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Patrice Federspiel Paints the Essence of Living Aloha While Plein Air Marketing

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

Welcome to our series of interviews with artists who are making a difference in their communities. My primary goal is to inspire you with living examples of people who make a living in any economy and who consider being an artist a real job and valid choice of profession.

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Patrice Painting

Patrice Federspiel  

Born in Port Washington, WI and educated at the University of Wisconsin/Madison, Patrice Federspiel is a watercolor artist living and painting in Honolulu, Hawai'i. Patrice first visited Hawai'i in January 2000. Within five months she had found a way to quit her job, sell her house, and move to Hawai'i to pursue her life-long dream of living life as an artist.

Since arriving in Hawai'i, Patrice has had solo exhibits at Wine the Experience, Café Che Pasta, and the original Roy's Restaurant. Since 2003, she has exhibited with the Hawai'i Watercolor Association twice annually, receiving one second place award for "Me, Me, Pick Me!," two Honorable Mentions, three Arches Paper Awards, the Charlotte Huntley Award, and the Daler-Rowney Award. She is currently the Vice President of the Hawai'i Watercolor Society. Patrice had the honor of being one of 50 artists chosen to participate in Honolulu's Geckos in Paradise sculpture competition/exhibit/auction. Patrice's gecko raised $10,000 for breast cancer research and can be seen in the recently published book, American Art Parades.


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

I was working as a senior graphic designer for a library supply company in Madison, WI when I began to wake up at 4:30 or 5 AM three to four days a week in order to make art for me. Every morning I would ask, "How can I do this full time?" I had no idea.

After two years of waking up early like this, I took a vacation to Hawai'i. That is when I discovered that my friend needed a house-sitter. I volunteered to take care of her place with the intention of staying on, and making a complete change in my life to become a professional fine artist.

I had wanted to "be an artist" since I was a little girl. I had NO idea what I was getting myself into ... not only from the art standpoint, but also from the living so far from home standpoint. I had never before moved out of WI and here I was literally on the most isolated land mass on earth.

When I arrived I was an oil painter. Within two months I was taking watercolor lessons, having realized the small space I was in was not conducive to living with oil paint fumes. Within six months I had met other artists and was selling my paintings and prints on the Zoo Fence in Honolulu (a fifty-year old tradition for emerging, and not-so-emerging artists).

Deliberate Strength - Patrice Federspiel

Patrice Federspiel ©Deliberate Strength from  

Fortunately the following summer I found A.C.T. and forged a lasting relationship with Aletta and many of the artists in the membership programs. A.C.T. helped me shape my vision and then expand it. When I needed to figure out how to increase my revenue, Aletta helped me come up with doable ideas and coached me to implement them. When it was time to have a professional website, Robin and Harry were there to build it, and teach me how to maintain it.

Patrice Painting

Patrice Federspiel Painting © Lanika

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

Professional artists take themselves and their art seriously, and derive a significant portion (if not all) of their income from their art. Being a professional also refers to a level of business standards to which one ascribes.

My work history includes time spent in the corporate world, so I had a basic understanding of the ways one needs to act and dress in order to be taken seriously. While the dress code might be different for the art industry, it helps to dress NICE as well as crazy/fun. As artists we have a bit of leeway when it comes to attire. It always helps to make a good impression with the way we look, by having a ready smile, and good attitude. The world doesn't need any more dour or frumpy artists.

Professionalism also comes through in the documentation used in one's business; i.e. business cards, postcards, brochures, website. I wear an easy-to-read professionally made nametag when attending business networking functions and at art fairs. If I take myself seriously, it's more likely others will do so too.

A.C.T.: What is your artistic direction? What is your "life's work" as an artist and what legacy do you want to leave?

Fabulous Birds - Patrice Federspiel

Patrice Federspiel ©Fabulous Birds from  

My artistic direction has evolved over the years, but the basic theme of it is to incorporate and celebrate life-force energy. I intend for people to feel the energy of each painting and for them to be able to incorporate that energy into their own lives.

I began by painting the incredible plant life on the islands. In the past few years I have introduced figures into these themes, most notably in the form of tree spirits and mermaids. No matter what I am painting, I want it to feel alive to the viewer. Movement and energy are a theme in all of my paintings.

A.C.T.: What is your art business direction?

The intention of my art business plan is to create art that speaks to a wide variety of people. Therefore while the business always begins with my original paintings, it 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. I participate in select art fairs on the island, inviting people to sign up to receive my eZine wherever I am.

