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?
A. Yes! While it's true that the majority of my advertising focuses on dogs, I have a strong foundation in other subjects as well, including people portraits, landscapes, and even contemporary stylized art and abstract ideas. Check out my portfolio to see some examples! As with anything, though, ask. I am still learning, though experience has taught me much already, and I may need some additional time to get my paintings to a point where I'm satisfied.
Q. What media (paint, pencil, etc.) can I choose from?
A. As you will see in my portfolio, I've explored several media, including acrylic paint, oil paint, enamel paint (for outdoor pieces), pencil/graphite, charcoal, conte crayons, chalk pastels, and craft-oriented spray paint. I've also started working with designing fashion/costume jewelry. Don't see something mentioned? Ask! I may have done some work in that area that I just haven't yet shared.
Q. What's the difference between different paints and drawing media?
A. Whew--that's a loaded question! I couldn't begin to mention everything, so your best bet would most likely be to start with good old Wikipedia, and go from there: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_artistic_media
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, the business is, at the time of writing, a part-time/freelance venture, since art is a luxury for many in the current economy. I am attending graduate school full-time, and the coursework is very challenging. However, in general, I try to complete projects within a month or two of a client placing an order--sooner if at all possible. If there is an exception, due to medical emergency or other extenuating circumstances, I will keep you posted. Keep in mind that I will probably primarily take on projects between semesters in order to better manage my time--I can start them during the semester, but I don't expect to be able to work for more than a couple of hours per week with other responsibilities taking priority.
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, portrait and landscape projects start around $200, 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. 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, and often I need to replenish certain paint colors.
As a general rule of thumb, though, I follow this as a starting point for different types of projects:
- Acrylic paintings:
- 16x20": $200
- 9x12": $250
- 18x24": $250
- Larger: $300 and up, depending mostly on how easily accessible the dimensions are.
- Oil paintings: Add $50 to the acrylic pricing for sizes 16x20" and smaller; add $75 for larger sizes, as oil paint is very expensive to buy, and the projects take me longer due to do, as the paint dries slowly, and adding wet paint to wet paint simply wipes both layers off of the canvas
- Jewelry: Varies by complexity and size, but prices start at $5.
- Bottle Art: $20 and up
- Graphite Drawings increase and decrease at the same rates and for the same sizes as my acrylic paintings, starting at $125 for a 16x20"
- Charcoal Drawings match acrylic painting prices, as I may go through several drafts and can't really cover up an old attempt to start over
- Conte crayons and chalk pastels increase and decrease at the same rates as acrylic paintings, with 16x20" pieces starting at $175
- Enamel painted items for outdoor display (i.e. doghouses, satellite dishes, etc.) align with oil painting prices, plus the cost of the surface if not provided by the client
A. I definitely work from photographs, though I am open to seated portraits for people (pets tend to be a little too antsy...). 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 currently $9.45 per hour, and which I'm rounding up to $10. 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 about six to eight hours. So, to calculate, let's assume I work on your project for three days for six hours per day. $10 times six hours times three days comes out to $180, so in fact, with a base price of $200, I'm not accumulating much profit. Also consider that those are hours that, by painting, I do not get any other form of outside income, including a paying job, so I'm not making a labor price just to make a profit--it's a very real concern.
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 www.Brushstrokes-by-Niki.com, 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. 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 ten years. I have reason to be cautious. So in the meantime, fill in the contact information on the contact page, or leave me a message on my Facebook business page, and I'll still get the information. Thank you for your understanding!