Do you have the desire to create art as a fulltime career but aren’t sure how to make it a reality? My book The Successful Artist’s Career Guide has the answers! Marion Boddy-Evans from About.com says, “It’s like an upbeat, introductory course to being a freelance artist where you encounter lots of success stories along with being given the tools and fundamental information to plan your own path.” From now until April 20 you have the opportunity to be entered into the running for a FREE copy! To enter the contest all you have to do is ask me any question regarding your artistic career in the comment section of this post. That’s it. Not only will you receive free advice from a professional artist, but you will have the chance to win your own copy of The Successful Artist’s Career Guide. Consider it just another step in your own journey to success. Read a free excerpt of The Successful Artist’s Career Guide on Amazon.
My name is Cynthia and I am a budding Jewelry Artist. In my area there is a new Artist garage that just opened up in past year. The vendors that I met have been so nice. I showed them my work and there was a discussion about consignment of my pieces in the shops or they would buy my pieces out right. I did consignment before with a friend and they didn’t ask for anything but I gave them 10% of the sale. What should I do? Some of the shops want to carry some of my pieces or want to place orders for more things I am happy but overwhelmed at the same time. Thank you so much, Cynthia L. Sexton Capricorn Moon Jewelry Design
Thanks for writing! That sounds like a really nice opportunity. I have a couple of thoughts. Each vendor probably has an idea of what percentage of the sale they would like to carry your pieces in their shop–because, after all, they make money off the sale of your pieces, and the service they are offering you is a place to sell your work. I would ask the vendors up front what that percentage is. Then, the percentage you give to each vendor should be the same–because otherwise, similar pieces of your jewelry are selling for different prices all over the Artist Garage, and that could be awkward for you.
I would also caution you to then up your prices on your website to reflect the percentage added on to the jewelry being sold in the shops. Your vendors don’t want to have a piece of your jewelry on sale in their shop for $50 to find out that the customer could get it on your website for $40.
Good luck with this! It sounds great.
I am a traditional oil and digital artist. I live in a rural area so it’s difficult to get people to come to my studio because of the distance from metroplex. How would you market a one-woman art show, and what are some of your thoughts and experiences in marketing and possible good locations for such a show? Thank you, Peggy T. in Texas.
I think your best bet is to get a GalleryGuide for your closest metro center, and explore the galleries there–what kind of art they represent, and what their submission guidelines are. If you work has a specific focus, say, birds, landscapes or other subject matter, you might try targeting non-tradtional venues–a bird sanctuary that has a wonderful visitors center, for example. Good luck!
This is actually perfect timing! I have just made a medium-shift from art small-scale laser cut mixed media, and am feeling very lost about how to find my niche (where to submit my work, which venues take smaller work seriously, are there professional groups I should join, do they need to be local, are there any types of opportunities I should not bother with, ect…). So I guess my question is, what is a good plan for an emerging artist who shifts the focus of her work just as she was starting to figure out where to direct her career-building energies, and who now feels quite lost?
There are venues in NYC that deal in small scale assemblage works, such as Pavel Zoubok. If you work in paper, you should not miss the Works on Paper show at the Park Avenue Armory as there is a good representation of galleries from all over the world who are there, and some represent contemporary artists. And mixed media is often embraced by the fiber arts community, and there are always exhibition opportunities with them. If you are doing very small work, you could explore the miniature art world. Good luck!
Any advice for getting past a creative block, largely caused by fear, and back to work in the studio? I feel so helpless.
I DO have an idea. Have you ever made inkblots before? You don’t need any new stuff to do it–watercolors work, ink, anything. Fold and unfold a piece of paper, drip some ink or other water based paint on one side of the page, drip a little water, fold and unfold. Make several of these. Then go back and look at them–pos and neg space. If you see anything, draw around it. Color into it w colored pencils. If you don’t see anything, look at them all before you go to bed, and then again in the morning. Your subconscious mind will have started to see into them. This is what I do when I am blocked, and it is very liberating–liberating to be making something with materials you already know and love, and liberating to not be in control of the image or what you see in it.
Any advice for the beginner who hasn’t had college schooling?
The nicest thing about college is that you learn about the history of art in the world, and also where one might fit in the continuum of art making. Another inspiring thing is having deadlines. And finally, but not least, is having teachers and colleagues to give you feedback.
