My Journey to Becoming a Full-Time Artist | My Coloured Pencil LifeApr 22, 2022
People often ask me how I became a full-time artist, and want to know a bit about what prompted the decision and how I went about setting up my business. So, I thought I’d put it all down in one place, in hopes that it might help other aspiring artists make the leap to becoming full-time.
I officially became a full-time artist in January 2017. Up until then, I had been working in the corporate world and then for a few months in an art gallery in Harrogate, which I enjoyed, but I found the telephone sales side of it tricky. In 2015, my daughter bought me a colouring book and a set of WHSmith pencils for Christmas, and I enjoyed drawing in it so much that by the new year, I had upgraded to a set of Caran D’Ache pencils. I must have spent months and months just drawing in colouring books; every bit of free time I had was spent colouring in!
It was around March time that I drew my first portrait. I have to say, I look back now and think that it wasn’t particularly good, but at the time I was incredibly proud of it. However, I didn’t suddenly decide then and there that I was going to become an artist; it wasn’t until October 2016, when I was on the train with my older sister, Annabel, that I started thinking about that. She suggested that I quit my job at the gallery and go full-time as an artist.
I’ll add here, that I have always counted myself as incredibly lucky to have the family that I do. They have always advocated that I could do whatever I wanted to do, whatever I put my mind to, and they would support and help me. They have always taught me that life is for living and that you should do whatever your heart desires, and that has helped me so much with my confidence and self-esteem over the years. Knowing I had their backing and support was such a great help to me, and I probably wouldn’t be where I am today without it.
So, it wasn’t until my sister gave me that nudge that I really started thinking about going full-time. I did a lot of research into the business side of things, but I was lucky to already have experience from my time spent working as a studio manager, so I already had an understanding of how businesses worked and what needed to be done to make them a success. And again, my family were there to support me. Annabel and her husband, Charlie, were a huge help. They marched me down to the bank and helped me open an account, which sounds so ridiculous to me now (a forty-something-year-old woman having to be marched to the bank!), but it really helped, having someone there to hold my hand.
I made a business plan to try and give myself a better idea of what I wanted to do, and what direction I was going to take the business in. It was nothing fancy at all, just a scrap of paper with my name in the middle and a mind map of my initial plans. I thought through lots of different scenarios, like getting my work into galleries, exhibitions and art fairs, teaching, commissions and creating prints.
I spent a lot of time thinking about my pricing structure, as the most important to me was that I could continue paying off my mortgage and bills each month! It was a matter of deciding on how many commissions I could do in a month, and I look back now and know I was a little unrealistic with that estimation! I decided on eight a month, which I did manage for a while, but it was far too many. I was drawing for about twelve hours a day, which is fabulous when you enjoy drawing as much as I do, but not realistic for a prolonged period!
And, once I’d finished planning, that was that. I officially became a full-time artist on 1st January 2017, and I’ve never looked back since. It’s funny, people often ask me if I was scared, but I honestly don’t think I ever was. I think, with all of that encouragement I’d had from my family over the years and from being told I could do whatever I put my mind to, I don’t think I ever allowed myself to think that it might go wrong. I made the decision that this was what I was going to do for the rest of my life, no matter what, and had blind faith that it would all work out for the better.
So far, it has! Now, my business has changed so much. I’m still taking on my commissions, but doing far fewer. I’m teaching other incredible artists how to improve their skills with the help of the Academy. I have a fabulous, small team of people working with me to help take the pressure off and give me the time in the day to continue doing the things I love. And all of that thanks to a Christmas present I received in 2015! You would never guess how such a small thing could have such a big impact on your life!
Click on the video at the top of this page to hear more about how I got started as a full-time artist, as well as how the Academy came about and what my business looks like today. I talk about planning, marketing, the beauty of delegating work when you can, and much more!
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