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Charting Your Artistic Course

by Lori Woodward on 1/6/2010 12:57:59 PM

Today's Post is by Lori Woodward, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. She is also a contributing editor for American Artist's Watercolor and Workshop magazines and she writes "The Artist's Life" blog on American Artists' Forum. Lori is a member of The Putney Painters, an invitational group that paints under the direction of Richard Schmid and Nancy Guzik.  Find out how you can be a guest author. 

I majored in fine art at a university in the mid 1970's, but I really didn't learn much there because that school focused on abstract art while I was drawn to representational art. However, this post is not really about getting a poor art education, it's about growing as an artist and getting your work to the point where collectors are lining up to buy it. So... I'll continue... I worked for a computer company for 10 years, but when my husband and I moved to Albuquerque, visiting art galleries there got me yearning to get back into art. So I signed up for some watercolor classes with a local teacher, Dorothy Vorhees. I studied with her for three years, took a few workshops with nationally known master painters, and finally got to the point where I my work was good enough to sell.

That was in 1993. At the time, I was quite naive when it came to selling artwork. There was a frame shop in town that was loosely connected to a gallery right next to it. I imagined that if I had the shop frame one of my paintings, I'd be discovered and the gallery would automatically take me on. I also naively thought I could take one or two paintings (which were pretty good) down to Scottsdale, walk into a gallery and wow the gallerist. As I said, I didn't have a clue about how to get started selling my work.

It Isn't only Nationally Known Artists Who Make a Good Living

Since that time, I have indeed shown with galleries, hired art marketing consultants, and contributed thousands of dollars to my art education. It was a long road, but today I credit my successful artist friends with helping me chart a course for my art business.  Yes, I do count Richard Schmid and Nancy Guzik as personal friends, but their success stories are quite different than mine or those of my friends who are not nationally known. Keep in mind that while some of these artists are not national names, they make an admirable income.

So at the beginning of 2010, I find myself planning a series of blogs for Fine Art Views that will help artists get started at selling their work. Keep in mind that making a living in art is rarely, if ever, a get rich quick occupation. After all, if making and selling artwork were easy, and everybody could do it, it wouldn't be worth much. Outstanding art has intrinsic value. Collectors recognize that value. All the sales techniques and art marketing knowledge in the world will not sell your work if it does not attract an audience.

This does not mean that you have to be the best artist in the world to make a living at it. But artists who make good livings have some things in common - one is that they've developed an outstanding body of work with a consistent style... or a thread of similarity that holds the body of work together. While many of FAVs readers have already developed a body of work and style, there are others that are just getting to the point where they would like to move their work from being a hobby to a business. These are the artists I'll be talking to in this series of articles. However, you more experienced artists - I'd love it if you would chime in with examples of how you made the transition from amateur to professional. I sure wish I had a forum like this when I was first getting started.

The greatest asset for Selling Your Art, is Your Artwork itself

Even if you know the best marketing and sales techniques, these things won't take you far unless your work connects with an audience. As I've said in past posts, put the horse before the cart by getting the quality of your work to the point where it looks professional. This took me about 5 years of constant practice, study with good teachers, learning from books and videos, and painting alongside with friends who were better than I was. I also naturally developed a style during that time, and so it was at that point, I began to learn about how to make that work.

Getting Started: Look Through Your Stack of Art Magazines

When I taught week-long art marketing workshops at Sharon Art Center in New Hampshire, I brought a stack of magazines to the first class. Each student took home several issues. They were asked to look through these and dog ear any image that they loved. There was no need to explain why they were drawn to certain artworks - but just that they connected with them. The next stage of the assignment was to see what all those images had in common... whether it be style, color, or subject matter.

It was not surprising that there was a thread of commonality among the artworks each selected, and in most cases, the work they loved was similar to their own work in some way. If you've never taken the time to do something like this exercise, I encourage you to do so. My friend, artist Dennis Sheehan, keeps a box of torn out pages from magazines and photos of works he's downloaded from art websites - he calls this a morgue. I don't know why it's called that, but it is.

Like it or not, if your work can be recognized as "Your Work", you'll have an easier time attracting an audience for it. Developing a unique style normally takes years, but you can speed up the process by working in a series - by gaining excellence with one subject or composition. Yeah, it can get boring at times, but it's the fastest way to get your skills sharpened.

