3 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Began My Art Career

Life as an artist comes with risks and rewards! At the beginning of my art career, I had much to learn about the business aspect of being a professional painter. If you’d to skip the trouble of figuring it out the hard way so you can make bolder decisions and see quicker results, read on!

Hone Your Skills

The success of your art career rests on your priorities! From one professional artist to another, the most important advice I can give you is to PRIORITIZE HONING YOUR SKILLS. You are no longer filling up some free time with a hobby you love—you MUST block in your creative time to work. Life is busy. Trust me, I know. And the day will get sucked up doing everything but painting if you don’t have a plan and stick to it. If I don’t prioritize and plan a time on my calendar to hone my skills, my time will be bulldozed by all the other “high priority” items like feeding the kids, cleaning the house, walking the dog—you fill in the blanks! And if I put my energy into all the other important activities first, all I’ll have left is a tired, uninspired shell of an artist. Of course, I’m not saying to not feed your kids—just making a point! 

Just think if you were striving to be a great marathon runner, and you trained with whatever energy you had left at the end of your day. It would never work! Instead, you practice consistently to get in shape—you stretch every day, eat the right foods, build muscle, increase endurance, get proper rest, stay hydrated, and actively plan to run the distance you want to go. You don’t just wake up one day and expect to achieve your goal without putting in the time. So make the time. Prioritize it. Plan for it. Make it a non-negotiable.

Outgrow Your Audience

Next, know that it’s okay to OUTGROW YOUR AUDIENCE. This can be a bit sensitive, I get it. Let me walk you through my experience when I realized I had outgrown my audience. 

As an artist starting out, I had been given some good advice: “Start local, then work your way up and branch out from there.” So that’s exactly what I did. 

I showed my work at various local venues and became known as an equine and canine painter. People loved my work, and my confidence grew. As time went on and my work improved (because I prioritized honing my skills), it was time to branch out and raise my prices. 

This can feel awkward, especially at the beginning. You’ll know something needs to change when you start to hear comments like, “I love your work, but I’d have to win the lottery to own one of your pieces!” Honestly, it felt crappy—even insulting. I started second-guessing my pricing, even though I knew my skill and time were worth the value. Then it dawned on me. I had outgrown my current audience. My local market could no longer support what I offered, so I needed to move on. 

I persevered and took risks, realizing it was time to find the art lovers who were a better fit—who appreciated the value of my work and anticipated the price. 

So don’t be embarrassed if someone doesn’t understand the pricing of your work. You can’t please everyone, and your work isn’t for everyone either. You want the right buyers for your work. Don’t rob yourself of this step, when you’ve outgrown your audience. Just find the right audience for the phase you’re in. Hopefully, you can skip the frustration of this stage and consider it a sign of growth in your art career. 

Be Teachable

Finally, always be teachable, and learn from those you admire. Be selective! Art school can be great, but the most important skills and techniques I learned were from other professional painters. Attend workshops and take courses! Learn from artists whose work you admire. 

If I could change something about how I approached my early years as a career artist, I would make more of an effort and financial priority to invest in professional advancement through workshops and courses. I’ve never regretted it or felt it was a waste of my time or money. It’s inspiring to walk away with something new and helpful. 

And one more thing—become a part of a GOOD artists’ group where you can enjoy camaraderie with other artists. Don’t know where to start? Learn about my Thriving Artist Community here! 

So there you have it! To help you avoid some of the pitfalls I encountered when starting out as a professional painter, consider the 3 things I wish someone had told me when I was beginning my art career: Prioritize honing your skills, know that it’s okay to outgrow your audience, and learn from those you admire. Now check your calendar—it’s time to PAINT!

1 thought on “3 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Began My Art Career”

  1. Hi Jen! I love your pet portraits! I’m thinking of joining your community and, possibly buying your painting course. My question is, I’m currently using watercolor as a medium. Will your classes help my painting if I’m using watercolor? Also, I do want to learn oils, could you recommend a place to start? Do you teach oils to beginners????

    Thank you 😊

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Hi, I'm Jen!

I’m an oil painter, illustrator, art educator, and art business woman. I specialize in painting horses and pets, but I love to paint and sketch many things.

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