My Current Favorite Art Supplies- August 2018

My Current Favorite Supplies

MEA’s August 2018 Look in the Artsy Tool Box

I get bored easily, so I’m always looking for different ways to keep myself entertained in the studio. A lot of you know of my work because of my phase with fluid painting, but you’ll notice while looking at my recent work that I never bust out the air compressor anymore.

Instead, I’ve picked up another new tool:

This tool led me down a whole new artsy path. I’ve been doing a terrible job at recording my new process as it’s a lot of short bursts of applying a quick layer and then waiting for it to dry. At the very least, I can tell you about the supplies I use.

Links for My Current Favorite Supplies

Most of these are affiliate links through Dick Blick and Amazon. If you make a purchase within 24 hours of clicking I earn a commission.

Paints

Heavy Body Paints: I like using Liquitex Heavy Body and Brea Reese Acrylic Paint most often. Brea Reese has a great selection of affordable and highly pigmented professional paints.

I also use Winsor & Newton Professional Acrylic paint. It’s seriously the most buttery smooth paint I have ever used.

Fluid Acrylics: I finally caved and started investing in Golden Fluid Acrylics. These paints are great for the wedge technique. I use Golden when applying finishing layers as the look is much more polished than the heavy body formulas. It’s just my preference, though.

Canvases

Blick Studio Traditional Profile Canvas: I have always loved Blick’s canvases. I usually order in bulk to get the discounts and always watch for back to school sales for the best deals.

Michaels Canvases: I used to use the bulk packs a lot a few months ago, but when switching from fluid painting to my new techniques, I didn’t like the beveled edge of the canvas. I still occasionally buy their Level 1 through 3 canvases, but ONLY if they are at a sale price of 60% or higher. Michaels fine art supplies are way overpriced without sales.

Varnish

Liquitex High Gloss Varnish is still my favorite! Read more about it here. Always apply it with a foam brush.

Tools:

Catalyst Wedge W-06 

I love this wedge! I use this to put down semi-transparent layers of color. I use heavy body, soft body, fluid acrylics, and my own fluid mixture depending on what effect I am going for.

You can use a spray bottle with water to help smooth out heavy body layers more easily. Always let each layer dry completely before applying the next.

Precision Fineline Applicator (Blick or Amazon)

I will never part with this applicator. It’s my favorite favorite thing. Read more about my fine liners here.

Big Cheap Brush

I don’t get fancy with my brushes. I usually end up forgetting them in a jar of water so I don’t splurge on the good stuff often. I needed a big 2 inch brush for blending base layers on large canvases and packs like this are my favorite. As long as you get a synthetic brush meant for acrylic, you’re good to go.

Or, you can get this Liquitex Paddle brush.

I also use these big brushes with a mix of my white fluid acrylic and heavy body paints to get really soft and smooth sections of blended color (see below).

***

Thanks for taking a look inside my tool box! Let me know if you have any questions about the materials I use. And hopefully some day I will put up longer videos of this process.

Now go get messy!

-Kelly

Further Reading:

Liquitex Gloss Varnish Comparison

Fine Line Bottles for Acrylic Paint Detailing

Are You Forcing Yourself into an Art Business Before You’re Ready?

Are you forcing yourself into an art business before you’re ready?

Why you need to perfect your craft, deal with your sh*t, and find your artistic vision first.

I’m going to share part of my personal story. Maybe this isn’t you at all, but I know a lot of us struggle with similar situations, so maybe you will find value in the lessons I have learned.

Sometimes you can’t rush the process.

When I first started selling my art almost a decade ago, I did it all wrong. I didn’t have a clue how to be a professional artist. I was a college student, and kind of a miserable human. I thought an art business could save me from the real world. (Quick back story:  I was severely depressed from past trauma and wasn’t ready to be an adult. It’s cool, though. I’m over it now.)

While chasing that dream, I tried multiple times to succeed with art and I kept failing.

Why?

SO many reasons.

I had no idea who I was as an artist. I had no clear branding. My work was disconnected. My message was muddled and incoherent. I had no vision. I couldn’t depend on being in a good enough mood to get sh*t done.

The only things working in my favor were: 1. I loved art and 2. I decent had technical skills.