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Backstory: About Clint. Email EditorTwitter. Republish. ]

Related Posts:

How to Maximize Your Return on Art Workshop Investments

Take Your Artwork to the Next Level

On The Verge

Getting Your Artwork Published

Interview of Rising Star, Kathy Anderson

Building a Body of Work

Choose Your Rut Carefully

Advice From a Gallery Manager

Topics: Art Business | art marketing | Gallery/Artist Relationship | Lori Woodward Simons 

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Claudia L Brookes
Lori, I chose the path that led to being a professional artist in 1997 (my second career, after more than 30 years in publishing). Somewhere in my second year of painting, people started buying my work, I learned how to frame, started keeping records and paying taxes, and have never looked back on that choice to be a professional instead of a hobbyist. For the past 6 or 7 years, I ahve also been teaching art, and just this week, was asked by a student if she shoudl "quit her day job." Now, I hapen to know that she does not need he day job to survive, but she also wanted to know what she needed to do to get to be a better painter. The obvious answer is to "paint, paint, paint," but I also added that she might want to take some intensive workshops. You mentioned the exercise of having students choose images that resonated; I believe the same has to be true of workshop instructors. If they don't paint the way you WANT to paint, then you can just be confusing yourself. I know that many people recommend that you work with artists who paint quite differently than you do, but I think you learn the most from artists who have greater mastery than you do but who paint similarly.

Donald Smith

Thanks for sharing your knowledge about marketing and how your grew as an artist. It's taken me 8 years of hard work to develop as an artist, and finally I was accepted into a juried art show. I know that each artist has an individual path to walk, but it is great to read how others have done it. Sometimes I pick up an idea that I can put to use for me, other time's I'm just glad it worked for them.

I look forward to reading your future articles!


Diane Tasselmyer
Lori, This is the perfect time to have published this article. I'm "charting my course" for 2010. I understand what it is like to attend an art school focused on one form of painting or another.
It's important not to get bogged down in the ways we could have been better spending our artistic lives. I really find your "forge ahead" forward thinking mind set enlivening for my planning process.

Fay Terry
I have been wanting to work in a series and after reading your great article I can see why I need to do just that.
Thank You!

Pat Jeffers
Sounds like a great series. I'm looking forward to it and thank you in advance for sharing the knowledge.

Judith Monroe
Excellent advice - staying with a consistent style, so that you're producing a consistent product is so important to marketing your artwork! Imagine how much trouble Starbucks would have had if you never knew what a cup of coffee would be like there... You may cringe at comparing coffee to art, but a product is important to any business, and that's how you become a professional, by treating your art as a business.

At the same time, you should certainly pursue subject matter and work in a way that you're passionate about, not what you think will sell, because passion will produce a superior product,too! No need to sacrifice passion for business, just harness it in one consistent manner if you want to sell. That's what galleries and collectors are both looking for, like any other type of consumer.

Roderik Mayne
This is just what I need and I am looking forward to more.

Thank you

Lorraine Khachatourians
Thank you for this series Lori. I am at the point of wanting to move from hobby to professional so this will be very interesting. I have started a series (succulents, which are plants that I love). I have sold most of those that I have painted so far, which is very rewarding. Yesterday I started on the biggest one which I hope works out and will go to a group show in another province in June. My husband said - what, another succulent? And I said yes - I'm going big this time. I find I am learning a lot from trying different approaches. Looking forward to the rest of your series

Beth J
As someone who is taking my painting from a hobby to a business I look forward to your posts. My "take away" from today's article is that it takes work and you need a plan. Thank you.

Maria Brophy
Lori, your story is a great example of the time and experience that it takes to find success as an artist. I look forward to your follow up articles!

One of the points you made that most resonated with me was having a consistent style.

My husband has been a professional illustrator for over 20 years, and though his paintings are not considered "fine art" - more "pop art", he's well known globally as a surf lifestyle artist.

I believe that his success came from having a very unique, distinct style that is never confused with anyone else's. When you see just one of his paintings, you'll always know his work. Often, when he meets someone for the first time and show them a photo of his work, they'll say "Oh, I've seen your art before!"

A distinct style will stand out from others, and will be remembered. And you'll gain more collectors that way - because people tend to like images and styles that they recognize.

Terry Krysak
I am enjoying these articles, they provide a great deal of insight into the whole process that will benefit artists in different stages of their lives.

I too have a very large file folder of clippings from art magazines of art by different artists that resonates with me. I also have several folders on my computer of my favorite artists.

Looking forward to the next article.

