Making money and a career from art?

Hello all,

I will be out of a job come October, and I want to start seeing if I could possibly make some money from painting more seriously than I have been in the past. Whether that be selling work, commissions, contacting galleries, etc. My only issue is how to start? I've done commissions in the past, but never had a steady stream of clients. Selling original work has also been slow, I've only ever sold one or two drawings.
Does anyone have any advice? I am well aware it won't be easy or maybe not even possible; but I am pretty confident in my work ethic and my ability to paint my arm off :)

Thanks! Photo attached so you can see my style of work.

Comments

  • CBGCBG -
    edited August 13
    @tinafigartist
    As a complete hobbyist and a newbie I will leave it to others to offer practical/business advice.

    I do make the general observation that there is a big dose of truth in sentiments I have heard from various creatives, that an artist creates the best work when creating what she would like to see created, something she find's compelling, when one does that one tap's into something real and genuine, something deep and human, something that other people (at least some) will also find compelling, and worthy of experiencing.

    The greatest music was surely composed for the ear of the composer, and some of the best films were those the film-maker most wanted to see themselves... and some of the best art also.


    so in addition to any practical advice anyone can give you, I would say this:

    Seek what you wish to see in a painting... chase the visions you most desire to encounter on the canvas... worlds, people, scenes, things ideas, colors, forms... whatever excites or moves you and gets you passionate about art... paint the paintings you would love to keep .. but are willing to sell... (maybe chase your visions with many paintings,,, and perhaps keep one) and then do lots of that, honing your craft... something real and compelling and worth buying will no doubt be the result if you are diligent, earnest, and brave.

    Best of luck and please keep posting your work!


    Now, others can give you the real advice... 


    buchmarshall
  • edited August 13
    There are basically two ways that I know of if you're just starting out. Get taken on by a gallery or go it alone online. In the latter case there's Instagram, Facebook, YouTube etc. and/or you could have your own website through which you could sell. I imagine this all takes a lot of time and effort and money to set up well, I know next to nothing about all this but many very good artists such as Andrew Tischler do it this way.

    Then there's gallery representation. Getting a gallery to take you on is not easy. Obviously the work has to say something original and have wall presence. From my own experience it can help a lot if you already have some showing history. This can be achieved by entering shows/competitions and, hopefully, winning some prizes and making some sales. That's how I get started.  Or, you could approach the gallery directly with your work. I was lucky in that a gallery found me because it was involved in judging local community shows in which I had entered work. But commercial galleries often are involved in this sort of thing so I imagine it's not all that unusual for winners to be asked to sign a contract with a gallery. But, obviously, you need to get your work out there for them to see it. So, enter shows/competitions. Even if you don't win a prize, the public often buys works entered in such shows and selling work is a shot in the arm in itself in that you get to know that someone likes your work enough to pay money for it. As well as getting the $$ this is a great confidence booster and something like "Mary Jones has work in collections in the US and abroad"  can look good on your artist CV which you can show a gallery. I would advise setting your prices at such shows at a modest level to begin with. 

    Also, you have to realize that just because you have gallery representation does not mean you are going to make a fortune overnight, if ever. Even with a gallery behind you it is very difficult to make a decent living out of painting. Most galleries will take a cut of anywhere between 40 and 60 percent of sales. Then there are the costs of materials and framing which are borne by the artist and usually you will have to contribute to the marketing costs for you yearly exhibition at the gallery. Moreover, most contracts will stipulate that the gallery has sole rights to show and sell your work so that will put paid to selling online. Some galleries will allow this but will insist on getting their commission as per the contract. And then there's the possibility that one's work will not sell well. In which case the gallery can let you go. 

    It's a hard road but you say you have a good work ethic so, if you love painting and want to try to make a go of it, then give it your best. Good luck with it. 
    buchmarshallanweshaphoria01
  • CBG said:
    @tinafigartist
    As a complete hobbyist and a newbie I will leave it to others to offer practical/business advice.

    I do make the general observation that there is a big dose of truth in sentiments I have heard from various creatives, that an artist creates the best work when creating what she would like to see created, something she find's compelling, when one does that one tap's into something real and genuine, something deep and human, something that other people (at least some) will also find compelling, and worthy of experiencing.

    The greatest music was surely composed for the ear of the composer, and some of the best films were those the film-maker most wanted to see themselves... and some of the best art also.


    so in addition to any practical advice anyone can give you, I would say this:

    Seek what you wish to see in a painting... chase the visions you most desire to encounter on the canvas... worlds, people, scenes, things ideas, colors, forms... whatever excites or moves you and gets you passionate about art... paint the paintings you would love to keep .. but are willing to sell... (maybe chase your visions with many paintings,,, and perhaps keep one) and then do lots of that, honing your craft... something real and compelling and worth buying will no doubt be the result if you are diligent, earnest, and brave.

