Sign up now for The Working Artist Newsletter and
get the FREE Video: Are You Pricing Your Art Wrong?
Have you ever noticed how people talk about selling art online as if it's easy?
Post it, pin it, tweet it or link it and VOILA! The sales! The acclaim! The thousands of followers!
But it’s quite not that easy, is it?
I am here to tell you that just because selling art online is difficult, does not mean that selling art online is impossible.
The fact is that this is an exciting time to be an artist. But you’ve got to do the work.
Listen, it wasn’t that long ago that a handful of galleries decided an artist’s fate. And just because you had a gallery didn’t mean that the gallery would promote you. It was a relationship always charged with tension because you counted on the fleeting favor of that gallery with your entire career!
But now, armed with the power of the internet, you’re in control over your career. You have the ability to share your work with a wider world, as wide as you want to make it.
You own the power of your voice and you have the opportunity to sound it as loud as you wish.
If you want to monetize it, you can. If you want to share it with a different intention, you can do that too.
The first rule of selling art online? You write the rules.
You decide what defines success for you.
- Maybe you have a creative idea that you want to monetize?
- Maybe you’re looking for new avenues to show your art?
- Maybe you want to crowd-fund an idea and need to build your network?
- Or maybe you aim to create something for online consumption that might go viral?
As we look at what’s involved in selling art online I want you to be honest with yourself. Is this something that you really want to commit to?
Because online art marketing is a commitment.
It takes time and resources to set up, and in order to work you’ve got to feed the monster. You’ve got to create a schedule and stick to it.
It’s not a huge amount of work, once you start setting systems into place. But it does take a chunk of time to get it up and going.
I always say that an art career is a marathon, not a sprint and nowhere is that more true than in selling art online.
Just because you post your work doesn’t mean that the buyers will come. They’ve got to be courted, it takes time to build the relationship.
Do you want to learn how to build relationships in the art world? Join my mailing list and never miss a post:
Be Patient yet persistent.
If you read this article and decide that it’s really not for you, that you prefer to have a static website that acts as a portfolio and not promote it, that’s okay. There’s no shame there.
But learning how to sell art online is a powerful career-building tool and an incredible way to build an audience.
It also allows you to engage your fans while maintaining your own power and not relying on the favor of galleries.
Many of today’s artists have built online profiles because having an audience, an online following, is a powerful new currency. Social media art stars are now naming their terms. The tables have turned!
And it’s a sign of the times.
In the 19th century, art sold through the salons. In the 20th century, it was commercial galleries that drove the market. Now all signs are pointing to the internet because the numbers behind online art sales are exploding. According to the Hiscox Report, this market is projected to be worth $6.3 billion by 2019!
That said, selling art online will never replace the old-fashioned face to face. Why? Because buying art is an aesthetic and emotional choice and it’s very difficult to make those kinds of connections through a computer screen.
Also, most buyers prefer to inspect the work in person before opening their wallets.
But don’t dismiss selling art online simply because it’s a lot of work, most good things are.
I promise that once you start building it, it becomes much easier. And very rewarding.
So you’ve got your website. Right? Because that’s kind of important if you want to sell art online.
Some artists only show their work on online art galleries. They don’t have their own website. I think they’re missing a trick.
Having your own website is a sign of professionalism. I know that I would never buy an artist’s work online without checking out their website first. And I’m pretty sure that most other buyers feel the same.
So have your own website, even if you have to share it with your other endeavors. Unless there’s a great divide between what you do in your art life and what you do in your civilian life, try to have just one website.
But what’s your address? If you are using a free site like wix or weebly, and you didn’t pay for the upgrade, your web address is probably something really funky.
It's well worth the investment to buy a domain name.
If you can buy your own domain name, that’s great. Some names are already taken, others are expensive. If you can’t afford your name at .com, for example, cristacloutier.com, then consider buying the lower priced .me address. Cristacloutier.me. Or even add the word art or artist to your name or use the name of your studio. Just as long as your domain name is memorable, easy to spell, and simple to find.
I talk a lot about artist website in The Working Artist Masterclass. Join my mailing list and be the first to know when doors next open.
A lot of artists show their work on online portfolio sites such as Saatchi Online. I don’t see a problem with that.
However, even if you aren’t interested in selling art online, I still believe that you need your own website. It shows that you’re invested in this business. It makes you easier to find.
And why would you want to send clients to a space where all the competition lives?
So show your work on other sites, by all means, but don’t stop there.
