Most people have no idea what actually goes into making a piece of art. And to be fair, I didn't event realize how much work I'd have to put into it. For the first few years after I decided to sell my art online, I would finish a drawing or painting, post it to social media, and then think "Now what?". It just didn't seem complete yet.
Since then, I've developed quite the lengthy process for how I produce a piece of original artwork. Actually making the art is only half of it. There's a lot that goes into it, and I want to share that process with you; hopefully you'll find some of this insightful and helpful.
First, I make the art! This is a long process in itself. I'll usually come up with a concept and go onto Pinterest to piece together reference images. If I know I want to incorporate flowers, I'll search for different center pieces or bouquets. And I basically do that until I have a ton of images saved to my desktop and I weed through to find the ones that will work best for what I'm envisioning.
Then I'll sketch it out on newsprint to make sure I have my lines and proportions correct. If it doesn't look right as a line drawing, it's not going to look right when I start to shade and paint it. Once I'm happy with my lines I'll put down a grid (usually half an inch on the newsprint and one inch on my paper) and re-draw my sketch to-scale on my drawing paper. My paper is $25 a sheet, so I don't want to risk wasting it by sketching on it; newsprint is cheap and I don't mind if my idea doesn't workout and I have to start over.
Once my drawing is transferred to my paper, I'll use frisket to mask off my subject. Frisket is a clear plastic with light adhesive on one side. I smooth it out over my page and use a sharp xacto knife to cutout the outline of my subject. I then carefully peel away the frisket that covers my background and use a roller to make sure that the frisket left over my subject is airtight. If there are any gaps, paint might soak through and ruin my picture.
At this point I quickly paint the background, and I can be as messy and careless as I want. Because my subject is covered by the frisket, I don't have to worry about being careful. When the paint dries, I'll pull up the frisket and get to work on the fun part (the subject of my painting!).
scanned, signed, & sealed
That's basically how I make the artwork. Once a piece is finished, I'll take it to the scanner to get a digital copy made so I can make signed & numbered prints. These prints are made with light-fast archival inks and printed on high quality artist paper. They look like the original and are hand-signed and numbered according to the edition printed. They're considered collectors editions. Once the prints are sold out, they're discontinued and will increase in value over time; much like a first edition book.
After the piece is scanned, I sign and seal the original. I don't do this before I scan it because that will show up on the printed artwork; and I want to hand-sign each piece and mark it as a print. Also, if you print out art with your signature already on it you risk decreasing the value of your work. It makes it very easy to forge your work this way or to over-saturate the market. And there's no telling when the piece was printed or if you're the one who printed it. Just don't do it, it's never a good idea.
So, now that my artwork is sealed and signed, I have it photographed. The reason I don't photograph my art before I sign it or have my seal on it is because I want those elements to show up in the photo shoot. It looks more professional and, in my opinion, a piece isn't finished until it's been signed (which is another good reason not to make prints with your signature already on them).
certificate of authenticity
Also, at this point, I'll print out a 'COA' or certificate of authenticity. This should include the title of the piece, the medium, the size, the date it was completed, and the artist's signature. When a collector purchases the original artwork, ALWAYS include this in the shipment. It should be kept with the original artwork even if the art changes hands (ie: the original collector sells it or gives it away).
And, lastly, my least favorite part of this whole process: shipping. I can't tell you how much I hate shipping art. I find it so stressful, and I just sit at home waiting for the buyer to email or message me to let me know that the art made it to them without incident. I don't know why I worry so much, but I do. When I ship original art, I don't like to roll it up and ship it in a tube. The paper I use is very thick and rigid, so I worry about creasing it when trying to roll it. For this reason, I ship it flat in a box with the certificate and a 'thank you' card to the buyer. I put the art in a large poly bag and buffer the space in the box with packing paper. Shipping art this way is more expensive because you end up paying for dimensional weight (the size of the box). Typically it runs about $50, but it's worth it to me if it keeps the art safe and in perfect condition.
There you have it! My entire process from start to finish. Like I said, a lot goes into making a piece of artwork. And, for the most part, I love every bit of if. There's something ritualistic about the whole process; it makes me feel like I'm taking the time and effort to really value and appreciate each piece. And if I don't value my own art, why should anyone else?