Monday, May 9, 2016

The "ZILF!" Design

 I just returned home from the post office after shipping about three dozen copies of the ZILF! sticker to buyers all over the US and Europe.  While we aren't talking thousands, or even hundreds of dollars, for an artist basically running his business from his computer, selling two-thirds of your inventory within a week of receiving your stock is a big deal.  It is also evidence of much of the work I have put into my business over the years, slowly generating a largely passive income through my art.

 This is a conversation I often have with my friends and fellow artists.  Some get it, and some don't.  I love making art, that is why I do it.  I love being inspired or having a creative epiphany and seeing my thought manifest themselves.  I would make art even if there were no means to earn an income doing so.  That said, there is a means to earn an income doing so, and in our society you MUST earn an income in some manner to survive and thrive.  

 "Artist" is not a label I feel applies to myself at all times.  In my mind, "artist" is a profession, a way of making a living.  This may seem a very cynical way of defining things, but if you aren't earning a living through your art, then you are a hobbyist.  In fact, from this particular perspective (and I entertain numerous perspectives on the term "artist"), I don't feel a person qualifies as an artist unless art is the primary source of income.  Thus, though I do generate a great deal of material and I do earn money from my efforts, as long as art is not my primary means of income, I am technically not an artist, at least not in totality.

 I have been in the past and hope to again be so in the future, which kind of brings us to the point of this additional rant encapsulating the ZILF! design discussion.

 To be an artist you must earn an income from your art.  The "art-for-art-sakes" crowd is failing to address the reality of their situation.  We all must earn an income.  When we earn an income above and beyond our needs, we have funds with which to purchase materials and allow for the time to make our art.  If those engaged in found-object art need to purchase materials.  The initial reason for earning an income from your art is to pay for future projects.  This frees-up funds from your other income sources to make improvements in your lifestyle and could also increase the quality and quantity of materials purchased for art.  

 For most hobbyists, this is sufficient.  They sell a painting now-and-then and are satisfied with a small following.  There is nothing wrong with this, and it is a mark of success to regularly sell your work.  However, I see and strive for another tier from my art, that of a "passive income".  A passive income is earnings which require no further effort on your part to generate.  Investing is a form of passive income.  Thanks to the Internet, another form of passive income is the creation of content.  Our reality exists in symbiosis with the virtual-reality, and the need for content in the virtual reality has spurred the creation of sights for artists of all kinds to produce their work and earn money from various patrons and sources.  

 Over a dozen years ago, I made the point that I have found a way to make money in my sleep.  Now, the goal is to do so on a level that surpasses my other sources of income.  

 Which brings us to the following question; how many different ways can you sell one work of art?

 I created the ZILF! design in 2013.  I've always been inspired by the Cheesecake photography of the 1950s, lounge-culture of the same era, and the lowbrow art scene spawned in part by those two sources.  The original "ZILF!" design is on 11X14" bristol board in ink, featuring a zombie-girl pin-up, fez-wearing zombie oglers, and a smattering of items common to the lounge and strip-club scene from the '50s era.  The original is available for $500 on my Big Cartel site: https://creativeodditiesstudios.bigcartel.com.

 From there, the design has been expressed in several different iterations on my Cafe Press sales site: http://www.cafepress.com/creativeodditiesstudios.  Though Cafe Press has greatly improved over the years, I am now looking for ways to move away from print-by-piece sites like this one.  They are awesome for people who want to offer merchandise featuring their work and who cannot afford to buy a bulk order.  The downsides are that your profit margin is minimal if you hope to be competitive with similar offerings on the market, and the options regarding formatting are very limited. Through Cafe Press, Zazzle, and Arts Cow, the ZILF! design has been sold as stickers, t-shirts, skateboards, flip-top lighters, and other merchandise.

 The image is also used in publications.  The ZILF design appears in the "Jason Sorrell Coloring Book for Adults", available through Lulu.com, as well as the up-coming "Dirty Dozen" tattoo flash set.  To allow for the variation in design and format, it is important to save the design as it progresses through different stages; from line-drawings to full color image.

 Because of the limitations and small profit margins of the print-by-piece options, I have always wanted to move to the bulk production of my designs.  Crowd-funding has allowed me to potentially reduce the out-of-pocket costs of purchasing in bulk as well as the need to store the inventory by inviting patrons to pre-order at a discount through sites like Kickstarter and GoFundme.  Even if a campaign does not meet your goal, you can still gain invaluable insight about the market viability of a design based on the interest generated.  The result has been the first purchase of a bulk order of high quality, die-cut, vinyl stickers, available directly from me ($5 each, payable through Paypal to sorrellart@hotmail.com).  

 By offering a design through multiple venues and in a variety of formats, you can potentially earn several times the asking price if the original work.  This is how, as an artist and with the advantage of the Internet, you can earn money in your sleep.


 Jason Sorrell is a writer, tattoo artist, satirist, artist, and generally nice guy living in Austin, TX.  He loves answering questions about tattoos.  Shoot him an email at sorrellart@gmail.com

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