Becoming a full-time artist: advice I wish I'd never taken

Becoming a full-time artist: advice I wish I'd never taken



Hi, everyone! In this video I share the four pieces of art advice I received early on in my career that didn’t work for my business. If your goal is to become a successful, full-time artist, perhaps these things will allow you to make the best decisions you possibly can for you and your art business.
The 4 things I talk about are:
1. selling my work on several art websites
2. signing up for as many social media channels as possible
3. Focusing on selling my art in galleries
4. Concentrating my time on selling at art fairs
**what didn’t work for me may very well work for you – my intention here is to promote discussion and to give you some things to consider as you find your path to success.

Studio equipment/supplies I use to create and prepare art prints for shipping:
✨Rollo Thermalprinter:
✨the printer I use for creating my art prints:
✨Carl Paper Cutter:
✨ Canon All in One Printer for scanning my work and office tasks:
✨ rigid mailers for 5×7 prints:
✨ rigid mailers for 8×10 prints:
✨ rigid mailers for 11×14 prints:

Prints of my work can be found on Etsy here:

Visit me on Facebook here:
My Website:
Find me on Instagram: @ellenbrennemanstudio

All of the opinions I share in this video are based from my personal experience which may not be the same as yours. There are affiliate links above which if used, helps me to keep this channel going. You are under no obligation to use them but if you do, thank you!

