Thursday 26 July 2012

Growing an Art Business

When I first started to work as an artist, I thought I'd got it cracked if I created a painting and sold it.  I was very naive back then, I didn't know much about running a business, in fact it would be true to say that I actually believed I couldn't run a business - you had to go to college and do a BTEC in business and finance to do that...didn't you?  Get yourself a certificate saying that you were capable?  I didn't know arty people could also be business people and so for quite a few years I fumbled my way forward, selling the odd painting and learning bits and pieces here and there as I went on.

I remember standing in a book store business section one day, after having a light bulb moment where I thought I might be able to teach myself the basics, but it wasn't to be.  I gazed unhappily at the boring tomes in front of me and sighed.  They didn't exactly inspire me to conduct a home study course and I remember walking out empty handed, and feeling just as stuck.  Back in those days, creative people didn't have the resources that we can easily lay our hands on now.  Back then, business was strictly for people in suits with large mobile phones.

It was a frustrating time for me.  I knew that I could paint, I knew that the people who had bought my paintings liked what I did, but I didn't understand how to get myself out there, or how to go about getting myself noticed.

Cue the internet.

We are so lucky in many respects to live in a very technological age, and what this means for us artists and crafts folk is that life becomes a whole heap easier and potential customers become a whole lot more reachable.

However, people aren't going to come to us if we don't let them know we're there.  Yep, if I've learnt one thing from my biz studies it's about the importance of marketing yourself and being bold enough to blow your own trumpet and shout about what you do.

Now to tell you the truth, for a long time the business side of my business didn't interest me.  In fact, you could say I was downright ambivalent about the whole thing and I think this stemmed from the deep rooted belief that you had to study at college or university to be a Business Person.  But this year I've been reading and studying business, learning how to expand to create new income streams, how to reach more people and how to make more sales.

We don't have to rely on our income to appear from just one source.  We can create diverse ways of bringing money into our lives.

I mean - WOW!  This is really true!!  And for long enough I had no clue that you could do this!

I used to work in an office, and I just took for granted that I earned a salary and each month that set amount of money went into my account.  Once the bills had been paid and my outgoings taken care of, there was a predictable amount of money left over to play with for the next four weeks - it wasn't much either.  I never dreamed back then that I could have created extra income streams to supplement my office job earnings.  Nowadays we have the added bonus of the internet, which makes earning extra money for ourselves even easier - we have the whole world to share our wares with, it's an exciting prospect isn't it?

So, with the knowledge I've soaked up from various books, courses and online entrepreneurs this year, I'm confident that I can create different products and experiences for people through my business.  My main focus is on creating products that people actually want and need.  As well as my art, prints and cards I also sell an e-book that I wrote to encourage people to live more creatively; and I'm currently working on creating a new e-course.  As we drift from one recession to another, and the world continues to juggle it's finances, I think we have to adapt to our current situation and become a little more savvy and clever at how we go about earning money for ourselves.

One of the tools I've found works best for me is social media, by which I mean Twitter and Facebook.  Social Media is fast, it's easy and it's current.  The opportunities that have arisen from using just these two types of social media to share what I'm up to have been incredible.  I've had numerous commissions and sales come through these accounts, been invited to exhibit work at a gallery, had business owners contact me about selling my work in their shops, been involved with a school art project and also made some wonderful connections with other online artists.

There's still heaps of room to expand my business and I feel excited about the future.  I've been emailed about whether I would ever consider art workshops, and as it's something I've done before and enjoyed, I think that I would eventually like to do them again.  I'd also love to arrange an art retreat in a beautiful space with accomodation for the students, as I think this would be a wonderful experience to add to my business and it's something I'm investigating.  I'm also considering online art tutoring/coaching, and am looking at devising a program that would work remotely, so that people around the world could be involved.

We don't have to limit ourselves to just one thing - we can allow ourselves to dream bigger and to leap into new adventures.

Maybe you work at a job all day, but have a hobby that you could turn into a lucrative income stream?

Maybe your existing business feels a little stagnant?  Why not brainstorm some new ideas to take your biz forward ~ make a list, choose the one that makes your heart leap, investigate, plant the seeds, do it.


So back to now, and what I've been up to this last week or so:

Another recently new addition to my biz have been Mini Canvases - in fact, the ones I've painted so far, along with a couple of commissions have all gone off to new homes!  I've also been asked to create some for a gallery in Derbyshire and I'm very pleased with how they have taken off and the response I've had to them.

I've also got a brand new product to share with you all too.  After listening to my customers who have asked me for art postcards for long enough, I'm really pleased to tell you that at long last I have released a range of glossy art postcards!


There are six designs included in the set which feature images from some of my more popular paintings.  For a limited time you can order a set for just £5.00 which includes free p&p; in the UK*.

I'm now off for a little break in Suffolk, I send you sunshine and warm days, jugs of wildflowers and inspiring dreams.

With love

*please note ~ any orders placed between 27th July and 5th August will be shipped when I return from my trip.

Wednesday 18 July 2012

Adventures and Art

On Sunday, we pootled over to the Yorkshire Dales, to a beautiful little corner of the world known as Bolton Abbey.  Despite the appalling weather we've had so far this summer, we were pretty lucky in that the sun managed to shine a bit between the darkish clouds that blustered across the blue (yes, blue) sky, and we had a lovely relaxing time of it down by the river.

