Posts in Career
Sell and Market Your Work in 5 Simple Steps

By Ekaterina Popova

When I first committed to my art career, there was a lot of mystery and confusion about how to make sales as an artist. I waited for a gallery to do it for me and truly thought I didn’t have the permission to do it on my own. In fact, I didn’t even think it was possible to sell paintings directly. I was miserable, waiting for some magical opportunity or an art dealer to come knocking on my door.

As you can imagine, no one ever came and I had to figure it out on my own. Through a series of life lessons, investing in additional education and personal development, I discovered that I do not have to wait for anyone to make me qualified to promote my own art. Regardless of whether I have a gallery or not, people may be interested in collecting my work.

As scary as it was putting myself out there, I learned a few simple things about what it takes to make direct sales to collectors online and through exhibitions. Even though I work with a gallery now, I still use these tools to support myself and advance my art career.

When I was just starting out, I truly believed that having an art gallery would eliminate my struggles and somehow would outsource all the sales and marketing for me. I imagined that having a gallery would allow me to paint in a far away cabin in the woods and never have to worry about any other part of my art career. This is far from the truth, but that’s definitely not a bad thing. Over the years of doing it solo, I took back a lot of power and independence when it comes to selling my art, and this has relieved a lot of the pressure of finding a gallery to represent my work. Even if things don’t work out with a gallery, I know I have what it takes to do it on my own.

Working with a gallery has been wonderful so far, but I think part of why this is the case is having the understanding and respect for what they do and how they can potentially elevate my image. I also love to approach galleries as a partnership instead of expecting them to “do something for me” and continue to market and push my work to help sales. This creates a healthy relationship and multiplies the efforts, so both parties win! So don’t be like the past me and think of it as “giving up” if it is your ultimate dream to be represented by a great gallery. You can still work toward that goal and market your work until that happens. Chances are, you are much more likely to get noticed if you are putting yourself out there and sending a message to the world that you are ready to be seen and your art is for sale.

Here are five tips that transformed my mindset around selling and promoting my art. Stop waiting for permission and come up with a plan to inspire new collectors and make some sales:

1. People want to buy art. Help them!

A simple trick that changed everything for me is actually announcing that work is for sale. This is silly, and I write and talk about this all the time, but often when it comes to online marketing you need to nudge your potential collector in the right direction.

Create an album on Facebook that says “available work” and send a newsletter announcing any new collections, limited edition prints or work you recently got back from a show! Be excited and give your audience a way to contact you. Be sure to only post work for sale that you are TRULY proud of. If something in your gut tells you that are not quite there yet, and need to polish up your skills, don’t rush in. Take the time you need to develop a strong body of work and then start selling with confidence.

A caption such as “work available for sale, dm or email for details” or something along those lines makes a huge difference! This is obvious, but if you are represented by a gallery and only sell work through them, direct your buyer towards the gallery and you both win! Remember that people want to buy art and you are not being annoying by giving them that joy. People shop for expensive shoes, purses, and cars. Art brings a lot more meaningful pleasure to a collector than a lot of any other items might. Don’t deprive a potential collector!

2. You are the CEO of your art career. Invest in your business!

Creating a small budget to pay for affordable advertisements on Facebook and Instagram ($10-$50) per post is a fabulous way to push out your work to new collectors that are not in your immediate network. Invest a few dollars each month to grow your audience through ads, reputable Instagram shoutouts, and other creative ways of advertising to get great results. Do a little research on ads and how to find your target audience by doing a quick Google search. Instagram has an “automatic” audience feature to explore as well.

Other ways to invest into your are career include taking additional workshops (both art and business or anything else you want to gain skills in), applying to juried exhibitions and publications, reading educational literature, and of course, using any free resources online. You have to be willing to trust in your dream and invest in your future. This also sends a message to the world that you are serious about your art career. It doesn’t have to cost a lot, but don’t skimp on developing your future!

3. Have a commerce platform ready before you announce your sale.

Whether it’s selling on Etsy, getting paid via PayPal directly, having an e-commerce platform such as Shopify or a page on Squarespace, make sure you set up your shop and test it out for seamless customer experience. If you are shipping originals, your shop structure will be very simple. Just make sure you calculate your shipping cost both domestic and international. Invest into a simple scale (you can get one for under $30 on Amazon), order shipping supplies in bulk to save money and pass on the shipping cost to your buyer, especially if it’s a larger work. I offer free shipping on small works and works on paper. If you are stuck on how to pack artwork, check out this article on Saatchi that I frequently use as a guide for my own shipments. Pricing your art can be challenging, but you just have to get started and stay consistent. Look around at local galleries that show artists at your career level and get an idea for what your type of work is sold for. Just pick a number for each size of work based on the material you create and stick to that price consistently for at least a year.

4. Be great to work with.

Whether you are represented by a gallery or not, be a great person to work with. Offer payment plans to potential clients who may not be able to pay full price right away, be courteous, and respond to messages or questions. I think being a great partner to your gallery can multiply your success, but even if you are on your own, your collector will remember you and will be more likely to add more pieces to their collection in the future. I consider this a win-win, because if they loved buying from you - they will recommend you to a friend and do the marketing for you.

I remember even during my first few art sales, I got a compliment from an older gentleman collector who happened to be a lawyer. He told me how impressed he was with my professionalism, quick replies, and having a seamless sales process. Mind you, this was in 2012 where I was using a simple e-mail invoice and he was sending me a paper check. Do the best you can with what you have and it will pay off!