When building your website, remember that it doesn’t have to be a “Museum to You.” You don’t have to show everything you’ve ever done since you first picked up a crayon.
Like I said before, think of your website as your portfolio. Your personal gallery. It’s your space, be creative.
But do be sure to have an About Page.
Your About page will be the 2nd most visited page on your site after your Homepage. It will house your bio and maybe even your artist statement, though a lot of artists use their statement on their homepage.
Keep the whole website 'on brand'.
So if your work is whimsical and fun, your website should reflect that. Use your colors, fonts, and navigation tools with intent.
As an artist, you will want your website to have gorgeous images, a lot or little, it’s up to you. But your site should be a visual reflection of your work. Again, if your work is whimsical, you wouldn’t want a site that uses heavy fonts and dark colors.
A lot of artists tell me that they’re afraid to put their images online for fear that someone will steal them. I have to confess that I initially laughed off this fear.
By the time an image gets online it’s already been reduced and condensed so much that it would make horrible reproductions. And why would an artist want to steal someone else’s work?
Well, I was wrong.
One of the Working Artists in my course had a harrowing experience with the theft of her online images.
And recently my own work has been stolen.
It’s really difficult to protect our online imagery. But online theft of images is real. And, it’s a huge hassle when someone does steal your work.
Luckily, these stories are rare. I don’t think that this is reason enough to not have a website or to be frightened away from selling art online.
What you can do is schedule a monthly image search. Consult Google as to how this is done.
Another thing you can do is to digitally watermark your images through a site such as Digimarc.
Now back to your website.
One of the most important tasks of your site is to capture the email addresses of your visitors.
Because selling art online works best through your email list.
Not through an RSS feed, not through Facebook or Instagram, but on the one thing that you have 100% total control over, and that is sending a newsletter directly to your list.
That’s why, in selling art online, building your email list is of paramount importance.
How do you do it?
You ask. You ask your friends, family, and people you meet if you can add them to your mailing list.
When someone gives you their business card you ask whether you can add them to your mailing list.
But you never simply add people to your list without their express consent. It’s illegal and unethical.
One of the most popular ways to build your email list is create what industry insiders call an “ethical bribe.” You might know it as a gift. I’m sure you’re familiar with this model.
We’ve all clicked a link to receive a free download of a report or an e-book or something and had to give our email address before we could access it. That’s the ethical bribe. And it works.
So what could you offer?
Well that depends upon your work, your audience, and the direction you want to go.
- It could be a small PDF catalogue of your images.
- It could be an image that can be used as digital wallpaper.
- It could be something that pertains to art history, or art techniques, or your work specifically.
It doesn’t matter, as long as it somehow makes sense and fits into your greater marketing plan.
So again, if your work is whimsical and light, if you create art that would fit really well in children’s rooms, you wouldn’t create an e-book about Medieval art history.
But you might partner with a writer to write a short children’s story that you could give away. Right?
So what makes sense for your audience? For the people whom you want to visit your site?
Branding doesn't have to be cheesy. Join my mailing list and learn how authentic branding connects you with your audience.
Once you set up your website for selling art online, you want to make it sticky. That means that you want people to come back to it again and again.
What are some things that can make a website sticky? A blog is one of the most popular ways. And if you have a blog, this would be what you would send out in your newsletter.
You can post the whole blog within the newsletter, like I do for the Working Artist’s blog, Jump, or you can write a teaser and then link to your site.
Here are some other ideas to get you thinking:
- When I sold art I offered special prices on Mondays, certain works would be discounted on that day so people would show up to the site to see what that was. I’d use social media to send out teasers and riddles to drive their curiosity.
- I know an artist who keeps a live video feed in his studio and you can go to his website to watch him work. His studio is also set up in a shop window so passers by can watch him too
- In fact, there’s a lot you can do with videos, you can create how-to videos, you can create short videos that talk about a work of art that you’ve made.
- If you are an avid Twitter-user, you might have a live Twitter feed on your site.
Use your imagination. You are making the rules, that’s the exciting part. And yes, it’s terrifying too.
Always keep your ideal customer in mind. Who are they? What interests them? What would make them come back to your website?
Now let’s get back to your newsletter. If you blog, this will be how you send it out, through your newsletter.
Again, don’t rely on RSS feeds or social media to get people to read your blog. Send them the actual post or the link via your newsletter.
If you choose not to blog, your newsletter could instead feature news from your studio, upcoming shows, new work created, grants won, anything that would interest your ideal customer.
