My Journey from Part-time to Full-time Artist
In 2009, I took a big leap in my art career and participated in a public art show for the first time. Prior to that, I drew. I painted. A lot. So much so, since I graduated high school in the late 80s, I had built up quite a portfolio of work without really thinking about ever doing anything with it. I ended up doing my first art show after a good friend convince me not to let my art continue to sit in my closet collecting dust anymore.
Thus began my career as an artist. After some initial momentum with a few shows, I put my art in a gallery in downtown Indianapolis. During this time, art was a part-time, on-and-off hobby that I tried to fit around my full-time day job. Then in 2011, I got married and moved an hour away from my full-time job and gallery. Something had to give, so I pulled out of the gallery, and most of my extra time was spent commuting with no time left for creating art.
In late 2014, I was fortunate enough to be able to quit my full-time job. My goal was to do art full-time. However, family obligations kept me from pursuing this goal. I did make time to create some art on occasion as well as begin the tedious process of organizing my portfolio and building a digital history of my work. Though I have come a long way, I still have a long way to go to meet all my goals in this area.
Create, Market and Manage to Build Your Art Business
"The world is filled with people who were given great natural gifts…yet never produce anything. And when that happens, the world soon ceases to care whether they are talented.”
~From Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland
This quote, one of my personal favorites, is true. You must be able to continually produce work to be a successful artist. However, the work is only one piece of the equation. You have to balance a variety of important activities as well. If you’re like me, creating art has never really been my problem. Over the years, even with a few long spans of creator’s block, I’ve built a portfolio of nearly 200 pieces of work. Yet, like many artists, I don’t focus like I should on marketing and business activities.
It can be difficult to find the right balance between creating art, marketing and business management. You have to invest time and money, stock your studio, and decide what and when to create your next piece of work. To market yourself, you have to be a relationship builder, book and promote events, and learn to leverage social media. As a business manager, you must track your inventory, maintain/update your website and contacts.
Over the past couple of months, I am thankful I have been able to devote more and more time to my art and my art business. While creating a steady stream of work is a huge part of being an artist, I have had to take small steps back from making art so I could get a handle on the inventory I already have. Some of the things I’ve done (or am in process of doing) to help myself work smarter include:
- Creating a spreadsheet to track my artwork by name and other identifiers
- Organizing the art supplies in my home studio to make things easier to find
- Getting photographs and/or high resolution scans of every piece of my art
- (Finally) Building my own website
- Updating my information on my Redbubble and Fine Art America websites
- Joining local artist organizations, keep my information up-to-date on member rosters
- Finding constructive ways to network with artists (local, online)
The above graphic is a screen shot of a my art inventory spreadsheet. I have very specific columns for categories I want to track long-term. The highlighted fields give me an instant visual of which originals have sold and which pieces I have out in galleries or shows. I also have a second page in the file where I track expenses as well as sales, including any prints and other items with my art printed on it.
A Work in Progress
It has been a few months since I last created any work worth adding to my portfolio. This week, I decided it was about time to end this dry spell and get back to work. I was pretty happy with how it was coming along, and took a picture of the work in progress to post.
This is another page for my coloring book series and I since taking the photo, I have added quite a bit more detail to make it more fun to color. I will create a high resolution scan and write the description and other information for my spreadsheet soon, so look for the finished drawing in the Adult Coloring Gallery Page of my website.
"Spring Paradise", ink drawing for coloring book series, draft in progress
The Future is Now
So that brings me to today. I will always be creating art as much as I can. I have switched my focus so that I can have more of a balance with the marketing and business end of my art business. And I am very excited at the prospect of making connections with other artists who also want to be smart about building their art business.
Thank you for reading this. I hope you will check out my art while you are on my website and remember to check back often to join me in my journey as I grow as an artist.