5. Fix your mindset around marketing and selling.

A lot of us learned to associate selling with sleazy and pushy businessmen portrayed as villains in Hollywood films. This can obviously be the case, but when it comes to your approach to selling and promoting yourself, you can truly make it your own. People will only respond to you if you are true to your work and yourself and develop a way of sharing what you create that works for you and FEELS GOOD. Don’t try to use marketing techniques that feel weird or inauthentic. Share your story and be excited about a work of art that makes you proud. Buying and collecting art is an intimate and personal process. Be confident, follow up, but don’t be offended or take things personally if they don’t go the way you hoped. Like any relationship, you are looking for a good fit, and you want both you and the buyer to be happy with the outcome.

As you continue to grow and develop your craft, your audience and circle of collectors will grow. Sometimes it takes years to get there, and that is ok. I don’t know about you, but I would rather have someone truly LOVE the piece they get from me than be pressured into purchase something they aren’t 100% excited about.

Marketing and sales are amazing as long as you learn ways to make them fun and deeply fulfilling experiences for yourself.

Remember that your priority will always be in the studio. Making art comes first, but it’s a really amazing time to use marketing to take your power back and enjoy the freedom of being an artist without having to ask anyone’s permission or approval.

Cheers!

P.S. if you are just starting out and need some basic art career tips like applying to galleries and marketing on Instagram Alicia Puig and I recently wrote a book called The Smartist Guide which can help!

Get noticed on Instagram!
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You may have heard that a lot of galleries, curators and writers now discover new artists that they end up representing, exhibiting or interviewing via Instagram. It’s pretty incredible that social media has created such a simple platform for sharing art worldwide. That being said, there are so many talented artists showing their work on Instagram these days that it can seem like a competition for followers and impossible to get noticed. But neither of these are true. Make sure your feed stands out for all of the right reasons!

  • Quality photography for artwork: We know, we say this all the time! As Instagram is a visual platform, it makes sense that all of your images should be high quality. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to spend hours to get a perfectly lit shot of your studio or an artfully messy image of your palette and brushes. Focus on clean, cropped photos of your work that can easily be reposted. Make it easy for others to share your work!

  • Along those lines, while it is fun to mix up the type of images that you share, like detail shots, an installation view and works in progress or even your cat, make sure you regularly show finished pieces (perhaps one of every three to five posts depending on how much work you have and how quickly you create new pieces). I came across a really incredible painting that I wanted to share on Create! Magazine’s Instagram so I went to look up the artist’s profile. I scrolled and scrolled, but could not only not find the painting I wanted - I couldn’t even find one single image of a nicely photographed, completed work cropped to the edges!

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  • Use the right hashtags: We discuss hashtags in more depth in our new book “The Smartist Guide” but the general rule is to be relevant to your work while not being too general or your posts will get lost in the mass of images. So if you make sculptures you could use #sculpture, but that has over 10 million posts and #sculptures has over 1 million. Instead you could try #sculptureart (200,000) or #sculpture_art (9,000).

  • It might be your goal to get reposted by a larger influencer account like an art blog, magazine or curator. DM-ing them to ask for a feature isn’t professional and doesn’t work (nor does random tagging unless they specifically request it!). Often, these accounts will post simple directions like using a specific hashtag on your posts for you to share your artwork with them. We look through #createmagazine regularly and love seeing the great images that the artists in our community share with us! Kat also mentioned recently on an Art & Cocktails podcast episode that Instagram doesn’t allow us to sort through all the messages that are sent to us. With the volume of DM’s we receive, after a day or two it is hard to go back and find specific ones even if it was an artist that we liked.

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  • While I can’t speak on behalf of other publications or curators, I personally don’t care what an artist’s follower count is. If I like the work, I will happy reach out for an interview or repost the work whether they have 50, 500 or 50,000 followers. There’s no need to play games by following a bunch of accounts hoping that some will follow you back and then unfollowing them a few days later. People definitely notice and will remember you in a negative light.

  • Make connections with other artists, curators, galleries and arts publications that you genuinely like. This way you can meaningfully engage with their posts. For example, if you leave a particularly nice or interesting comment on a post, it is likely that they’ll click through to your page. It pays off to be a friendly follower :)

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  • Don’t feel pressured to post new content all of the time! It’s likely that only a fraction of your followers will see any given post so if one has performed particularly well feel free to share it again a while later. Especially as you get more new followers, it is a great idea to keep putting your best work out there - you never know when a new writer or curator will end up on your feed!

  • When you do inevitably get your work shared, you can definitely repost it on your profile to be proud of your accomplishment and it’s also good practice to leave a comment thanking them for the feature. Hopefully one shared work will cause a chain reaction leading to more! That happened to Kat last year with a piece she didn’t expect and early in my career as well with a completely different type of work than what I usually made. Be patient and consistent with your posts and it will happen to you too!

Above all, none of this is important if you aren’t yet happy with your work or don’t have finished pieces to show. Put the time in your studio to get to the point where you have a really strong body of work to post about first and then trust us, the rest will follow.

Happy ‘gramming!

-Alicia

If you’d like to hear more about what writers are looking for on Instagram, you can check out the Art & Cocktails episode Kat did with our other magazine contributor Christina Nafziger at createmagazine.com/podcast.

Looking for additional career tips like these for emerging artists? We’re so excited to share our recently launched book, The Smartist Guide, which discusses topics ranging from perfecting your resume and writing the perfect pitch to a gallery you’d like to represent you to dealing with rejection and finding the best opportunities to show your work! Learn more here.


How to Submit Your Art
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If you are new to the art world and are having trouble figuring out how to submit work to juried shows, publications, art blogs and more, fear not! I have compiled a quick list of tips that I noticed from the curatorial end. I share simple advice to help you increase your chances of getting accepted to that dream opportunity!

For those of you looking to step it up and take the photos yourself, I’m sharing my camera and light studio that I use from Amazon. Keep in mind that you will also need a tripod, but it doesn’t have to be super expensive.