Linda Wilder
I think most artists strive for a distinctive style. I've often struggled with this issue as I like to use a palette knife and at times only a brush...both of which produce a different'style'. A friend of mine once said, 'don't worry about developing your own style, just paint and your style will eventually find you.

Sharon Weaver
The new year is the perfect time to start a series of articles on charting a course. I am working through the next stage of my journey and look forward to future articles. I think standing out from the crowd is challenging and I am wrestling with that crucial part of the puzzle.

Charlotte Herczfeld
Lori, great first article in the series, thank you!

I'm lucky to have learned a method that gives me a unique style where I live. I fell in love with a type of American impressionism, and in my country, others are falling in love with my paintings. I've gotten collectors and followers although I've been only doing some low key marketing-- so far. That is going to change in 2010! As I've finally managed to listen to Clint's 'broken record' repetition of getting a newsletter, probably because now I feel secure enough in producing a constant enough quality, and have confidence enough. It has taken 6 years of really hard work to develop my skills in the method.

Looking forward to your next articles, Lori.

Jan Blencowe
I think one of the most difficult things for highly creative people is embracing the discipline necessary to focus in and develop one over arching style in their work. Afterall highly creative people are excited by new ideas, mediums, styles, and possibilities of all kinds. And very often they also possess the skills necessary to excell at more than one style of art plus their curious and fertile minds often restlessly explore new avenues of expression.

However, it's a stark reality that developing a consistent style that immediately generates a visual that pops into an art collectors mind when they hear your name mentioned is absolutely essential when it comes to the sales and marketing end of your work.

Working in a series is probably the best way to combine variety with consistency. Within a series the continuity should be greater. Once that idea has played itself out a new series can be started that relates to the previous in more distant ways. For those who crave variety two series can be worked on simultaneously.

Esther J. Williams
In my early years when I didn`t take my artistic abilities seriously, I experimented with just about any medium, that is great to do when you are a young artist. I was a flower child in the late 60`s and early 70`s, couldn`t get serious about anything. I even refused a scholarship to a fine art college in 1973, simply crazy. It wasn`t until the late 80`s that I began to get serious, I worked for a fine art group called Shelby Fine Art in the SF bay area. I was a representative for some blue chip artists like Beverly Doolittle and the estate of Salvador Dali. I think it was the tipping point, I told myself I can draw and paint, why am I selling someone else`s art? So, I spent several years drawing and painting in watercolor, then colored pencils. It`s was 1996 when I painted a larger than life size portrait of a Barbie that was hailed by the original owner of Mattel and some of her execs that I knew I had reached a point of being recognized as a serious artist. When the lawyers of the new Mattel ordered me to not market prints of the piece, I decided to change directions and watch what I paint, not to tread on any trademarks. I was a mother of young girls then, so I took a few more years to get a bearing on where I wanted to go, but it was joining several art associations that launched me in the right course or direction. I just wrote a blog yesterday on my website that entails that story.

Gina Murrow
This is a valuable article! Thanks for concrete ideas of how to move forward as a professional artist. It's also the first time I've seen specifics on how to develop a style.

The term "morgue" comes from journalism. Journalists keep "morgues" of their own writing. In this article, it refers to photos of artwork appealing to the artist that helps direct his/her choice of style. For a journalist, "morgue" work is writing that has already been published, finished it's "useful" life and it thus sent to the morgue at the end of its life.

Tuva Stephens
Excellent article. What has worked for me is having a passion for painting subjects that I love, studying as much as I could about the medium of watercolor,and painting as much as possible. I started out entering several art shows per year since 2001 while teaching art to high school students for 34 years. I gained much confidence through being successful in professional shows. Since I retired in May, I have stepped out of my comfort zone to submit works to enter national competitions. It was motivating to win a spot in November's FASO Art Competition my first time to enter. Keeping a journal of my goals helps me to stay focused. Just flipping through an art magazine can trigger a new work. I have also taken workshops from some master watercolor artists that keeps me reaching for more. Articles I read on FAS also has been motivating to me. I also joined many art organizations in my area of West Tn.

Lori Woodward
Thanks for posting your ideas, comments and for sharing your stories and experiences.

Linda, I agree with you about style - it comes naturally after painting for a while.

Carol Zirkle
Nice job, Lori (as always)!

My first experience having my work displayed in a gallery came from having my work displayed in a non-gallery space (Starbucks). The owner of a local gallery saw the work and called. I got in other galleries through a network of owners.