How often do you send something out?
It doesn’t matter how often as long as you’ve got plenty of good content and keep to your schedule.
Consistency is key when selling art online.
The best way to maintain a schedule is through an editorial calendar. This is how you manage your time when selling art online, you schedule everything.
The aim is to never have to scramble or stress. Try to avoid that at any cost.
So what do you send? Again, this depends on a lot of different variables so I can’t tell you definitively.
Outside of The Working Artist, I do write about other topics, but for my blog I write about being an artist. Because that’s where you and I intersect.
So now I want you to think about where you can intersect with an audience.
The Working Artist Masterclass is all about connecting your work with your audience. Join my mailing list to learn more.
One thing to understand about selling art online is that not everyone is going to like your stuff all the time.
When your work is hanging in a gallery, people will generally be very kind when speaking to you about it.
But when the anonymity of the internet is involved, people can be unkind. They can post unthoughtful comments, or send emails that read less than supportive.
Get over it.
Deal with criticism as directly as you can and keep moving. Don’t hold grudges or weigh yourself down by someone else’s response to your work. Take what part of the criticism you can use and keep going.
People will opt-out of your mailing list. All the time. Even people you care about. Possibly even me. It doesn’t mean anything.
More than likely, it means they’re overwhelmed and cleaning up their inbox and putting up a wall for a little while. We each go through that and it’s something that should be supported. Not taken personally.
You’ll know that they opted-out because you will be using a platform such as Mailchimp to manage your list and send your newsletters.
You’ll use a platform such as Mailchimp because you don’t want to be sending group emails through your private email or you might be tagged as a spammer. You’ll also do it because it looks more professional.
And you’ll do it because you’ll be able to track how many new subscribes you’ve had, how many unsubscribes, how many people clicked the links and you’ll know what your open rate is. And these are all things that an online marketer does.
You can't improve what you don't measure.
Now you are going to be disappointed in your open rate, that means how many people actually open your email. You’re going to be disappointed by a lot of statistics in online marketing. But you cannot take this stuff personally. And you’ve got to understand that this is why we focus on building our mailing list.
3% to 6% is considered an average open rate for most newsletters. So if you’re getting a 20% open rate, don’t you waste one minute cursing the 80% who didn’t open it, bless the 20% that did. And cater to them. Find more like that.
Most people include social media buttons on their website and that’s fine, though I struggled over whether or not to add them to mine. I don’t like having any links on my site that takes viewers away from my site, so that’s something to think about.
And though I do use Facebook quite heavily, I don’t recommend that you rely solely on Facebook for selling art online.
Here’s the deal. Facebook has changed their rules, again. If you are using your personal page to do business and show your work, they may well close you down.
But if you get a business page, very few people will see your posts unless you pay to boost them.
This is the sad truth and that’s why I say that the best way to sell art online involves focusing on your mailing list, building it up via social media and art events, and then sharing your work through a newsletter.
Social media has its place, and it’s an important place, but it’s probably not sales.
Social media is for engagement, building your brand, and for audience building. It’s how you drive people to your website to sign up for your mailing list. And then your newsletters are how you’ll build that relationship, nurture it, and make your art sales.
So now you’ve got your website and you’ve got the domain name. You’ve designed your site. You’ve written the perfect About Me page. You’ve created a mailing list. You’ve created an ethical bribe to tempt people to sign up for your list. You’ve got a plan for making your page sticky. You’ve scheduled your newsletter and created an editorial calendar around content.
Now I want you to consider a tool such as Google Analytics or Statcounter to track how many people come to your page.
Google Analytics is well beyond the scope of this article but remember, you can’t improve what you don’t measure. So at the very least, measure how many people are visiting your website.
The last step to take before implementing your plan for online art sales is to make sure that all links and contact forms work. Test them across all devices. Try every link on a PC, on a Mac, on an ipad and a phone. Try the links in different browsers.
I know this is a pain in the butt and not much fun –but better that you don’t have fun than have a potential client unable to get your link to work.
Testing is a professional step for artists who want to sell online.
You can supplement your online art marketing campaign by showing your work at online galleries such as Saatchi or Fine Art America or one of the other gazillion online art sales sites that have popped up over the past few years.
You can also supplement it by creating a social media strategy, and through using other sites such as Amazon, eBay, or Etsy.
But remember, as online galleries come and go, as social media continues to change the rules, and as other sites are outside of your control, your true power will come through growing and managing your own mailing list.
