From Starving Artist to Thriving Artist

When I started my shop a few years ago, there was a lot I didn't know: I didn't know how to share my work, what I waned to say with my art, and I severely undersold myself. Today, I'm sharing what I've learned from my own experience of trying to survive in the art world. I'm not an expert, I'm not an overnight success, I'm just a girl that likes to paint and finally knows how to share it with others in a sustainable way.

To carve a space in the world for yourself and your artwork, there are three basic things you have to do:


Sit down, grab a cuppa something, this is going to be a long post! 

1. Find Yourself

How Mr. Rogers of me to say, right? I can feel your eyes rolling now! 

What I mean by "find yourself" is,  find what you actually enjoy creating. Stop worrying about what's popular, what's marketable, or what's going to sell, and stop comparing yourself to others in style or "success." Make what YOU love - I guarantee there's nothing out there that's exactly like it. 

This first step is not easy or quick, it takes a lot of experimenting and daily practice to find your style and aesthetic (potentially blood, sweat and tears will be involved), but when you get there your work will be 100% your own! You'll be creating something authentic that reflects who you are as an artist and you'll be adding something new to creative community! You'll be pushing boundaries and moving the art world forward a notch (believe it or not). 

This patience and persistence to find yourself is crucial because art is not stagnant. You will always be going through this process of creative revolution, and once you get through it the first time, you'll have the endurance to do it a hundred times. 

 Never stop moving forward!

Never stop moving forward!

2. Find your Audience

Once you're in your art groove, it's time to find your audience - believe it or not, there are people out there that give a damn about your artwork! All you have to do is make yourself available to them. 

There are a few ways to do this, all have their ups & downs. 

Art Fairs / Pop Up Shops

The Upside: You meet people in your city, people can talk to you in person, and see your glorious smiling face! I had a pop up shop in West Elm recently, and it was so fun! I met a bunch of people who follow me on Instagram and it was the best day ever.

The Downside: ....or it'll be the worst day ever. Depending on the crowd, they might not be into art, or they might not be in the mood to buy what you're selling, and everyone will walk by and either not say a word or be a little rude to you. This has happened to me, it was a learning experience, and I may or may not have cried when it was all over. I can't guarantee this is avoidable, I'm sure every artist out there has had a bad day like this. My best advice is to go to the fair before you commit to it, and see what it's like.

Social Media 

The Upside: With the wonders of the internet, you can find hoards of creative people looking to find each other. I've found a wholesome supportive community on instagram - there's a very "we're all in this together" attitude. Instagram has opened a lot of doors for me, and has been a vital asset in getting my artwork out into the world. Through social media, I've also made a ton of wonderful friends who I can chat with about life, business, and they're always there to make me feel a little less alone in this (sometimes terrifying) creative adventure. I can do a whole post on Instagram, it's been a whirlwind. 

The Downside: Remember all the blood, sweat, and tears you put into "finding yourself?" Get ready to have someone swoop in and take it all away. It's an inevitable side effect of sharing your artwork - someone will see it, copy it, and claim it as their own genius creation. People will share your work and not credit you as the artist. It sucks. It hurts. It's like that horrible feeling that you've been robbed but they've taken something you can't possibly get back: credit!  

The Other Upside: Remember all the blood, sweat, and tears? Remember how I said once you do it once, you'll do it again? This is where your endurance for creative revolution comes in, and guess what: the copycats don't have it. You do. Keep creating, push forward, and leave them in the dust. 

 play nice!

play nice!

3. Get Paid

price your work accordingly! 

I cannot stress this enough. Don't worry that you're just starting out. Remember that thing I said about not comparing yourself to others in style or "success?" Really. Stop it.

Your artwork has value. *repeat to self in the mirror* 

If you undersell yourself, a couple of things will happen:

  1. You will be the "starving" artist. Nobody wants this to happen. 
  2. You will actively contribute to the thought that "art should be cheap" - thus, making other artists starve. This is not nice! Don't undercut the community! 
  3. When your art is cheap, people will not value your work. It's the whole, "dress for the job you want to have" mentality. Price high, and draw in the high end audience that respects your craft. Dealing with people who don't value your work is horrible, frustrating, and really soul crushing. Again, nobody wants this to happen.

How to find your price point (the right way): 

  1. Do your research. Find a working artist that works in your medium, and figure out what they charge per square inch. For example: I work in watercolors & acrylics on paper & canvas, and my work is largely abstract. I look to the fabulous Britt Bass to see what her prices are at. Am I as successful as her? Not at all. Am I as popular? Not even close. Does this impact my worth as an artist / human? Hell to the no.  
  2. Do some accounting. How much time did the piece take? How much did the materials cost you? How long did it take you to photograph it, list it online in your shop? How much is shipping? Take everything into account in the final price. 

Getting paid is important because it's the only way to keep your artistic venture afloat.  Don't turn your studio into a sweatshop, be kind to yourself! Share your art in a way that's sustainable! 

Thank you for reading! Please feel free to share your questions and experiences with me in the comments below. I love talking about art and  hearing your stories, and I'd be happy to chat anytime. 

Stay tuned for my next posts about marketing your art on instagram, tackling commissions, and collaborating with others!