Chapter 12

CHAPTER XII.

MONEY IN THE FINE ARTS.

Some Things Everybody Ought to Know—An Institution that Teaches “Without Money and Without Price”—A Woman Who Earns $3,000 a Year—The Old Glue-Maker’s Gift to Women—How a Little Girl Earned $300—A Young Woman Who Earned More Than Her Father—“As Rich as a Queen”—Fortunes in Designs—Livings in Lace—One Painter’s Earnings Last Year—Checks in Charcoal—Book Publishers Who are Looking for Ideas.

This is one of the most enjoyable as well as one of the most remunerative occupations. One of the noblest things which Peter Cooper ever did was to found a Free Art School for Women. Not only is it absolutely free to all women, but opportunities are afforded for meritorious pupils to earn no mean sums during their period of instruction.

  1. Crayon Work.—A teacher in the Cooper Institute says: “During the previous year forty of my pupils in art have made $7,000, or $175 each, while learning the art of crayon-photography. Every year one hundred women on leaving the Cooper Institute make from $400 to $1,200 a year by art work.”
  2. Drawing.—One graduate of the Cooper Union is now receiving from $2,000 to $3,000 as a teacher of drawing in the New York public schools, and another has been appointed manager of a decorative art society in New Orleans, with a salary of $150 a month, and opportunities to earn as much more by private tuition.
  3. Photograph Coloring.—“A little girl,” says Mr. Cooper, “came to my house to thank me for what she had learned at the Institute.” “I have earned $300 coloring photographs,” she said with enthusiasm. The coloring of photographs gives employment to many hundreds of young women, and there is no prospect that the market will become glutted.
  4. Oil Painting.—A man in middle life met Mr. Cooper on the stairs of the Institute. “My daughter,” he said, “makes $1,300 a year by teaching painting, and I never earned more than $1,200 myself.” The chief points of oil painting are a good tooth (a canvas which will take color from a brush readily), perspective, fineness of touch, delicate perception, an eye for shades of color, and a bold, free hand. Oil paintings bring from $5 to $50,000, according to merit.
  5. Water Colors.—Paintings in water colors are popular because less expensive than those done in oil. Good work in this department is, however, well paid. Much depends upon the subject and its treatment. It is said that the artist, Mr. John LaFarge, sold about $15,000 worth of water colors last year.
  6. Wood Engraving.—A young woman from California sat on the sofa of Mr. Cooper’s library. “I have come to thank you,” she said. “I feel as rich as a queen. I have thirty pupils in wood engraving.”
  7. Book Decoration.—Publishers of books, and especially of magazines, pay large prices for decorations for the covers, title pages, and other important parts. The secret of success is in the design. If you can find a happy idea, you will get a large price for it. Of course, the point in most cases is to illustrate the subject-matter. A unique conception, happily worked out, will give both fame and money.
  8. Dyeing.—This may not be thought one of the fine arts, but it requires a skill hardly inferior to that of the painter or sculptor. There is a large field in the recoloring of tapestries, silks, and woolen goods. The requisites of success are taste, a good eye for color, knowledge of dye-stuffs, and indefatigable industry in finding a market.
  9. Designs.—These are constantly in demand. Wall paper manufacturers, dressmakers, architects, builders, home decorators, carpet manufacturers, fine-art workers, all want designs. An ordinary kaleidoscope will furnish you thousands of suggestions every day. From these select a few of the best and work them on a fine, white drawing paper. Have a separate folio for each department of drawings, and advertise what you are doing. If you have a real talent for the work, and a show-window, you cannot fail of success in any large, town.
  10. Engraving on Glass.—By the use of the wheel this becomes easy work. The chief fields for its operation are in summer resorts where people wish to carry away a souvenir of the place. One who knows how to display goods can do a very profitable work in the season.
  11. Embroidery.—This is one of the simplest of the arts. The only capital required is a ball of worsted, the only tool a needle, and the only instruction a few elementary rules that can be quickly learned. The demand depends upon the skill. A small store can be cheaply stocked, and its contents sold at a good profit if the articles are unique.
  12. Lace Making.—Our valuable laces are chiefly imported, but there is no reason why work equally good should not be done at home. An immense field yet to be developed is American-made needle-point lace. Get a book on the subject and study it theoretically. Then take lessons of a maker. The book will give you suggestions and enable you, after you have learned the business, to strike out in various directions independently of your teachers.
  13. Drawing in Charcoal.—This is a rapid, facile, and effective method for sketching. The drawings are more especially in demand in summer cottages, tents, and in whatever places lodgings are temporary, and where lodgers dislike the trouble of shipping costly paintings. You can find a ready market for good work at any mountain or seaside resort.
  14. Painting on China.—This is becoming very popular. Few kinds of art pay better than china-firing. The outfit will cost from $15 to $50, according to the size of the kiln, but the pleasure and profit will be worth many hundreds of dollars. If you live in a country town, put your wares in a prominent store, and they will be sure to attract attention.
  15. Portrait Painting.—This is profitable if you can secure sufficient custom. The difficulty is to get the flesh tones, the expression, and the proper degree of illumination. Last year, there were thirty young women in Cooper Institute learning the art, and one-fifth of the number were earning from $5 to $12 a week, even during their tutelage.

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