How I turned professional!
How I turned professional!
In response to Robert Jones and Janet Haken who kindly commented on a couple of my paintings and asked if I was professional and how it came about. Having painted all my life as a hobby, being an artist for a living was a dream. I never thought for one minute I was good enough or could possibly make enough money to live. I started a recreational course at my local school of art in 1999 in watercolours and began to learn and experiment with lots of different techniques. My tutor, I guess, saw some potential and encouraged me to start exhibiting and so I became a friend of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists. I entered paintings into all of the friends and open exhibitions and most of the time they were selected. I also found a small space in Lichfield that I could hire and put on solo shows. And my work started to sell. Not for very much money, it was pocket money; it bought my materials. But I was able to go to college for one day a week whilst I ran my design and marketing business which I had started in 1990. I approached a few galleries and asked if they'd take my work and they did. So my 'wings' were beginning to spread. Then in 2004 I entered a 'New Artist' competition sponsored by the NEC Autumn Fair and DeMontfort Fine Art. I was selected as one of the 10 finalists and my prize was a stand at the Autumn Fair that year. I didn't win but I had 3 publishers interested in my work of which I chose one and who I am still represented by. And I had a queue of gallery managers waiting to talk to me... that's how to get in front of galleries! At this point, I had to be careful to keep my feet firmly on the ground, there was still a long long way to go. My publishers gradually introduced me to the commercial world, and to this day they represent me to over 1400 galleries throughout the UK and abroad selling limited edition prints and originals. In 2003 I was also approached by Brushstrokes in North Wales to be a visiting tutor and run a 4 day painting holiday for them, but I'd never taught in my life before. They asked me to think about it which I did, I set up a couple of free workshops for some students which proved successful. And so I took on the challenge of passing my knowledge onto other people. I still run a 4 day course at Brushstrokes. So in 2007 after my friend died of cancer, I bit the bullet, I worked out my finances and decided to paint full time. It's my passion, I absolutely love to paint and I knew that if I could just make enough money to pay my bills, I would be happy... ecstatic in fact. And that's just what happened. I more than pay my bills now. All of my painting trips are self funded, even my 7 week excursion to Australia and New Zealand last year. Having a graphic design and marketing background has helped enormously as I understand what it takes to promote a business. I did a demo for an art society recently and someone asked me what it was like to be able to get up every day and paint! My answer to that is I don't! Being a professional artist is like anyone working for themselves... you have to promote yourself, advertise, prepare press releases, be organised with such things. I bought a website package and had some training so that I could manage my own website... in fact this week I'm working out how to link it to Paypal. You never stop learning! So the amount of time I actually paint, in between the admin and advertising, demo's and workshops and actually quite small. But it's great and I enjoy it immensely. Some people say sometimes how lucky I am. I am yes, to some degree. But I truly believe that when an opportunity has presented itself, I have taken it, I have had belief and have worked very very hard, sometimes through the night for weeks on end to achieve certain goals. I think you make your own luck. But the journey continues, I'm by no means 'there'. What I am doing is living the dream now.