It is difficult to make a living from art, even silk painting. Most artists work towards an exhibition where they can display and sell their art. But as the gallery usually gets 33% and the framer gets 33%, there is only 33% for the artist and it may have taken them a year to paint sufficient work to have an exhibition.
The main way to build an income is to commercialise your work. This means that you paint to suit what the customer wants, rather than what you want to produce. And the marketing of your product is very different too. You do not necessarily depend on an exhibition but may decide to sell via retail outlets and/or the Internet.
I found silk painting easily allowed me to satisfy potential customers; specifically the tourists. Silk is light weight, therefore makes a great gift for the traveler to 'pop into their luggage'. Tourists wanted something specifically 'Australiana' so I concentrated on Australian fauna and flora for my motifs. As I was a 'kid from the bush' (I even had to do correspondence schooling), the subject matter suited me to a 'T'!
Tourists also wanted something that was not too expensive and was eye catching. I had no difficulties making my work eye catching as the colour of dyes on silk painting is nothing short of extraordinary! But when it comes to low priced product, artists always struggle. They put so much time and effort into their work that there is no way they can get paid a reasonable amount for their labour.
I solved my problem in a very specific way. As my training was as an art teacher, I decided that I would teach others to paint in my style and therefore I could meet the growing demand and allow myself the time to produce works of art that could be sold at exhibitions. During my busiest time. I was producing silk painting for a variety of stores around Australia. I also held five exhibitions where my work sold out.
For my staff, I created the designs and painted a sample silk painting (usually a scarf shape). I clearly wrote on the original drawing what each colour was that I had used. Then I showed an employee how I would do it and allowed them to try completing a silk painting by themselves. I would watch and when necessary, give advice on how to get a better result. It would only take staff three or four attempts before they were able to produce a reasonable silk scarf.
Payment to the painters was by piece rates; they got paid per product rather than receive an hourly rate. Also, if there were mistakes made, those pieces of silk were sold at a market for cost only; so I never was out of pocket. This worked extremely well and I was able to provide thousands of silk paintings as product and make a comfortable profit.
As long as the artist is not too 'precious' and doesn't place a stigma on commercialising their skills to make a living, then the silk painting artist can make a good living.
Barbara Gabogreca is an artist, author, entrepreneur and supports home based business. Her silk painting sells well from her website and she has commenced a blog where she encourages other silk painters to write articles which she will publish allowing them to promote their work. http://silkpaintingbygabogrecan.com/