Without going to college, I would suggest making or finding these things for yourself–find a group of artists with whom you can meet–say, a figure drawing group in your town (or gather such a group yourself if none exists). Make a date with yourself every week to go to the library to look at art books, or to a museum or surf the web. Deadlines are the hardest to conjure for yourself. But maybe find a couple competitions you might like to enter, and prepare for those deadlines, or enter yourself in an art or craft collective that is having a sale in three months…
I am part of a large group of artists. The frustrating subject that regularly comes up; Customers complain about the price of hand-made artwork at an arts-crafts show but think nothing of plunking money down at one of these jewelry home shows, department stores or other locations where the jewelry is inevitably made in China. Many using a cheap mixed metal component. The cost of materials and hours it takes a US artist is more than a poorly paid Chinese worker using cheaper materials. What to do even if you try to explain this to a customer?
Boy, I hear you. This is a real problem. And you are one of many I have heard complaining about this very thing! But maybe the thing to do is make a positive out of a negative–put up some fun signage at your next show together that stresses the green benefits of shopping locally from local artists and artisans. In any publicity for an event, you could make that front and center of your ad campaigns. And finally, you could offer hand printed totes (cheap blank totes available at dharmatrading.com) that congratulated the shopper on choosing cool, locally sourced fine arts and crafts. This would support and advertise the group, and people would leave feeling warm about doing their part for the environment, local artists–and even America!
I see a lot of artists painting very large at some shows. Sometimes the work is not so good but they get a lot of accolades just for the mere sizes. What is your opinion?
I love large work if there is some reason for it to be large. You know? Work that is very large or very small is wonderful for how we relate to both physically as human beings. But the heart and meaning of the work has to drive its size, of course, not an outside force of what might be popular.
I had a book binding teacher who said that every aspect of a book, from its size, to the choice of book cloth color, to the thread that sews the folio together, has to be driven by the contents of the book. So–let the insides drive the size. Good luck!
I have a similar question to what katheryn Grier asked…creative blocks!
How does one fight against creative blocks and what do you do in the meantime to get past it?
I am looking for the secret answer 😉
I would say the same thing to you as I said to Katheryn. Inkblots are my tried and true go-to for getting past blocks. But you can also try this trick that I learned painting scenery for the theater. Put a large pad of paper, newsprint, on the floor, or a big piece from a roll of kraft paper, and tape it down. Tape a soft drawing pencil to a long light weight stick, like a yardstick or a bamboo stick like what you can get at a florist. Stand above the paper and draw with this new long drawing device. You will be surprised at how wonderfully loose your marks can be–and it’s fun. You can also use a brush taped to a stick and ink…
I’ve just started blogging and wonder about privacy issues. I use pictures from our farm and wonder if I’m doing a dangerous thing. Should I get stock photos? Or not worry?
My book is coming out in July and I also feel overwhelmed with all the marketing I have to do, both financially and time wise. Hal Fickett is helping a great deal but wondered about your insights.
I have heard lots of people say not to use pictures of one’s children, or reveal personal details (“tomorrow we are all leaving for a three week cruise!”) about one’s whereabouts online. That’s just common sense. But if you are blogging and writing about your farm and farm life, then I think using pictures of the farm is great. Maybe just be choosy about what you include.
As regards to book promotion, I benefited tremendously by taking a class at NYU on Publicity. That’s not to say that’s what you should do, too, but it helped me look at the problem of publicity as a fun puzzle instead of treacherous shoals. Hal is a great resource and guide, and hiring someone to help on occasion–like a big push, or for a specific event–takes the pressure off.
I’ve got that mental block problem also! I am working on becoming an art teacher (and I’m almost 50!), but I’d love to create more artwork and be represented locally. What can you recommend to combat all those excuses for not taking time to work on my art? I love the inkblot idea and used it for an art camp last year–the kids loved it too!
That is so interesting. What is it about all of us that we fight against the thing that ultimately gives us so much satisfaction? Well–for one thing, I would say to do your work on a regular schedule. That way, your mind and body get accustomed to routine, and ideas will flow more readily. When you get yourself in there, try to leave the studio (or your designated creative space) with one obvious task undone–a stack of prints to title and sign, a coat of varnish to put on a finished work. That way, when you enter your studio, there is a task to complete, and you won’t spend time dithering about What to Do Next.Hemingway tried to leave his writing when things were going well. This is a good idea for any kind of artist–leave your work when great ideas are still flowing and you are still having fun, so you can’t WAIT to get back to your creative work. Good luck!
Hello Margaret! I am an emerging artist in Missouri. My question is what is the best website to get noticed or sell your art on? So far, I have tried storeenvy.com, fineartamerica.com, etsy, ebay, deviantART, and bigcartel.com. I have my own website also but it doesn’t receive any “traffic”. I have tried the postcards/business cards, and emailing galleries. It seems that any marketing technique that other artists use, does not work for me. Do you have any suggestions or reccomendations?
