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Aletta de Wal
Artist Advisor & Art Marketing Strategist







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Aletta de Wal
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Huguette May

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Lori McNee is a Powerhouse in Paint and on Twitter

There is often additional information on the recording that is not in this written interview.  Inspire yourself and listen while you make art.

My primary goal in these interviews is to inspire you with stories of people who make a living making art and who consider it "a real job." Your art and art career may be on a different path, but there is always something to learn from the experiences of your colleagues.

Lori McNee,,
A native of California and raised in the southwest, Lori cultivated her interest in art and wildlife during her childhood.  As a young girl, Lori would spend many fruitless hours trying to catch the birds that flocked to her yard.  Finally, she decided to capture the birds on paper with a pencil.  Lori has been drawing and painting birds and animals ever since.

Although she studied art in college, Lori considers herself self-taught.  Over the years she has apprenticed with master artists, Robert Bateman, John Seerey-Lester, Carl Brenders, Vivi Crandall, Guy Coheleach, Scott Christensen and Jo Anna Arnett to name a few.   Lori has illustrated for Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, the Wolf Education Research Center, various trout and duck stamps and books.
Lori's paintings have been featured in Western Art Collector, South West Art Magazine, Wildlife Art Magazine, Art Talk Magazine, American Art Collector, Sun Valley Magazine, Sun Valley Guide, Plum TV, and newspapers. Lori is a member and exhibits with Oil Painters of America in National Exhibitions and at the Gilcrease Museum.  Her sought after works are sold in Nationally ranked galleries throughout the United States.

Besides painting, Lori is a professional blogger and public speaker. On her popular blog, Lori shares art tips, social media tips and business advice from respected professionals in the art and blogging industries. Because of this, Lori has been named, "Top 10 Up and Coming Women Bloggers," and currently ranks as one of the "Most Influential Artists" on Twitter and "The Top 100 Most Powerful Women on Twitter." Lori recently was featured in the Arts section of The Huffington Post, "Lori McNee and the Art of Love." Lori has also been featured in many popular blogs including The Huffington Post, Art Heroes Blog, BlogTalkFM, Fine Art Views, Barney Davey Blog, and Money Dummy Blog to name a few - and now ArtMatters!


A.C.T.: What prompted you to start your professional art career?

"For as long as I can remember, I have always been artistic. I think I was born with a pencil in my hand! As a small girl I use to save the injured birds that flocked to our yard and sometimes hit the windows. I wanted to keep them as pets, but of course I couldn't, so captured them on paper with a pencil instead. I have been drawing and painting ever since.

Lori McNee Rainbow's Bend
©McNee Rainbow's Bend

"Even though my business minded parents supported my artistic capabilities I didn't really imagine that 'Art' would be my full-time profession. It wasn't until I was a busy stay at home mom that I turned back to my art as a way of retaining a creative and centering outlet. During this time I mostly donated my drawings and paintings to various charities & non-profit organizations. I illustrated for Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, Trout Unlimited, The Wolf Education Research Center, some books, magazines and more. From time to time I would sell a painting or two, but at this time in life, my children were my top priority. Nevertheless, by the time the kids were all in school, I could focus on my art during the day.  In 2002, I began painting a small painting each day; I also painted my first still life with a bird!  A friend offered me a showing in her interior design shop which caught the eye of a well know gallery and before I knew it - my professional career had begun!"

A.C.T.: What makes an artist professional? 

"Being a professional artist takes discipline. We have the luxury of being our own bosses, but in order to truly be a success, we must be responsible.
  • A professional artist has specialized training in his/her artistic field and strives to uphold a high standard of artistic ability.
  • A professional artist's works have impact and claim the attention of the viewer.
  • A true professional derives income from his/her art form, is recognized by his/her peers and is committed to devoting time to create."

A.C.T.: What is your artistic direction?

McNee Hemingway's Haunt
©McNee Hemingway's Haunt

"Primarily, I paint landscape, plein air and still life paintings. I enjoy bouncing between the different disciplines. While plein air painting the landscape out in the field, Mother Nature is in charge. However, when setting up a still life painting, I am able to create my own small universe in my studio. These metaphorical paintings echo the delicate balance between nature and man. The arrangements are a juxtaposition of nature-made and man-made elements and most often include birds. 

"Whether in the field or studio, I respond to the effects of color, light and atmosphere on the subject.  In order for the painting to be a success, I must feel and portray the solid weight of a vase, the wisp of a cloud or the bend of the grasses.    

"At times I contemplate the humbling fact that my art will outlive me. There are not many professions that have that privilege. In a world full of chaos, I strive to create a respite for the soul."

A.C.T.: What is your art business direction and what are your business goals?

"Nowadays, artists have to work even harder to stay on top of their game. The market has been challenging and there are a lot of talented artists out there! Artists need to think like small business owners and build their own brand identity.