#artadvice #arttips #artist

hi everybody and welcome back to my channel so today's topic is about art advice I wished I'd never taken now this is kind of funny because I'm sharing with you four pieces of advice that I wished I'd never received from artists but yet I'm giving you advice on not taking advice so it hopefully my my goal is that when you finish with this video you will just absorb the information that I've given you and it will help you make a better decision about what to do and what not to do when it comes to your own business so that is my goal and hopefully it will come across that way so I will start out by saying that the reason I wanted to do this video is because when I started in 2012 with my own art business I knew nothing about business I thought that I could just sit down and paint and that I would sell my work and that everything would just fall into place and that is just not how these things work if you are thinking long term if you are looking for a long term full-time art business painting is a very small process you have to market your work you have to have a business plan you have to know how to run a business successfully in order for it to be successful so there were just four things that I was told by various people who had been in the art world for a lot longer than I had and I thought that if I took all of these pieces of advice and I did everything that eventually something would work and that my business would just take off so these are the four things that actually did not work for me and my business if they if you've tried them and if they are working for you or if you want to try them you think they will work for you please do them this is just more for more for food-for-thought let's put it that way because I don't want to discourage you from trying these things I just want you to just be able to think about them before you jump into making any decisions I have a cheat sheet over here because I don't want to miss anything so let's get started plus it helps keep me from talking and talking and talking for like a half-hour okay so the first piece of art advice I wish that I had never taken sign up for anything and everything and put your art everywhere online I was given that piece of advice and I thought it was good advice because the consensus was that if you are everywhere and then someone Google's your name then you will come up higher in the search engine and it will be easier to find you okay well that sounded easy enough so what did I do I signed up for fine art America I signed up for Etsy I signed up for store Envy I signed up for zazzle I was on RedBubble I was trying to do all of these different sites all at once and for anyone who has tried to open up one shop it is extremely time consuming to open up and run one shop imagine trying to do four or five shops it's it nearly drove me crazy it was so stressful because it's so time consuming and then you have to maintain these shops you have to keep adding new content you you don't want them to look like that they've been created and then six months down the line they've never been updated you know and that's precisely what ended up happening to me I opened up all of these shops put all of my work across all of these platforms and I couldn't keep up with it I just couldn't I spread myself so thin that by the time anyone knew me and ended up googling my name they would come to these shops that had not been maintained or updated in weeks or months and that reflected negatively on my business so I wished for myself that I had just chosen one two three at the very most at the very most I actually felt more comfortable just doing – just so you could have one sort of toggle back and forth between two businesses online where you can show your work sell your work and then you can spend the rest of that time learning and creating so that was the first piece of advice I wish that I take it would have saved me a tremendous amount of headache so that was number one number two I'm sort of falls in line with number one number two was to be on every social platform online that you can think of this is snapchat boomerang Instagram Pinterest Twitter periscope patreon Facebook and the list is constantly growing the only problem with this is that not everyone's work is going to translate well on every platform if you have a product that is all visual then Instagram would be a great place for you to be on because Instagram is a very visually appealing place beautiful stunning photographs that is what Instagram is all about if you don't know how to take photographs if you don't have a good camera if you if you don't know the basics of being able to translate your work well into photographs for potential clients Instagram will be a waste of time for you so it would be better to learn how to do and then come back to that particular platform Pinterest is another one Pinterest is where people gravitate because they want ideas it's the first place I go to when I want a Halloween costume Pinterest I go to Pinterest to look for ideas now Pinterest can result in two sales but you have to figure out how to translate your work so that it would be well-received on Pinterest so my first thought would have been should i do Pinterest how can I create my work so that people will look at it and become inspired and how can that then turn into sales so it would have been better for me to have taken a step back look at all of these different platforms like patreon which I was on for a while and and Pinterest and Facebook and you know all those other things make sure that they are the places where where my work would be at home and where I can connect with my followers because I write for my paintings as well as paint my spirit animal series in particular is what I'm talking about here so I create animal symbolism to go along with the paintings there that generates communication my customers have questions about spirit animals they want to know more about my writing so Instagram even though I have visually appealing work it feeds that area of Instagram but I'm more comfortable on Facebook because I can establish a dialogue with my followers so Facebook is the perfect platform for me so again it would just be better to decide where your work would be most well-received and then just choose a few that you can take on realistically comfortably and not work yourself half to death trying to do so that would have saved me a lot of headache had I done that that way I could be engaged and I would I would have content that was current and up-to-date instead of opening up all of these accounts and then half of them ends up sitting there without being tended to again that reflects reflects poorly on my business so that was the second piece of advice that I have the third thing the third piece of advice that I wished I had never taken spend lots of time trying to get into an art gallery for artists especially when I was growing up our galleries are the end-all be tall if you are not in an art gallery then you have not made it as an artist that is just simply not true maybe at one point it was but before the internet especially but now with the internet there is absolutely no reason why you cannot sell your work yourself online or in person on your own without the use of an art gallery I felt initially that a gallery must be the place where I need it to be because all of the artists that I admired at the time were all in art galleries and I felt there really established because there in an art gallery you know there are a lot of behind-the-scenes things with art galleries maybe not all of them are like this but the ones that I've dealt with personally they take your artwork they only give you 50% of it a lot of them pretty much hold your artwork hostage where you can't you can't sell it anywhere else you have to sell exclusively through them obviously because they have your work so you can't sell it they're doing it for you but a lot of places they won't even tell you who it is that purchased your artwork because obviously if they don't want you to then undercut them and sell yourself to the customers they need to make a business to which I understand but as far as an artist perspective goes then you don't know who it is that bought your work you can't say thank you for purchasing my work you can't learn about your customers at all that way for me online was the best way for me to sell my work I was able to retain all of the control over my work and sell it how I saw fit and keep a hundred percent of the profits so I'm trying to say take my advice cuz that's not supposed to be what this video is about so I'm gonna reel it in and not say that so for me I wish that I had not taken that advice and had looked into it a bit more and realized that that I did not have to have the label of success associated with being part of an art gallery so I hope that made sense okay and number four finally the fourth piece of advice that I wished I had not taken do as many art fairs as possible I could spend all day on this topic I I will tell you that my experience with art fairs has been both positive and negative I always told by several people that art fairs of the it's the only way to go you could make a lot of money in in one day or one weekend plus you get the added benefit of getting to know your customers you're face to face with people you get to learn what it is that they want but not everybody is going to be able to sell work in person I'm one of those people so I know what I'm talking about in that regard I sell my original paintings online they do not sell in person very rarely I think I've sold over the years ooh two paintings maybe that's it prints sell in person for me originals sell online I never would have guessed that for me as a buyer I would like to see the things that I'm going to be interesting especially if I'm gonna be paying a lot of money for something but my work does not it doesn't sell that way it sells better online than it does in person so you never know you just never know with that type of thing I will tell you that when I was doing the art fair circuit I nearly gave up my career as a full-time artist I by the end of one summer I was so discouraged I was so depressed I was going to just give the whole thing up because I felt like a complete failure and it was because I did not do very well at the art fairs you can make a lot of money sure if you are selling the right things at the right price and a lot of that just takes trial and error if that's what you know you want to do then do a lot of research on art fairs just don't put all of your eggs in one basket I guess is what I'm saying and think oh well they aren't fair circuit that's where I'm gonna end up making my money and then it just it doesn't magically happen there's a lot of things that have to work together you have to have price points that are what people are willing to spend and a lot of it just takes trial and error plus it is a lot of work I have such a high respect for people who do art fairs especially during like all summer like what they do every summer I I could I'm just not one of those people who can do it it is it's exhausting for me to do those things but it can be done and if you want me to do a separate video on art fairs I and just to share my experience if you're thinking about doing art fairs let me know in the comments section I would be happy to do a different video on that because I don't want to talk for the next hour on it's just art fairs but just for me in general I if I had paid attention you the way I was feeling being as despondent as I was I never I I never would have been successful as a full-time artist because I would have just given up thinking that the Art Fair was really the only path to lead to a lucrative career it simply is not I'm living proof of that so you don't have to do art fairs to be a successful full-time artist so anyway those are my four tips and I hope that you found this video helpful I hope a lot of it made sense I hope I didn't I but I didn't act like I was trying to tell you what to do I'm more just wanting to give you the experiences of what I wish I personally had not done for my business so if any of these things work for you have worked for you I would love to hear your success stories about the things that I managed to fail at because I think that it's important for those of you who are watching to see different perspectives of these particular topics so this is generally just to promote discussion so anyway thanks for watching um if you get a chance give me a thumbs up let me know that I am on the right track for creating video content that you want to see consider subscribing and I will talk to you guys soon bye

