What I Learned In My First Year As A Full-Time Artist

become a full time artist
Photo by Alan Levine via Flickr

Ann Rea is an artist, consultant, and CreativeLive instructor. During her time working with artists, she’s met some truly incredible individuals who have reinvented their lives by pursuing art full time. She has collected three of their stories. Here they are:

Gabriella Lewenz: Comparing myself to another artist erodes my confidence.

Participating in the conventional scarcity and permission-based approach to selling art that is controlled by art establishment’s gate-keepers never made sense to Gabriella Lewenz. The politics, however, left a bad taste in her mouth.

Gabriella left the New York City art establishment behind to create her vision of a home on Waiheke Island in New Zealand. She and her husband built their retreat brick by brick with a plan that unfolded naturally. But Gabriella had no blue print to for making and selling her art outside of art galleries — after all, for a long time, one really didn’t exist.

Here are just a few lessons that Gabriella learned in 2014 that have already made 2015 more profitable, in her own words:

Lesson One: I learned to shift my thinking and focus from “my art practice” to “my art business.” My art is a in fact a business asset. Therefore, my creatively generates more financial assets.

Lesson Two: I learned to not offer discounts on artwork. Visitors and patrons to my studio are responsible for their own money decisions. They can pay the price or not. I am not responsible for their decision. I’ve gained much more confidence. As a result, and I have sold, and I will sell, more art work as a result.

Lesson Three: Comparing myself to another artist erodes my confidence. I no longer compare my accomplishments to others. This has been very freeing. I’m now focused on a proven step-by step-process that is helping me build my art business.

Lesson Four: When I’m stuck, I must invest in myself by seeking professional. As a result of my investment I have a freeing clarity and a unique value proposition. You can’t always do this alone.

Christa Forrest: Perfection just doesn’t exist.

2014 was a year of transformation for me. I made a decision to change, really change. I stop talking and dreaming about change and I took action. I quit my 20-year career in finance to pursue my true passion as a creative entrepreneur. Easier said than done, but I was ready and willing to take on this journey. I knew I couldn’t enter this journey on my own so I hired Ann. Allowing her to push and hold me accountable for my actions.

She had me begin by revisiting some of my most painful moments to find the lessons learned an ultimately my creative purpose. This was extremely difficult but truly rewarding. I found many of my most painful moments had a common thread. This was an eye-opening experience. There were a bunch of tears, but many insights. Here’s some of what I learned.

Lesson One: Perfection just doesn’t exist. For years I thought perfection was my ultimate goal. I would say to myself, “My art isn’t good enough.” “I will start this when I get to their level.” “I am not there yet.” What I didn’t realize is how this goal of perfection kept me at a complete stand still. What I really needed to tell myself is “You are as good as you are going to get at this moment. Embrace and accept where you are right now.”

Lesson Two: Fear kills creativity. Fear of failure, fear that it isn’t perfect, or fear of looking like an idiot in front of everyone. Again, nothing gets accomplished if I allow these fears to stop me from trying. I would become frozen and end up creating absolutely nothing resulting in a lot of unfinished paintings and projects piling up in the studio.

Lesson Three: I deserve success! I really do! I am a good artist, even if I’m not perfect. I deserve success where I am right here, right now.

Now how will this new knowledge help me improve in 2015? In“Fulfill Your Creative Purpose,” CreativeLive co-founder, Craig Swanson said that “confidence is the ability to fail in front of people.” I love this quote! This will be my mantra for 2015 and going forward.

craig swanson creativelive

Kate Bradley: I am not my collector.

After graduating from art school in her twenties, Kate Bradley needed to get a job. She worked at an art gallery and then an investment firm. How does Kate describe her experience of these jobs in one word?


And neither experience was preparing Kate for what she really wanted to do, make and sell her paintings full-time.

Kate started researching educational resources to help her make art and make money. She came across my interview with my friend Jonathan Fields on The Good Life Project and she applied straight away to my Business Mentoring Program for artists. Here’s what she said she’s learned since:

Lesson One: I have learned to take control of the artistic direction of my work. I make it very clear to prospective clients that I am the one who makes the decisions about the art direction. So now there is no confusion about who is in charge. This has saved me time and energy by weeding out collectors who are not a good fit. It helps me to produce better work and it inspires confidence in my collectors.

Lesson Two: I now charge appropriately for my work and stick by those prices. No discounts, no exceptions. I am not my collector, so I shouldn’t base my prices on what I can afford. In 2015, this will help me reach my sales goals and it will inspire confidence in my collectors because I am asking for what I am worth.

Lesson Three: If a project or partnership doesn’t give me energy, I’m not doing it. I refuse to waste any more time working with people that aren’t a good fit or doing events that don’t inspire me. That means no more babysitting kids in my studio, and no more vendor-type events where they put me next to the liquor store! Going forward, this will free me up to do the things I really love and care about. It will put me back in the power seat of being able say no.

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Ann Rea is on a personal mission to destroy the myth of the “starving artist.” She coaches artists from around the globe, including; painters, jewelry designers, illustrators, musicians, photographers, and mixed media artists.