Real, Practical Career Advice From Working Artists

Artwork Archive | November 10, 2016 (Updated September 20, 2022)

Inspirational words are great, but they aren't actionable.

We love inspirational quotes, too. In fact, there is a lot of wisdom behind words like, “follow your heart” and “hold your vision.” And they have their place in all of this as well.

However, when it comes to creating an actionable plan for your art business, it’s hard to build a career on advice like that.

We got some real advice, from real artists, on what has made their careers work.

Develop Your Contact List, Lisa McShane

Your contact list is really important. I’ve gathered the contact information of people from all my past walks of life. I regularly send out emails to my list with a new painting. It reminds people you're there and shows the growth you're making. I have sold many paintings through my emails.


Don’t Overlook the Importance of Quality Images, John R. Math

  • Label your entries precisely and consistently (At least your last name and title of your artwork).
  • Before you frame your art, have it photographed or scanned (No iPhone images).
  • Color correct and crop your images (There is no excuse for not doing this. There are free programs on the web that you can use).
  • Do not show backgrounds, floors, or easel stands (See above).
  • Display a consistent body of artwork, which shows you are serious about your art. (Art galleries, art representatives, designers, and art buyers want to be sure you are a serious and committed artist).

Check out more of his advice on the importance of presentation and the business of art as a competition here.


Engage With Video on Social Media, Lori McNee

Artists should be using YouTube; video is huge, especially on Facebook. Your Facebook posts rank higher with video and videos are a great way to break up the monotony. You can share tips, painting sessions, start-to-finish demos, studio tours, or make a video slideshow of your latest exhibition. The ideas are endless.

You can take videos hiking, painting, or interviewing a fellow artist. You can do a talking-head video letting people get to know you and your personality. Video is powerful.

You can also embed videos into your blog posts. There are lots of ways to repurpose content. You can turn blog posts into videos by narrating your post. Podcasts are really popular too because people can download an audio mp3 file and listen to it.

Hungry for more social media tips from Lori? Look no further.


Try Your Hand at Licensing Your Artwork, Laura C. George

If you’re interested in starting art licensing, I recommend you pull your work into some small collections. It’s often more difficult to interest a manufacturer in using one of your pieces than in using a small collection of your work. So it’s important you take the time to pull together pieces that work with each other.

You’ll want to have at least one collection of work that goes together (it doesn’t have to match exactly though), preferably of ten to twelve pieces of art. When you show ten pieces of art to a manufacturer, it’s called a Style Guide. This is a standard thing in the industry. You can get licensing deals without having any style guides, but if you have one you’ll look more professional and be more likely to get a lucrative licensing deal.

More of her expert advice on how to land an art licensing deal isn’t far away.

Above All, Developing Your Skills Remains the Most Important Facet, Peter Bragino

I would have loved it if my art teachers, or anyone at all, had let me know that true craftsmanship and skill is so important. The ability to draw is one of the most freeing aspects of my art today. I can draw from life, and so anything is available to me. I would have loved to have had that encouragement and advice when I was a young artist. I wish someone had told me to draw, and draw very well. Drawing from life is the main thing.

Looking for more great resources, tips and tools for growing your art career? Try Artwork Archive’s free 14 day trial.

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