29 thoughts on “Becoming a full-time artist: advice I wish I'd never taken

  1. I have had my own theatre company which is a business for 30 years – Even so I am still learning all time 🙂 I still need more permanent people

  2. 1. selling my work on several art websites
    2. signing up for as many social media channels as possible
    3. Focusing on selling my art in galleries
    4. Concentrating my time on selling at art fairs

    1 – You only need a few. two or three. Setting up is time consuming but maintaining isn't. Not sure why she talks about the terrible time she has/had. Unless you come up with better images later on and which need to replace existing (old) images – OR adding 'sold' to work that has found a new owner. It should be status quo'd.

    2 – Facebook, FAA, Saatchi work. Instagram and Twitter are OK but are lightweight.

    3 – Art galleries only want to sell traditional stuff which the know might sell. Don't try and come up with anything unique, as they'll run a mile. They are basically uber lazy bastards.

    4 – Art fairs are ram packed with cheap craft stuff. Twenty Bucks of rusty, garden stuff that sells like mad. Toffee vendors and other shitty ephemera. Too many visitors go there to waste their time – and yours. They are more interested in shlepping their pretty dogs around so that the can show them off to the crowd and garner admiring glances and comments. These people are there for themselves and not to see your art. You pay $450 for a two day show.

    Hard work pays off – but if you want something done correctly – you gotta do it yourself. You have to grit your teeth, roll over and unclench.

  3. I never put my stuff on Pinterest. Especially unique concepts. I feel like that's just an invite for people to copy your stuff.

  4. Ellen, you are an answer to prayer. I have a 5 year old art business that has been needing this “shot in the arm” that your videos have provided for me. Your style of communicating is wonderful! I do private paint parties but have recently started to try and sell my work. Facebook is my only social media contact point and I am not very sure about it. I have an instagram account but haven’t used it lately. I have to get a website together but that is a daunting task for me. Thank you for all your help! As I have time I watch your videos. They give me hope!

  5. Thank you for this great information ℹ️ , it’s really helpful for new artists who wish to start online

  6. The Gallery can work, but it is as basic as having things written down in the contract as to things like contacting buyers & sales beyond the gallery. And yes, most gallery's take 50%, but out of that they rent, employees, promotions, and possible opening nights, etc.. Their take after wards is far less than 50%. If you're an established artist, you have some negotiating power with potential galleries. If you're just getting started, then you kind of have to take what's offered, or walk away.
    Most people going to Art Fairs are looking to spend less than $100.00 ( at least any of the ones I've been to ). Which is why prints will do well, they are more accessible to a wider audience. I started making some very small original work that I could sell easily for less than $50.00 – including it's own tiny wooden easel, and not bother with too many bigger pieces. What's important is keeping track of all the names & addresses of every sale you make, and keeping in contact with them. Establish a relationship with your buyers. That's when they may come back to buy something bigger.

    But you're right, using maybe your own website & Facebook & Instagram is plenty. Videos are good too, but they can turn into full-time work on their own.

    After all that, you still have to make time to create the work in the first place, or none of the other stuff matters.
    I wouldn't mind hearing about how you go about making your prints, I think this is an excellent idea.

  7. I tried the vendor's gig for the first 2 times Last year the 1st on was a flop, some people just didn't want to come inside my tent, the 2nd time I sold 2 piece..i will try one more time this Oct. We'll see how that goes..

  8. Hi, Ellen! This was very helpful! I am just starting out. I recently quit my full-time job in order to pursue art. It is daunting, but I'm going slow and trying to make smart decisions. Thank you so much for posting this. 🙂

  9. I'm on Fine Art America. And they are VERY good at optimizing. When I google my name…I'm right there on the first page/screen. And it's because of them.

  10. Thank you for sharing. I go to one art fair and sell quit a bit. I feel I need to tell people my story about why I paint. You had some great tips. I am appreciative of your advice.

  11. Thank you for this video because I'm planning the same too about online art selling. This gave me a big help of advise specially on time management. Cheers!

  12. I am finding that all four suggestions are true for me as well. I sell well online and the exhaustion that comes from art fairs and one gallery run that I'm in is more than I want to endure. I do sell well in person, but I feel like dying when I'm done with a fair… too exhausting.

  13. Thankyou for sharing…..i completely agree with you co'z i also stumble on the same stones….and now am trying to move forward again….

Leave a Reply