"To help do this, I started blogging as a way of sharing my artistic knowledge and journey; it is my way of 'giving back' to my art community. However, 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. Being an artist is often a solitary profession, so social media is a great 'social outlet' for me - I took to it like a duck takes to water! In a short time, I am considered one of the most influential artists on Twitter! 

"Fine Art & Tips" has grown into a popular semi-collaborative art blog where talented artists, art business and marketing experts, including Aletta de Wal, 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.

"I can't deny that blogging has cut into my painting time. But, I truly believe that as a practicing professional artist, I am offering a unique perspective and service to my readers. I plan to teach more painting workshops and will soon combine painting and social media workshops/seminars.

"I plan to:

  • add more gallery shows and museum and juried exhibitions to my schedule.
  • launch a series of small original oil paintings designed specifically for my internet
  • broadcast my own live painting shows and informative videos for my artist community .

"The opportunities are exciting and seem endless as I continue to learn and teach others how to harness the power of this amazing new media. Now, all I need is just a little more time!"

A.C.T.: Please describe a typical day, and a typical month so readers can understand how you manage your time, money and energy.

"My typical day changed this fall when the last of my 3 children headed off to college! I am an empty nester and devote even more time to my art career.

"I have a very full and busy life, so it is important for me to have some kind of schedule to keep me on track.

  • During the week I generally wake up, check in with my kids and pets, and then I pour myself a cup of hot tea and cozy up next to my computer. I check my emails, update my Twitter and Facebook accounts and catch up on my other art business.
  • Then, I am off to the gym for an hour class, or out hiking a mountain trail with my dogs...during the winter you can find me out skate skiing. An hour of exercise clears my head and I seem to produce better paintings this way.
Spring Storms - Trail Creek Beaver Ponds
©McNee Spring Storms - Trail Creek Beaver Ponds
  • It's time to get into my studio and paint!
  • I usually take an hour to two hour lunch break (depending on if I am painting for a show or not) and use this time to run my errands in town.
  • The afternoon is generally devoted to painting. (I check in with my social media sites a few times during the afternoon too!)
  • I usually stop painting around 5:30 and start working on dinner.
  • I am a night-owl and I sometimes get my best work done late at night. Depending on my art show schedule, I either paint or catch up on art business. In fact, right now it is 11:45 pm...and I usually have a nice cup of tea before bed.

"The above is a 'typical' day, but because I am my own boss, I can set my own schedule. This one seems to work for me. I try and paint an average of 4 hours a day and another 3-4 hours on the computer. On the weekends, I usually work a bit too. I like variety in my life, so I do mix it up and I also love to travel!"

A.C.T.: What peak moments have you had as an artist?
McNeeMonkey in the Middle
©McNee McNeeMonkey in the Middle

"There have been many exciting times along my 20+ year career. I have been accepted into juried art exhibits and museums, featured in national magazines and publications, I have been accepted into top drawer galleries, and had sellout shows. Plus, I have been asked to host for television on Plum TV. 

"In 2010, I was named a #TwitterPowerhouse and ranked as one of the Top 100 Most Powerful Women on Twitter. I was featured in The Huffington Post with a readership of over 10 million people! 'Twitter's Lori McNee and the Art of Love'

"The fact that I am a working artist has given me credence in the public eye. But, when one my paintings or even my articles resonate in another person or helps them in some way, that is the best feeling and a peak moment of which I will never tire."

A.C.T.: How do you define success and how do you celebrate it?

"Attempting to define success is difficult because it is a subjective term that varies widely from artist to artist. For me, 'success' is the personal satisfaction that I get from many things. There are wonderful rewards that come with successful achievements.
  • I find a sense of gratification from the respect of my peers and others in the art industry.
  • The positive feedback and comments I receive from Twitter, Facebook and my blog followers, art fans and collectors is an irreplaceable feeling of success.
  • Every time I sell a painting, I feel successful and making an income from my artwork is the utopia.
These are all important aspects of success for me."
A.C.T.: What obstacles have you encountered in your art business and how have you handled them?

"Just like any successful business person, I have faced challenges and obstacles over the years. I have learned how to make 'stepping stones out of stumbling blocks'

  • Rejection is a common occurrence and usually unavoidable for any artist. Learning to deal with rejection is important and a necessary step in the pursuit of success.
  • Jealousy and a sense of competition from others has been a challenge for me throughout my art career - I have learned to 'kill 'em with kindnesses' and to keep my eye on the mark. As artists, we are really only in competition with ourselves - we must strive to grow and better our craft.
  • The weak economy has made the past few years extremely challenging for artists. However through history, great innovations have been built during times of want. Today is no different. I teach artists to 'think outside the frame'... I started about 1 ½ years ago as a way of 'giving back' and also to combat the bad economy and it has been a wonderful decision!

"The biggest obstacle that I have had to face hit me both professionally and personally - an ugly divorce nearly three years ago. As a rule, I do not publically share my personal life, but I want you all to know that I have had to work really hard to overcome many of life's obstacles and they seem to arise on a regular basis! I like to remember that, 'Comfort zones are most often expanded through discomfort.'"

