Tactics + Inspiration = Magic. Get my free eBook 10 Divine Secrets of Working Artists

The Working Artist is for visual artists who want their work to be seen and sold.

Global, qualified, and developed with the “creative brain” in mind, The Working Artist is a professional practices master class like no other.

If you’ve been looking for an expert mentor to guide you, Crista Cloutier and The Working Artist will give you a 360° approach to growing your art career. Join the mailing list and be the first to know when the next course is scheduled. 

WARNING: Once you take the jump, once you commit to being an artist - there is no going back. This is who you are.

Are you ready?

Jump! The Working Artist Blog

"It’s about being an artist. Not just making the work, but creating an artful life. It’s about being bold, taking risks, making work, building a career, telling stories, finding inspiration, seeking information. It’s about owning who you are and the magic that happens when you JUMP."  - Crista Cloutier

All Posts

Men Like Him

He thought his career was over.

Bill Jay had been a professor of the History of Photography. He'd published dozens of books and hundreds of articles. He'd founded two majorly influential photography magazines. He'd travelled, given lectures, and taught around the world. As he supported other photographers, he'd become known as a fine photographer himself with solo exhibitions and books of his work.

And then he was bit by a rattlesnake.

One medical mishandling led to another, and Bill Jay was forced to retire and give up the career he'd built so passionately. He moved to a small seaside town outside San Diego and created a new life for himself, a smaller life.

No longer able to throw himself into his work, to travel, to carry heavy camera equipment, to meet with other photographers or students, Bill resigned himself to his fate.

But once a photographer, always a photographer.

He took to carrying a small digital camera in his pocket, always looking for new images to capture.

His daughter, noting the bearded and wizened faces of the homeless men who roamed the beaches of his new town, joked that this was the perfect place for him, "Look! All those old gits look just like you."

Bill looked at these homeless men, and realized that it was only fate that separated them. He began to meet these men, to talk with them and learn their stories. He took their pictures, shooting them in tight stark close-ups which he printed in hard blacks and whites.

He carried the prints with him and upon meeting one of his subjects again, would give him a copy of the picture. He imagined that, without a home, most of these images ended up in the trash.

But one day, one of the men came looking for Bill, "Come with me." 

He took Bill down an alleyway and into an abandoned warehouse where the homeless men were known to gather and drink. Once inside, Bill found that they'd staged an exhibition. Their pictures were all taped to the wall. They'd titled their show The Wall of Shame. But, in fact, they were proud.

Not prouder than Bill. He said it was the biggest accolade of his career. This small exhibition meant more to him than a one-person show at the Museum of Modern Art. It was the perfect ending to his career.

A friend asked Bill if he could have a set of the prints? He took them to a homeless advocacy group in New York and they used the images to raise money for the cause. A book was published, titled Men Like Me, and suddenly Bill's career wasn't over. It was just different. But he was still using his work to help others, he was still making a difference.

And the success of Men Like Me led to two other book projects.

I've never known an artist to retire. That urge to question, to draw connections, to create, runs deeper than blood. And when we devote ourselves to it, when we share it and use it in service, the world can't help but notice.

The last time I spoke with Bill, he'd sold all of his belongings and moved to Costa Rica. "Crista," he said, "when you moved to France, you inspired me to change my life."

I inspired Bill Jay, the man who'd been my greatest teacher and mentor. Fancy that.

Bill Jay, who took this photo of me (above) the last time I saw him, died in his sleep in a hammock in his tiny Costa Rican hut. He was the Anne Sullivan to my Helen Keller, showing me how to see the world through new eyes and dance to its music. Because that's what teachers do.

I wish there were more Men Like Him.

Want more inspiration? Sign up here and receive my FREE ebook!

The Wise 11-Year Old Artist

My nephew Phoenix turned 11-years old yesterday, though I've always secretly suspected him of being 41. 

I'm visiting to help him celebrate his 11 years and see what new things he can teach me. He didn't disappoint.

"I've learned how to knit!" Phoenix announced proudly as he showed me his beautiful handiwork. He creates hair accessories and gifted me with a pretty red bow fastened to a barrette. I'm wearing it now.