About style, I got in galleries pretty early on, so I tended to try painting everything. Experimenting, if you will. I started painting skies, then went to landscapes, then animals. Finally, one of my gallery owners said, "Why don't you go back to skies?"

I was so relieved, because skies were the subject I liked most. They were the easiest for me to paint. They were the most fun. And, of all the sights on this planet that make me lose my breath and stop in my tracks... it's the sky.

Thanks for sharing your experience!

Nancy Park
Lori, I would like to hear more on this subject. I really don't feel much trust in galleries around my area (once burned, twice shy syndrome*) but would love to take the time and do the research on reputable galleries, and if there's a way to find those who might like my style of work.

Would it be possible, or proper, to ask galleries for information on how to contact the artists they represent and get a track record for the gallery?

It may be anecdotal when an artist says they made a bundle on big sales from a gallery. But my thinking might be warped. Maybe more than a few do! Then again, I have the ever-present self-doubt that tells me I will never be good enough for the best galleries no matter how much I try. I think your confidence in yourself, even at a young age, was attractive!

*I had a downtown gallery close and decamp with my art, and I didn't have a contract!

Ruth Ochia
I am really looking forward to this series. I am "new-ish" to the art scene and have been wondering when and if and how I should move towards selling my paintings.

I have contacted a gallery owner of a local university where I work part time about showing some of my work. She seemed interested, but commented on the politics of showing one faculties work but not others. Oh well. I have been thinking about some non-gallery spaces, but don't know how to approach them.

I have really enjoyed reading your articles!

Roxanne Steed
Lori, your posting today is 'right on the money'. Many years ago I loved exploring various media and thought I could happily 'bounce around' forever between (at least) three! When I finally admitted to myself a real love for the oils, well, that was only a start. The real growth came when I committed to painting everyday, analyzing what was good/or not so, how it might have been like you say- not only continued study, but practical experience each day. Eventually as my interests in certain places intensified- yes, series came about, and eventually an interested crowd began to follow. What I didn't realize those 'many years ago', was how long this takes to unfold....and still continues to. I wish I could've read this 'way back when'! Thanks!

Teddy Jackson
Dear Lori:
Another great article.
My artist friend, Joan Parker, recommended that I focus on one medium and one subject matter. I have dedicated myself to Acrylic landscapes. After completing and posting a painting each week in 2009, I am on to studying more art books and DVDs, while seeking meaningful workshops.

Thanks for sharing with us.

Esther J. Williams
Jan Blencowe, you put that so eloquently! I can tell you are exploring and focusing within a series and carrying it to fulfillment. Then you depart from that and evolve, beginning another series. I have been doing that recently. I talked to a 'blue chip' gallery director recently and she recommended sticking to just one subject and become a master at it. That takes discipline and dedication. We`ll see if I go mad first.

Deborah Ridgley
Dear Lori,

You write , " I'd love it if you would chime in with examples of how you made the transition from amateur to professional."......
After 40 years of being an artist, I would have to say it is not one event that makes an artist move from amateur to professional, but more of a series on many successful events. Getting into more shows, teaching classes and promoting the classes, taking time each day to market my art business. And the key is to be consistant in all of these daily rituals.
It is amazing that actual painting time seems to be such a small part of the life of an artist. It really is about 50 percent marketing yourself to 50 percent actually making art. And finding that balance can help you move from hobby artist to professional.
One fact is certain - there are no shortcuts. However the harder I work, the luckier I seem to become.
Thank you as aways for your insight.

Carole Rodrigue
I settled on acrylics a few years back and don't miss oils at all. Even though I know there is a preference for oil paintings, I will stick with my acrylics and have figured out my own techniques along the way, and these all work for me. As for style . . . I thought I would always primarily be an equine artist, but now,I've become very passionate about still life and plan on directing more of my efforts in that direction. However, there's also this passion in me that needs to get a horse out once in a while, though still style is changing as well. For example, I'm dropping commissions and portraits soon and focusing on more artistic pieces,pieces that get my juices flowing more. I've read time and time again to just focus in one area, but how can I be true to myself as an artist while ignoring one passion for another? So, I've decided that despite all the advice, I'll focus on both still life and equine art (and I still do need to update my website and add new art!). Somebody give me a good head shaking if I'm wrong!

Lori, I'm very much looking forward to your articles. This is an exciting project you're undertaking, and as someone who's working toward eventually painting full-time for a living, I'm very much looking forward to more posts!