Skill and love were not enough to make art a business. It’s fair to say I simply wasn’t ready to be a professional artist, but I badly needed art therapy–and real therapy…I just needed ALL the therapy.

Art Samples from 2010

I was still discovering and rebuilding who I was, and you could tell through how much I jumped around between subjects and styles. If you saw the images above after seeing what I create now, would you have any idea they were created by the same artist?

When Creating Art is about the process and Not a destination.

I’ve talked to multiple artist over the last 9 months who are impatient to get started making money with their creations. It’s the dream, right? Do the thing you love and be able to make a living.

You can get there, but is now the right time? Is this what you are supposed to do with your art at this very moment? If you feel conflicted and antsy and are hoping success with art will save you from something, I urge you to dive deeper into your intentions. What is it that you really need right now?

Why do you create?

Your intention for creating matters. We use art for a variety of reasons, but they can all be condensed into three main categories.

  1. Art as a hobby/for funsies
  2. Art as therapy/self discovery/escape
  3. Art as a profession/source of income

Any reason to create is a great reason and a lot of times these reasons overlap, but it’s important to understand your intentions and your needs before jumping into art as a profession.

When you create art as a hobby, you are doing it purely for yourself. It’s something that is enjoyable and something that occupies your free time.

When you create art as therapy, you are using it as a sort of meditation. Your life may be stressful and art helps you release that stress. It helps you discover more about yourself and find a sense of peace. Art as therapy charges up your internal energy and helps you heal.

When you create art professionally, it becomes your life. It’s your source of stress. It’s your misery. It’s your happiness. It’s your burden and your gift. You push yourself to create even when you lack inspiration, you take care of all of the mundane tasks that you can avoid when using art as a hobby or therapy, and most importantly you understand what you are trying to say to your audience.

Energy In vs. Energy Out

Anytime you shift from therapy or hobby to art as a profession, you are changing the artistic process. Specifically, the energy input and output in the process changes.

When you create art as a hobby or as therapy, the positive energy that you get out of the process is usually higher than the energy you put in. This is why it’s so satisfying. I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m saying the process charges you up rather than draining you.

When you create art as a profession, you have to put WAY more energy into the process. You still get positive energy back, but it’s going to feel like work at times. You may even feel completely drained on bad days.

When I was using art as therapy and tried to shift to starting a business, I didn’t have the energy to keep up with professional demands. The energy I was getting out of my art was used to heal me. When I diverted that energy to spreadsheets, taxes, customer interactions, and marketing, I had created an internal imbalance. I did this over and over again, creating constant frustration.

Get your Sh*t together before Adding the Stress of an Art Business

Art can save us from ourselves, but if we try to force too much out of it too quickly, it can back fire. I ignored that I needed to heal my internal wounds and hoped finding success would make me feel better. I’m sure you’ve heard the stereotype that artists are tortured and depressed. Some believe that this is the source of their creativity, but I’m calling bullsh*t on that.

When I was at my worst in the darkness, I was empty. It’s when I find the light that I feel most creative. More importantly, when I found my light, I was able to sustain productivity and maintain the energy needed to consistently put energy into my business. This is why I say you need to figure your sh*t out. Be a healthy artist.

But, if you want to be a tortured artist, go for it. It you want to find internal piece and contentment–embrace art as therapy. Get lost in the process. Find yourself and put your pieces together. Put your money making goals aside for a little while. Art doesn’t have to make you money to make you whole.

If You Already Have your Sh*T Together, Then find your vision

Okay, so let’s say you are doing art as a hobby and you aren’t a dysfunctional human like I was. High five! That’s awesome! Before you consider making it a full time thing, think about your brand.

I talk about branding a lot, because you and your art are products to advertise and sell. Get used to that idea. As an artist, YOU are a product. Your story is a product. Your personality is a product. Your Instagram is a product.

How are you going to package all of these products and deliver a clear and cohesive message to your audience?

Perfect your Craft

Alright, so you are a functional human. You have a clear idea of your branding and your artistic vision. Now you get to practice and refine your message and skill set.

