Illustrator Chris Hagan talks to us about selling prints online, why it helps to list regularly, and the difficulties of trying to balance creativity, selling, part-time work and family life…
When and how did you start selling your work?
I began selling my work online on Folksy about two years ago. Before that, I’d been exhibiting in open house exhibitions and local galleries in Brighton for around three years.
How and where do you sell your work?
My main selling method is online. I also exhibit in local galleries (although my profit margin is a lot less when I sell through a gallery) and I plan to approach galleries further afield in the New Year. I now have a good body of original work that I’d like to exhibit, most of which is larger scale than the printed reproductions. I’m looking forward to doing some craft fairs in 2014 too.
How do you promote yourself and your work?
I use social media: Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. In some ways I think this may only be effective once you’ve gained a good amount of followers, but I’ve had a few sales through Facebook and Pinterest so it is definitely worthwhile. I think most of my sales come through listing regularly on the site. I’ll be putting together a website earlier in the New Year to showcase my published and commercial work too.
Polar Bear In A Fair Isle Jumper, from sketchbook to print
Have you got a method for setting your prices?
At the moment I sell A4 prints and A3 prints, so the pricing is based on the print costs and labour. I’ll be branching out into greetings cards soon and producing limited-edition monoprints, which will be priced differently according to the costs and labour.
How do you balance selling your work with being creative? How much time do you think you spend on each?
I try to work every day, despite working part-time in a job elsewhere and balancing family life. I prioritise creating new work and promoting and listing my work daily. Often I work on two to three images at the same time, so when I break it down it can take up between two and eight hours to finish an illustration or a painting. There are a few exceptions, such as the illustrations Above the Old Town and Tyger Tyger which took several weeks to finish. Then there are other images that have been completed in two hours – it depends how complicated the composition or colour scheme is. I have a book of written ideas for images that I want to create, which I’m slowly going through. That it gives me time to mull over whether I think an image will work or continue to interest me. Occasionally some ideas are abandoned once I’ve talked myself into the fact that they may not work.
Tyger, Tyger, in progress and the final product shot
Is there anything you’ve learned along the way that you wish you’d known when you started?
When you’re selling online it’s important to have a good range of really strong images. That’s something that took me a while to build up to, and I’m not quite there yet, but I hope to have about 50 images at some point. As I specifically sell art prints, one thing I noticed is that it’s sometimes quite hard to convey especially detailed images within the thumbnails when you list your item, especially a portrait-size image. This has made me think about how I create my work based on these constraints, and it’s also been a steep learning curve considering a lot of my early work is portrait format.
Do you have any exciting plans for 2014?
I plan to begin work on a children’s book/graphic novel inspired by folk tales, while continuing to promote my work on Brighton the Graphic novel with some university presentations early in spring onwards. I’m also looking forward to creating more work for my Folksy shop and branching out into greetings cards and monoprints.
Have you got any tips for other makers?
- It’s really important to make work that you are passionate about rather than something you think sells. There are always certain trends that do well, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will always work, and trends can quickly go out of fashion.
- Within any medium I think it’s important to strive to produce contemporary work, even if it has a retro feel I think a contemporary quality can be combined to good effect. As well as your own influences, Pinterest is an excellent site to be inspired by likeminded artists and makers.
- Strive to be unique and as good at what you do as possible – even if that means not presenting an image until it you are 100% happy. I post works in progress on my Facebook page, which is sometimes a useful way of finding out whether people are interested.
- If you’re selling art prints, it’s important to get strong product shots of your framed work, so people can really visualise what the image will look like on their wall.
- Most importantly, value your customers, and keep in good contact with them if any issues arise.
Online sites like Folksy have enabled myself and others to sell our work affordably, and that has been invaluable. The thought that my prints are being enjoyed in people’s homes all over the world really makes me smile, so I’m fully appreciative of the support I’ve received!