Leslie Saeta
Thanks for another wonderful article! "Charting Your Course" is certainly timely and I am pleased that I was able to post my 2010 art goals on my blog on New Year's Eve. (Usually I am putting together my goals in February ...) My goals are mostly focused on marketing and I have a copy taped right next to my computer screen for daily reminders!
I think your upcoming articles to help new artists sell their art is fantastic. I started selling my art two years ago and I think my background in marketing really helped. I look forward to your upcoming articles.

Lori Woodward
Thanks to everyone who has contributed to this blog/forum. I really appreciate that you're sharing your experiences with other artists here.

Carole, you bring up a good point. Some artists just love to paint more than one thing. A couple of my friends are nationally accomplished portrait artists, and they make great income from it, but they'd rather be painting landscapes.

I, like you enjoy painting a variety of subject matter. My friend and mentor, Nancy Guzik paints a variety of subject matter - however, over the years, she's developed a recognizable style of her own. When she was younger, she painted more like her husband, Richard Schmid. Now, she has a delicate approach that resonates throughout her work.

So... for those of you who like to paint more than one thing. That's OK. Although, it helps to have a recognizable style, but even if you paint entirely two different ways, that's OK too... Just try not to paint 4 different ways. It gets confusing to collectors and also takes more time to master all four subject matters.

If you decide to go with galleries, they will want to start out with primarily one subject, so they can tell their clients, "She does this". After you've got a collector base going, then it's easier to convince the gallery to show your other work.

Oh, and acrylic... another story.. for another blog, but I hear ya! I am working to advance the state of both acrylic and watercolor painting myself.

Michael Cardosa

Another great and very useful article.

I do have a question though that maybe you or someone else can answer. I've often heard the term "body of work" and certainly understand the idea and concept, my question this, aside from developing a style that reflects through a good number of your paintings (and I understand they must also be of true professional quality) what would you say would be the minimal or ideal number of works that would be recognizable for style and constitute enough "product" in numbers of works to interest a gallery.


Lori Woodward
Michael, Most of the galleries I've worked with would like to have 5-10 paintings ready to show, but there are exceptions. For example, an artist who has been working with a number of galleries and has sold most of their work.. well, a gallery might say, "show me your works as you finish them"

But when I planned to approach galleries for the first time, I had about 6 framed paintings that I could give to one immediately. This worked out pretty well because back in the 90's new galleries picked me up after seeing my work at outdoor art shows. I've never had to do the "sending portfolio" thing because they saw my work at local shows.

OK... I have got to get to the studio now.. will check back later. Thanks for asking Michael.

Michael Cardosa

thanks for answering that so quickly! Can't wait to read your next posting in the series!

thanks again.


Linda Wilder
great question Michael. I have wondered that myself. And Lori your insights and answeres to everyones questions are invaluable. Thank-you. Time to get back to my 'series'

Claudia L Brookes
I am replying to Nancy, who was thinking about asking a gallery if they would let her contact their artists for more information--it may be easier to just identify the artists you are interested in from the gallery's list of artists they represent(criteria could be that their work is similar to yours or that you know or recognize them from another connection), go to their websites for their contact information, contact them and ask the questions you want to have answered about that gallery and their experience with it. I'm sure that Nancy would get some "hits" for the information she is looking for this way.

Kimberly Smith Abraham
via with facebook

Thank you for such a wonderful article! The discussion that follows is so valuable. I am looking to transition from hobbyist to professional and love all the comments from the readers. I am looking forward to your next posts.


Tom Weinkle
Thanks Lori. For me, your article is timely. I have been working hard at skill development for the past few years, and it's coming along. I find myself sometimes torn about being identified as having a style, but on the other hand, I am beginning to realize it is unavoidable. Each artist sees and creates differently. Skills aside, the way i see a landscape and someone else does will be completely different in the final work. A friend said one's art is a reflection of the artist. Simple but true.

You wrote about body of work, and yes, it is needed so others can see what your work is about. I see it just takes time, there are no short cuts. And one can't just sit down and say i am going to create a body of work....not every work we do is of the right quality.

I suppose we all dream of wild success (which is okay), but the reality is often different. We each have to find satisfaction in what we can achieve and hope to achieve along the way. You are so right, looking at great work is invaluable. It helps us set high goals, and gives each of us the ability to put our own work in context.

Your contribution of writing is much appreciated.