I say that technical skill ultimately doesn’t matter when you are pursing art as a career, BUT what does matter is consistency and style. Look at the weird a** faces Picasso painted. They are not technically accurate at all. A lot of people may scoff at the work and say things like “anyone could do this.” What makes work like this significant is that it’s intentional. It’s consistent. It’s building on a specific style.

Whatever you do, do it with intention. Do it consistently. Do it over and over again.

If you are like me back in 2010 and have a crap ton of disconnected pieces and styles, then keep pushing until you hone in on what it is you’re trying to say. (If your goal is to be an artist that creates the visions of others, then ignore that advice and keep working on your various skills and styles.)

In summary, before you jump into an art business think about these three things:
  1. Mental Health: Do you have your sh*t together? Are you hoping art will save you from something? You may just need focus on the healing power of art. Maybe talk to a counselor. Find a cat to pet. If you aren’t happy now, finding success with art likely won’t fix that.
  2. Your Artistic Vision: Do you have a vision for your art? Is your branding cohesive and clear? Do you know what you are trying to say? Do you know who you are?
  3. Your Craft: Are you intentional and consistent in your craft? Do your skills need work?

You can dive into an art business head first before having anything of this figured out. I did it. I don’t regret it. It’s all part of my artistic journey. But, had I known back in 2010 that I was going to fail so many times because my head wasn’t in the right place I might have tried to enjoy the process more.

Or not. Hindsight, right?

Though, I can confidently say that once I had worked on my internal issues and no longer needed art to heal me, I felt ready and energized to pursue it fully as a career.

Do you think you’re ready?

***

Anyway, thanks for reading! I can’t tell you what is right for you, but if you ever want to discuss your artistic future with someone who understands, I’m always happy to lend an ear and offer my coaching and mentoring services. And as always, if you have comments or questions, please leave them below or message me directly. I love hearing what you think!

-Kelly

Further Reading:

Reasons Not to be an Artist

How to Get Started as an Artist

 

8 Thoughts You’ll Have as an Artist

8 Thoughts You’ll Have as an Artist

Rest assured. You’re not alone.

Do you make art? Then I bet my new bottle of Golden Fluid Acrylics that you’ve encountered at least one of the thoughts on this list. I’ve experienced all 8 in the last couple of weeks.

I’ve learned it really doesn’t matter where you are in your career or what kind of artist you may be. We can’t help but second guess ourselves as creators and apply too much judgement to the process.

Let’s step into the brain of a creator:

1. “My art sucks.”

Congrats! Your inner critic is an a**hole. Welcome to the club. Every artist has at some point looked at their work and thought “This is crap.”

Sometimes it doesn’t match up to our vision. Sometimes our skills are really amateur. Sometimes we didn’t eat enough for breakfast and there’s a full moon. Who knows. (Artists, am I right?!)

There isn’t a universal definition for good or bad art. It is completely subjective. I can promise you that no matter what you create, there will always be someone who likes it and someone who hates it. Always remember, when you think “My art sucks”, that’s just your opinion. It’s not fact. Don’t let it keep you from creating.

Walk away. Eat an entire pineapple. Then get back to work and pay no mind to the judgmental critiques coming from the corner of your mind.

2. “I’m not a real artist.”

It’s easy to feel like an impostor in the art world. Many people try to rigidly declare exactly what makes a person a “real” artist. When I talk to those people, even I think “wow–I don’t think I’m a real artist…”

It’s fairly simple in my opinion. If you make art, you’re an artist.

Though, in our heads it doesn’t feel that simple, because there are different kinds of artists and we very clearly can fit into specific categories. So, if all you are seeing around you are abstract expressionists and you work with hyperrealism–then yeah, you might find yourself thinking you don’t fit in with them so you must not be a real artist.

Or maybe you just picked up a paint brush a month ago so you don’t feel the right to claim the title without ‘paying your dues’. Maybe you have to sell ‘x’ amount of pieces, have an art degree, enter into galleries, have a large following on Instagram, or have some art official stand over you with a sword and officially mumble something in a British accent “I declare thee, ARTIST!”

The only difference between an artist and someone who doesn’t believe they are an artist is a thought.

3. “That artist is so much better than me.”

Yup. And there are thousands, if not more artists who stand above you on the completely arbitrary hierarchy of creators. There are also thousands of artists who may look at your art and think the same about their own work.