This is the true secret behind selling art online.
Now go forth and post!
There I was, up the Petrohué River.
Luckily I had a paddle, however much good it did me.
You see, last week found me white-water rafting in Chile.
Am I a white-water rafting kind of girl? Absolutely not.
I was terrified when we signed up for this thing. I was terrified as we drove to the river in the van.
I was really terrified when we received the complicated safety lesson.
Why did I ever sign up for this thing?
Because I’m a firm believer in using fear as a remedy against feeling stuck.
Whenever I find myself going in circles over a creative project, unable to take the first steps toward a dream, or striving for perfection instead of completion, I know that I’m stuck.
And I'm stuck! I've been working on releasing a podcast series for too long now. I've gotten all tangled in perfection, instead of completion.
Have you ever started going in circles over a project or a dream? It happens to artists all the time, an occupational hazard.
Whenever I'm stuck I know it’s time to do something that scares me.
Selling all my possessions, moving to France by myself, shark-diving in Cape Town…It’s always worked a treat.
So I hoped that facing my fears would once again do its magic. That I could use this energy to overcome the challenge that I’m facing now. Get past my fears surrounding the podcast series so I can share it with you.
This was my intent as I lowered myself into the tiny inflatable raft on Category 4 rapids in a foreign country. There was no going back now!
Each time Captain yelled, FORWARD! we all rowed like the dickens.
As we approached each roaring rapid, Captain ordered GET DOWN! and I assumed the crash position as I wailed for my mother.
Others high-fived each time we made it through alive, but I just wanted to go home.
I wasn’t the only one who was scared.
But I was the only one who was still screaming like a banshee well after we'd got through the rapids.
I was gritting my teeth through the whole experience, absolutely miserable.
And then I saw a crow standing on a rock jutting out from the swirling water.
The crow locked eyes with me as it cawed, “Smile.”
So even though I was having what I would describe as a very bad day, I smiled.
I still wasn’t feeling it to be honest, but I kept that idiotic smile pasted to my face anyway.
And then suddenly, it was real.
By the time we hit the next rapids the experience felt real; the stunning scenery, the relentless waves crashing over us, the teamwork, the determination, the beauty of that wild river.
My smile was real.
Because even though it was hard, even though it was scary, I was having fun. In fact, I couldn’t stop laughing.
Back on land, hot empanadas and cold beer (Crista Beer!) was how I celebrated my survival.
And I knew that once I got back home, I would no longer be stuck. I felt confident that I could untangle my to-do list and release the podcast this Spring.
Because I learned that any challenges standing between us and our dreams can be overcome. No matter how scary.
All we have to do is look each challenge in the eye and smile at it.
The rest will be fun. Trust me
Last weekend I dragged a film crew to the Scottsdale Arts Festival. The cameras followed me as I collected wisdom from exhibiting artists.
I wanted to capture the artists’ stories, learn tricks of the trade, get their insights into how this whole art fair thing works for them.
After all, sales at art fairs are exploding. More art is now being sold at art fairs than at bricks-and-mortar galleries.
I asked for consent to film our interviews. Everyone agreed, all were eager to share their knowledge and their web address so I could promote their work.
But one artist said NO.
Sure, he’d talk about art fairs, but there was no way he was going to let other artists see his work.
Why? Because other artists will steal his ideas.
I’ve seen this before.
When I first moved to England a few years ago, I found myself in a small town that was teeming with artists.
But there was no arts community. No exchange of resources and information. No conversations about ideas. No real connection amongst the local artists.
I endeavoured to change that, and organized a monthly meet up of artists – at the pub, naturally.
It was so cool! People reported feeling more connected. Not only to other artists, but to their own work.
Except for one artist.
She refused to even attend, stating, “Other artists will steal my ideas.”
This attitude always startles me because as artists, our art is our legacy.
If your work inspires another artist to create her own response to it, there is no greater achievement. Period.
Your art, your ideas, grow from influences – both inside and outside art. These are gifts you have received, so it's important to continue the cycle.
Because other artists are not your competition. Other artists are your professional colleagues.
Other artists are your warrior brothers and sisters on this unique path toward truth and beauty and meaning.
I believe that the more you help other artists to create and thrive, the more elevated your own work becomes in your community.
As an artist, you have so much to share. And when you share freely, when you open yourself up to giving, your supply of inspiration is endless.
So if you find yourself holding back from other artists, I urge you to resist that impulse.
