How to Start an Artwork and Printmaking Business in Canada

With the advent of the Internet, selling art and print material has been lucrative more than ever. As Barney Davey, the bestselling author of 'How to Profit from the Art Print Market' a definitive guide to selling art, puts it 'people have never stopped buying art'. So, as a Canadian, if you are hoping to start an artsy business, there will certainly be a market for it. The toughest part that you encounter will likely not be as an artist, but as an entrepreneur.

Canada has recently seen an upturn in the economy, so times are not bad for starting a business. However, there will be several essential startup tips that you should know. The Canadian government is by and large business-friendly, but there will be a lot of rules and regulations that you have to follow.

Are You Ready?

Before you call potential investors, you need to first evaluate whether you are ready to do business. If you have no prior business experience in the art and printmaking field, perhaps you shouldn't start your own company right away. You need to learn to walk before you run. Get some real-life experience running a business, shadow other company owners, and know what you are getting into first.

Test Your Ideas

If you are sure you are ready to run your own company, next step is to determine if your business ideas are viable. For example, printmaking, on average, has plummeted as consumers transitioned into digital. Therefore, you should ask yourself 'how would my product sell in this market?' On the other hand, printing on phone cases and similar novelty items have increased. Then you should ask yourself 'how would my product compete with others in this market?' You need to test your product against consumer demand.

Make a Business Plan

You must have a business plan to make your idea into reality. A business plan is essentially a document that contains all the information about your business idea, your products, consumer demand and market statistics. Basically, your business plan should show how you are going to sell your product idea in the current market. You can read sample business plans online. The official website of the Canadian government has detailed instructions on how to write a good business plan.

Find Sources of Funding

Now, the hardest part begins: financing your business. There are several ways to go about this. You can dip into your savings or ask friends and family for the initial capital. You can apply for a small business loan with a bank or a lending institution. You should use your business plan to attract potential investors. Additionally, you can crowdsource the money you need on sites like Kickstarter. Ideally, find more than one source of funding to start your business.

Name Your Company

It may sound easy, but naming your company is a serious task to accomplish. Your company name will determine how customers perceive your business in the future. Therefore, think carefully before naming your company with the first word that comes to mind. You should run this name through the copyright checks to make sure that no one else is using the same name as one that's similar in whole or part. Failing to do so could land you in legal hot water later.

Register Your Business

In the eyes of the Canadian government, your business is not a business until you have a business number (BN) and a program account. The BN is simply a 9-digit identifier for your company given based on the nature of your business. The program account is a profile you register with the Canada Revenue Agency to handle things like corporation income tax, GST/HST, payroll deductions and import or export taxes if applicable. You must get the relevant documentation prepared in advance to get your company registered in a timely manner. Once you have accomplished the above, you will have an art and printmaking business that you can call your own. If you need more information or assistance, refer to the official website of the Canadian government. It would also help to talk to veteran businesspeople, tax attorneys and company owners for further advice.

Additional reading

What is Printmaking?

The process of printmaking is an art form and it takes years to perfect. When prints are made, they're typically made out of an original plate surface. The surface used in the process is called the matrix. There are quite a few different types of matrixes available for printmaking including wood blocks, linoleum, metal and more. Each different surface type has their own use depending on the type of printing that needs to be done. Fabric plates for example, are used when print needs to be done on screen and other soft surfaces.

When a set number of limited edition products go out, some artists will usually sign each product that goes out. This process is known as conventional fine printing and is used by not only artists but companies that produce a limited quantity of a product.

The Three Methods of Printmaking

There's three main principal methods that are followed when doing printmaking. However, not all of these methods are followed exactly 100% and they're going to differ based on the product specifications.

First is what's known as relief printing. To do relief print, you have to first cut the background down and this will allow you to carefully place the ink where you need it to be. Relief printing is the main method used for linoleum and wood printmaking. The process of doing relief printing starts as follows:

Next, we have intaglio printing. Intaglio is simply Italian that states 'to engrave'. For this process, you're going to need a tool called a burin. If a burin is not used, then the plate used will be coated with a wax like substance that's acid resistant. A metal needle will be needed by the artist if burin is not used. Intaglio is commonly used for etches, engravings, aquatints, mezzotints and dry points.

Finally, we have planography printing which is also known as surface printing. Some areas beforehand on the surface will be treated to retain any ink used but the entire surface is going to come into play. Ink is first applied to the entire surface but the ink is only going to stick to those areas that were previously treated, usually with grease marks.

There's a less common method available that's not part of the main three methods for printmaking. This method is known as stencil printing and was used by Andy Warhol when he would draw 1960s stars and celebrities. This is a fairly straight forward method where designs are drawn directly onto the screen and then any areas that aren't drawn on get sealed up with glue. Sometimes varnish can be used as well but glue usually suffices.

Today, a lot of digital software and machinery is available to help the printmaking process. One of the newer digital fine arts that's available out on the market today is known as giclee prints.

Universities & Facilities

For those looking to get into printmaking, you'll need to get into a decent Alberta printmaking school. There are a couple of distinct options out there.

First is University of Alberta. The University of Alberta emphasizes heavily on printmaking. All students are provided with their very own workspace, they get all of the equipment and tools required to do printmaking as well. The art studio focuses on privacy and allowing students to explore their ambitions.

Second is the Alberta College of Art and Design. This is one of the larger art focused schools in Alberta. Students get access to a large facility with a silkscreen studio, a format electric press, etching press, rollers, lithography studio, print resource room and all three to four year students even get their own dedicated studio.