Cheers!

Kat

Money Mindset for Artists
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I believe that all artists can be financially successful and achieve the level of success they are looking for. It will require focus, clarity, writing your vision and tracking. Nothing worthwhile comes easy and this is one of the most important areas that creatives need to focus on. If you know that is it hard and complicated then you probably realize that it is worth it! Go do it!!
— Bridgette Mayer

On this episode of the podcast, we talk all things money! If you are struggling to make art sales, need to take control of your finances, are in debt, or just need a little encouragement in this department, listen up! Our guest today is Bridgette Mayer who is an art dealer, curator, art advisor, author, and entrepreneur. Bridgette shares advice and her own experience overcoming poverty to building a dream career in the arts. Bridgette has helped me transform my finances and I want artists to feel empowered and create a healthy money mindset.

Bridgette Mayer has spent decades cultivating her passion for art, artists, the clients she advises and finding her way to the top of the art world. After suffering an abusive childhood that landed her in foster care homes and on the streets, starving and beat up, Bridgette was adopted by a wonderful family at the age of nine and began her life transformation.

http://bridgettemayer.com/about/

http://www.bridgettemayergallery.com

Sculpture call for art

Leaving Your Day Job (Podcast Episode)
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On this episode Kat shares her experience of becoming self-employed almost three years ago and offers some helpful tips to plan and prepare yourself for being your own boss. 

Books to help you:

You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth by Jen Sincero

Think and Grow Rich: The Original, an Official Publication of The Napoleon Hill Foundation

Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin

I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi

Podcast Q&A: Newbie marketing, pricing, creating a body of work and more

On this Q&A episode of Art & Cocktails, Kat answers your questions about how to market yourself when you are still developing your style and voice, creating a cohesive body of work, pricing your art, what to focus on in your art career when you are strapped for time, navigating relationships, whether you need a degree to be an artist (spoiler, the answer is no) and more!

Overcoming Creative Burnout 

By Ekaterina Popova

Header image by Lauren Zaknoun

Creative burnout is real. Have you been struggling to start that new painting, or even show up to the studio? Does the thought of making new work drain you and fill you with dread? I recently went through a very intense burnout, which manifested itself as physical illness, emotional breakdown and just a general inability to work. I was out of commission for nearly two weeks.

You see, I have been running on empty for over two years without fully realizing it. From leaving my day job at a call center in 2016 to juggling my painting career and the magazine, I unknowingly replaced breaks, fun and time off with generating new ideas, networking and more to do's. I forgot what it means to be truly inspired, actually have fun and enjoy simple and free pleasures in life whether or not they contribute to my art practice or career. 

It's easy for creatives to feel guilty about taking breaks because we either feel extremely lucky to be able to do it as our job or are dying to make art after working a demanding day job 40+ hours a week. Art can be an escape, but in some cases, it becomes a burden and we need to give ourselves time to heal and replenish our energy and creativity. 

When art, the love of your life, becomes an impossible task, it's time for a little intervention with yourself. Of course, we want to design our lives in a way that would prevent these breakdowns by following a healthy schedule and practicing saying no, but when a burnout happens, here are some steps to help you get back on your feet and back to the flow of life and creativity. 

Slow down to speed up

When I first started experiencing my setback, I shared the situation with my mentor, Bridgette Mayer, who suggested scheduling time off, even for fun activities. Make your time off just as important as your assignments and projects. Try to incorporate a day a week where you indulge in guilt-free activities such as reading, spending time with loved ones or making art just for you (if you are up for it of course). 

Check your engine

Sometimes we forget that we are living, breathing humans and not machines pumping out ideas, art and inspiration. Even if you exercise and eat well, stress and fatigue may have devastating effects on your overall health. When I was going through my burnout, I felt like I had the flu and could not stop sleeping, even though my medical report was flawless. Make sure you are conscious of your breathing, are sleeping enough and taking the time to laugh and enjoy your day. 

On a recent episode of our podcast Art & Cocktails, I interviewed one of my favorite painters Andrew Salgado, an incredible and prolific figurative artist. Andrew shared that he takes a complete break after each exhibition and travels. Coming from such a successful figure, this made me realize how my nonstop schedule is probably hindering my growth in some ways. 

We simply cannot expect to make good art if we continue to abuse our body and mind. I am guilty of this and am learning to listen when enough is enough, no matter what is expected of me that day. 

Release the pressure

The good news is, if we take care of ourselves and temporarily stop making art, no-one is going to be severely affected. I remember, back when I worked at Macy's, my manager used to tell me on a particularly bad sales day "we are not saving lives, it's just lipstick.", and that little saying stuck with me. No matter what's going on, your health and mental well being are way more important than artwork. Plus your gallery and collector need you just as much as you need them and would totally understand if you needed an extra day, week or month (only you know how much time you need). If you are generally a responsible, reliable and pleasant person to work with, people will understand and will give you grace. Release the fear and take the time that you need to be the best artist and person you can be.

Prioritize

Of course, sometimes we have projects and deadlines that determine the course of our career or if we will be able to pay for our bills that month. Highlight the immediate tasks at hand and complete them as well as you can and practice saying no to anything that comes after. If you have things due in the future but are not pressing at the moment, use this time to recover fully. Don't look at, think about or talk about upcoming deadlines that aren't an emergency and focus on your health as much as possible. If you need help saying no, here is a great resource by Marie Forleo to help you get started, another great book I read on this subject is Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown.


Say it out loud

Sometimes, we get stuck in our own head and need to someone to give us permission to take the break we desperately need. Calling a friend or someone you trust and expressing your condition can help you view yourself from a third party perspective and give you compassion. If you don't have someone to call, here is your permission slip. You are worthy of feeling your best, no matter how much time you need. 

