out for supplies, you don’t write letters or call people. There is more.

The next time you look at the art you are loving and may purchase, try to remember what it took to get this beautiful work in front of you. Don’t question the price so easily. It’s not the paper and paint you are buying, but the artists time and personal interaction with the medium. He came up with this idea, developed it, refined it and created it alone. If you think you can do this, you are welcome to try. But remember, the tax man is coming. Thanks for reading.