Lori Woodward
While reading your recent comments, it made me think of one more thing: When you work in a series, you're not stuck with that subject forever. It just helps to develop your visual story. We artists are free to move on to other subject matter after a time, but it just helps to get established with one thing before you move on.

No artists' work stays completely stagnant over time. If your first series truly reflects your passion, you'll never likely tire of it... but you will grow to be more and more professional.

Connie McLennan
As an illustrator, I have struggled with consistency for years and continue to do so as I transition to fine art--all the while understanding the importance of developing an identifiable style. In developing a body of work, I find another difficulty is producing enough "recent" pieces. As long as work has not been seen by a certain group or individual, do you think there is any limit to how long one should show a particular work? I look forward to reading more of your articles on charting a course.

Claudia L Brookes
This is in reply to Carole, who was wondering whether her decision to focus in two areas, acrylic landscapes and also equine art, might constitute a "blurred focus." I have wondered the same thing--I teach watercolor, and although I still do some paintings in watercolor, the main body of my work is in oil as a plein air landscape painter. This change in focus came about when I made a conscious decision 4 years ago to direct my focus to juried plein air competitions; last year I was selected to participate in seven of these and the selling opportunities to a large group of qualified buyers at the end of the competition is very attractive.

Oils are definitely my preferred medium for plein air painting because I find watercolors really difficult to do outdoors. I also have a good body of work that is equine art; these are generally large watercolor paintings of racing scenes. The originals sell at a much higher price point than my other watercolors, and I sell the giglee prints at about 10 percent or so of the cost of the original.

I have always assumed that, for gallery representation, I would probably not attempt to place the watercolors and oils in the same gallery. I have also assumed that galleries will only be interested in my original work, and that they would not carry my giclee prints, but that I would be wise to look for a gallery that would carry my equine originals.

As I am getting ready to approach galleries again after a long hiatus of selling my work successfully myself, I am wondering whether my assumptions are nearly correct--that I would need separate galleries to represent the different kinds of work I do--watercolor landscape, oil plein air landscape, and equine art--and also if I may have too many "focal points" to be effective. I do not think that I would have difficulty supplying a number of galleries with new and fresh work--I am a pretty prolific painter and spend a lot of time painting.

Lori Woodward
Connie, When I first started selling, I had dates on the front of my paintings, and if they didn't sell in the year that they were dated, it looked bad at shows. No one wanted to buy an "old" painting. Because I've gotten better over the years, my older ones have never been as good as my later paintings, so they just sit there.

If an older painting is really good, there's no problem in selling it especially if someone loves and wants to own it. If you want to date your work, put the date, title and artist on the back with a copyright sign next to the date.

Debra Russell
Lori, I think some of the most valuable time I've spent painting has been as you put it..."painting with friends that are better than you". I think as a whole, most successful artists are more than willing to share the knowledge of what has worked for them. I have never run into an artist that wants to "protect" their secrets. This rang so true at the Weekend with the Masters last September, when every day we had the opportunity to paint with nationally known artists and ask them questions in a very intimate atmosphere. To watch and listen to artists such as David Leffel, Richard Schmid, Scott Burdick, etc. share with us any aspect of painting we wanted to learn was a life changing experience. You learn so much from others that are far better than you.

Carol Zirkle
I have two trains of thought:

1. Additional idea for Connie: Lori's suggestion of putting the info on the back of the piece is good. I handle it a little differently. I typically sign and put the copyright symbol on the front (with no date).

Then, I put other info on a Certificate of Authenticity that goes with the piece (mine on a pocket on the back of the frame). It includes a small picture of the piece, the title, my name, the medium, the year completed, a note about the subject, care instructions, and copyright instruction. I sign and add the date that it was completed. It has my name, address, phone number, and website at the bottom.

2. On the other topic of painting more than one subject. There no problem painting anything you want. However, what you present to the public is really the question.

If you paint fish for years, you become known for painting fish. Your customer base will be built on people that are looking for fish paintings. If they like yours, they will be waiting for the next piece, so they can add to their collections (thus becoming "collectors").

If you change directions, your current customer base is not served. The job of finding customers will start all over. It takes you or your gallery a lot of work and time to cultivate your customer base.

Somewhere I read that a very well established artist said (something like): you paint your niche paintings for your customers. Paint the other things you want to paint on your own time.

If you are in galleries or approaching galleries, it might be an interesting conversation to have with them.

Just some thoughts and considerations.