When you are ready to start creating again, start slow and shorten your workday from what you are used to, in order to not fall back into the trap of overwhelming. Work on multiple projects at a time in bite-size pieces. Set a timer and take a five-minute break for every 30 you work. Make sure to step outside once in a while and breathe. 

Our art is about expressing our true selves, and if we are completely worn out it is difficult to share our passion with others. After my recent experience, I want to still be painting and feeling great when I am in my 80's, therefore I will treat my life and career as a marathon and not a sprint.

Give yourself permission to rest. I promise you and your work will be better for it. I can't wait to see what you create when you come out on the other side!

Share your thoughts below or send us an email at info@createmagazine.com

Like what we do? Support us by subscribing to the print magazine.

Going The Extra Mile: Career Decisions, Networking and Standing Out From The Crowd With Alicia Puig
Alicia reading  Create! Magazine  in Amsterdam

Alicia reading Create! Magazine in Amsterdam

Alicia Puig is an art historian who has worked for several notable galleries, museums, and nonprofit organizations throughout her career and who is very experienced in marketing for the arts and exhibition development. She was a practicing artist for many years, but after starting her first gallery job managing a small exhibition space for student art, she soon realized that she loved helping young artists put together what was often their first professional quality solo show more than creating her own work. Since then, she has continued to seek out new opportunities for creative professionals like herself and has connected many artists to their next exhibitions, published features, or sales.

On this episode, Alicia Puig shares how she figured out her unique career path in the art world and what helped her make the difficult decision about which one of her passions to pursue.

Alicia has been able to carve out a place for herself in the arts by practicing resilience and handling rejection with grace. She shares tips on how to stick out from the crowd and outsmart your competition when looking for opportunities. This episode also offers effective networking strategies and offers tips for artists on working with galleries.

If you are at a crossroads in your career or are excited about making it as a gallerist, curator or work with major art institutions, this one is for you!

Painting on a photograph by Alicia Puig (discussed in this episode)

Painting on a photograph by Alicia Puig (discussed in this episode)

Paintings Alicia Puig completed during her undergrad at Kutztown University

Open Call for Art by Unique Board & The TAX Collection

Unique Board & The TAX Collection are pleased to announce an open call for art submissions, offering artists the opportunity to create their own limited edition sculptures inspired from their work. 

Based in New York, Unique Board collaborates with inspiring artists and creatives to create limited edition sculptures that are more accessible and collectible. By working with Unique Board's team of specialists, your paintings, illustrations, collages, and digital artwork can be reimagined and transformed into collectible art pieces that will be released and available to fans and collectors.

Teaming up with The TAX Collection, a creative platform acting as a catalyst for emerging artists, the two brands are launching an initiative to provide opportunities for selected artists to design and release their own collection of limited edition sculptures - bridging their artwork and creations with Unique Board’s 3D printing craftsmanship.

With every round of submissions, one artist will be selected to collaborate with Unique Board on their own collection of sculptures, and dozens more will be chosen for features and interviews on the TAX Collection's publications and social media accounts. Artists chosen to collaborate with Unique Board will have their sculptures, and the works that inspired them showcased in Unique Board’s 2019 showcase exhibition - a pop up event in NYC.

Eligibility: Artists 18 and older are welcome to apply with works in any mediums. Artists from all countries are welcome to submit!

All artists that submit will have their work included in the TAX Gallery on the TAX Collection’s website for life and will automatically be considered for any upcoming curatorial projects and exhibitions.

Deadline: November 2nd, 2018

New Podcast: Instagram For Artists Part I

This month I celebrated new milestones on my Instagram accounts and wanted to share some simple, easy tips that helped me get my personal account to 20k and the magazine's account to 60k.

I use instagram to network, share my work with the world and even connect with new collectors! I want to share what has been working for me to help you do the same.

On this episode, I cover the basics on what to post, how to promote and even sell artwork. Perfect for beginners. 

-Kat



So You Want to Leave Your Day Job

Ekaterina Popova

If you are an artist or creative who dreams about leaving your grueling day job and making it on your own, I wrote this for you. I have been self-employed for the past two years and wanted to take a moment to share my experiences, the good, bad, and the ugly to hopefully help you take the leap when you are ready.

This article is not meant to sound  discouraging or like a typical ad from a "laptop lifestyle" guru telling you to instantly quit your job and make millions while traveling the world. The path is challenging, exciting, and I welcome anyone who feels that they are meant to follow it to join me, but I also want to be completely transparent and helpful in preparing you for what may be ahead.

So should you simply hope for the best, be positive, and put in your two weeks in order to pursue your dreams? Not at all, at least not yet. Hear me out. I’ve been there and I know what it takes. You have to be strong mentally, financially, and emotionally to do this, and while I love to encourage everyone I meet to chase after their dreams, I want to empower you and help you make an informed decision by sharing my journey first. 

If you already have a job or career, aside from making art, that allows you the time and freedom to create, while giving you security and an income and you enjoy it, good for you! This was my original plan and it did not work for me, which is why I am here. I think any way you can support your lifestyle while making art is honorable and you should be proud of it, even if it's not related to your passion. If you happen to enjoy what you do at your day job, I applaud you! This article is for those who dream of being their own boss or are deeply dissatisfied with their current employment. 

I promised myself that once I started making headway in my own career as an artist, I would "send the elevator back down to someone who needs a lift". I do not have all the answers or solutions to your unique situation, but I'm hoping my experiences, both good and bad, can give you some ideas and perspective on what life is like and how I got here. These are the things I wish I knew when preparing to leave my job, graduating college, and trying to learn about who I wanted to become. 