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

  • Three mornings of each week you can find me at one of two hotels painting. On these days, I'm making contacts with new people and selling prints at the galleries there.
  • On these afternoons, I am running errands and taking care of business that doesn't require too much additional energy.
  • One night each week I teach a watercolor class to a local adult-ed class.
  • The other three days of the work-week (yes it's a six-day work week for me) I'm in my studio, starting new paintings, writing my eZine, prepping for my classes or workshops, doing paperwork, and planning.
  • I take one day off each week and go to the beach whenever possible on that day.
Patrice Teaching Class

Patrice Teaching Class

A.C.T.: What peak moments have you had as an artist?
  • Winning awards for my paintings;
  • Exhibiting at the Presidio in CA;
  • Being the featured artist at the Hale'iwa Arts Festival;
  • Selling originals (12 so far in 2011, a new record for me).
Patrice at Haleiwa Arts Festival

Haleiwa Arts Festival July 16+17, 2011 from  

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

A successful painting is one that keeps the viewer's eye intrigued and on the painting for as long as possible. It's one that grabs hold of the viewer, enticing them to buy it, or a print of it, so they can take that energy home with them.

My success as an artist is much the same; and includes making enough money that I can continue to paint and eat and thrive as a person as well as an artist.


Celebrating my successes is something I strive to do better. I find myself continually thinking of the next task rather than dwelling on the success at hand. One small thing I like to do is to attach a curling ribbon to the edge of my journal for every success I experience. The ribbons regularly remind me of my successes.

Patrice Journal Ribbons

Patrice Federspiel Journal Ribbons

A.C.T.: What obstacles have you encountered in your art business and how have you handled them?

I tend not to dwell on obstacles and just keep moving forward. Over the years, there have been plenty of small hurdles to overcome... shops that carried my art closing; more competition being brought in with similar art placed next to mine, creating potential for confusion for the buying public.

In each instance I remind myself that this is a small thing, no matter how large it looms in my mind, and I set out to do whatever is needed to overcome it.

Mama's Little Mermaid - Patrice Federspiel

© Patrice Federspiel Mama's Little Mermaid    

If my art needs to be more intensely mine, so that it stands out more, so be it. My writing style sets my art apart. Each of my pieces comes with a small story about it placed on the back of each print/original. Anything I can do to set myself apart from the rest of the artists is important.
In addition, I'm always reminding myself that there is a person for each painting. Not everyone will be attracted to my art, but someone will be. I paint for those people, not for everyone.

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

I have had the opportunities to have an exhibit because I was ready. I have been chosen to be a signature artist for the Haleiwa Arts Festival because I had a large enough body of art from which a piece could be chosen to celebrate and advertise the festival. Having a large body of art is extremely important. It is because of this large body of art that I have had as many sales this year as I have. I am now able to supply art to a larger number of galleries, increasing my exposure, thus making people more aware of my art, and more comfortable with buying it.

Honu Kisses - Patrice Federspiel

© Patrice Federspiel Honu Kisses  

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

I have been very fortunate to live in a place filled with art and a very giving art community. I have met artists through the venues that carry my art as well as the many arts organizations that I have joined. I have learned a lot from all of them.
Aletta and A.C.T. have helped me celebrate my successes, given me new ideas for avenues to follow when I've been at a momentary pause, and have encouraged me when I've been exhausted or down.

In addition, my paintings continue to teach me, most notably about continuing to paint, about not giving up, not stopping when I feel at a loss. I am continuously encouraged to keep on keeping on, to keep looking for the next idea, the next door to open, the next window of opportunity.

Patrice Painting at the Hilton

© Mimi Ahern   Patrice at the Na Mea Store at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Hotel from  

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

The mainstay of my art marketing strategy what Aletta has dubbed "Plein Air Marketing." It started when I was displaying my art with the Artists at the Zoo Fence in Honolulu. I'm not good at just sitting for eight hours as the visitors walked past, so I started to paint while there. Standing at my easel, I attracted more people to me and my art, finished more paintings, and had a much better day at the fence.

When I began to display my art at the hotels, I continued to paint once or twice a week at each location. I love it, the visitors love it, and my sales are consistent so the shop owners love it. Win/win/win.

I have postcards of my art printed throughout the year. I used to mail them out to my snail mail list, but lately use them more as a promotional handout. One of the hotels I'm in hands out the postcards for me as a way to encourage people to stop back when I'm there painting. I also use them at networking events as a way to introduce my art to the local population. I offer postcards to my eZine list, asking people to send me a stamp or a SASE for me to return to them with postcards inside. When I do that, I have their address to add to my excel database (975 names on excel; 2216 on Constant Contact).