Share your gifts and the world will present you with more.
I always learn something at CAA and this year was no different. In fact, I felt this information was important enough to share with you.
The session I attended was hosted by a New York organization working with of Columbia University called Art Cart.
Art Cart is dedicated to helping elder artists manage and preserve their legacy by archiving their life’s work. It’s truly a remarkable mission.
But what I took away from this CAA session was the importance for all living artists to keep excellent records.
A recent study of aging artists in New York City reveals that “artists are in many respects a model for society, maintaining strong social networks and an astonishing resilience as they age.”
However, 61% of professional visual artists over the age of 62 have made no preparation for their work after their death; 95% have not archived their work; 97% have no estate plan; 3 out of every 4 artists have no will and 1 in 5 have no documentation of their work at all.
Why does this matter?
Because research shows that the posthumous reputations of artists are linked to both surviving examples of their work and proper, thorough documentation.
In other words, most of the artists whose work we continue to celebrate after they’re gone kept good records.
But keeping thorough records is neither fun nor sexy.
Instead, like doing our taxes, it’s something we tend to put off. And then scramble like hell to cobble something together only when it’s needed.
Visual artists leave behind a body of work after they die. But because so few make plans for its continued survival, the sad fate for most this art is the dumpster.
Don’t count on your family. Don’t count on your dealer. Creating a proper record of your career and archive of your work is ultimately your responsibility.
And I’m not just talking to elder artists either. Let’s be honest, none of us knows when death will come.
So here are a few tips that I learned during that CAA session that I found valuable:
- Sign and date your work as soon as it’s completed.
- Save all of your submissions. Whether it’s for an exhibition, contest, grant or residency, save it all. This will become a rich resource that you can return to again and again.
- Create a database with all of the pertinent information. Consider enriching the information with details of where you were, what influenced you, materials used, any story that might inform future generations.
- Don’t count on digital records alone, keep hard copies too. Technology changes fast and a document you create today may become inaccessible in just a few years. (we’ve seen this many digital films – already lost forever)
- We’ve learned so much about artists of the past through their letters. With the fleeting nature of email, our own correspondence vanishes as soon as it’s sent. Print and save your most important emails.
Last year, I collaborated with Artwork Archive to create a free resource to help artists create a system for archiving their work. I am attaching it again here because it’s a great place to start.
Note that I do receive a small commission should you decide to work with Artwork Archive. But you don’t need to make this investment, an archive is something you can create on your own.
The point is to create a system that’s clear, that’s consistent, and that’s accessible – both now and after you are gone.
Because your art deserves to live forever.
Jeannie Motherwell is an artist whose career has seen a solid, multi-layered path within the art field, in spite of the fact that she spent years hiding her true identity.
Jeannie studied painting at Bard College, then at the Art Students League in New York. Next, she pursued arts education, followed by a rich career at Boston University for the graduate program in Arts Administration.
She felt fortunate to be surrounded by instructors who were working artists themselves, and by the daily inspiration she gleaned from advising budding art administrators.
But every evening, like so many artists. Jeannie would escape her day job to the studio to paint.
Recently, Jeannie retired from her full-time role at BU. Before that, her gallery representation of ten years ended when the gallery closed, leaving her at a crossroads. Though she was reluctant about the time and financial investment of The Working Artist course, she was motivated to dive in. “I wanted to learn the most productive way to utilize my newfound time as an artist efficiently and I wanted to find new gallery representation,” she stated.
“Watching Crista’s promotional videos and hearing her own story encouraged me to seek the tools I needed to forge ahead with my career. When I began painting years ago, social media and other marketing aspects of the trade didn’t exist or weren’t as crucial as they are in today’s art world. Crista explained why they should be just as much a priority as making the paintings themselves.”
Jeannie’s previous experience in the art world provided a sturdy foundation from which to leap. It wasn’t until after she finished The Working Artist and decided to invest in a Personal Strategy session with Crista that things came full circle.
It was during their private session together that Crista realized Jeannie was none other than the daughter of iconic mid-century painter Robert Motherwell and that she’d first learned how to paint from her father and her stepmother, the illustrious Helen Frankenthaler.
Crista was astounded that Jeannie Motherwell had chosen to bury this fascinating piece of personal history—or barely mention it— throughout most of her career.