Sheryl Knight
Dear Lori,
I really enjoyed your article yesterday on Charting Your Artistic Course, and all the articles you have written. I read most of them and the others too. I found so much of what you said very consistent to my history. I have been painting seriously for probably 12 years, and showing in galleries for about half that time. I too have always been drawn to representational art, though much of my earlier education was more abstract. My favorite is probably plein air. There is nothing quite like being there in person.

I liked what you said about having a consistent style in a outstanding body of work, and find that very true.

One thing I would love some advice on is approaching larger galleries. Though I currently show in three galleries and do pretty well, they are all within driving distance where I can deliver paintings. I feel I would like to branch out to some larger galleries in other areas that attract collectors. You talked about collectors lining up to buy your work...that is a dream. I absolutely love painting and looking at art. I am not sure how to go to the next step. If you ever have the time to write back or look at my website ( I would love it.

Thank you again for all the articles you write for FAV. You have been blessed with multiple gifts and I can see you enjoy using them.
Sheryl Knight

Steve Martinez
Lori, Thank you. You are writing about me. After one class at Houston Community college, I knew I was an artist with galleries about to line up at my door. Now, after taking a second class in the Fall of 2009, I realized that I should just break all my brushes, cut up my canvases, glue the two together and become a collage-maker. I am looking forward to reading this series to get grounded in good practices. Thanks.

Bruce Ulrich
Excellent advice and insight Lori. I am amazed you have time to paint with all the writing and posting you do, you must not sleep.

Esther J. Williams
Let me correct myself, I do not paint in one subject, I made mention that a gallery director director of "blue chip" artists recommended to me to stick with one subject to master it. Although I took her advice and thought about it, I really would go mad or feel crucified. I paint in many subjects, landscapes, seascapes, figural, floral, etc... I feel it is my choice to paint what I want and would only sign up to a gallery that wanted a particular subject from me, but I am to be allowed to paint or do whatever my other subjects. It is the 'style' that needs to look harmonious. I have heard this paint in one subject recommendation several times from gallery owners in the Laguna Beach area. I just couldn`t be a slave to most of them, but they are not all like that. I have painted in several styles in the past, like abstract, realism, expressionism and conceptual during my college years and afterwards, I have dropped most of those. They were a short fling or overnight stand. Even painting or drawing in different mediums is good to challenge yourself and diversify. I can not be limited, I may pick up sculpting in a few years, it`s been knocking on my door. It is just within the past seven years I have developed my style as an impressionist, I love this style the most and it`s looking really consistent now.

Tuva Stephens
I think all of us must be true to ourselves no matter what. I take great pride in painting a variety of subjects. I don't like for people to tell me what I should paint. I like what Esther Williams just said and agree with her. I know have a certain style and I will keep painting whatever I love. People are buying my work and I am going to just keep on doing realistic and abstract. The abstract allows me expressive and creative freedom that I love to escape into.

Michael Cardosa
As to the paint one subject debate. I know and know of several very successful painters who are represented in a number of galleries and have more a painting style than a painting subject. They paint landscapes, seascapes and cityscapes with the occasional figure or group prominently placed in a scene. Their styles are immediately recognizable so that might be what works for them across the diversity of subjects or it could just be possible that they've hit the level that collectors know them and are open to buying whatever it is they produce. Maybe the key is to do things gradually and bring your collectors along with you, landscape to coastal to seascape with an occasional urban landscape thrown in the mix to keep everyone sane and focused! Our maybe I'm totally off base and they are just good and/or lucky...

Linda Wilder
I don't think you are off base Michael. I believe having a more consistent style is more important than a variety of subjects, and if your work is instantly recognizable then all the least the galleries and collectors think so. Consistency is now what I am striving for. Which brings me to this question: Should I get rid of paintings in my online portfolio that are old (over 2 years)and /or of a different 'Style'?

Michael Cardosa
Hi Linda, thanks, and you bring up a very good point. When I first put up my website on FASO I was thinking more in the way of quantity than quality and was looking to load up as much work as I could. I actually had 3 collections, landscapes, seascapes and figure/portrait studies. The figure and portrait was older and very amateurish looking once I had a chance to view some of the other work presented here and it's not something that I'm working on presently. I'm enjoying the landscapes, etc. and think the other work definitely pulled down the quality of the site even if I did like several of them and was quite proud of them. I don't know what other people's experience is but since it's so easy to change and add collections on the site I was considering breaking them up into "recent works" and "earlier works". That way I can actually show some progression in the work as well. Just some thoughts...