One morning you’re scrolling through Instagram and find an awesome new artist who does a similar style to you, but way better. Crap, right? What’s the point of going on?

I’m here to tell you, ultimately it doesn’t matter how you compare to other artists. Yes, we can learn from other creators, and allow them to help push our boundaries and skills, but each artist needs to find their own voice. That artist with a similar style has their own story to tell through their art. They use tools and techniques that speak to you, and you can learn from them, don’t let another artist’s work discourage you.

Take what you like from the artists around you, and use it to refine YOUR story. I promise someone will always do something better than you. They are your teachers.

4. “What if I screw up and waste supplies?”

You’re going to. That’s half the fun/torture. Supplies can be really fricken expensive. I used to be terrified of ‘wasting’ the beautiful nectar of the paint gods when I was super poor and wasn’t making sales.

Fear is annoying. When you are afraid of ruining canvases or wasting the good stuff, it changes your approach to the creative process. It’s like me on a dance floor before alcohol kicks in. Rigid, nervous sweating, wide eyed. It takes a lot of effort to get past that fear.

But I have tips! If money is the concern, start with budget materials. You don’t HAVE to buy the expensive stuff to be an artist. Get cheap canvases and student grade acrylics. Practice with the crappy stuff until your craft becomes second nature. Then upgrade to the good stuff. I guarantee you will have a better appreciation for the quality after learning with budget materials.

Cheap supplies don’t make you any less of a creator. They make you fiscally responsible and help take away the fear of screwing up. You have to be ready and willing to fail.

5. “I want to give up.”

It’s normal to want to give up on something that is difficult. Art is hard. To an outsider, the life of an artist might look like it’s stress free fun times forever. In reality, making art feels like work. Truthfully, I’m miserable at least 25% of my time creating as a full time artist.

“This sucks. This sucks. This sucks. What is WRONG with you?! Why would you pick that color?! It’s ruined. Bah, okay keep going. You got this. Nope. This sucks. How did I make it worse?! Oh hey, wait, no that looks okay. Now we are getting somewhere.”

You can try to quit art—but you’ll be back for more. I’ve found that art is an addiction. I’ve tried to leave it in my past before and it just crept back into my life. It starts slow. “Oh, this pen is nice. Maybe I’ll just doodle a bit…” And then BAM! I’m back on Dick Blick with a $100 cart of colored pencils.

When you want to give up, you’ve reached the limit of your comfort zone. This is the place where you grow. Keep pushing. But if you need to take a break, art will wait for you until you are ready again.

6. “Sweet Jesus, this is amazing!”

This is why we create. That moment when you are in the zone. Time flies by and every move you make is utter perfection. Your materials are cooperating, the birds are chirping outside, you hardly have to think about what you’re doing.

If only that feeling could be bottled. If only this is what making art always felt like.

7. “It’s finished! …Now what?!”

Like reading a good book, reaching the end of a piece can feel like losing a friend. What are you supposed to do now?!

Just start another one? What if you don’t have any new ideas? What if you suddenly can’t make attractive art? Will this next piece be better or worse?WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?!

Okay, not everyone has a full on existential crisis when they finish a piece, but if you do, you’re not alone. There is a sort of emptiness left behind when the creative process is over. You’ve spent hours giving life to a new creation and suddenly it’s no longer a part of you. Understandably, you might not know what to do next.

My advice: Eat a taco. Clean your studio space. Stare longingly at your beautiful paint covered baby. Then grab your paint brush and get back to work.

8. “I hate it. I want it gone.”

Pieces once loved become unbearable to look at. You can’t help but explore all of the possibilities to get them out of your sight. Give them away, throw them in the dumpster, light them on fire, paint over them, host a massive art sale, and more. Doesn’t matter how it happens, but you you want them gone.

The art purge. I know the feeling well.

What you are experiencing isn’t an objective assessment of the art work. Often, this feeling comes from moving into a new head space. What you once enjoyed now looks hideous, and it’s all based on your perspective.

When I suddenly start to hate old pieces of mine, it’s because I’ve moved on from whatever emotions I was feeling at that time. In those situations, don’t do anything drastic like destroy the work in a fit of rage.