I was worried about all the wrong things, such as experience, level of education and other nonsense that played essentially zero role in my career. I had a lot of insecurities, which held me back. I had a negative mindset that was probably a plug on many great opportunities I missed. I was resistant to change; I was expecting someone or some job to come save me. I now look back and find comfort in these mistakes and try not to slip back into negative patterns of thinking when hard times arise. 

Now that you read through that little disclosure, here are some helpful tips that will prepare you, empower you, and build you up to the person you want to be when you are crazy enough to take your art/venture out into the world. As always, you are capable, strong, and talented, and I am rooting for your success. 

Visiting Create! Magazine at McNally Jackson Books in NYC:

1. Be Your Own Investor

When you start working for yourself as an artist or creative, you will have to think of yourself as a business. I was resistant to this for a long time, but once it all clicked, my life changed. You are the CEO of your art career. You have to take full responsibility for your success. This means making wise choices about your money, your time, and how you present yourself to the world.

If you are still working your day job, USE it as your "angel investor". I know a lot of times day jobs don't pay nearly enough even to cover the bills or student loan payments, but do your absolute best to save as much as you possibly can, and you will thank yourself later. Nickname your bank account "dream art career" or "studio fund" and put away any extra dollars after your bills and living expenses are covered. Save up for the time when you will leave, envision your life as a self employed person, and also use any extra money for building a website, photographing your work with a quality camera or hiring a photographer, covering application fees, and buying the materials you need to create your next body of work. 

Even when I was suffering through my waitressing days, I would use the extra $100-$200 I had for canvases, visiting exhibitions in bigger cities, and applying to dream opportunities. I also always had a budget for art books and magazines so on my breaks my mind would constantly be filled with things that I aspired to be around.

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2. Use Your Free Time to Build Your Career. 

Right after I graduated, I was so discouraged that I couldn't find an art related career that I would sulk, binge on Netflix, and cry about how miserable I was and how unfair it was that I had a college education and had to work minimum wage jobs. I dreamed of being hired by a gallery or museum and basically waited for someone to come save me. No one came, and I had to figure it out on my own. 

One day, after a year of rejections from every single art job I applied to, I said, "Fine. I will figure this out on my own." I remember I got a job at Macys in the makeup department (the most creative gig, as of yet) and decided to just make the best of my situation. I aggressively painted in the mornings before my shift and on weekends. I even snuck my phone under the counter to research calls for art and get ideas for future paintings. On my lunch break, I sprinted to Barnes and Noble and hungrily consumed every new magazine while sipping on a cappuccino. I started to enjoy my life, even though my employment wasn't ideal. I started to be happier and even more motivated. 

Not surprisingly, the good energy that was radiating from the new determined me eventually landed me more opportunities than I ever had before. I got an exhibition in Philadelphia and sold my first large painting to a stranger. The small exhibitions and opportunities gave me the encouragement I needed and field my positivity. 

Around this time I also got the idea to start my first magazine, FreshPaintMagazine. I remember having a "lightbulb" moment and I excitedly began researching how to make it happen. The first publication was scrappy to say the least, but I'm so glad I was inspired and bold enough to do it. At this point, I was building an online community, getting deeper into my own work, while balancing the world of retail and the often catty cosmetic department (a bunch of bored women standing around all day :)). I don't remember how this happened, but I started meditating and practicing affirmations to protect my passion and positive attitude, especially in an often-depressing work environment that could easily bring me down. I was getting somewhere and I kept pushing through as much as possible. 

My first magazine, which I founded in 2013 while working at Macys:

The first copy is here! Official launch is next week! So excited!

A post shared by Ekaterina Popova (@katerinaspopova) on

Painting during a day off on our kitchen table while living in a studio apartment:

The start of something new #paint #instaartist #artliving #art #love #wine

A post shared by Ekaterina Popova (@katerinaspopova) on

3. Always Learning

As I mentioned earlier, I spent a lot of time at the bookstore, but I also started getting into business literature and self-development books. I was so motivated to make my dream a reality (though I really didn't know what it would look like). I started consuming as much knowledge and education as possible. I remember first dabbling in art career books, but later stumbling across Girl Boss by Sophia Amoruso.  

A new world began to open itself up to me. I realized I could learn how others did it and apply any relevant aspects to my life. I started to see patterns and how others from similar backgrounds made it happen. It gave me hope; it made me feel closer to my dream. I slowly began diving into the world of social media and using it to market my art and new magazine. It was a steep learning curve and I had no idea how to write captions or what to even post, but it all came with time and experience. I remember the first time I sold something through Facebook and Instagram and how amazing it was to me. At first, I thought it wasn't legitimate and that I was a fraudulent artist because I didn’t have a fancy gallery representing me (but boy, I am glad I kept doing it, because that is how I mostly make my living now). As my social platforms began to grow, my community started to emerge as well. 

I recommend for you to take time each week, or even each day, to learn something new that you know you need help with. It can be business, art techniques, social media or anything else. Libraries are still a thing, and there are millions of free articles and YouTube videos. We live in an incredible time where anything we need for success is at our fingertips. I never thought of myself as a business-person, but I am thankful to the past me for keeping an open mind and taking the time to educate myself so that I could later support myself as an artist. 

Download podcasts, get books on audible, read an old-fashioned paperback, or search YouTube and online courses to get you to the next level. 

4. Get Involved. 

Around this time I was volunteering at art openings and writing free articles for an online art magazine in exchange for free admission to museums. This forced me to upgrade the caliber of people I interacted with, to be around other artists and creatives, build new friendships, and even improve my own art. I got new ideas and was around high level exhibitions and impressive work that challenged and excited me. Though I am naturally an introvert, and sitting at home was my favorite, I knew it wasn't the person I dreamed of becoming. I hated it at first, even got massive social anxiety before any art opening, but pushed through it until it became second nature. 

