Sunday, 3 March 2013

From amateur painter to professional: few years of practice and dozens of brush strokes

Images from my working room - Teodora Totorean

What makes an artist happy is knowing that something beautiful will come out of their hands and imagination, something that people would admire and would want to acquire for their homes. But when you are an amateur and/or self-taught, you probably have less trust in your artistic abilities and insufficient knowledge of what to do to promote yourself.  Yet the “amateur” adjective doesn’t mean that you are less of an artist. But how can you know if people would like your work and, most importantly, buy it? Here are a few starting points that you can try. The cost is minimal yet you could end up with a lot of admirers and returning customers.

Arts and crafts fairs

You can start by booking a stall in local arts and crafts fairs where you can test-drive your “product”. Who likes your art? Are they willing to pay the asking price? Do they want to know more about you and your art? This way you get the first glimpse of your admirers (age, gender, lifestyle) and you can start and promote your art accordingly. Think about it as a business and sell it to your audience.  Don’t be shy as the opportunities don’t come in bulks. If you see someone interested in your art, talk to them, see why and what they like and be prepared to negotiate the price.

My story: When I took part in my first arts and crafts fair sometimes in 2009 before having a clear idea about what I want to achieve and what direction I wanted my life to go in, I was so shy and scared that I didn't talk to anyone. Having an introvert personality, being quiet is normal for me, so the idea of talking to the public was daunting. Four years later, in the same situation, everything came naturally: explaining my art to people and presenting myself to the public as an artist. Now I know that first time round I had no trust in my abilities as painting was just a hobby back then. Once I was more comfortable with my work, I had no problem with interacting with the customers, despite my introversion.

Facebook page

Building an online presence is easy these days. Start by creating a Facebook page and upload images of your art. You can also write art related notes, about your favourite techniques or the story behind a painting. A fan page could be as interactive as you want it to be, depending on how often you post some news on your wall. From impressions on art related products you bought or visits to art galleries to in-depth information about your art, inspiration, favourite artists, etc, there is always something to keep your fans interested. Also, through a page, you can network with other like-minded people, be that artists or art lovers.

My story: I started my Facebook page as a way of showing people what I do and keep them informed on my progress. I know there is room for improvement in making the most of my page like organising flash sales, bids, competitions, etc. They work really well for other artists so I might start to try them myself soon.

Online shops

It is worth checking online galleries or shops that sell hand-made products. It is yet another way to find out whether your art generates interest. If you sell through those shops you know you are on the right path. 

Organizing workshops

After you’ve experimented with a variety of themes, media, painting tools, colours, etc, you can specialize on just a few subjects using mainly your favourite colours so people will start to recognise your style. Your fans (and buyers) will notice the difference and you will gain new admirers too. If you mastered a particular technique or the use of oils or mixed media, why not organise workshops in your area for different age groups. Children, youngsters, pensioners – it is never too early or too late to start painting and you can be the person to guide them in their first steps.

My story: I am in the process of developing my own style so I haven’t started to organise workshops. But there is a seven years old girl (a neighbour’s daughter) who every now and then comes into my little studio and we paint together. It is so refreshing to have her by my side, asking questions about techniques and other processes. Not to mention that her paintings are truly beautiful.

Taking it to the next level

Now that you have created art for a couple of years, you can start thinking about how to raise the bar. But how can you take your art to the next level if you are self-taught? There are many books that you can study in order to perfect your skill and to try out new techniques. The Oil Painter's Bible: The Essential Reference for the Practicing Artist , Collage, Colour and Texture in Painting , Flowers in Watercolour (Art Handbooks) are just a few titles on the bookshop shelves.
You can also start taking part in open studio events so your art will have a good chance to be noticed not just by collectors but by art gallery owners too.Once you started selling through all the different channels, you can omit the “amateur” adjective when you tell people what you do.

My story: When asked, I tell people that “I paint” or “I am trying to establish myself as an artist”. The true progress was when I updated my LinkedIn headline to “Artist at Teodora Paintings”.

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