Sometimes, even when you have made a clear decision about something you want to do–in your case, to sell your artwork–you have to make some sub-decisions about what it is exactly that you sell. And, even thought it seems antithetical to the artistic spirit, it serves us all well to make a business plan. Who is our audience? What do we want to provide them with? Identify exactly what you are selling–paintings? Prints? Or are you selling images that would be awesome on t-shirts? Or printed in limited edition books? Then–pick one venue, like Etsy, for example, and concentrate all your energy on that–check out other etsy stores, read about tagging, titles, descriptions and how to maximize your presence within that one venue. Don’t get discouraged, and keep after it. Good luck!
What a great idea for a Giveaway 🙂 I’m having a tough time coming up with a Story for my About Page…any tips on how best to tackle this? Thank you!
I think the best About page says something personal about you (you have done this very well), and something about the work. You have told me what your medium is, but not what your imagery is about. The images you have posted have a kind of tarot feeling, and your header artwork implies the cosmos–but that is just me supposing–so build a bridge for me, the website visitor, that tells me what your work is about. It can be as quirky and idiosyncratic as you have hinted in your website that you are! Good luck!
This book sounds very interesting, and I believe it will help me very much~
How much time would you recommend to spend on an artistic ability or activity each day?
I don’t know that there is a hard and fast rule about exactly how much time to spend in the studio each day. I know that some artists spend their best time (when they are the most refreshed and alive–for some it is the morning, and some the afternoon or evening) making their art, and an equal amount of time in the day doing the business of art (making contacts, answering emails, sending out packets of images and application materials). Other artists put aside a day or two a week to put on their business hat, and spend the other days of the week making art. I think as long as you are working on a regular schedule, it almost doesn’t matter how you sort it out for yourself. And don’t forget to give yourself time off in the week to recharge your batteries. Good luck!
I have a lot of “serious” art and “less-serious” crafts interests and hobbies and I’ve always wanted to be able to earn some sort of income off of one of them. With all the other things to take care of in a day, though, it never seems like I have time to buckle down on just one thing… And I never enjoy making stuff that I know will sell or commissions for other people as much as I like making things (paintings, clothes, toys, etc.) for myself. Do you have any advice on how to balance these things?
I think this sounds great. I also have lots of stuff that I explore for myself for fun that seem less serious. But sometimes the less serious stuff totally fuels my serious work. It is possible for both of us that the problem lies in the words “serious” and “less-serious.” Those words might be totally bogus, and you should make the work that moves you and pleases you. In fact, you could explore other “serious” artists who make toys, paper theater, dollhouses, tatebanko, clothes, and see where your two sides can mesh forever. Good luck!
i have allot of artwork that i have drawn and created .
how do i take that to the next step putting it into a book
what is my cost to do so ?? thank you
Do you want to self publish a book? There are lots of on line venues for self publishing. But perhaps the first thing to do is to step back a couple of steps and figure out what it is you hope to gain by self publishing a book of your work. Do you want to sell it? Or have it for your own pleasure? Or use it for a portfolio, like a booklet of illustrations to send to art directors or book editors. OR, if you have thought of putting your work in a book, it might be that on some subconscious level, you see your work in sequence, as telling a story. Maybe you are a graphic novelist, or maybe a book artist. So, I guess I would plot out my goals for this book work before sinking the money into it. Good luck!
when selling paintings – is it just best to accumulate many many originals for selling -or- have less quantity & sell a few prints, as money allows, along the way, for the printing ?
I am not sure about this. Retail sales can be mysterious, especially for art. It depends I think on where you are selling. If you are selling in a collective, you might want to have a few higher end pieces, paintings, say, and also some things you can offer for less money, such as prints. If you are doing art and craft fairs, then you will also want to have some things that can be sold for very little money–small giclee prints, or even printed cards. If you have a steady sales situation, you might find that lots of one kind of thing sells like gangbusters, and another kind of thing just sits there. Then you have to put on your businessman hat and try to figure out what to do with, or how to move the stagnant stuff. Good luck!
Hello!! How can I ensure that I’m not undercharging myself as an artist? I live in a really rural area and I often find myself trying to reasonable and accomidate potential clients, but I always feel that I’m under charging myself.
