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A.C.T. Featured Artists: How Professional Artists Direct Their Art Business

I’ve yet to meet an artist whose first love is the business side of art.
I’ve met hundreds of artists who seriously direct their artistic vision.
But I’ve never met a successful artist-entrepreneur who doesn't direct their art business with as much intention as their art form.

I’m guessing that you’d like more success.
I’m pretty sure you’ve already had some and that you’d like to build on that.
And I’ll bet that you don’t simply want to copy what other artists do.
After all, you are not them and they don’t have your talents or desires.

I am sharing how some successful artists in the A.C.T. community direct their art business, not to say this is the way, but to show you that the choices of how to do so are limitless.

You earn your living by doing what works for you.
You do what works for you within your means and resources.
Your only resources are time, money and energy.
Your first priority is always your art.
Your business direction follows from what you want from your art and the contribution that your art income makes to your life.

Big things start with small steps.

See how many items you can list that you are not yet doing and make a commitment try at least one in the next month.


Realist Painter Eric ArmusikRealistic Painter Eric Armusik

“My overall business direction is simple: I aim to consistently increase the value of my work and to build upon each success by putting in more effective time.
I’ve sold well by myself up until now and I’ve worked with a number of galleries. I understand that as a businessman, my job will not change as someone who promotes my own work.  I look at the gallery as an associate that will help me expand on my clientele.

Now I’m looking into:

  • ways to sell reproductions
  • other ventures where my originals can appear
  • an upcoming instructional DVD
  • expanding my art classes. My future goals are to secure good representation on the east and west coasts.”


Painter, Muralist, Digital Artist Peter BraginoPainter, Muralist, Digital Artist PeterBragino

"My art business direction right is to take an assessment of what I've done to this point, better organize the business side of my operation and cut anything that's unnecessary out of my plan.

From there I'll be setting my 1, 5, and 10 year goals so that I can navigate efficiently through the challenges that lie ahead in running a successful business.

I'll be launching a brand new online store and I'd also like to pick up a few galleries to exhibit different bodies of work I'm developing.”

Fine Art Nature Photographer, Conservationist Connie BransilverFine Art Nature Photographer, Conservationist Connie Bransilver

“My business focus is simple: make enough money to make a difference, and then do it. Specifically, I believe in the power of people, friends and alliances.  If you have a good product, you still have to have friends to 'sell' you.

While I sell many of my images through three agents, these are chiefly to maintain cash flow from travel and lifestyle work along with my core images focusing on conservation and indigenous cultures.

Cold gallery exhibitions do not reach enough people for my message, especially those who can and might effect change in the world of nature conservation.  Therefore, I am moving toward multi-media exhibitions, education-related and communication tools, and exhibitions, books, video, short downloads, internet and so forth, to grab the attention of young trend setters.”

Artist-Entrepreneur, Painter, Ceramicist Edd CoxArtist-Entrepreneur, Painter, Ceramicist  Edd Cox

“You develop a simple business strategy and see if it works. You can learn as you go. Good results shape the structure as you grow:

  • I create the most magnificent works I can; exhibit in the best possible environment; obtain a financial return to do it again to support myself and my creative studio.
  • I try to stay focused with the business side of art. Doing commissions made me realize the importance of a contract to document how much I get paid. I can accept credit cards in payment. I discovered computerized accounting to keep track of what I earned and to pay taxes. I have always done most of this myself but with the help of professionals who really know each of these tasks.
  • I use all my skills to earn a lifestyle. I now have a street level gallery and studio in a great location. I do all the jobs: I create, photograph, compute, market, sell, account, ship and sweep the sidewalk. I am working on developing a creative team so I can focus more on creating. 
  • I love teaching and teach a six week "Oil Painting Workshop" in my studio as well as Mercer Island where I teach art at grade school.”

Watercolor Artist, Patrice FederspielWatercolor Artist, Patrice Federspiel

“My art business intention is to create art that speaks to a wide variety of people. Therefore while the business always begins with my original paintings, my direction extends beyond that to include an assortment of art products at varying price points: greeting cards, laser prints, and giclée prints. 

