Kevin Firth - CG Art - Making Money With Art Series

deemarie · March 28, 2005 8:09 am

This weeks guest artist/entrepreneur Kevin Firth (kzarah) Message2184077.jpgFrom first grade through high school, I would get into trouble for drawing in class. For the first eighteen years of my life, I knew I wanted to be a graphic designer; instead, I became a hairstylist. Four years ago I returned to school and became immersed in computer graphics. Renderosity played a major role in giving me the guts to actually try to do something with my artistic abilities. The encouraging words and constructive criticisms from Renderosity members helped prepare me for the day I would walk cold turkey into a business to sell my artwork. I met Lynne (Ly on Renderosity) the first day of college. We became close friends, and I have shared every art class with her since. She brought up the idea of taking what we had learned at school and applying it now, instead of waiting until we graduated. Since we both held fulltime jobs, as well as attending college classes, we had to be practical in our approach to starting a new business. We knew we wanted to do something with our artwork, which we both love, yet we still wanted to have some fun along the way. I kept thinking, "Wouldnt it be great to actually make money doing what I had always been getting in trouble for!" I can spend hours drawing little cartoon characters in Adobe Illustrator. Its the graphic program that really captured my artistic imagination. Lynne also really clicked with Illustrator. Now that we had our preferred software for creating our images, the next thing was to figure how to sell them. The process had to be simple, something we could do from home on a minimal budget. We decided that the cheapest, easiest way to go was note cards. We printed a few on a variety of papers to see how they looked. It took several samples of card stock to arrive with the best ones from our home printers. From there we printed 50 cards of all of the images we planned on using. For presentation, we enclosed the cards in plastic zip lock bags, printed headers, which were folded over the top and staple shut. We now had a product 10 note cards with envelopes. The excitement of starting our new venture and creating the note cards was fun. Calculating the costs for our new product was serious business. We figured a price that would cover our costs, make a decent profit, and pay us a fair amount for our time and effort. After researching the card market in our area, and to stay competitive, we lowered our initial price calculations. To make everything official, we obtained our resale license.
Working at the hair salon was a great advantage to our startup. I was able to get honest consumer input, and sold several packs of cards to customers. Best of all, I knew people were interested in our product. A client, who had purchased note cards from the salon, showed my cards to the owner of a funky boutique in a great shopping area, and she was interested in carrying them in her shop. I called the storeowner, made an appointment, and sold her 24 packs of cards at our first meeting. I continued to sell the cards at work, and knew if we really wanted the business to prosper, that we were going to have to take a risk. Too much time was being spent printing, cutting, scoring, and packaging everything ourselves. If we were going to really get serious, we would need volume. That meant we needed to have a decent amount of cards professionally printed. I contacted a local printer, Page One, a Digital Imaging Center, and made an appointment with Jamie, the in-house sales representative. She gave us tips for setting up our files efficiently in both volume and cost. We considered our options and decided to go with the Indigo printer using a 12 x 18 format. With our cards being 8 x 5 inches, we could fit four different card designs on one sheet of paper [taking into consideration the margins and gutters]. I went with 80 lb smooth cover paper for my note cards; Lynne used tabloid heavy, shiny stock. We opted for eight images each, and set up two files, four cards on each file. Keep in mind, the larger quantity printed, the better your price. The great thing about establishing a relationship with my printer is that anytime I want additional prints, I just call Page One and request the quantity needed.
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Once we were confident that our images were print ready [saved in CMYK, 300 dpi resolution, tiff format], we uploaded [ftpd] the files to the printer. Page One called the next day to let us know that the proofs were ready. The printing was beautiful. The colors were exactly what I saw on my monitor, which is something I have never encountered. The cards were printed on a Hewitt Packard Digital Indigo 3000 printer, and we were thrilled with the results. Two days later we picked up 8,000 note cards; 4,000 for each of us. I have to admit, we laughed nervously the whole time we were loading the boxes into the car. We then took the cards to a bindery. The 8,000 cards were cut, scored, and bundled into separate boxes for around $150, which was both a great savings in cost and our time. Although the card sets were boxed, we still needed protective sleeves for single cards, which we purchased over the Internet. Small portfolio books, filled with samples from each card, were used to showcase our artwork to potential buyers. The hardest part of making money from computer graphics, is finding the time to do everything. To cut down on our traveling from store to store, we created brochures, which we mailed to local retailers. We are also currently setting up an online store and developing our product line for 2004. We are so lucky to have the Internet available to us; it opens many doors and opportunities we wouldnt have otherwise. Starting your own business can be a bit frustrating when it is your second career, and your time is limited. Although it takes a lot of hard work and dedication, its also very exciting, rewarding, and most important wonderful for the heart and soul.
To view samples of Kevin's artwork, we invite you to visit the following sites: Business website Personal website Renderosity Art Gallery
March 28, 2005