Consider having a clearance section in your online store and at art events. Make the pieces available to the public, but hide them from your sight while you work on new things. I’ve sold a lot of my ‘dud’ pieces that I had planned on painting over.

You may hate it, but someone else will love it.

***

So was I right? Have you thought at least one of these things while creating?

Thanks so much for reading and I hope this post makes you feel a little less alone in the art world. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below while commenting is open. Or reach out to me directly! I’m always happy to hear from you.

Now go get messy!

-Kelly

Further Reading:

8 Things You’ll Hear as an Artist

How to be a Confident Artist

How to be a Confident Artist

How to be a Confident Artist 

At any stage in your career.

Ever struggle with confidence? Ever find yourself questioning the value of everything you do?

Saying things like: “Why am I even doing this? I suck at art. Nobody is going to want my creations. What if people don’t like my art? Are they saying positive things just to be nice or do they mean it? I’m not meant to succeed. Maybe I just don’t have what it takes to be an artist. Maybe I should just give up.”

Welcome to my brain from one year ago.

We all have that little voice in our heads that decides to be an a**hole and tear out our insides before we even get started on a potentially awesome path in life. I have a few simple truths about that voice.

  1. It doesn’t have the answers. It only has questions and doubt.
  2. It’s actually trying to protect you from future pain, because failure hurts and taking a risk always involves the potential to fail.
  3. You don’t have to listen to it.

I’ve been on a journey of personal growth for quite a while. After suffering from depression for the last decade of my life, I finally started sifting through my self-sabotaging behaviors and began rewiring my brain for contentment. Working on my confidence and telling the little voice in my head to piss up a rope was one of the biggest tasks on my self improvement to-do list.

It’s not easy, but here’s how I went from an insecure puddle of doubts to “Let’s just get sh*t done and enjoy the process.”

1. Insecurities: Don’t let them hold you back, and don’t expect others to fix them.

Despite the fact that I have 50k Instagram followers, I still have insecurities about my work. All of the social validation in the world won’t fix it. It’s something that I need to address on my own.

Our insecurities are our own problem.

We can’t expect other people to make us see our value. For example, do you ever find yourself asking others if your work is good? Or is it worth selling? Or do they think you should give up? Your insecurities have hijacked your mouth. Take back your voice.

If you ask a question and only want to hear the answer that soothes your worries, then you’re expecting others to fix your insecurities. We’ve all been there. Now, have you ever had someone tell you the answer you didn’t want to hear? Did you completely fall apart and throw a fit like I used to do? (I used to throw so many fits. Little passive aggressive adult tantrums. It wasn’t pretty.)

You have to learn to soothe your own insecurities. But how?

I use wild optimism and hypothetical worst case scenario thought exercises. Example: When my insecurities start asking what if my work does suck? What’s the worst that can happen? I take my voice back and respond: Nobody buys it. Maybe I get made fun of. Does that mean I don’t like doing art? No. Does that mean I should give up? Heck no. It means I should keep creating, pushing my skills, and doing what I love.

When your insecurities hand you doubts and sad question lemons, make a tasty lemonade with sugar made of determination and drive.

The important thing is to not let your insecurities hold you back. Like I said, I still have insecure thoughts about a lot of things, but I don’t let them prevent me from doing what I love. The less you validate  those doubts and questions, the quieter they become.

2. Believe in what you do

Confidence is internal. The external world can help you validate your beliefs, but your sense of confidence is not going to come from a certain number of Instagram followers, or a successful art fair, or compliments from the outside world. Confidence is believing at your core that what you are doing is worth it.

If you believe in yourself and your goals, you’ll see proof in the world around you to continue with that belief, because that’s what you’re looking for. If you think your work sucks and you doubt your abilities, then you will see proof of that as well. What are you looking for? A reason to continue or a reason to stop?

Does it feel uncomfortable to believe in yourself right now? That’s okay! It gets better the more you practice it. Even if you never reach your goals or accomplish your dreams you are going to have way more fun and conquer many more obstacles if you just believe you can do the things you want to.

Believe in yourself and choose to focus on the tasks at hand, rather than questioning if there is a point in doing them at all.