I always knew Phoenix was an artist. But imagine how proud I was to discover that he's a Working Artist!

He'd created an Etsy shop for his wares. And a Twitter account. He'd learned how to promote his work well.

Even more impressive, he'd researched what others with similar products were selling their work for and set his prices accordingly. He took into account time and materials. He found out what the shipping rates would be and figured out packaging. I was impressed.

Phoenix shared his business philosophy with me, "I believe in under-promising and over-delivering." To that end, he created a discount coupon for returning customers.

He's even cut a future deal with a classmate who makes soap, taking a commission on her sales in his shop.

I asked what would happen if his hair accessories became suddenly popular and sold out? 

"That's not a problem," Phoenix assured me gravely. "I'm committed to spending every Saturday in the studio creating new inventory and expanding my range."

I've worked with a lot of wonderful artists in my career, but I don't think I've ever been more proud.


Visit Phoenix's Hair Duds on Etsy. And keep on eye on this one, I think this could be just the beginning.

The Artist Who Couldn't Be Tamed

Artist Luis Jimenez died tragically in an accident in June of 2006. At the studio where I worked, Luis was the first artist I knew to pass away. Artists Fritz Scholder and Keith Haring had also worked with us and gone before him, but Luis was on my watch and he was family.

Luis Jimenez was inspired, charming, egotistical, accomplished, and cantankerous.

In the early days, when Luis was first working at the press, he would sleep at the studio so that he could work on his lithography stones all night.

By the time I met him, he was older, blind in one eye, and had suffered a heart attack. He slept in a fine hotel.

But the focus, the drive, and the talent were still there. Though he was primarily known for his monumental sculpture, there was no greater draughtsman than Luis JImenez.

When he was just starting out, a local gallerist decided to take a gamble and give him a place in a two-person exhibition.

But even that big gallery couldn't contain his ego. Luis didn't want a two-person show. Luis wanted a one-man show.

The deadline for the delivery of work came and went. No work, no Luis.

The day of the show arrived. No work, no Luis. The poor gallerist was beside herself.

Doors opened, guests arrived. Everyone poured into the other artist's room and the party began.

That's when Luis stormed in, a roll of butcher paper under his arm.

He went into the empty room that was to be his. He tore a sheet of butcher paper off from the roll, sat on the floor and he drew. He signed the drawing and cast it aside. A curious by-stander snatched it up.

Luis ripped away another sheet.

Now everyone was interested in what this mad artist was doing. They began streaming in and surrounded him. Then they started fighting for the work. He couldn't draw fast enough. The gallerist clutched fistfuls of checks and credit cards.

The next day, all of Luis's sculptures and prints arrived. Sight unseen, his show had already sold out.

It was the start of an illustrious career.

The boy whose parents carried him from Mexico on their back to a new life in America, would become a highly honored superstar in the art world.

Artist James Turrell once told me that he'd privately nominated Luis for a MacArthur Genius Award. Luis would have loved that.

Shortly before his death, I'd asked Luis to send me an updated resume. Instead, he faxed a handwritten account of his life. It was surprising in many respects, but mostly because it was uncharacteristically sentimental.

A few days later, he called and asked me to forgive him for being behind on a project that we were doing together. I'd never heard Luis apologize to anyone. Ever.

The following week Luis was killed when one of his monumental sculptures fell, pinned him to the ground, and severed an artery. He'd worked years on that piece and more than once I'd heard him complain that this project would be the death of him. And then it was.

Luis had completed a print with us a few years earlier and asked me to put the entire edition in storage rather than release it to the market. It was an odd request, but Luis was going through a difficult personal period, so the prints were packed away as soon as the ink dried.

After his death, I pulled the prints out. Denver Mustang with Airplanewas a study for the sculpture of the same name that killed him. It was a beautiful print of a rearing horse, but each time I looked at it, I saw more.

I saw Luis' characteristic bold lines that continued right to the edge of the stone. I saw how wonderfully he captured the spirit of his own favorite horse. I saw a life dedicated to the fierce expression of talent.

I saw the end.

Luis Jimenez had a wild spirit that wouldn't be tamed. It shows in his powerful work and it spilled into his professional life.