    Best of luck and please keep posting your work!


    Now, others can give you the real advice... 



    I always love your comments and insight; you have such a way of speaking (typing?) that makes for great story telling.

    But I will keep all of this in mind! It does get difficult to stay true to your creativity when you're creating work for others (like some commissions), that's why I like working on personal projects so much more <3
    CBG
  • I have no real advice to add other than you will be successful. Your painting is awesome in the fact you capture moments in life and expressions well. If this is the overall feel of the way you paint you have a very cool look… I love it! 
    Your painting has that Norman Rockwell vibe!!!
    Marshall  
    tassieguytinafigartist
  • edited August 13
    Those are sad statistics, @dencal. But it's as well to be aware of them.

    Perhaps it boils down to this: good original paintings are luxury items for most ordinary working people who make up the vast bulk of the population. Somehow, an artist's work has to be put before those few who have money to spend on things other than food, rent and mortgage repayments. The wealthy have to see it. That takes marketing expertise. If you have such expertise or if you can get it, then it's probably makes sense to have a go at selling your work online. However, if you don't have these skills and never will, then a gallery is probably your best bet. 
    tinafigartist
  • @tinafigartist

    What is making living for you? Augmenting a regime of part time jobs? Making a living wage selling paintings? How much do you need to live and maintain your life and business? It is a business. How good are you at business? Do you take direction well? Who do you know? Where do you live?

    When I was a kid I looked at the illustrations in the magazine my mother bought. That's what I wanted to do. I went to commercial art school in 1967 getting a degree in illustration.

    I have made my way as a commercial and fine artist for over 50 years. In the beginning I had no idea what I was doing. Just that I was done with factory work and waiting tables. I was lucky meeting a few people who brought me along. One day I was hitch hiking into Boston and a guy picked me up because he saw me carrying a portfolio. He took a look and dropped me off at Kennedy Studio's on Beacon Hill. Bob Kennedy took a look at my work and invited me to join his studio. Even giving me a place to crash and giving me my fist commission for an acrylic painting of Quincy Market. I lived and worked out of that insane wonderful place for over 10 years. I learned how to keep books. Start and run business. Manage client relationships. I developed mad commercial art skills learning from the master. 
    During that time I didn't need much to survive. No student loans. No debt and pot was cheap.
    My life has continued in this vain meeting and being mentored by brilliant, artistic and crazy talents. 

    Selling art today is different than the 1970s. Today you need top computer skills to connect in the art community. Including excellent digital art skills. The works that I did was all print based until 1986. In 1986 I became a digital artist overnight. I had to. But I was still working when everyone else I'd worked with up to then was driving a UPS truck.

    I can only give you what experienced in a life of making art. If it's your dream and you feel you have to goods and the backbone go for it. It's very rewarding.

    Feel free to ask me about specifics via PM
    tinafigartistphoria01
  • I have no real advice to add other than you will be successful. Your painting is awesome in the fact you capture moments in life and expressions well. If this is the overall feel of the way you paint you have a very cool look… I love it! 
    Your painting has that Norman Rockwell vibe!!!
    Marshall  

    This comment is so kind, thank you dearly!
    buchmarshall
  • How many paintings to you have in your portfolio?  Would they be suitable to offer as prints?   How rapidly do you paint?  How much $$$ do you requite to live on?

    Doug Hall in Missouri lives on his family property and built his own log cabin from logs he harvested himself.  He heats with wood drinks well water and harvests much of his own game.   He didn;t have indoor plumbing until a few years ago.  He does this because he paints Easter Woodland Indians from around the time of the Revolutionary War and he wants to live the same lifestyle and also in order to minimize his living expenses.

    If you are in a position to minimize living expenses, that helps a lot.

    You have a good work ethic, so you need to figure out how much time you need to decvote to painting and how much time to marketing and sales. That's why I asked how fast you can paint.  You need time to produce paintings and you need to spend as much or more time marketing.

    I'll tell you a couple of stories about two beginning stockbrokers.  That's a tough business to break into also.

    One was a guy that spent 12 to 16 hours a day making cold telephone calls to find clients.  Once call after another,  Hundreds a day!  He was on the east coast, so he extended his telephone time by working his way west toward the end of the day.  He ended up being a top broker for his company.  