3. Don’t hold yourself bacK.

We can be our own worst enemies. Personally, I have held myself back from achieving my goals too many times to count. The ways we do this can be sneaky. Most of the time we hold ourselves back by engaging in negative self talk. Ever find yourself thinking things like “I probably won’t succeed at this,” or “I’ll never be as good as that artist.”?

You’re putting up a roadblock with these thoughts.

Anytime you find yourself with a thought that discourages you from moving forward with your goals and your dreams, ask yourself if you are just standing in your own way. Do these thoughts benefit you in any way? Do they get you closer to reaching your goal? Probably not. Just the opposite. These thoughts are there to keep you from taking a risk, because there is always a possibility of failure—and failure sucks. Which brings me to my next point…

4. Don’t accept failure as an end result. See it as an opportunity.

Yes. Failure will happen. You will try something new and you won’t get the result you expect. Does that mean you should give up and stop chasing that dream? Of course not!

Failure is part of the learning process. I fail all the time! Anytime I have an idea for a piece and it goes completely awry, that can be a failure. Anytime I post on Instagram and hear crickets in the comments section, that can be a failure. That time I paid $120 for a spot an an outdoor summer art fair and I only made $12—yeah, that was a bit of a failure.

If I accepted those failures as the end of my journey, I’d be doing myself a disservice. You’re going to fail on your journey. Probably a lot. But each time you pick yourself up and start working towards your goal again, that is the best form of success.

Failures are opportunities to improve and find your true artistic path. Embrace them and keep going.

5. Enjoy the now

Ever find yourself saying, “I’ll be confident when I’m as good as I want to be or have more followers,” or something similar?

Take a look at your art and find the things you love right NOW. Confidence doesn’t come from achieving your goals. Confidence comes from being comfortable with your progress now and celebrating all of your tiny victories. Sure, I look at my skills and I objectively see where I want to improve, but I don’t let my deficiencies take away from my current happiness anymore.

Celebrate where you are RIGHT now. Give yourself a high five. Do a little happy dance. You’re alive, you’re creating.

6. It’s not a competition. Celebrate other artists.

Don’t compare your work to other artists, but whole heartedly get excited about their work. Detach your ego and forget about competition. There isn’t a limited amount of success available for all artists, so there isn’t a need to compete or push other artists down.

Being better than other artists isn’t where confidence comes from. Walking into a room and not instantly feeling the need to compare yourself to anyone else is where confidence comes from. Women deal with this all the time because of the beauty standards that are pushed upon us. If that girl is skinnier than us, we get sad. If that girl has clearer skin than us, we get sad. If we don’t look like the pictures in the magazines, we get sad.

Here’s the truth: There will always be someone better, smarter, skinnier, younger, more talented, and someone with more followers or art sales under their belt. If you focus on the competition, you will always fall short. If you focus on your deficiencies, you won’t feel confident.

Instead, if you focus on what you do have, you will feel abundance. If you remove yourself from the competition, you can feel confident right now, regardless of where you are in your career. Always remember that the success of another artist is not your loss. Enjoy the sense of community and find comfort in believing there is abundance in the world and you already have access to it.

***

And that’s all I’ve got on the matter for now.

It sounds corny sometimes, but the whole “Life is great. You can achieve your dreams. You are worth it. You are loved. The world is your oyster. You are special. You are divine. And dog gonnit, people like you,” thing is worth looking into. It has helped my mental health and my art career tremendously.

I hope this helped give you a little pep talk and has empowered you. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below while commenting is open or send me an email/Insta DM. I’m always happy to hear what you think! And if you ever want one-on-one mentoring or coaching to help you boost your confidence, check out my coaching services here.

Now go get optimistically messy!

-Kelly

Further Reading:

The sort of Stereotypical Story of an Artist with Depression

How to Make Art a Habit and Stop Waiting for Inspiration to Create

 

 

How I Ship My Artwork

How I Ship My Artwork

Shipping your art doesn’t have to be scary.

*The product links in this blog are affiliate links. I earn a commission if you make a purchase. (At no additional cost to you, of course!)