I don't advocate that any artist handle his professional obligations as Luis did, because Luis' career paid a heavy price for it. He was a lone cowboy, a renegade who was willing to take those risks.

But I believe that all artists harbor a wild spirit, and by connecting with it, by passionately protecting your spirit while putting it forward into the world through your creative expression, by believing with your whole heart and soul, you will make art that is strong and true. This is the lesson that Luis left for us.

Claim your wild spirit.


Are You Giving Your Power Away?

I guess it won't surprise you know that I've always believed in magic.

I look for those small moments of synchronicity that let me know I'm not alone. I don't know Who or What it is that walks beside me, but by dropping that penny in my path, I've felt that everything is going to be okay. By nudging me to catch the sight of a falling star, I've been given an opportunity to make a wish.

And the funny thing is, the more I look for magic, the more I find.

But when I worked in the art business, I stopped believing in magic.

I was busy. It was a high-pressure job and I was responsible for a studio full of employees, and their families. If I didn't sell art, my employees didn't eat.

And man cannot live on four-leaf clovers alone.

The art business is really, really hard. If you think it's difficult selling your work, try selling the work of 100 artists. Or maintaining relationships with thousands of clients. I couldn't afford to have lean times; I had to make quotas right through recessions, art market fluctuations, good times and bad.

There was no room for magic. I had to rely on myself; to grit my teeth, put my head down and keep going, drawing on will power and grim determination.

But when you rely only on yourself, you sometimes start to give yourself away.

Piece by piece, little by little, you can't believe that anything good will happen unless you make it happen. You work into the night because everything hinges on you. You sacrifice your sleep, your relationships, and your health.

You smile at the client who just chased you around the gallery trying to steal a cheeky kiss, because you need to close that sale.

You hire an assistant to drive back and forth to the Starbucks 8-miles away when a visiting big shot artist demands a steady supply of fresh hot coffee from THAT Starbucks, even though there's one right next door. Back and forth, to and fro, your poor assistant drives past 15 other Starbucks all day long, for six weeks! But your job is to keep that artist happy.

You stay professional when some of those you deal with are outrageous, offensive and even cruel, because you've given everyone else your power, believing that their cooperation is more important that your feelings. You hide your light for the sake of others.

The work held meaning for me because I believed in the art we were creating in our studios. And by placing it in major institutions and collections, I knew that it would have a life beyond me and my discomfort. That felt important enough to make sacrifices for.

But what I learned was that when you measure success by numbers, your success is in the hands of other people. And sometimes you have to give away pieces of yourself to those people.

It was when I returned to living the magical life, things got a lot easier. It's not just about fairy dust and angels, you know. It's about finding a new way to measure success. It's about meaning. It's about faith.

For example, when I quit the art business and moved to the middle of nowhere in France by myself, I found that two dear long-lost friends had also moved to the same tiny village at the same time. And suddenly, I wasn't alone any more. Coincidence? Yeah, right.

It was when I started to work with other artists, teaching The Working Artist and sharing my secrets for selling art that the magic really started to escalate.

When I ran a crowd-funding campaign to bring the program online, artists from around the world supported me -- even though we'd never met.

Then I needed someone to film and edit The Working Artist. And just like that, an old friend who happened to be a filmmaker re-appeared in my life and offered to do it - for free.

When I needed someone to put my program online and create a learning platform that would speak the way artists learn, voila! Someone from a small island in the middle of nowhere offered me a platform he'd created for specifically for creative learners. And it looked exactly like the one I had in my head.

Each time I jump, the universe catches me.

When I trudged through life working, trying to make a quota, I suffered endless physical maladies. The world is heavy when you carry it on your shoulders.

But now that I dance with The Invisible again, my life is richer. My faith is stronger. And grace happens.

So go ahead and make a wish.

The funny thing about wishes is, it's impossible to wish for something you don't truly desire. Making wishes insures that you always follow your heart. And when you follow your heart, the world opens up for you.

Just like magic.

"Throughout our lives, we may only meet a few people who touch us on a spiritual level and change our paths. Crista is one of those people." Jane Seaman, Best-Selling Author


#WorkingArtist On Instagram

Free Resources