Article Comments

enigmaticredfrog ( posted at 12:00AM Mon, 28 March 2005

Thank Jevin for the great article. I have a friend who is opening a coffee shop and has mentioned wanting to put my art up there for sale. I've been giving it some thought, and still haven't come up with a final decision. It's a sink or swim type of thing for me. Anyway, your article really helped me with what I was considering to be the hardest part. At least now I have an idea of what's reasonable when I go lookinng for a printer etc. Thanks for this wealth of information. C~

AlteredKitty ( posted at 12:00AM Mon, 28 March 2005

Thanks for sharing your experiences in this very interesting and informative article. Good luck for the future :) ______ali x

Vestmann ( posted at 12:00AM Mon, 28 March 2005

Great article Jevin and very inspiring. Ive been wanting to start some kind of business with my art myself but havent quite found what to do yet. Its good to see that someone has done it. Thanks for a great story and best of luck with your company.

longshotdream ( posted at 12:00AM Mon, 28 March 2005

Hi, Kevin ! I want to thank you for all that great info. Amazingly kind and unselfish of you to share with all of us. I'm just at the beginning of starting a note card business and cant thank you enough for sharing. The cost breakdown was especially helpful. I wish you great success in your business !

ppetersen ( posted at 12:00AM Mon, 28 March 2005

Wonderful to hear and know one can do it with the get up and go. Thank you for a most informative article and best of luck to the both of you Kevin..

spudgrl ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 29 March 2005

I have been a huge fan of you drawings for some time now. I still cant wait to get those shirts, yes, Im still interested. :) The cards Are really nice as well and You can bet I will be getting some of those. Thanks for the info. Maybe I can finally start doing some work myself. :)

Terrielee ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 29 March 2005

What a great article! Thank you for sharing and for giving all of the costs and how you determined what to charge! Best of luck to you!

Streetandsmith ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 29 March 2005

Yes, it was very informative and helpful and also showed the neccessary dedication and commitment it takes to do any kind of business. I too want to wish both of you well in this and other projects. Thanks.

StaceyG ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 29 March 2005

This was a great article Kevin. Good luck.

MAW3D ( posted at 12:00AM Wed, 30 March 2005

I only can agree with the other people which already posted their opinion - it is a very informative article indeed! Thank you! I know for myself that it is kind of tricky to start a business relaying on graphics (on your own) - I do the same with jewelry that I design with 2D/3D graphics applications and a 3D plotter/cutter for the wax models. Its a tough way to start, but also very prosperous if youre getting there where you wanted to go. I wish you good luck with your business! ;O)

BigRedKane ( posted at 12:00AM Fri, 01 April 2005

Great to hear of another Art Business taking off. As I have an interest in getting something off the ground myself regarding Art Products I found this article very imformative, interesting and thought provoking. I wish you both the best of luck with your venture. :-)

jjean21 ( posted at 12:00AM Fri, 01 April 2005

This article is so inspiring..I've tossed around the idea for after retirement extra income but never had the faintest idea how to start. Hope your business just booms.

archieb ( posted at 12:00AM Fri, 01 April 2005

Thank you for your advice , im always interested in articles regarding starting your own buisness because ive wanted too as well ever since i started using poser and photoshop.. good luck with everything!

Angelwave ( posted at 12:00AM Fri, 29 April 2005

Great inspiration for the artists just waiting to get started. Best of luck for you both. V