I used to be afraid of shipping my art. There were too many variables and things that could go wrong. Should I ship internationally or just domestically? How much should I charge my customers? Where will I get my shipping materials? How much will shipping cost me? What size canvases can I ship before running into oversized charges? Which carrier do I use? Should I buy insurance? What if something goes wrong with a shipment? How do I handle returns?

I’m here to tell you that shipping doesn’t have to be scary. There are a few simple things you can do to make sure artwork arrives safely and customers are happy. Here’s how I do it.

Shipping for the BeginneR

You don’t need to get too fancy to get started. Let’s say you are starting to think about creating an online store, but shipping your work gives you a bit of a panic attack. My advice: Start small and start local.

When I first started selling through my simple Square Up store, I only sold pieces sized between 8”x10” and 11”x14” and I only sold within the United States. Starting with the small sizes meant I could easily find boxes to fit these pieces and keep shipping prices low. I wasn’t selling more than a few pieces a month and I was very wary of investing too much money in shipping supplies when I didn’t know what I could expect over the next few months.

I kept things really simple and used recycled boxes for my first few shipments. I found an Amazon box in my recycle pile that fit the largest canvas size I offered in my store, I created a sample shipment to weigh, and then I input the dimensions and weight into the USPS shipping calculator to have an idea of what the cost would be on my end. Then I factored this cost into my online store prices.

Once I started to consistently have 2 to 3 sales in my store a week, I purchased a bulk bundle of boxes so I’d never have to stockpile random Amazon boxes again. Since the max canvas size I offered in my store was 11″x14″ I picked one size box that would work for all of my shipments.

After a few months, I was able to start offering larger sizes and could afford to spend more money on shipping supplies up front.

How I package my artwork

The main goals you should have when preparing a piece for shipment are:

  • Keep the artwork safe.
  • Keep your costs low.
  • Keep your customer happy.
  • Make things personalized and attractive.
My Tips and System for Shipping Artwork
Canvases
  1. After I receive an order in my store, I print a packing slip and the order.
  2. I inspect the items ordered and then wrap each canvas in a sheet of thin plastic. Securing the flaps with clear tape. (You can also use self sealing poly bags.) This helps protect the art from moisture and keeps anything from sticking to the surface of your art.
  3. Optional personal touch: I wrap my small canvases in purple tissue paper and secure it with a ‘thank you sticker’
  4. Include paper materials:
    1. Packing slip (if you use an app like Shippo, it will generate a slip for you from your online store. Etsy also generates packing slips. You can use an invoice as well. Just make sure there is a document with the customer’s name and address in the package in case the outside label gets damaged.
    2. Thank you card- always show gratitude when your customer buys something. You never know who will be a repeat customer. They are supporting your business and it’s important they know you appreciate it. I hand write a note with each piece I send out.
    3. Coupon/Loyalty Rewards- Give your customer a reason to shop again. I include a coupon code with each order.
  5.  I cut and crinkle sheets of brown kraft paper to serve as a cushion for the bottom of the box and on top of the art. I’ve also used recycled air bags and bubble wrap from my personal shipments. Don’t use materials that can stab, puncture, or dent your art.
  6. Consider placing a piece of cardboard over the surface of the art to protect it. If you are packing multiple pieces in one box, make sure to add protection between each piece. If the contents of the box shift during shipment it’s possible one canvas could damage another. I usually secure the cardboard to the plastic wrap around the art with packing tape. (I cut up random boxes to use as cardboard sheets.)
  7. Once the box is full, close the flaps and give the box a shake. Does the art shift and move easily? If there is a lot of movement within the box, I add more packing material.
  8. Seal the box with packing tape. Now you’re ready for your label.
Paper art and Prints:

These are super easy to mail. Get a flat mailer. Seal your art in a poly bag. Include packing slip, thank you note, and coupon/next purchase promotion. You can also use a thin piece of cardboard to give your art more protection and rigidity during shipping. Affix shipping label and “Do Not Bend” stickers to the outside.

If you work with large pieces, you may consider using shipping tubes and rolling your art. I’d recommend using a poly bag to seal your art before rolling.

Shipping Labels:

Once your art is packaged, it’s time to get a shipping label. There are two main options that I have used.

Option One: Hand write or print the customer’s name and address on paper and affix with tape to the box. Have USPS weigh, measure, and print postage label at the post office.

