Lately, I have been reflecting a lot of my art school days and what they didn’t teach you there. It was so great to have 4 years of uninterrupted focus on the fundamentals, technique, and attempting to master the skill set of art making. It was so great to be in this little bubble where the world revolved around art. Every day I struggled to improve and my entire focus was achieving that technical and aesthetic improvement. My entire focus was on excelling at my craft. Sometimes a secondary focus would be on trying to figure out what great art was and studying the history of art. We had art history classes which some days intrigued me and other days bored me or even angered me. We had classes on perspective, printmaking, drawing, painting, sculpture and we had one class – ONE! On career development.
I remember in my second year of art school reading the book, “Art and Fear” by David Bayles and Ted Orland. Mostly, because making art for me at the time was still a major battle of a fear of failure. Something in the book stood out to me at the time about how many art students left art school and never made art again! Whoa, I thought…why? Why would you do that? Go to art school for 4 whole years, get a degree, go into major debt for only to not do it? Most of the students graduate only to go back into the system to get their Masters degree and eventually become professors themselves. I remember being so struck by this at the time and thought to myself, “But I don’t want to be a professor and get a masters degree. Can’t I just be an artist?” Sure enough by my fourth year the professors were trying to push me towards that path and I just refused. At the time, however, I didn’t really have a clear understanding of how you could be an artist by selling paintings. Although I wanted to teach I knew that the college system was not for me and I wanted my career to be as an artist not as an art professor making art in my spare time.
There were some useful topics covered in our career development, most of which were how to get into galleries or how to get grants. Both of these are viable paths and options, but there are so many more, at least now 6 years later and I would think then too. It’s just they didn’t know how to do it themselves (any other way) so how could they teach us. They would bring in visiting artists that seemed to perpetuate the belief that this is the system and if it doesn’t work for you well you’re just somehow not genius enough because the genius artists get all kinds of success and opportunities thrown at them. So we all hoped to be geniuses. And somehow this is acceptable in degree granting programs that they are sending their graduates out into the world without any real business skills. I mean business and art just don’t go together right? Again, I don’t totally blame them. None of us want them to go together. The whole point of being a bohemian artist is to be painting when the passion strikes, struggling, broke…or totally so hip and cool that we don’t care about money. Somehow the not being concerned about business side makes us a purer artist in most of our eyes. We’re pure. We want to paint what we want to paint. We don’t even want to take on commissions. We don’t care what the public wants and that is why we are not selling art. Even Michelangelo cared what the Pope wanted and gladly accepted the money for it.
I’m saying all of this to say that if you are an artist there is another way. It’s okay and frankly you owe it to yourself to learn how to handle your art business in the right way. Last fall, I took a course with Alexis Fedor called the Profit Canvas and I am still benefiting from the ongoing support there. I wish they would have taught us ½ of this in art school as it has made me feel like I am worthy of the art I create. The course is geared to artists specifically (in any field) and gives concrete applicable steps to creating an art business that still aligns with your values and helps you investigate those values too.
She is giving a free pre-training right now if you want to check it out. I’ve been telling all of my friends because I want no one to miss this opportunity that needs it. If you are struggling I recommend you get in there and find out if it’s for you.
Here is a quote from Art and Fear:
“Not many people continue making art when — abruptly — their work is no longer seen, no longer exhibited, no longer commented upon, no longer encouraged. Could you?”
And I would add no longer buying art (see again that gets left out). If you are struggling I recommend you get in there and find out if it’s for you. Here is the link for the free training: CLICK HERE https://bit.ly/2GJ9OvE to enroll now (it's free!!)
Here's to truly Happy Painting....when you're not stressed out about paying the rent next month or how you can afford to go to the doctor. Here's to empowering artists!
So last year I read this book on the myth of the starving artist, by Jeff Goins, along with a whole other slew of books about how to sell art online, how to sell to interior designers, etc, etc, etc. So obviously I was a little obsessed with this topic. Last year, I also signed up for a motivational course called the 100 day challenge and my goal was how could I sell some artwork? This was my frustration, my conundrum, my quest for answers last year.
I thought I had done everything right. I went to art school, got into galleries and got awards at big art shows. For me I was still dissatisfied looking at the bank account every month. I was struggling to build savings, pay for health care and pay down student loan debt, let alone afford a nice studio. Now I would justify it to myself saying well you just have to be patient you’re only X amount of years into this or I would say to myself well you shouldn’t have gone into art if you wanted to make money – you chose something you love, so you can’t have it all. Wow! I started peeling back the layers to these really weird beliefs. I don’t know where they came from. I know many of them have been repeated to me over and over again. Yet I was not satisfied and these thoughts left me feeling helpless and even angry. Which left me questioning where did these thoughts come from?