    Another is my cousin.  He started his business with no contacts in a medium sized town.  He got out and walked the pavement from business to business and spoke to the owners, managers, and anyone who would listen and explained that he was starting a business as a stock broker and that he would like their business.  He is now a multi-millionaire.  

    My point is, if you want it badly enough and are willing to work harder than anyone else around, you will ultimately be successful.  If you have a way to minimize your expenses while you are building, that will help enormously.

    There's a book you should get.  I like it best in the Audible version which is only $4.99.  It is called "The War of Art" by Steven Pressfield.  (NOT The Art of War!!!! )   It is extremely motivating!  Here's a link...

    AmazonSmile: The War of Art (Audible Audio Edition): Steven Pressfield, Steven Pressfield, Black Irish Entertainment LLC: Audible Books & Originals
  • mstrick96 said:
    How many paintings to you have in your portfolio?  Would they be suitable to offer as prints?   How rapidly do you paint?  How much $$$ do you requite to live on?

    Doug Hall in Missouri lives on his family property and built his own log cabin from logs he harvested himself.  He heats with wood drinks well water and harvests much of his own game.   He didn;t have indoor plumbing until a few years ago.  He does this because he paints Easter Woodland Indians from around the time of the Revolutionary War and he wants to live the same lifestyle and also in order to minimize his living expenses.

    If you are in a position to minimize living expenses, that helps a lot.

    You have a good work ethic, so you need to figure out how much time you need to decvote to painting and how much time to marketing and sales. That's why I asked how fast you can paint.  You need time to produce paintings and you need to spend as much or more time marketing.

    I'll tell you a couple of stories about two beginning stockbrokers.  That's a tough business to break into also.

    One was a guy that spent 12 to 16 hours a day making cold telephone calls to find clients.  Once call after another,  Hundreds a day!  He was on the east coast, so he extended his telephone time by working his way west toward the end of the day.  He ended up being a top broker for his company.  

    Another is my cousin.  He started his business with no contacts in a medium sized town.  He got out and walked the pavement from business to business and spoke to the owners, managers, and anyone who would listen and explained that he was starting a business as a stock broker and that he would like their business.  He is now a multi-millionaire.  

    My point is, if you want it badly enough and are willing to work harder than anyone else around, you will ultimately be successful.  If you have a way to minimize your expenses while you are building, that will help enormously.

    There's a book you should get.  I like it best in the Audible version which is only $4.99.  It is called "The War of Art" by Steven Pressfield.  (NOT The Art of War!!!! )   It is extremely motivating!  Here's a link...

    AmazonSmile: The War of Art (Audible Audio Edition): Steven Pressfield, Steven Pressfield, Black Irish Entertainment LLC: Audible Books & Originals

    I have about 15-20 paintings in my portfolio! More are done of course, but not some of my "top" work. They would be available for prints, I just don't have the audience that would buy them. I paint pretty quick, but it makes me a while to complete a painting since I work 4 days a week, so that cuts down available painting time a lot.

    I will check out that book, thank you so much! I am reaching out more, locally and online. Marketing is tough, but I hope to get the hang of it.
  • @tinafigartist I think that marketing is going to be your most important "job" no matter what business you are trying to start.

    Don't think of it as some mysterious "process".  Just think of it as getting out and talking to as many people as possible about your art.  Use as many different avenues as you can.  Local galleries, social media, email.  

    In my previous life, I was an engineer and was Director of Engineering for my company for ten years before I burned out from the stress.  I then moved to International Sales Manager for the same company.  I decided I was NOT going to be a typical "salesman", but instead was going to talk about the products (laboratory instruments) that I was responsible for designing to answer questions and solve problems.  I never once brought up "buying".  I just presented the instrument in a low key manner.  The result was that my territory went from the worst on the company to the fastest growing and it was growing faster then the company was. 

    I think low key. low pressure selling works in art too.  You just have to get in front of enough people.  It's a numbers game, like the stockbroker examples I gave.
  • @tinafigartist

    Let's start at square one. 20 paintings is not a lot of paintings.
    Do you have an internet presence. Facebook artist page? Instagram Artist Page? FASO artist Page? Webpage? If so do you have e-commerce capability? Do you promote your work regularly? Do you feel comfortable with all of the above?

    Working 4 days a week still leaves you 3 days to paint every week. Maybe completing a painting or 2 a week. That would be 50 to 100 paintings a year.

    Here's the big. How well do you take rejection?

    A good place to start is to enter some local art fairs. Try to enter good fairs. Ones that are juried fairs. Meaning you have to apply with some number of paintings. On acceptance you'll need to pay some fees. Register with local tax authorities. You can rent, borrow or buy a tent.  Layout your display. During a show you might interact with hundreds of people.  You'll get negative and positive feedback and may even sell some work. You might even get an inquiry to show you work at a local venue.