Figuring out what to charge for artwork is always a trick, and especially figuring out what your local market will bear. Obviously, metropolitan artists can charge more for their work than rural artists. The world wide web can even out the playing field, however. I would suggest that you pick an on line marketplace for art sales (Etsy, even), and surf through all the storefronts there and see what people are charging for stuff that is similar to yours. Then set up a marketplace (after copious research and reading of all the Etsy marketing books in the library), and start experimenting with commerce! Good luck!
I have trouble with pricing my work. Do you have any basic guidelines?
The basic thing is to figure out how much you would like to get paid by the hour, add up your hours for work on a specific piece, add your materials, and double that–that is the price of your piece. That is super-simplistic, of course What you can charge by the hour is largely dependent on where you are in your career (emerging artists can charge less than established ones) and where you are (metropolitan artists can charge more than rural ones, and this varies also by region). Perhaps the best way to figure out what your local market will bear is to do a fact finding tour of your area, looking at galleries, cafes that show artwork, etc, and see what people are charging for similar work. If the work in your area is not going for what you would need to make your art sales viable, then consider an on line selling option. Also–don’t forget–no gallery wants to see that you are selling your work on your website for less than they are selling it in their gallery. This makes for very bad feelings. So–add the gallery markup onto your web sales prices. Good luck!
Hi, this contest seems like a sign from beyond. I have been struggling with committing to a career as an artist for quite some time but deal with the critic in my head; (encouraged by naysayers at a young age) telling me that I can’t earn a living as an artist/illustrator.
My question would be, how to stay motivated and committed to my dream as an income earning artist and silence that negative inner voice?
thank you very much.
The first thing to do is some exploring–of yourself, of what you think you might want to do. Go to the library, look at art books, leaf through magazines, surf the web. Decide what specifically you would like to do, and then list the first three steps to getting there, as best as you can. Do you want to illustrate children’s books? Then look for your local chapter of SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), attend a meeting, ask what the next steps might be (developing a portfolio, for example). Look at children’s books in the library, analyzing how they work, how many pages, who publishes the ones you love. If kids books illustration isn’t your thing, decide what IS. Decisions, especially specific ones, have power and magic in them. As soon as you make a couple, doors will open and your path will get clearer. Good luck!
I am an artist and use various medium to create my work from traditional clay to watercolours. I just have a need to do, rather than a set task if that makes sense. This need/desire has increased since suffering meningitus although its only been in the last couple of days that i’ve felt confident enough to even pick up a pencil. I really want to get my mind focused again, but i am finding it a struggle! I’m hoping some one will read this and have some advice for me.. i’m so frustrated. :-/
At the risk of sounding like a broken record (I have suggested this to two others!), I think inkblots are the best thing for getting into the studio and plowing through blocks and fears. Did you do them as a kid? They are still magical–fold a piece of paper, and unfold. Drop some watery water colors of yours on a half of the page. Fold and unfold, and see what you have. Make ten of these (it will be hard to stop at ten). Then set them all out to admire, and see if you can see anything in them–creatures, plants, landscapes. Draw into them with colored pencils. Pin them all around your studio, and they will continue to speak volumes to you as you slowly regain your strength and get back to your chosen media. Good luck!
My most difficult issue is pricing my work.
When I am creating something, I don’t notice how much time I spend in the process so it’s difficult to calculate an amount.
Is there a formula I can use to make this easier?
Thank you for the opportunity.
A have a friend who, when she is making an artwork, tapes a piece of paper on the back of her canvas or assemblage, and when she starts working on it, she signs in, noting the time, and when she stops, she signs out. At the end of working on the project, she will have an approximate idea of how much time it took to do each piece. I know this might seem like an anathema to creativity, but you might find at some point, that it is delightful to know how long things take to complete. It is like when you read a wonderful novel, and you have gone miles in the book, and through every twist and turn, and then look at your watch and realize that you have only spent fifteen minutes reading. Good luck!
I am so excited to have found you. I did so through the Create Mixed Media facebook page. She posted about your awesome giveaway. I have dreamed of having a creative business for years. I have time restrictions as I am a stay at home mom. I’d like to launch a line of prints of my doodles and calligraphy, but am unsure of how to go about it with the time constraints I have. Any advice on that would be great! Thank you for doing this. Even if I don’t win the book, there is a wealth of information in your answers to these artists here and I’m gonna read every one of them! 🙂
What a lovely note! A line of prints sounds great! There are lots of wonderful books out there about selling in the handmade marketplace–I have been reading them, recently. There are loads of tools for increasing traffic to your storefront. But the thing that captured my attention the most was the idea of community in the digital marketplace. What if you started a group that met in a real physical space (it could even be your house, since you have kids), where you made stuff together and supported each other, and then potentially could start your own holiday arts and crafts fair? You could do this in a church common room, or in another public space. If you were doing the event and the prep with other parents, you could chip in for a babysitter to watch more than one kid. The kids would have some great social time with other kids, and you could lay the groundwork for your business. Another possibility is to use heat transfer paper (get the good stuff from dharmatrading.com) and transfer some of your imagery onto fabric–not necessarily t-shirts, but maybe napkins, tea towels, table runners, bags. Good luck!