Esther J. Williams
Tuva, bless your heart, a big hug to you! I was thinking of Picasso today and he started out in a realistic style, then went to cubism and then to abstract or modern expressionism. Throughout his life, whatever style he entered into though, he keep the look consistent. His body of work changed as he grew older and evolved but each body of work was massive and covered many subjects. I may migrate styles and at the same time I may focus on a particular palette or technique for awhile. It`s all experimenting, that`s how we discover new techniques, etc... When I enter into a show, I pick several pieces within a style and submit them. It`s easy to pick the most recent paintings when I know my style is becoming polished.

Lori Woodward
Michael, I learned this one the hard way... viewers judge your body of work by your least work. They wonder why the same artist who did "this" also did "that" and it makes them feel insecure.

I say only show your best work. You know when you've hit the mark and when you've missed it. Potential buyers want to think you can do no wrong. When I've worked with galleries, and brought in my lower quality works, the gallerists rejected them anyway - so I learned not to do that.

I agree with the thoughts above, many top artists paint several subjects, but their brushwork or design is recognizable. Some artists who do both abstract and representational equally well sell under two different names. I always thought that would be kinda cool.

Tuva Stephens
I totally agree with you! I appreciate the hug! I use to tell my students that Picasso was considered a great artist because he did go through phases that required him to embrace so many styles. He did not have just one style. Sometimes when I can enter more than one artwork in a show; I enter my abstract style and realistic style. Recently I won the 2 top awards in a professional show. When the judge was told that she had selected the same artist, she could not believe it. Experimenting is definitely how we discover new techniques!! I've got to check out your website and learn more about you!

Linda Wilder
thanks Lori and Michael...ok I guess I'd better clean up my website portfolio...I have too many paintings anyway.

Michael Cardosa
Lori, THANK YOU! that's exactly the kind of information born of experience that I know I need and most certainly appreciate. Really, thanks for sharing that. Missteps are so easy and there are no second first impressions... (I guess unless they don't remember you...)

Esther J. Williams
Tuva, congratulations on that double award! I`ll check out your website too! Thanks so much! I`ll be in contact with you!

Carole Rodrigue
Thank you for the advice Lori. This is turning out to be a really great thread full of great input. I'll be looking forward to the post re: acrylics and watercolors!

Ann Bell
Thanks for sharing your knowledge so generously, Lori.
I am enjoying reading each one and all the insightful comments and questions from everyone.

Marsha Savage
Okay, I just read all the comments on this post and find them quite the best I have read lately. When it was asked about how many is a body of work, that resonated with me. I am a prolific artist and I also like to experiement. But, I know those that I love and feel worked. That would be my body of work -- my recent body of work. I believe recent work is what galleries are looking for and how many paintings you do per year is another thing I asked -- or at least how many per month. They want to know that if you sell, you can bring more!

Also, the question about what is on your web site is pertinent because I just updated my site. How old should work be? I don't put a date on them, but I know the work that is still pertinent and just has not met it's owner yet. But, again, I think we can lose objectivity in some of our work. We loved a piece at one time, and have a hard time losing that feeling two years later when it is still hanging around our house, having been to a gallery or two and not sold. I have "studio", "plein air" and "archive" pages on my site. The studio page used to be called "current" and this time decided that could be wrong as there were a couple of paintings still there that were not current, but were in my opinion still valid to my style.

Okay after reading, I think I will go back and have a second look at those three pages and may delete some of the work. I liked the sentence Lori posted about viewers judging your body of work by your least work. This makes loads of sense.

Thanks everyone for your comments -- this is probably the best site I have come across for good information in each and every article written by different authors, and then the great comments!

Coral Barclay
I have just discovered this website and have found the articles interesting and practical. This winter i decided to devote to spending regular time learning more about marketing on the i hadnt done much of it before. Thanks!

Delilah Smith

I think all artists are self taught. I know my degree from art school was only the tip of the ice berge. Artist are so helpful. I have never been turned down when I have asked a fellow artist a questions. Can't wait to read the next post.

Smadar Barnea
Hello Lori, I've just found your 1st installment on "charting your artistic course dated 1/6/2010.I assume there've been some installments since. This may be a show of my ignorance re blogging, forums etc., but - How can I reach the rest of the installments? I've already subscribed to follow Clint's blog. Thanks


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