Jeannie confessed that it felt like cheating to divulge the information. “The best way I can describe what it was like having two famous artist parents while launching a painting career myself, is that it is akin to being the aspiring actress and the daughter of famous movie stars.” Jeannie mused, “It’s a hard act to follow if you really love what you’re doing. I’m not trying to fill anybody’s shoes.”
“Crista helped me shift my perception by explaining that the truth was an asset; that it’s part of my history, part of who I am and part of what I do today.” Jeannie explained.
Now, Jeannie treats the information as an icebreaker to conversations. “It has introduced me to a whole new global community of abstract art enthusiasts. I have new friends and colleagues who make art, and I’ve become a mentor to a younger set of abstract artists.”
In the year since completing The Working Artist class, Jeannie Motherwell has signed with two galleries on the east coast with solo shows scheduled at both. She’s also working with an interior designer who expands her audience beyond typical gallery reach and clientele.
Jeannie credits The Working Artist with enhancing her networking and social media skills. “I now have connections with people all over the world who in turn have brought me more customers, inquiries, sales, and new relationships.”
Jeannie Motherwell describes her paintings as “explorations of the three-dimensional energy that defines the space in my pictures… with mysteries of creation — like the oceans and skies in changing weather, Hubble-type images of the universe, and my own physicality during the painting process.”
Learn more and about Jeannie and immerse yourself in her beautiful work at http://jeanniemotherwell.com/
Every artist struggles with the work/life balance. Jeannie Motherwell shares her routine:
My daily routine starts with the tasks I can’t attain at the studio. I go to the gym, answer myriad emails, pay bills, do admin work, work on grant applications and make a to-do list of things I need to tend to that day.
I try to get to my studio by early afternoon so I can work several hours uninterrupted before heading home for a late dinner. In the event there’s a studio visit from one of my dealers, or a prospective buyer, or even a trip to a gallery or museum, I may arrive earlier or later in the day, but I prefer to stick to a routine so I don't get side-tracked.
My studio is located in a former print factory. There are 100+ artists in the building, which is open 24/7.
I’ve found there are two general 'shifts' when people are there. There are the 'day people' and the 'after work' people, who generally begin coming in around 7pm. I fall in-between since I arrive around 2 and don't leave until after 7.
On the rare occasion that I’m there in the later evening, I notice the focus is primarily on making art. There is little socializing, and I get a strong sense of being part of a community of people who are hyper-focused on just making art.
They've likely done all their socializing during their workday and are longing for the solitude of their sacred space found in their studios.
For me to be most productive, I need a routine. It may seem counterintuitive for a creative person, but I prefer to accomplish the things I can control, so I can let loose and be totally free when in my studio.
As artists, we are CREATORS.
And your life is your greatest creation.
In his brilliant book Negative/Positive, Bill Jay wrote that artists are people who strive to become actually who they are potentially.
To become actually who we are potentially, I love that.
Who are you potentially? What lies inside you?
People look at my life as a creative nomad and ask "how did you do that?" I travel all over the world, writing and making pictures, working with other artists.
Everyone says, “You’re so lucky.”
Let me assure you, luck had nothing to do with it. I created this life.
Am I grateful?
Every. Single. Day.
At first, it was difficult to overcome the limitations and challenges that were placed in my path. Nothing came easily. It took work.
But the truth is, my journey began when I overcame the limits of my own imagination.
My journey began when I decided to trust myself, and to believe that it is possible to become the person who was living inside.
My journey began when I stepped out of who I was potentially and took steps toward who I wanted to be actually.
And you can too.
If you create the game
Then you create the rules
And if you just be you
There’s no way you can lose
As artists, we’re all trying to get closer to the essence of who we are. Right?
Isn’t art the deepest, most true expression of who you are? Of that which lives inside of you?
I believe that your life can be art too. In fact, your life is your greatest creation.
So your ultimate goal in your art practice is to create a life that’s an expression of you.
Like the woman said:
And if you just be you
There’s no way you can lose
If you just be you. If you become actually who you are potentially, there’s no way you can lose.
Of course, the big question is 'How?'
How can you make a living? How can you attract what you need while also being true to who you are?
When I decided to use my creativity to make a living, I didn’t know what that was going to look like. I didn’t have any of it figured out.
But I did know that it would feel authentic and empowering.
So I created a mantra that felt authentic and empowering. And I repeated these 5 words all the time.
“I make money being Crista.”
It’s simple, but deceptively so.
Now you try.
“I make money being me.”
Think about who you are potentially and then repeat the mantra again.
“I make money being me."
