Selling artwork is not always an artist’s perogative. However not everyone has the luxury of creating for the joy. Of course that is where it has stemmed from for me, but in my early painting days getting the money for materials to work with was an important factor in actually being able to leisurely produce the work I was so inspired to do.
I was working in a small coffee shop when I picked up on painting for the first time in years. University had left me a trembling mess of an artist, the soul crushing deadlines and inspiration stifling guidelines to follow for your work to be valid within the perimeters of that semester’s course had left me not wanting to even look at a paintbrush again. I loved working at the coffee shop and had the opportunity to talk to so many people on laid back shifts or quiet mornings. I had talked at length to a regular about art which left me wanting to use what little money I had left that month to buy myself some art materials. I picked up a canvas and worked on this stag.
This was my turning point. I immediately bought a bulk on canvases with my next pay check and created some more. I then took part in having these pieces displayed in a small local cafe with an amazing illustrator (Lee Griffin! @lionbird) and to my complete surprise, this stag sold, along with another bird piece. I could then buy more materials (as well as pay my rent!)
The road to selling artwork full time did not happen overnight, as many assume.
I then went on to sell my work at a local monthly art market, where I stood outside in the bitter cold. My first market stall was such a success that my stall was empty at the end of the day. The response to my work would reduce me to tears, and still does to this day, when I hear stories of them being enjoyed.
Following on from these stalls, I decided to go even bigger. After some road blocks and difficulties, with no money and no help, I decided to work towards self employment as a professional artist. This took everything I had at that time, I taught myself the basics in business and marketing, I set up marketing campaigns and built upon a social media presence. This at the time was much easier, as there was not the algorithm to contend with. People chose to follow you and as a result they saw your art in their timeline, that is far from how social media timelines now work. I suppose I embarked on this at a very lucky time, where a following was build-able. This led to commissions and sold paintings. During this time I pushed my skills in order to create the best I possibly could, I constantly reached higher with more purpose. I then began to exhibit my work, starting with a solo show in a local exhibition space, where I payed for the room, worked hard to create enough works to fill it, and curated the show myself for two weeks. It is still one of my largest achievements to date, as doing all of this from the financial ground up was in every way, completely gruelling. This show led to collaborations with friends and other brilliant creatives. (Jack Shaw and Craig Dyson to name a few.)
I continued to sell my art and commissions, while experimenting with my work, honing in on my style and letting it evolve. I sold through local galleries, some great (Rosie Ablewhite’s ‘Lincoln ArtWorks’) and some that took advantage, as many businesses do. Soon I approached a publishing company. (A publishing company take on a lot of work in the logistics side of selling artwork and so so much more. Freeing up my time from admin work and postage and packaging, to mostly just full time painting. This is for a cut of the profits. This route is not for everyone, but it certainly was for me.) This story is a funny one to me as I was incredibly unsure about embarking on a professional relationship with a business outside of my work having been burnt from an outside business before. There was something about this publishers website and name that made me get in contact. I don’t know exactly what compelled me that day, but it was a great gut decision. I have now worked with Wishbone Publishing for almost 4 strong years. They are not just work mates but they are some of my greatest friends and family. I could say I got lucky, but I know that I didn’t. This wonderful outcome was never an overnight overturn, but years of hard, gruelling yet amazing work.
My career to date is something I treasure so dearly, I have worked from nothing at all, to becoming a full time artist. Along the way there has been issues and hardships, bad galleries and widely plagarised work can leave you wondering about the industry itself. But for me, creating things I enjoy is the premise behind what I do and is what makes any difficulties worthwhile.
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