I also like to remind myself that even though I did not take a traditional career path (whatever that even means) all my experiences, which I thought were negative at the time, shaped who I am today. A lot of exhibitions and opportunities came from meeting people at events that I attended or volunteered at.

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5. Celebrate and take notes. 

So when do you know when to go out on your own? When you start consistently selling your artwork or creative product, start taking down your sales and numbers to see how much you need in order to make a healthy income that supports your lifestyle. Mine has always been a combination of art sales, magazine sales, commissions, and curation. The mix of all of these things helped me make a decision over time. I would take notes and be familiar with your numbers and check them for overall consistency so you can confidently leave your job. 

Each time I had a breakthrough or figured out something new that worked financially, I would take notes, feel the excitement, and feel one step closer to my goal. 

Before I quit my job, I had only 6 months of living expenses, which I frankly regret because it wasn’t enough and I had some massive setbacks in the first few months and ended up having to use most of the money unexpectedly. Always have a little more than you think you need. Trust me, it's worth staying at your job for an extra few months if it means you can be comfortably focusing on your work instead of having a meltdown like me. Give yourself a nice cushion, because it's really hard to be inspired when you are having a panic attack over not being able to pay your bills. Test your side income for at least a year before taking the leap. 

I had an unfortunate business partnership breakup with my first magazine, which slowed down my growth, and while this is unlikely to happen to you, life gets in the way sometimes, so just be prepared as much as you can. Don't think of it as a rainy day fund, but think of it as an investment you can use to grow your career if everything goes great (which it will!). 

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6. You Are Your Personal Brand.

The last job I had at the Capital One call center taught me about the importance of being your own brand. This means that you are representing yourself everywhere you go and it's your job to show up, work hard, and have the best attitude possible (even if you eventually want to move in to another job). I am happy I had the sense to take this advice to heart. By being the best I can be, even at a job I wasn't excited about, I was able to build amazing relationships with my team members and managers. I did my best and pushed myself as a salesperson and customer service representative, no matter how frustrating it was. My managers rewarded my efforts with extra days off to paint, eventually let me transition to part time, and then finally let me to leave on good terms with the ability to come back "in case things don't work out".

I know life can get aggravating, but by being the best you can, no matter where you are, you will create a support system that may end up helping you land your dream position or help you smoothly transition to self-employment. There is something empowering about having a group of people rooting for your success and knowing that you will always have the option of going back to a day job. Not that you will have to do that, but it will help give you peace and certainty when taking the plunge. 

I hope this brief summary of my experiences will help you make a plan, if it is your dream to make it on your own one day. As I mentioned earlier, if you enjoy multiple streams of income, and they don't all have to be creative, more power to you! I struggled to figure out in the beginning and had to go the roundabout way. I have so much respect for educators, art therapists, designers, consultants, and multitudes of other professions that are creative and demanding. I also love hearing about how artists support themselves while working in finance, engineering, and love their second career outside of the arts. Don't feel pressured to make your entire income from art sales alone. It's rarely the case for self-employed artists and usually we all have to hustle, teach, and offer services to make ends meet in between those big painting sales. I wish you all the best on your journey. 

If this was helpful or you have questions, feel free to email me at info@createmagazine.com

Cheers!

Me at my home studio/office (p hoto by Emily Grace Photography)

Me at my home studio/office (photo by Emily Grace Photography)

Photo by Emily Grace Photography

Photo by Emily Grace Photography

Anything is Possible: Bridgette Mayer's Powerful Story and Career Advice for Artists (Podcast Interview)

On this episode, Bridgette shares her story and how she overcame major obstacles in her life and built an incredible career as an art dealer, curator, art advisor, author, and entrepreneur. She has empowered many artists and helped them build successful careers, sell work and get incredible opportunities. Tune in to this special episode for invaluable career advice, marketing tips and authentic ways of sharing your story as an artist to build your career from a leading art expert. 

Bio

Bridgette Mayer is an art dealer in Philadelphia, PA. She opened Bridgette Mayer Gallery on Philadelphia’s historic Washington Square in 2001. In July of 2016, the gallery evolved to a private gallery and consulting practice. Mayer represents artists from Philadelphia, New York and around the world, specializing in contemporary painting, sculpture, and photography. The gallery also deals in secondary market artwork sales and private and corporate consulting.

Gallery artists have won many prestigious awards including the Pew Fellowship in the Arts, Guggenheim Grants, Pollock-Krasner Foundation Awards, the Miami University Young Painters Competition and the Pennsylvania Council for the Arts Grant.

Bridgette Mayer Gallery has been featured on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 as a small business “On The Rise” and was recognized as a recommended Philadelphia arts destination in The New York Times Magazine. In 2013, Mayer was named one of the top 500 Galleries in the world by Boulin Art Info and was also featured in the Tory Burch Foundation’s “Women To Watch” series.

Mayer has been a featured speaker on many panels in the Philadelphia area and has guest lectured at a number of Universities, where her talks focus on how emerging artists can promote their work and sustain a career in the arts.  A graduate of Bucknell University, Mayer was an active member of the University’s Arts Board for several years. She is currently a board member of the Arts & Business Council, Philadelphia, PA & Vox Vopuli, Philadelphia, PA.

Bridgette’s Book:

How to Host a Studio Sale Online 

A few years ago, I started selling my work online. It was a very slow and natural progression from getting a friend of a friend to buy a piece to eventually meeting new collectors from across the globe. I learned a ton of lessons from my experiences and wanted to share them with you. 

Hosting a sale a few times per year is a great way to make room in your studio and fund your next project or exhibition. Over the years, this strategy became an integral part of my artist business plan and introduced me to many incredible art lovers. So, whether you have an overflow of inventory, are looking to make some money, or want to find new collectors, these tips on hosting an online studio sale will help you with all the above. I will be using these techniques and strategies right along with you. Let’s plan for a successful season of selling our art!