If you just be you, there’s no way you can lose.
“I make money being me.”
How do these magic words work? I’m not sure I can explain it but I know that they do.
I know that when you align your heart, your intentions and your creativity to work together, you become truly authentic. And life conspires to bring opportunities to you.
So repeat this mantra often.
And believe in yourself as you create your greatest masterpiece – your own life.
Because for an artist, there’s no greatest aspiration.
This picture of me above is not the most glamorous, yet it’s my favorite.
Let me explain.
All my life I’ve been terrified of sharks. Truly terrified.
My fears grew so big that I became unable to go in the ocean, in lakes, and finally, I couldn’t even go into swimming pools. Seriously!
I know that sharks don’t live in swimming pools but this is how irrational my fears became.
This photograph was taken in Capetown – right after I finished a shark dive.
That’s right, I decided to face my greatest fear head-on and allow myself to be plunged into shark-infested waters.
Was I scared?
Hell yes! There were great white sharks circling my cage! I was so petrified that my teeth literally chattered.
When this picture was snapped, I had just emerged from the water. I felt absolutely triumphant. I had faced my greatest fear.
And from that moment on, I knew that I could do anything.
But what does fear have to do with artists and achievement?
I’ve worked with other artists throughout my career and let me assure you, fear is epidemic. It stops even the most talented.
And more than fear is overwhelm, the feeling of being stopped by external circumstances.
It was a spiritual teacher who taught me that when you’re stuck or unsure, the best thing you can do to shift that energy is to do something that scares you.
And it works!
After my shark dive, not only was I no longer afraid to swim in the ocean but the rest of my life blossomed as well.
My creative output expanded, opportunities exploded.
I’d been playing around with the idea of The Working Artist for a few years, but now it finally began to gain serious traction.
The point is that instead of feeling frustrated by my dreams, I suddenly became unstoppable.
What’s your greatest fear?
You see, I believe that if you can conquer an irrational fear, or even a rational one, you push the boundaries of who you are.
You break-through the inner blocks and the stuck-ness that often traps you and keeps you from attaining your deepest wishes.
Self-help guru Tony Robbins says that the purpose of your dreams isn’t really to achieve that dream. The purpose of your dream is to develop into the person you imagine you’ll be once you attain it.
Try it out. Imagine a dream or goal you hold close.
Now imagine who you’ll be once you’re there. What does it feel like?
That, that feeling, that’s what you want to aim for. And one of the best ways I know to fast track it is to do something that scares you.
No, you don’t need to jump into shark-infested waters.
But you do need to stretch yourself.
Are you shy? Challenge yourself to go to an art opening and initiate at least three conversations.
Are you afraid of heights? Jump on a ferris wheel.
Feel the victory!
Stop putting your energy into what you don’t have, what you’re not doing.
Instead, step into your next self, really experience it, even celebrate it. And show The Universe that you’re ready.
Listen, the world is full of sharks. It’s full of those things that threaten to hurt you or even swallow you whole.
But trust me, once you look a shark in the eye you’ll find that it’s not so scary after all.
So dive in, the water’s warm!
It’s a sign of the times. We’ve all got to be more vigilant about cyber-security.
In fact, just a few days ago, January 28th, was Data Privacy Day. How did you celebrate?
But seriously, for artists it’s imperative to have back-ups of our data. I’ve known artists who’ve lost all of their images and even their professional records because of computer crashes - or even theft.
It devastated their business.
You’ve heard this advice before but now it’s time to do it:
Put a system in place to back-up your computer regularly.
Whether it’s a note in your calendar to do a physical back-up weekly, or whether you invest in a 3rd party application to continuously back up your data to the cloud, protecting your files is imperative.
Passwords are another important consideration - and I've got an interesting tip for making yours a lot stronger.
Instead of leaving yourself vulnerable with passwords that contain dates or names that are easy to hack, try this instead: Create a password that has meaning for you, one that even empowers your art practice.
Here’s what I’m suggesting:
Whenever you create a new password for your business accounts, make one that states your professional intention. This word or phrase can contain a creative mixture of letters and symbols, both lowercase and capital, to make it even more secure.
Here are some examples that I just brainstormed:
Do you get the idea? Every time you log into an online business account, such as online banking, you take a moment to set an empowering intention while knowing that you have a password that’s secure.
And you can create a different password for your creative accounts, such as online workshops, your website, or your art supplier. Here are some ideas:
I’ve just created these quick examples for fun, but I urge you to really think about some of the limiting thoughts and beliefs that you struggle with. And then see if you can create meaningful phrases that will help you to overcome the negative self-talk.
