Wednesday, August 03, 2011

[Brushstrokes by Niki FAQs]

Just to address some of the most common questions and concerns, I present the official F.A.Q. list!

Q. I like your style of painting, but I don't have a dog or a pet. Can I get a portrait of another sort? Can I get a pencil or graphite portrait instead of a painted portrait?
A. Yes! Though I gear my advertising primarily toward the dog-owner crowd, since I spend a lot of time taking Sassy to the local events, I'm happy to tackle projects of other sorts as well. You're also free to choose from a variety of mediums, including acrylic paints, oils, pencil, and more. I can also venture beyond the realm of stretched canvas--in fact, if you look at my portfolio, one of my earliest recent (oxymoron, I know... but I mean since graduating college) portraits is a personalized dog house! As long as I've got a flat surface to work with that isn't impervious to paint, bring it on!

Q. How long does it take from placing an order to receiving the finished product?
A. At a minimum, a painting or a drawing takes three days. However, since the business is, at the time of writing, a part-time venture until I at least build up a strong enough following to comfortably rely on it as an income (I'm single, no roommates, and I own my own home, so I definitely have a budget to keep!), I have divided attention, especially around the beginning, midterm, and end of college semesters, as I'm a part-time college instructor. However, in general, I try to complete projects within a month of a client placing an order. If there is an exception, due to medical emergency or other extenuating circumstances, I will keep you posted.

Q. How much do you charge for a custom portrait? What forms of payment do you accept?
A. I get this question a lot, but it's difficult to answer without your giving me an idea what sort of project you have in mind. However, in general, projects start around $125, depending on project size, type, and complexity. Don't automatically assume a smaller portrait costs less. In fact, up to a certain canvas size, there's little difference in my supply price, and it actually takes me longer to do a smaller portrait with its innately tiny, and as such, more difficult, details. If this price is too high for you, don't be afraid to contact me anyway. We can mostly likely be able to work something else out that will make both of us happy--so don't be shy about telling me your budget up front.

As for payment forms, I accept cash, check (there is a fee for a bounced check, so make sure you've got the money before you write the check, please!), or PayPal. And in general, I do require a deposit before beginning a project, if for no other reason than I buy your canvas upon receiving your order and planning out the dimensions. There's a reason for that "starving artists" cliché. ;) Also, I am now accepting donations via Google Checkout--just use the button in the right-hand column.

Q. Do you do seated portraits, or do you work from a photograph?
A. I definitely work from photographs. If you don't have one already, if you're local, I can meet with you to take a workable photo. If, as in the case of Fancy and Grumpy, the two Westies, the pet subject has gone to the rainbow bridge and you've only got some small photos from family activities, as long as I can identify defining features and know the breed[s] of your pet, I can usually adjust or combine some generic pictures to look like your beloved fur-kid.

Q. What factors go into how you decide on what to charge for a project?
A. At this stage, there are three major factors that go into my calculations: supplies, labor, and extraneous factors (such as shipping, delivery, project complexity, etc.). Supplies vary by size, type, and material. For example, an oil painting costs more than acrylics, due to the price of oils being higher than acrylics and the longer drying time, which affects how long I have to wait between layers. Meanwhile, pencil drawings cost less still. Canvas is basic, while wood and doghouses will very much depend on the prices of the object. I also leave a small amount of room for replenishing supplies in a certain color if it's one I use a lot.

Labor (for now) is something I calculate based on Missouri minimum wage, which is $7.25 per hour. Generally, basic paintings (16" by 20" being the most common canvas size, and my preferred minimum size (again, smaller takes longer and more tiny detail work)) using acrylic paint take approximately three to four days of working anywhere from four to eight hours. So, to calculate, let's assume I work on your project for three days for six hours per day. $7.25 times six hours times three days comes out to $130.50, so in fact, with a base price of $125, you're getting a real discount. Also consider that those are hours that, by painting, I do not get any other form of outside income, including a potential part-time job, so I'm not making a labor price just to make a profit--it's a very real concern.

Q. Why are you starting this business rather than sticking with teaching or having gotten a degree in art to begin with? 
A. Believe it or not, I did start out as an art major. However, I went to a college that likes to call itself "the Harvard of the Midwest," and in so doing make everything, from physics to art to agriculture, just a bit more competitive and demanding. Because I was in school entirely due to scholarships and grants and had to maintain a 3.25 to keep those scholarships, I couldn't afford to have mostly B's and an occasional A, which ended up being the case during that first and very transitional semester in spite of putting in close to 40 hours per week per project in two different classes in addition to four other full classes. So after checking out other majors, I ended up in English, which was a subject I could care about and still do well enough to not have to drop out and work. :) I did miss it, though, and as budget cuts keep trimming my already part-time hours back in adjunct teaching, I'm coming back to my first love.

Q. I can't afford a project right now, though I hope to be able to have one made down the line. What can I do in the meantime that will help keep your business and art afloat, especially at this point of you just getting started?
A. The best way to help me out if you can't hire me right now is simply to tell people about Brushstrokes by Niki. Refer them to the home page, the Facebook fan page, or simply give them my contact information if I've given you a business card. If you're on Facebook, "like" the fan page and comment occasionally (or even just "like") on new paintings and updates--one of your contacts may see that action and want to find out more. On average, for every 100-200 people that I tell about my business, about one is in the right time, place, and has the desire to have a custom portrait made, so the more people that hear about my art and see my portfolio, the more likely it will be for me to be able to continue to pursue my passion, and as most of you know, that ability is priceless.

Q. Why don't you post Brushstrokes by Niki's contact information publicly?
A. Have you seen the news in the last ten years? :) It's a security measure, really. It's so easy for a hacker or potential burglar to use that information to steal my identity or worse. If you're already a friend or family member, just send me a message and I'll pass the info right along to you if you don't already have it. If you're a potential customer that I don't know personally, I do take a few extra steps to ensure my safety. I've already had to have my windows replaced following an attempted break-in, and I've owned my home for less than two years. I have reason to be cautious. So in the meantime, fill in the contact information on the home page, and I'll still get the information. Thank you for your understanding!

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