I participate in a select few art fairs each year. This increases my exposure and revenue. My prices are the same or a tad higher at these fairs than they are in the galleries/shops that carry my art. It's really a bonus for me to keep ALL the revenues from these few events.

I added a bi-monthly eZine a few years ago and my readership continues to grow. As it grows, my sales grow accordingly. What began as a means to keep in touch with my public has become an additional income stream.

I continue to enter exhibits both in Hawai'i and on the mainland. A broader exposure, increased reputation, and the potential for increased revenue, continue to be the driving force behind exhibiting.

Patrice at Easel

Patrice Federspiel  

I have begun to send brochures and postcards out to publishers, in search for a broader distribution. While the art market continues to evolve, I will continue to evolve my marketing strategies.

I also teach classes to groups and individuals who want a memento of their stay in Hawaii.

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

Change is the constant. Fortunately I'm beginning to come to expect it rather than be surprised by it.

I live and work in a high-tourist area and am fortunate to have a large base for sales. Immediately following 9/11, my sales actually increased. It wasn't until 9 months later that I noticed a drop in sales. I suspect this is due to the fact that people plan trips to Hawai'i pretty far in advance. Those that couldn't cancel their plans came to visit. Those that could cancel did so and we had about a year-long dip in tourism.

To cope, I added new venues to exhibit my art. I continue to add new, better, bigger venues. If the dollar looks like it's shrinking, we need more of them.

Growing Stronger Every Day - Patrice Federspiel

Patrice Federspiel ©Growing Stronger Every Day from  

A.C.T.: What legal measures do you take to protect your work? Have you had to take legal action?

I have not had to take any legal action to protect my art, other than sign documentation allowing Hawai'i Five-0 to use my art in set backgrounds.

I put the © symbol on most of the images on my website and document the date of completion, size, and catalog number in an excel spreadsheet that Robin set up for me. I plan to send the info to the © office, but suspect I'll have to hand that over to Robin and Harry at some point since I haven't done it yet!

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

As one of A.C.T.'s Art Marketing Mentors, Patrice's efforts have supported many artists on their path to success. Her advice to artists? "First, follow your dreams, especially if you don't know where they will lead you. Second, find others of like mind and interest (the Artist Career Training community of artists is a GREAT place to do that!). Third: learn as much as you can about your art form, the business of art (again, Artist Career Training has invaluable resources), your market, and the arts in your area. Fourth: always create...well we can't help but do that; but create consciously and with intent. Your creations will nourish you and others in more ways than you will know. Fifth: be open. Opportunity knocks when you least expect it. You want to be prepared, so start to get ready NOW!"

I would tell any artist, "don't pay too much attention to the economy, you're an artist, not an economist - thank goodness!" Not that you shouldn't be aware, but don't fuss over it.

Pay more attention to your art, to your venues, to your vision for your art business. Always remember art is a heart-centered business and follow your heart as well as your head. Then look for more heart-centered ways to connect with your clientele.
I have found my bi-monthly eZine to be a great way to stay in touch and increase revenue. It's important to actually talk to people. Many times we artists are more introverted than is good for us. It is important to say hello to people, to talk to them about what they like, and what they are looking for. It's been said that people don't care about you until they know you care about them. It's true. Care about your buyers or they won't care about you!
Spirit of the Dance - Patrice Federspiel

Patrice Federspiel ©Spirit of the Dance from  

A.C.T.: How has your involvement in one-to-one coaching and the membership programs furthered your art career?

My work with A.C.T. has been foundational for me. Through the programs I met other professional artists around the country and keep in touch with them regularly. The support of community cannot be overrated!

In addition, Aletta has been an amazing coach. She truly cares about my career and those of everyone she assists. Her lightening-quick mind always comes up with new ideas on the fly and ways to implement them. She reminds me to celebrate my wins; shares organizational methods; sees and holds a bigger vision for me when mine is clouded.

Robin and Harry have also been amazing support help with all things tech/web.  I cannot say enough good things about their clarity, vision, and abilities to help.

Everyone will have their own path to follow, depending upon where they live, the type of art they create, the other adventures happening in their lives at the time. No matter what your path, stay true to it. Find people you trust to guide you along the way and remind you of your path when you feel lost. A.C.T. has been helpful to me, and to many others, because of their combined talents and skills. A.C.T. cares.

If you don't have someone in your studio behind the scenes, don't let that hold you back. If you need an accountability partner for your art business or someone to roll up sleeves to produce art marketing materials or work on your web site, just let us know. We have a whole team to help you. Start with a complimentary 15-minute conversation. Sign up here or email