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Lee McVey, Pastel Landscapes


Many successful working artists are “retirees” who are sleep deprived from having led (or still leading) double lives as artists and employees. You know who you are – your impulse for making art is so strong that you get up early and stay up late. You manage your finances astutely until the day comes that you can make art a primary career.

Anything is possible if you set your mind to it. Decide on the kind of art career you want, and then methodically go about making it happen. It can begin long before retirement if you have as much patience and persistence as A.C.T. 301 Member Lee McVey.

LeeMcVey2007.jpgWalking in the woods with her grandparents while growing up instilled in her a love of nature that inspired Lee to focus on landscape painting. Using pastels, she creates landscapes people feel they can walk right into.

Along with school teaching and painting, she taught pastel classes at Kirkland Art Center in Clinton, NY and Cooperstown Art Association in Cooperstown, NY. In 2003, Lee retired from teaching elementary art to devote more time to her art career. Lee is now a resident of Albuquerque, NM.

Lee McVey was one of the first artists to be featured by Artist Career Training for her career accomplishments. We interviewed her on her progress, so that you can see how polite persistence pays off.

LeeMcVey2007-Working.jpgA.C.T.: Lee, what is your art marketing strategy?
My marketing efforts have become more dedicated, and I have gained confidence from my experience with Artist Career Training. I see myself as a professional, and realize while the art world does not owe me a living, with hard work and dedication I can earn it if I persist. I’ve been a member since A.C.T. began over ten years ago. I know my career has developed differently than it would have without A.C.T.

I chose to move to the southwest three years ago, after retiring from full-time teaching. While my art continues to mature, I am in a business transition in this full-time art phase of my career. I am constantly working to gain name recognition and credibility in my new art community. One way I do this is being visible. I regularly attend gallery openings in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Taos. Many gallery directors now know who I am, so I won’t be a total unknown if I decide later to approach them for representation.

Another strategy of mine for gaining name recognition and credibility is organizing art exhibitions. With a friend, I conceived and started an annual fundraising show that benefits Albuquerque’s Open Space lands and gets me out plein air painting regularly. Coordinating the event gives me opportunities for networking locally and nationally with talented, successful artists and community leaders.

A.C.T.: Lee, what obstacles have you encountered and how have you handled them?
One of my biggest obstacles is sometimes having “eyes bigger than my stomach.” I find it hard to say no to opportunities so it’s easy to take on more than I can comfortably handle. I work well with some pressure and deadlines, but sometimes it can be overwhelming.

I don’t have a regular work schedule such as every day from 9 am to 12. I work in spurts, going for hours or days working and working; then I will have times when I don’t work at all for several days. I perceive this as an obstacle, but it has been my pattern for years, and actually, for the most part, it works well for me.

A.C.T.: Lee, how have you benefited from your involvement in Artist Career Training?

Reading marketing books just cannot give as much as the Artist Career Training experience! Books present generic information. Through A.C.T., I’ve received advice and information that is specific and personalized for my career.

I’ve learned the professional way to market, including using portfolios and business cards, the best way to approach galleries, and even how to manage my time more effectively. In Artist Career Training I’ve learned directly from experts about the art print business, writing descriptive sentences and artist statements and the importance of goal setting and business plans. Through being a member of the A.C.T. community, I feel I am being proactive about my career.

Networking with other artists across the country is very high on my personal A.C.T. benefits list. The Artist Career Training community is very supportive, not just in the abstract sense, but with real, concrete, helpful advice received when I ask questions on the message board.

I’ve also made virtual and real life friends. For example, I stay connected through regular phone meetings with two other artists who participated in an invitational A.C.T. mastermind group, “A.C.T.ive GoalMinding.” They also provide me with reminders and keep me on track. I value the artists in this group because of who they are and who they have helped me become as a professional artist.

My Artist Career Training experience has enabled me to dream higher and set more goals for myself than I had first imagined. Of course, these goals are S.M.A.R.T. goals. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timed), as I have learned in the A.C.T. programs.

A.C.T.: Lee, what dividends has your attention to professionalism paid you?

Artists who behave professionally, are more likely to be treated as possible business partners. Gallery directors have complimented me on my professionalism, and that’s due to applying all I’ve learned in Artist Career Training. When I prepare for a show, I have things ready for the gallery before they even ask for it. Actions like this help me stand out from the crowd. Being professional in actions and attitudes has earned me respect from the people with whom I work.

A.C.T.: Lee, what advice do you have for other artists?

Be persistent, but not insistent. Don’t give up. Remember, Edison found many ways that did not produce a light bulb before he had successfully invented it. Imagine the possibilities!

One of the core Artist Career Training mantras for success is “do it again and again,” because “exposure equals success.” Send out mailings more than once or twice a year. Send portfolios to galleries.

If you haven’t had a favorable response, don’t give up, but instead, approach the gallery again after a year’s time. I was offered representation in a well-known gallery after three or four portfolio showings and many “friendly” visits over a span of several years.

Take time to do things well in your presentation of your art and marketing. Don’t add to the myth of artists being flaky and unprofessional.

Networking is very important. You don’t always have to “work a room,” but do get out and meet people in the art community. You never know when that person you talked with six months ago will bring you an opportunity.

In the End: Exposure = Success

It takes courage to make big changes in your life to go after a career that makes you happy. It helps to have the kind of art talents that Lee’s originals present.

Lee McVey is a signature member of Pastel Society of America, Sierra Pastel Society, Plein Air New Mexico and Pastel Painter’s Society of Cape Cod. Lee is also a juried member of The American Academy of Women Artists, National Association of Women Artists and member of the Pastel Society of New Mexico. Her pastels have been featured in full-length articles in the magazines American Artist and International Artist. Lee’s work is featured in the book “How Did You Paint That? 100 Ways to Paint the Landscape” and “The Jack Richeson Annual: The Plein Air New Mexico.”

It guarantees exposure when you add focus and attention to detail.

And remember, exposure = success!

“I’ve stayed with the Artist Career Training community because it motivates and inspires me. I’m always learning on new levels so the information is continually pertinent for me. A.C.T. is a business group for artists. Why should I do it alone when this supportive group is there for me?”
Please visit Lee’s website at: to see her work.