Photo courtesy of  Marta Spendowska

Photo courtesy of Marta Spendowska

Here are three important elements you need to help make your sale a success. 

1. Organize your inventory. 

This is the tedious and mundane part, but it will help you make the rest of the process very simple. 

1. Select every piece of art that you want to sell and is available to pack and ship right away. Make sure all the artwork that you feature is something you are proud of and would want someone to have in their home. Don’t try to dump your entire inventory, because the client will know if it’s not your best work. Use a special series, pieces that recently became available, or a collection you made specifically for the sale. You can curate this experience in any way you choose, but make it meaningful and unique.

Photo courtesy of  Danielle Krysa

Photo courtesy of Danielle Krysa

2. Photograph each piece, if you haven’t already, and organize the files with labels that you will know how to find. Take beautiful, crystal clear images that show your work in its best light. More quick tips on photographing your work here.

3. Keep the files in a place you can remember and have a document with titles, sizes, media, and prices in the same folder for easy reference. Label your work in a consistent way within that folder. For example: (yourname_paintingtitle_dimensions_price.jpeg ). 

I keep images and information of my art on Dropbox because even if I don’t have my computer with me, I can still have access to the best quality files in case I need them. 

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2. Plan your shop. 

There are a ton of free and affordable web tools that make it super easy for artists to sell online. When I first started doing this, I would create an album on Facebook and mark items off as they sold. At one point, I used a simple PDF with available works that I e-mailed interested patrons. These days, I use the shop feature on my Squarespace hosted site and send a “secret” link to those who are interested. A lot of web hosting services offer free or affordable options for customers to checkout using PayPal or Stripe. You can also create a simple link with a piece if you are selling your work on a one to one basis. paypal.me

Another option is to use an online gallery like Saatchi to sell work for you. They take a small commission fee, so you would have to calculate your prices accordingly.

Once you decide on your option, upload your work and details, and set up how you want to get paid. It’s up to you if you want to keep the shop and prices private, or share with everyone. Here is great article by Saatchi that may help you price your work. https://canvas.saatchiart.com/art/how-to-price-your-artwork

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3. Spread the word. 

Chances are you probably already have a community you created online on Facebook, Instagram or your e-mail list. It doesn’t matter how big your following is, as long as you have a genuine connection with at least a few people. Make a simple announcement that lets your audience know that you are excited and your work is on sale. Invite others to share the news with their community. Sometimes people need to be reminded that they can own the beautiful paintings they have been looking at for months on your profile!

Photo courtesy of  Sticks and Ink

Photo courtesy of Sticks and Ink

I remember feeling so nervous when I launched my first sale online. It only featured a few pieces, but I had the worst imposter syndrome and doubt just flooded my mind. Thoughts like “What if no-one buys anything?”, “Am I charging too high or too low?”, and so on would paralyze me. I finally committed to putting myself out there and e-mailed a few people I had on my Mailchimp list.

For a whole day or so I did not hear from anyone, which then inspired me to make an announcement on my Facebook page and Instagram. I paid $10 to run a little “boosted post” on Facebook to broaden my reach. A few days later I started getting messages and made my first big sale. Whenever I feel doubt again, I think back to the amazing feeling I had when I sold a big painting to a stranger across the country. I was on cloud nine for weeks!

Photo Courtesy of  Zoë Pawlak

Photo Courtesy of Zoë Pawlak

If it’s your first time putting your art out there, don’t be scared! The worst that can happen is nothing at all or everyone will want to buy your work and you will have an empty studio and a full wallet. 

Remember to be confident about your art and accomplishments. Think back to any exhibitions, publications or any other accolades you received so far. If you are a newbie, think about a time that someone complimented your work and how proud it made you feel.

P.S. Once you make the sale, make sure you pack it like a pro. Learn how here: https://www.saatchiart.com/packaging

Check back and let me know if any of these tips worked for you at info@create-magazine.com

The Do’s and Don’ts of Applying to Galleries

One of the quintessential markers of an artist’s success is securing a gallery to represent their work. The application process can be daunting, whether you have already sent out hundreds of emails or are mustering up the courage to reach out to your first gallery. While it does take time and a little bit of research, it doesn’t have to be so overwhelming. Based on insider knowledge from working for galleries, art fairs, museums and auction houses and my own previous experiences approaching this as an artist, I’ve put together my thoughts on what to have prepared before you submit, how to find the right fit for your work and the best do’s and don’ts for applying to galleries.

First, if you haven’t read Kat’s post “5 Things Keeping Your Art from Being Featured”, please pause right here and check it out first! A lot of the rules she mentions relate to this topic as well.

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1. Adding to her tips about your artist website – DO choose a simple, memorable domain name and email address. You’d be surprised at how many people send applications with websites or personal emails that are not related to their art! You want your first impression to make you look like a professional, practicing studio artist.

A few good options are [yourname].com, [yourname]art.com or [yourname]artist.com. If you have a more common name you can play around with adding your middle name, initial, or using a shortened version of your first name like Kat did! https://www.katerinapopova.com/

2. DON’T jump the gun and submit before you’re ready. Have a consistent body of work that includes at least 15-20 pieces viewable on your site. They don’t all have to be one medium, but should demonstrate that you’ve put effort into developing an idea. This allows a prospective gallery to imagine what a full solo show of yours would look like. If you only send five images or don’t have many posted on your website, a dealer might think that you don’t have enough work to fill a gallery.

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3. DO compare galleries. In the best-case scenario, you would visit galleries and talk to the owner, director or manager in person beforehand to get a feel for whom you would be working with. Just like if you’re job searching, you want the relationship with your gallery to be mutually beneficial. If you don’t like the space or didn’t connect with the staff, you’ll be glad you didn’t spend the effort applying.