We took a delicious picnic crammed with fresh egg sandwiches made with thick country style bread, home made chocolate crispy crunch slice, cheeses, fruit and elderflower cordial that my Mum had made for us.  Armed with blankets, books, crochet, bats and balls and Crocs for paddling, we made our way down to the little sandy shore across from the Abbey and set up camp.

It was one of those lazy days that didn't really have much of a structure.  Small went off with her Dad to look at the tiny fish that were found swimming in the shallows, and I managed to sneak a half hour to indulge in some crochet and reading.

I wonder if you've spied that peacock blue yarn that I've got in my lap there?  Way back in November last year, I went up to the Knit and Stitch show in Harrogate, and I treated myself to a very luxurious skein of silk wool from Nimu Yarns.  Up until now, this yarn has sat cosily in a drawer whilst I decided what to make with it and after much searching on Ravelry, I discovered a lovely, simple pattern for a scarf.  I'm sorry to say that even though I'd bookmarked this pattern, I cannot find it for the life of me!  If I do manage to discover it again, i'll post a link for you.

After lounging around by the river, ice-creams were called for so we duly purchased some and went for a walk.  This really is a gorgeous little part of our country, the rolling hills have a very lovely sense of space about them, and it's a landscape that is very gentle on the eye.

The river water is reddish brown and clear, it plays a soothing tune as it tumbles over smooth round river stones...and we had fun making these...

Back home though, and back to work.  I'm currently in the middle of a couple of paint projects.  This is the first one, a country meets coast painting with a summery twist, I wonder if you can guess what I'm going to paint in the foreground?  Clue:  It's a very British, summery thing to do!

At the moment though, this work has taken a back seat as I've discovered mini canvas and easel sets!  An artist friend of mine on Facebook, Louise Rawlings (well worth checking out) has been creating some beautiful work with these for some time now, and I was very inspired by her creations and decided I'd like to have a go with these myself!

Here is my first offering:

This particular mini canvas is available to buy here for just £24.95 (includes P&P; in the UK).  It's an original acrylic painting, embellished with  vintage typewriter stamped text.

I've got some more ideas for these mini canvases, but would be happy to hear your ideas of what you might like to see me paint next!

Have a lovely week, see you soon.

Monday 9 July 2012

Sweet Peas and Lemons

Inspired by the Cornish sea, and cosy views from cottage window sills, I have just finished this acrylic box canvas painting today and wanted to share it with you all.

It sums up lots of different things for me;  my love of the ocean, blue skies, little fishing boats, lighthouses perched on dangerous rocky islands, inspiring pottery, relaxing moments with a good bottle of wine, pebbles found on a beach walk, bright, deliciously scented bunches of sweet peas, and zesty lemons which remind me of warm days and happiness.

We've not had much of a Summer here so far, the weather is inclement and prone to monsoonal downpours. It has been damp and dreary much of the time but I've been very happy to spend parts of my days working on this sunny painting.

On Friday, after non stop torrential rain, our river down the garden burst it's banks and started to flood the little path and patios that line it's edge.

It normally looks like this:

But by Friday evening, looked like this:

It was very brown, very fast and rather terrifying!  Huge tree trunks went sailing past and a pool began to form on our patio by the lavender bush.  We couldn't help but recall the flood of 2007, which consumed our garden and seeped into our cellar but luckily this time, the rain stopped and the water ebbed away.  I am forever amazed by the power of nature; how something so seemingly calm can all at once become ferociously out of control and alarming.

But I like being by the river non the less, I like being close to the water and the wildlife that visits us here and I like that it reminds us every once in a while, that we're not in charge.

So!  With a painting finished, I'm back to the drawing board.  I have several ideas for my next work and I think I'm going to do a piece on paper this time.  I've hung Sweetpeas and Lemons on my wall for the time being.  I like to do this with my finished work where possible, to live with it for a little while.  I must say, it certainly brightens things up a tad!

Talking of hanging work on the walls, I'm really pleased to tell you that three of my paintings are currently in an exhibition at the Harrison Lord Gallery in Brighouse.  It's called By The Seaside and there are some fabulous works on show there.  I'm hoping to get up there with my family to have a proper look around, and if you're in the vicinity I reckon it's well worth a visit.

Before I go, I just want to thank all of you who took the time to leave comments and email me personally about my last post.  It seemed to really resonate with people and I'm always quite amazed when that kind of thing happens!  There I am, going about my days thinking that I must be the only one feeling that way and suddenly, there are lots of people getting in touch who understand, who reach out and I am so very grateful for your sharings.

Since reading A Year By The Sea, I've picked up another of Joan Anderson's books; A Weekend to Change Your Life.  From these two books and the effect they have had upon me, I know that my life has already changed enormously, and for the better.  I am much more aware of my own needs and as well as sustaining a family and a home, I am now more conscious of looking after myself and prioritising my happiness.

From spending some time away from my day to day life in Cornwall, I managed to see very clearly where my life needed to improve and grow.  There are things that I used to do or tolerate that didn't make me happy, so I stopped doing them.  There are things I do now that I didn't before that do make me happy and I'm pleased I took the time to acknowledge these simple pleasures and make them a part of my day.  And it really is that simple.  Whilst I can't immediately live my dream of living close to the sea again right now, I can make changes that will make my life here feel newer, and happier right now.

Sometimes, it's about making yourself new in old surroundings.

See you next time,

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