    The opposite side is that you may get rejected at approval process. 

    But if you don't try doing shows, approaching galleries or other venues to show you'll never know.

    It doesn't matter how good you think you are it's the 'audience' the 'market' that make the choice whether you are seen. 

    Take a step back. What do you want to do? Portraiture? Illustrative story telling? Social comment? Contemporary realism? Representational realism?Make no mistake you will be asked this along the way.

    The internet FB, ETSY, PINTEREST, INSTAGRAM, TIC-TOCK, FASO can be a testing ground to help focus both you, your work and define your audience. Right now a broad internet presence seems the best choice in fact the essential choicel.




  • I agree with @KingstonFineArt.  Don't restrict yourself to just internet or in-person venues.  Work as many as you can.  Whatever gets you in front of a LOT of people that can afford your art.  Clients that can AFFORD your art is key.  

    For a website FASO is the best for artists.  I know many professional artists on FASO and use them myself.  They specialize in websites for artists.

    One other thing I thought about... be very careful about paying "experts" for advice on building your art business.  That won't substitute for hard work.  

    On rejection, did you know that Van Gogh only sold one painting in his life?  He traded some for supplies and such, but the only one he actually sold was to his brother Theo.  
    tinafigartist
  • mstrick96 said:
    @tinafigartist I think that marketing is going to be your most important "job" no matter what business you are trying to start.

    Don't think of it as some mysterious "process".  Just think of it as getting out and talking to as many people as possible about your art.  Use as many different avenues as you can.  Local galleries, social media, email.  

    In my previous life, I was an engineer and was Director of Engineering for my company for ten years before I burned out from the stress.  I then moved to International Sales Manager for the same company.  I decided I was NOT going to be a typical "salesman", but instead was going to talk about the products (laboratory instruments) that I was responsible for designing to answer questions and solve problems.  I never once brought up "buying".  I just presented the instrument in a low key manner.  The result was that my territory went from the worst on the company to the fastest growing and it was growing faster then the company was. 

    I think low key. low pressure selling works in art too.  You just have to get in front of enough people.  It's a numbers game, like the stockbroker examples I gave.

    Thats the one part I'm so unsure about my skills to do; lowkey selling. I'm not sure how to approach people about my art, I feel like I will come across as too "pushy"? Which I really do not want to be. I suppose it's just a matter of getting used to talking about myself and my work though.
  • @tinafigartist

    Let's start at square one. 20 paintings is not a lot of paintings.
    Do you have an internet presence. Facebook artist page? Instagram Artist Page? FASO artist Page? Webpage? If so do you have e-commerce capability? Do you promote your work regularly? Do you feel comfortable with all of the above?

    Working 4 days a week still leaves you 3 days to paint every week. Maybe completing a painting or 2 a week. That would be 50 to 100 paintings a year.

    Here's the big. How well do you take rejection?

    A good place to start is to enter some local art fairs. Try to enter good fairs. Ones that are juried fairs. Meaning you have to apply with some number of paintings. On acceptance you'll need to pay some fees. Register with local tax authorities. You can rent, borrow or buy a tent.  Layout your display. During a show you might interact with hundreds of people.  You'll get negative and positive feedback and may even sell some work. You might even get an inquiry to show you work at a local venue.

    The opposite side is that you may get rejected at approval process. 

    But if you don't try doing shows, approaching galleries or other venues to show you'll never know.

    It doesn't matter how good you think you are it's the 'audience' the 'market' that make the choice whether you are seen. 

    Take a step back. What do you want to do? Portraiture? Illustrative story telling? Social comment? Contemporary realism? Representational realism?Make no mistake you will be asked this along the way.

    The internet FB, ETSY, PINTEREST, INSTAGRAM, TIC-TOCK, FASO can be a testing ground to help focus both you, your work and define your audience. Right now a broad internet presence seems the best choice in fact the essential choicel.





    I have an Instagram FB, website and ecommerce capability. Here is my website if you would like to see:
    I promote my work regularly on IG, FB, TikTok, etc but have trouble reaching a wider audience. Sometimes my followers don't even see my posts so I try to post to group FB pages and such.

    I am quite used to being rejected, and I'm sure I will get even more comfortable with it as time goes on!

    I would love to try local art fairs. Im a bit worried because my work is portraiture/figurative, and I feel like a lot of artists who do more abstract and landscape work do better at fairs. But, I could be wrong!

    Thank you so much again for your advice! I really appreciate it. Please know that I am applying everything you're telling me :)
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