Ever since art school I have had many people who would get upset that I would try to sell my artwork, they would knock that I was sales-y and make comments that eluded to the fact that I wasn’t a true artist because I was interested in selling my work. As if selling my art myself somehow made me an impure artist. Other incidents include times when I’ve shared my work in art groups online and put the price or my website link saying available and I would get disparaging remarks about how I’m sales-y again. Really? Just for including a link to my website or putting a price on it? Obviously, you’re going to offend someone no matter what you do, but the bigger point I’m trying to make is that this underlying sentiment about art and artists is still out there and it still swallows up I don’t know how many artists every year. I discovered that even I was afraid, the one accused of being so sales-y, of even sending an email to my mailing list about available work for sale. Afraid of their judgment, afraid they would unsubscribe. So I wound up feeling like this helpless little animal shivering in the corner just hoping one day.... maybe one day soon someone will call, email, somehow magically find me and say I want to buy a painting.
I’m writing this to say if you want to make a living as an artist you need to be open to other possibilities. Our world is changing and while I know the traditional gallery route can work for many it is not the only option now and it won’t work entirely for most. I'm super grateful for all the galleries that represent me and for the sales they make, but unfortunately the sales are still sparse for me in them. At one point I had work in 8 different galleries across the country and I still was barely making a living. Many of those have closed their doors since. Perhaps you don’t need that much, but mine is the only income I have. No one else is supporting me or helping me out and I decided to fight these pre-conceived notions of the humble starving artist because I was sick of feeling helpless. I was tired of feeling self-doubt because my work wasn’t selling.
My search last year let me to many books I’ve mentioned, most of which were quite good but still didn’t give me applicable tools or the ways they were recommending just weren’t my path (like licensing my work). The search led me to purchasing various art coaches downloadable books, the 100 day challenge and phone calls with non-art related business coaches.
*note about the 100 day challenge that I wrote about last year in the spring. It yielded incredible results for me and was an excellent motivational course. This course was only $180 and I still feel it was worth every penny. However, being a general motivational course it was not geared specifically towards building an art business. So after it was over, I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t have a business plan for the future so I was back to where I was before except having found a few ideas that I could use again in the future.
I moved to Coloradosearching for a stronger art community than I was in both for personal growth and business needs. I was still on this quest for how to not be a starving artist anymore, and how I could create a business plan that was sustainable which still felt totally sacrilegious as an artist (even after uncovering why the myth of the starving artist exists and reading about how wealthy Michelangelo actually was). One day in my quest for answers I stumbled on a woman named Alexis Fedor, who was being interviewed by Owen Garrett. Alexis was starting a new course called the Profit Canvas and after listening to this and many of Alexis’s podcasts my intuition said that I needed to do this. I was skeptical and nervous about the cost of the program, but I felt I really need to give this a shot. She had a 30 day money back guarantee so that made up my mind.
Now, when I decide to do something it is a firm decision. When I signed up for Alexis’s course I decided I would do everything she recommended, I would be totally open to try it all and I would give as much time to it as it called for even if that meant I wasn’t painting very much. For me there’s nothing more disempowering than having made lots of beautiful paintings and they wind up collecting dust in your studio. I also know you can't expect all of your work to sell, but the ratio of sold to sold was unsatisfying for me. I also knew my work was good, and I’m constantly striving to get better so I knew I wasn’t selling because of low quality work…or because my prices were too high.
Alexis’s course hit everything for me: questioning those beliefs and forming new ones, finding out what I personally need and where I naturally flow in my work, finding more value in my work, discovering what my collectors needed and wanted from me, creating a revenue plan that was in alignment with what I’m already creating and adding in so many new options that are filling in the gaps…because I’m not just selling 5k paintings constantly, learning how to do marketing better and research and improving my social media marketing and email marketing. I’m reaching more people with my work and now in a variety of ways, not just through selling paintings.
I’m writing this in hopes that it may help another artist out there. I’m sure I still have much to learn, but for the first time in 6 years of my art career I feel like I’m the captain of my art business ship and I have systems in place now for continued success which makes me feel secure.
I cannot express enough gratitude to Alexis for this course!
If you are at all interested, Alexis is offering a free taste-tester course starting April 14th called the Creator’s Profit Plan and you can get in now for instant access here: https://bit.ly/2GJ9OvE
You won't regret it.
Oh, here's some of my newest paintings....and you guessed it....They are all for sale!!! Just go to my website www.kellifolsom.com to find out more. I also invite you to become part of my artistic community here: http://eepurl.com/dpg-_9