My paintings and the assorted art print products are sold in island gift shops and galleries, as well as a select few fine art fairs on the island.

In addition:

  • I teach private watercolor lessons, group lessons, and 2-day Hide-N-Seek watercolor workshops.
  • I am a member of various art groups on the islands and exhibit with them several times throughout the year.
  • I enter exhibits on mainland with the intention of expanding the reach of my art.”

Painter Pat FiorelloPainter Pat Fiorello

“I view my art business direction as a portfolio approach. Like a good investment portfolio, I don’t have all my eggs in one basket

  • I find venues and times to exhibit that fit with my lifestyle.
  • I sell mostly originals, some giclées and cards. 
  • I also license my images for home décor products. 
  • I work with a few galleries, hold an annual studio show, one woman or group shows that 
  • I coordinate public venues like Callaway gardens, churches, 
  • I do commissions

I am clear on my audience and seek out opportunities to get my work in front of them."

[A.C.T. – and Pat has just published a book, about her workshops in Italy, which we will talk about in an upcoming interview.)

Glass Artist, B.J. KatzGlass Artist, B.J. Katz

“Expanding and improving my art studio has been a goal over the past three years.  This certainly has not been without its trials, but now the result exceeds my expectations - a state of the art 18,400 sq. ft. glass studio with all the bells and whistles that will make the work of creating glass art easier and safer.  I hope to use the new studio for public education in the arts as well as other service-oriented goals.
My next art business direction is to promote my artwork in Europe and other parts of the world. About one year ago we started promoting my artwork on Social Networking sites such as Facebook, Linked-In and Twitter.  I found a strong interest in my work from Denmark, which I attribute to the simplicity, elegance and clean lines of my art glass.”


Representational Drawings, Huguette MayRepresentational Drawings, Huguette May

My business direction has thus far taken this route:

  • Obtain my MFA - 6 years. Together with my art this certification helps me to be taken seriously as a career artist. Though the artwork itself is the ultimate criteria for judgment, having an MFA has been instrumental in giving me a deep sense of self-confidence. In my case, it was necessary for understanding myself as an artist.
  • Built a solid, independent body of work outside of school - 4 to 5 years. My MFA thesis show was an important beginning that happily led directly to creating the 12-piece Hawser Series.
  • Set up a studio outside of the house where I could interact with other artists and find a creative community to help quell feelings of isolation.
  • Learn how art is marketed - 2 to 5 years and ongoing. With my creative project underway - I still felt clueless about interfacing with a large and multifaceted art world. I did some online research and in 2008 decided to get a quick overview of art marketing by taking an online art business teleconference, through which I discovered Aletta, as art marketing coach who felt like the right fit."

Painter Lori McNeePainter Lori McNee  

"Artists need to think like small business owners and build their own brand identity, so I started blogging as a way of sharing my artistic knowledge and journey. 

"Fine Art & Tips" is also my way of 'giving back' to my art community and  has grown into a popular semi-collaborative art blog where talented artists, art business and marketing experts, including contributions from Aletta, and social media experts share their advice and tips with my readers. It is very exciting and a lot of work, but worth the effort.

 Once I started my art blog, I knew that I needed social media (Twitter and Facebook) to get my message 'out there' to a larger audience.

I plan to:

  • teach more painting and social media workshops/seminars
  • add more gallery, museum and juried exhibitions to my schedule
  • launch a series of small original oil paintings designed specifically for my internet sales
  • broadcast my own live painting shows and informative videos for my artist community"

Portrait Artist, Conservationist, Nicholas PetrucciPortrait Artist, Conservationist, Nicholas Petrucci

"My business direction is to find avenues that can showcase my work for those who can appreciate what I have attempted to achieve.  I believe there is a segment of our society that portraiture appeals to and I must continue to improve my skills regardless of current trends.