A.C.T.: What opportunities has a professional approach to your career brought you that you might otherwise not have had?

"Most artists think of themselves as a 'behind the scene person'...I know I did for many years. But, unless you can afford a PR person, you must step out from behind the shadow of your easel and into the light of self-promotion in order to be successful. I teach my readers and students to learn how to 'sell themselves' and quit worrying about selling their art.
"There are so many talented artisans out-there, so we must separate ourselves from the pack by putting our best foot forward. In order to sell yourself, you must be professional.
I strive to do my best at anything I attempt. I might fall on my face at times, but at least I am giving it my all...'act as if' and eventually you will believe it and so will the others around you! That professionalism pays off. I wouldn't be in the galleries, magazines, articles and blogs (including this interview!) without a professional approach!"

A.C.T. Who are your role models and mentors? What was the best advice they gave you?

"My parents have always been my number one mentors and role models. They are self-made, hardworking, honest, talented, positive and supportive, and reared me to follow my passion. Their attitude and outlook on life can be applied toward all facets of my life.

"Of course, there are other mentors who have helped me on my journey...Cowboy Hall of Fame artist, Ken Riley told me many years ago to stop denying my artistic gift and encouraged me to quit my college education and follow my own artistic path - this was pivotal. Robert Bateman, John Seerey-Lester and many other famous wildlife artists taught me how to paint birds and animals which has carried through my work today. Good friend and fellow artist, Robert Moore taught me how to set up and paint my first still life painting. Good friend and renowned painter, Scott Christensen taught me the fundamentals of good, solid landscape painting.

"My work is influenced by the great Dutch masters as well as the Tonalist and Luminist movements.

"Books have been and still are important."

A.C.T.: What is your art marketing strategy? What promotional materials and actions do you use most often?

"Primarily, I have the luxury of my galleries selling my artwork. 
Since the popularity of my blog, I plan to offer an exclusive line of paintings for my internet collectors.

Social Media is the life blood to my blog! Twitter and Facebook are important to my overall art business. I believe any serious artist should be tapping into this new media and free marketing opportunity. I wouldn't be answering these interview questions if it were not for my involvement in social media, since that is how Aletta and I met."

A.C.T.: What changes have you experienced in the art market and how have you navigated them? What lessons have you learned?

"The recent art market has been challenging and an obstacle that I have learned to navigate by 'thinking outside the frame'...  For me, blogging, Twitter and Facebook and YouTube video are some of the positive outcomes of this tough economy. There are always opportunities during hard times..."

A.C.T.: What legal measures do you take to protect your work? Have you had to take legal action? How do you plan to handle copyright if the Orphan Works Law passes?

"This is a poignant question for me considering I recently had a bad experience with a 'Copycat Artist' on Facebook.'  While browsing some unusually glowing comments on my Facebook page, I decided to look at this particular artist's work. Much to my surprise, I saw that a man from Mexico was directly copying and signing his name to my work! This ignited a passionate thread of comments on my FB page and on my blog in response to this event. I spoke with a few Art Law attorneys and came to the sad realization that it is very difficult to protect ourselves from this - especially if the copyist is out of the country.  Since this experience I am sure to upload low resolution images with my name, copyright sign and year of completion.
"If the Orphan Bill passes, this will be very bad for artists, writers, film makers, musicians, etc...right now, the law protects our copyrights until 100 years after we die. If the Orphan Works is passed, all our works will be 'orphaned' and lose their protections. We will have to register each individual work with the US Copyright Office for protection. It would be timely and costly. Therefore, our works would be virtually unprotected. Anyone could copy your music, blog post or artwork and use it without paying!"

A.C.T.: What advice would you pass on to artists who want to succeed in any economy?

"Times have changed and gone are the days of painting good paintings, framing them nicely and relying solely on our galleries for sales. The good galleries will survive, but they will have to evolve in the way they do business now too. Now is the time of natural selection and survival of the fittest!
"Artists and galleries must creatively think 'outside the frame'...this includes having a website or a blog is even better. Without it, you are not just hard to reach, but invisible! Artists should learn to use social media and incorporate it into their daily business and marketing plan.

"My advice is the same for all, think BIG, but start small...stay focused and professional. Have a clear plan of what you want and where you are going."

A.C.T.: How do you recommend that artists develop their careers?

"Have a business plan or map in place with attainable goals to be met. I believe the answers above will apply to this question as well.  Have patience and don't expect too much too fast. Like I said above, think BIG, but start small. Don't get discouraged, it is often the last key in the bunch that opens the lock!"

A.C.T.: Lori generously shares art and business tips, & social media advice on her blog, FineArtTips.  Read several guest posts by Aletta listed here:

Aletta Signature

PS If you are really committed to making progress NOW, and want to get the jump on the New Year, ask Aletta about her popular JumpStart Package. Special introductory rates for artists who qualify. E-mail