Tips for Survival as an Artist from Michael Shane Neal: Part 2

Today’s guest blogger is renowned portrait artist Michael Shane Neal, who generously offers hints for living a long and healthy artist’s life. Please note that this was written for portrait painters, so change the language to meet your own needs.

Read Part 1 (tips 1-5) here.

6. Identify your market.
Who are you painting for? How can you best connect with the clientele that can become your patrons? Recognize “who” can purchase your work. Contribute to auctions that you know are supported by influential people. Contribute work to elite private school auctions, hang a portrait in an expensive children’s clothing shop, propose your work to a successful and well placed gallery, speak and share you work with local business clubs. Offer to paint a portrait for FREE for a highly respected local figure, and request an unveiling event. These are just a few of many ways to help identify your clientele.

©Michael Shane Neal, Rachel.

7. Fair pricing.
Your goal is to have your work seen and to earn enough money to cover your expenses. Price your work fairly and reasonably. When starting the life of an artist, the more work you are completing (even for a modest sum of money) can create excitement and motivation by you and your client.

8. Diversification.
Don’t just become a portrait painter! If I had not painted fruit and landscapes along with portraits when I began, I would not still be a full time artist today. Not only does this diversification help you grow as an artist, but it provides other opportunities for you to show your work and advertise your name. Not to mention, providing alternative income! Teaching can also be a profitable experience for you and your students. Not only as an additions source of revenue, but it can also connect you to other artists and potential clientele.

9. Dependability.
You are a business as an artist. Go the extra mile and remain dependable at all costs. Be responsive and provide the best customer service possible. Unfortunately artists are not known for seeping schedules, arriving on time for appointments, or generally running their affairs in an orderly and responsive manner. Show your clientele that you respect them, appreciate the opportunity to work for them, and take your work seriously. Always do more than what is expected of you!

10. Develop a support system.
Develop relationships with other artists and friends you can trust. Share your work in progress with them. Share problems you are facing or new ideas…get their feedback. These relationships will help you in your life as an artist, making the experience richer and more rewarding.

Read Part 1 (tips 1-5) here.

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2 comments to Tips for Survival as an Artist from Michael Shane Neal: Part 2

  • These were both very fine reads. I don’t know that there is anything especially new here, but having all these tips together encourages me to actually think about them (and confront some of them).

    I am both a painter and an art jewelry creator and these are applicable to both. But asking galleries, businesses, etc to show my work is as frightening to me as doing auditions were back when I was still a ballerina.

    I’d love to see an article about confronting and overcoming these fears. I am still working on that and it is so very stressful.

  • All very good tips and direction. Especially agree with the local networking through hanging your work on high-end walls and donating through auctions. Both of which I am currently doing. Online marketing seems a very time-consuming marketing effort, much more so than local. As artists we find that spending as much time as possible doing our work is our greatest effort but networking, shaking hands is a necessary part of our work.