Option Two: Use a shipping app like Shippo. Weigh and measure the shipment, and print your own labels at home. Then, drop the package off at post office or schedule a pick up a day in advance.

Option two is my preferred method. You’ll need is a kitchen scale and a tape measure for accurate shipping rates. You can even use adhesive labels to make things super easy.

Shippo

When I upgraded my online store to Weebly, I chose to use app integration and picked Shippo to simplify my shipping needs. At the moment, you can enter orders by hand and print a label at home if you do not have an ecommerce store that can be integrated with the platform.

If you connect your Weebly store, orders will show up on your Shippo Dashboard where you can print a packing slip, and then choose shipping options. Check it out. I love it. It’s only a few cents per label, but you get access to commercial shipping rates so it’s still might be cheaper than physically going to the post office.

Customer Service:

A positive interaction with a customer during the shipping process is crucial for growing an online business. Try to ship your items within 24-48 hours of the placement of your order and ALWAYS give your customer a tracking number and carrier information.

You should also write a Return Policy and include this somewhere in your store. I include a link to my policy on my receipts and order confirmations. If you plan on selling your art, it’s good practice to have a plan in place for accepting returns. Figure out your policy before to save headaches later.

You may also want to consider following up with your customer once the order arrives to see how things are going. I watch all of my orders on my Shippo dashboard to make sure all packages are delivered. If the shipping status isn’t updated for a while, I reach out to the customer to verify they received their item.

Shipping Supplies I Use:

Tips and Things to consider:

-Don’t immediately try to sell and ship a variety of sizes online. This means you will have to work harder at sourcing boxes to fit each sale. If you take my approach and buy a bundle of boxes that can fit one or two sizes then you can be more conservative in your investments instead of buying a crap ton of sizes that you have no guarantee of using right away.

-Hoard boxes and packing material if you frequently order things online. I have a box of random supplies that I pull from for large shipments. It’s a good way to recycle AND save money.

-International Sales: Your costs will be higher, transit times are longer, and your customers may have to deal with customs charges, but the USPS labels are very easy to use and Shippo fills most of the details out for you. Etsy makes international orders really easy as well.

-Insurance: I personally do not insure most of my packages. If you use Priority Mail, this often includes insurance up to a certain amount. Ask yourself if you can afford to lose the entire amount of the shipment if something goes wrong and you need to refund your customer’s money. If not, insure the package. I personally haven’t dealt with something going wrong with a package yet (knock on wood), but you might want to look into your options. Also look into the insurance claim process.

-Pack, measure, and weigh a sample piece of art to get accurate shipping costs before putting an item for sale online. You don’t want to be surprised by shipping charges and lose all of your profit if you assume you can ship a 36”x48” canvas safely for $30.

-Always check your shipping costs for a new box size before ordering in bulk.

-Try out the shipping rates with other carriers like UPS or Fedex. I found that for my smaller pieces, USPS was more cost effective.

-If you only work with large pieces, consider reaching out to LTL freight companies for shipping quotes. Or you can look at taking canvas off of the stretchers and shipping the rolled canvas in a tube. But this would force customers to spend time and money on re-stretching the canvas.

-Some states require you to collect sales tax on shipping charges. Check into your local sales tax laws for details.

-If you are setting up shipping rates for an online store, consider looking through the USPS PDF below to get an idea of costs around the country and internationally depending on weight and size. This is what I used to calculate my current shipping rules in my store: https://pe.usps.com/cpim/ftp/manuals/dmm300/Notice123.pdf

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And that’s all I’ve got. This is my way of shipping artwork. I’m sure every artist does things a little differently, but as long as you ensure your art is safely packaged and can survive the aggressive journey most boxes take during the shipping process then you’re good to go.

If you have any questions or comments please leave them below while commenting is open, or reach out to me directly. If you have additional shipping questions, I am happy to answer. I tried to include all of my knowledge, but I may have missed some things.

As always, thanks so much for reading! Check out the rest of my posts for more artsy goodness and go get messy.

-Kelly

Further Reading:

Why You Shouldn’t Feel Like a Failure When You’re Not Making Sales

Setting Up an eCommerce Store for Artists with Square Up