4. DO your research if you can’t go to the galleries to find the best match. Find out who they already represent. Visualize a group show with all of these artists and honestly answer the question: Does my work fit the aesthetic? Read their résumés to see where they studied and have exhibited (and how they are formatted!). Do you have similar accomplishments?

If you're a younger artist, try looking for galleries with a smaller project space where they are often more willing to show emerging or experimental work. This could be an easier way to get your foot in the door.

Finally, if you are applying to galleries outside of your local area, always consider how much you are able to spend to ship your work to them. That is usually a cost that you will have to incur and it can get expensive very quickly, even if some dealers are willing to split the shipping fees 50/50.

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5. DO look closely at a gallery’s website and social media channels. A quality gallery will maintain their online presence using the same standards that they expect of yours: modern, clean and up-to-date. You might also want to note if a gallery regularly produces a catalog for their artists’ exhibitions, if they are private versus open to the public and which art fairs they attend, if any. If these things are important to you, don’t lose time drafting applications to galleries that don’t meet your requirements.

6. Along a similar vein, DON’T submit an unsolicited application if a gallery’s website explicitly says that they are not currently looking for artists. I worked at a gallery where we noted that we were not actively seeking applications and we were still contacted by multiple artists each week! Please read their website thoroughly to avoid making this mistake.

Think about it from another perspective – if you were an artist already represented by this gallery and they continued to take on more people, you would likely have less opportunity to show and they would focus less effort on selling your work specifically. Though I would personally avoid applying to galleries that aren’t looking altogether, if it otherwise seems like the perfect fit for your work, my best advice is to see if you can get a face-to-face meeting with the director.

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7. Please DON’T just show up to a gallery with your portfolio. Again, I’ve worked at galleries where this happened weekly and it is not the right way to start the conversation. If you arrive unannounced, you are catching the staff off guard and there is no guarantee that someone will be available to meet with you. Similarly, exhibition openings and the first few days of an art fair are tough times for long conversations with a dealer because they will be focused on their clients and closing sales. However, if you notice a lull when you are there, certainly take the chance to meet them or ask them for an appointment at a more convenient time. This way, when you follow up via email you can say that you’ve already met – mention when and where so they remember.

8. DO find other opportunities to introduce yourself. Besides showing up to gallery openings, attend art events in your community and you are likely to meet the people you are looking to work with organically. Practice speaking to people about your work confidently, like an elevator pitch, and ideally be able to do one that is short (one minute) and one that is a little longer (five minutes) in case you have the time for a more in-depth conversation. Pinpoint what are the most exciting or unique things about your work and you as an artist and use those to convince a gallerist to want to represent you.

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9. DO read their application instructions carefully, triple check your materials, and have a friend look for typos! If they do not list specific instructions, send a brief email stating your interest in the gallery and attach your resume, images as a zip file and your artist statement (check out our article with tips on writing one). For large files, you can also use programs like Dropbox and WeTransfer, but be wary of having to send more than one email. Ideally, you want to send a complete application in one message. Look on the gallery information page of their website to find the name and email of the owner or director so you can address it directly to him or her.

Your message could read something like this:

Dear [Gallery Owner],

I am writing in reference to the call for artists listed on your website [OR to submit my work to be considered for representation]. My current body of work [describe in one or two sentences]. I have exhibited most recently at [name notable exhibitions, preferably solo or two-person] and am part of the permanent collection of [list any]. [Also mention relevant awards, recent press, residencies or other gallery affiliations].  

Please find attached my artist statement and résumé, as well as a selection of my work. Additional pieces can be viewed on my website: [list website here]. If you have any further questions, feel free to contact me at [list email, phone or both]. Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you shortly.

This example is more formal, but it gives you an idea of what you can say to keep it simple and direct. 

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10. DON’T get frustrated if your application goes unanswered. Hopefully, a gallery will at least do you the courtesy of acknowledging your application, but they often do not. My general rule is that once I apply to something I “forget” about it rather than worry or obsessively check my email. If I hear back, hooray! – if not, oh well. There will always be more to apply to. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t follow up. It is appropriate to send a message about a week or two after the initial one to ask if your application was received or if it is being reviewed. If they still don’t respond, however, then it’s time to move on.

11. DO consider alternative models like co-op galleries. Depending on where you are in your career, it might be worth it for you to exchange a few sitting hours per month for the opportunity to show. Always read their agreements carefully to decide if the exhibition potential outweighs the membership fees and/or working requirements.

Speaking of alternatives to the traditional gallery – connecting with independent curators, art advisors and interior designers can help broaden your client base as well. While most galleries sell to private individuals or people purchasing on behalf of an institution, a curator or designer might be looking for art to place in a corporate office, hotel lobby, restaurant or department store, and some are tasked with finding artists for large-scale mural projects. But most importantly, never underestimate the power of building your own personal brand! With a strong website and social media presence, you can start to make sales on your own.

12. Lastly, DON’T let the fear of rejection hold you back. When I was still in art school, I remember finding a gallery focused on emerging artists. I compared myself to who they were already showing and thought that I fit the bill, but I was too scared and talked myself out of submitting an application for a whole YEAR! Luckily, once I finally bit the bullet and applied, I heard back shortly after and was asked to bring in a few pieces for a final review. At my meeting, the gallery director decided to take all of them and I signed a contract on the spot. Sadly, the gallery eventually closed, but at the time despite being overjoyed at the positive outcome, I was a little disappointed in myself for having given into my self-doubt for so long. Don’t let that be you.

Everyone at Create! is cheering for you! So, go, apply to amazing galleries and get represented. Tell us about it when you do ;)