What was the one biggest thing you did to kick off your career in the art world?
What a great question. The best decision I made was to go to college and study art. I think because deciding to be an artist and committing to it had intention and power behind it: I was invested. Learning about art through the ages and across cultures began a lifelong love of learning about art from all over, and the studio classes built the beginnings of a daily art-making practice. The second thing that happened that helped a lot was having a loathsome job briefly, when I first moved to NYC, as a textile design salesperson (not my own designs–I was repping designs from Italy, mostly). I had to learn how to make cold telephone calls, and being a shy person to begin with, this was no small feat. I didn’t love that job, but the silver lining was that now I can call and talk to anyone about anything!
hello!! I make jewellry for about 10+ years, the hardest part is pricing. I also write short stories. One day I would like to be a little less poor doing these things, I’m grateful for the help you offer in this.
I agree with you that pricing can be difficult. With jewelry, however, you can surf around on line at the various hand made marketplaces and see what things similar to yours are selling for. I have talked in other answers here about how prices change from region to region, and from urban areas to rural ones. But the thing that might be fun for you is to combine your two interests. What if each piece of your jewelry was packaged in a wonderful box, and was accompanied by a micro-short story? So that each piece had a fantasy-history? That might be a way that your jewelry work could stand out from the crowd, and also be fun to market. Good luck!
I have always wanted to make a living off my art. But gave up to work 9-5 for money. In middle age and know the error I made. I am a traditional and digital painter. Rural area. Is it worth doing the Tshirt sites and art sites to showcase work. How do you come up with prices. And my biggest issue where to get items printed to sell say on your website or etsy etc. really trying to make a go of this.
There are multiple ways to go about a tshirt business. One is to invest in a digital fabric printer, and print your own blanks in your studio. Another is to design silkscreen images and explore silkscreening as way to print designs. You might also find a printer that will print your work for you at a reduced cost–ask around who prints the local school’s basketball shirts, for example. Then, you have to decide if you want to sell your images on line, or if you want to do the arts and crafts fairs, or both. And you have to put on your marketing hat–if you imagery has a particular focus, what other venues might be interested in your work? Gift stores at hospitals, at the aquarium, at historical sites, tourist spots, Harley conventions, Comic-cons–what group might be interested in your images? And how can you reach them? Good luck!
I read that to market your art you must know what it brings to the public and I’m struggling with that. How is it possible to know that when you are beginning in your career and don’t have many feedback from viewers?
This is an interesting question. Your art has to generate from yourself. I think the reason people are moved by any art (from music to visual art to fiction) is because it offers a window onto another person’s experience of life. So, to begin your work life trying to suss out what other people want and trying to create that for them will be unsustainable–and not a very rich experience for you. Unless, of course, you are working in a collaborative situation, or on commission, where you still have to do work that is yours, but also are beholden to another’s idea as well. So–I would suggest continuing to work on your imagery and ideas, and when you start to build a cohesive body of work, then look at it objectively, maybe with a couple of artist friends, and figure out how you might place it in the world. Good luck!
I am planning a how-to art book with some of my unique techniques. I am thinking to do the projects, photograph the steps, write the how-to instructions and compile all into a book proposal to submit to publishers. Am I putting the cart before the horse? Should I float a proposal with one example how to with pictures and project ideas list with the publishers first to see who bites instead? Thanks so much for your advice on this subject and all the other comments before mine. Love the energy in your responses! 😀
This sounds great! What about this for submitting to publishers–three chapters (incl pictures and how to), and an outline for what the rest of the book might be. That way, they get a real sense of what you are about, and your writing style, but you don’t have to write the whole book before you have a client. Also, you should check out what books might be found with your potential book on a book store shelf, and write a marketing analysis–how your book would compare and contrast. Good luck!
Excellent advice Margaret! Thanks so much for your comment. I really appreciate your sage insight. Sounds like a plan I can act on that’s not too overwhelming, yet just enough to get the ball rolling in the right direction. Made my day!!!
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