Longer term, Connie Bransilver and I are working on the Guardians of the Everglades with the Deering Estate at Cutler in Miami. The Guardians project is a multimedia-exhibition featuring my portraits of ten living individuals who have worked to conserve the Everglades ecosystem, accompanied by a video interview of each of them.”

Liturgical Sculptor Karen SchmidtLiturgical Sculptor Karen Schmidt

"My art business focus has been working with liturgical design consultants and architects, and marketing to churches, hospitals, and people of faith. Although my focus is primarily in the Christian context, my work is archetypal and speaks to all faiths, institutional as well as personal spiritual and humanistic connections with my subject matter.

Most of my work is installed in homes and in sacred spaces. I have shown my work in several art exhibitions and also at liturgical conferences.

I have a website as well. Most people, though, have either seen my work at conferences or come to me by word of mouth.”

Figurative Painter Julie SnyderFigurative Painter Julie Snyder

“I have learned that you can't rely on one source of income for too long, so:

  • I partner with galleries and an artist representative to sell my art through their art exhibits.
  • I teach drawing and painting in ongoing private classes and occasional intensive workshops.
  • I derive income from sharing my expertise in art marketing, delivering the "Art of Selling Art" with Art Rep and Curator Margaret Danielak.  
  • I am the operations manager for The Art Engine - a visual artists' resource site - our main activities are workshops like the Art Marketing one and destination retreats for artists who want to travel in a group to paint and sketch in fabulous locations. This year we returned to France with 20 artists and stayed in a castle perched on top of a hillside village overlooking the Luberon Valley of Provence; and, yes it was fantastic. We are lining up a Scottish trip for May, and a return to France in the late summer.

My business model is statistically based, i.e. I measure all of my activities in all aspects of the business of art: promo and marketing; banking and invoicing; production (painting); supplies and inventory; education and improvement; PR, finding new collectors and venues; working with existing collectors and galleries; teaching.”

Fire Bowl Artist, John T. UngerFire Bowl Artist, John T. Unger

"One of my main business goals is to design more work that I do not have to exclusively make myself. I'm doing more with wholesale now; working on new designs that are more customizable so that different vendors can have exclusive designs. I will have these manufactured from my original designs.

The more successful I get with the art and the more demand there is, the more I realize that I can make only so many pieces. I have hired more people to help me get things done. I have a professional art accountant, a sales rep who gets a percentage, a full time studio assistant, and a part-time office assistant. I'm probably making less money as a result of supporting so many other people.

So prices on the work that I make myself are going up 30% and I will raise them every six months for the next 18 months, because of demand, the increase in cost of materials and my support team. Down the road I would like to focus on more one-of-a-kind sculptural work again.

Every year there's the business side and some large project for 'giving back.' Like the interview I did with Aletta for 'Art Heroes Radio' for podcasts on art marketing advice.”

So how many business direction ideas did you list? ( I came up with 50 items.)

How do you direct your art business and what would you add from your experiences- ups and downs? Please post your replies here or on Facebook and Twitter.

P.S. If you want some help getting your art business house in order, just let me know. Think of me as an "art business organizer" who sees what you are already doing, helps you tidy up a bit and then add new touches to make your art business shine. If you haven't already had one, start with a complimentary 15-minute conversation.
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Reader Comments (3)

As featured artist at the local art society exhibition a few weeks ago people were fascinated by my scratch board pieces. Scratch board is not a very familiar medium in Australia and I'm sure that is the reason my pieces attracted so much interest. As a result I was invited by a fellow artist who runs hew own painting workshops to do a scratch board demonstration and I was even invited to run a workshop by the president of the local art society. This is a business direction I would like to follow up as I see it as an extra income stream as well as another opportunity to stretch outside my comfort zone. As I am fairly new at using this medium I need to master it in both black and white and color before I can demonstrate/teach others.

October 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGeri

Well done Geri! While you are mastering this new medium, take photos of things that worked and did not work. For the ones that did not work, show waht you did to fix the problem. Students learn so much that way and it will help you develop bits and pieces for the demos and workshops later on.

October 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAletta de Wal


November 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFederico | Gana dinero

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