Meaningful passwords will serve to pepper your day with positive reinforcement. And they will keep your personal information safe.
The best part about changing your passwords to positive statements of intent? No one else will ever know!
I’ve created passwords for myself that have given me a few moments each day to remember my goals and connect with my power. This small practice has kept me focused and positive while ensuring that my data is secure from hackers.
I know these probably aren’t the most fun tips I’ve ever sent you, but they are important.
I don’t want to see you have to take backward steps because your data wasn’t secure and backed up. So please do consider how you are protecting yourself and take action to improve it.
And I hope you had a very happy Data Privacy Day!
I don’t know about you, but I’ve learned some painful lessons this past year. Lessons that marked my soul so deeply that they should be tattooed into my very flesh.
These are the lessons of faith, grace, and joy.
Like many artists, I often suffer from anxiety. There never seems to be enough time, money, or support.
But when a friend pointed out that the opposite of anxiety is faith, it felt as if my whole world shifted.
I’ll say it again so you can get it too.
The opposite of anxiety is faith.
Our responses are choices. And it is our choices that determine the quality of our lives.
Sometimes circumstances count, yes. But when you find yourself repeating the mantra of “not enough,” choose faith instead.
When you find yourself saying “no” to your heart’s desire, choose faith.
Your heart’s desire was given to you for a reason, you know. Believe in it.
Have faith in the creative spark, that part of you that calls itself ARTIST. After all, that’s really the best and most authentic part of you. Isn’t it?
Let’s resolve that for next year, you and I both will break the pattern of “not enough.” Instead we will choose faith in whatever our heart whispers.
I don’t want to get too personal but in so many ways 2016 kicked my butt.
I learned that when I lose battles, I can choose to release the sting of defeats. I can shift my focus on what has meaning for me, on what those setbacks taught me, what I’ve learned.
When I release expectations and obligations and even guilt, there’s a wonderful feeling of freedom as I return to my Self.
This past year taught me that when I walk in faith, when I connect with and believe in the truest part of myself, I am a lot more graceful.
I love how the word grace is also related to that most powerful of words –gratitude.
Grace happens when we can look back at our hardships as gifts and feel grateful for them.
But grace also speaks of creativity and the gifts that artists are given, that we are graced with.
When we work “in the flow” we most certainly feel grace. For artists. there’s no higher aspiration. Is there?
I fell down a lot this past year. Part of being an artist is taking risks and falling down. Failure and rejection are occupational hazards for creatives.
But real artists always, always get back up again.
We dust ourselves off, pick up our sword (or our brush or our pen) and courageously connect once more to what has meaning.
And then it happens. Through a strange coincidence you meet someone – the client you’ve been dreaming of, the support you’ve been asking for, an opportunity you never imagined…
Is it a coincidence? I don’t believe so. It’s grace.
Joy is the sum of walking in faith – knowing who you are – and grace – being who you are.
And when you add gratitude to the equation, you can’t help but feel joy.
Joy comes from being more of yourself. Being able to experience your own true nature more deeply. Making authentic connections on every level.
That’s why making art brings us such joy.
Because when we engage with making meaningful work, we’re connecting with the truest and deepest part of our spirit.
Can you think of anything more joyful than that?
For 2017, I urge you to throw off the shackles of anxiety and choose faith.
And as you walk in faith toward deeper authenticity, you will walk with grace.
This will bring you joy.
So for the next year –
for the next day –
for the next hour –
I wish you joy, joy, and more JOY!
Do you remember when you first knew that you were an artist?
I do. It began when my Dad gave me a gift.
Let me explain.
My parents were divorced and Dad lived far away. Though I loved him like mad, I rarely saw him.
When I was 16 years old, Dad invited me to join him on a two-day business trip to the city. He’d be in meetings during the daytime, but we could hang out together in the evenings.
It would be a huge adventure.
To keep me occupied while he was at work, Dad showed me how to use his old Olympus OM-10 camera. Dad loved to collect things like cameras and gadgets, but I'd never taken pictures before.
“There’s only one roll of film in the camera,” Dad warned. “That’s 36 shots for two days. Choose your images wisely.”
When I remember those two days, I remember how it felt to be so free. I wandered the strange city with that Olympus OM-10 around my neck and followed my instincts as I hunted for photographs.
I had all kinds of adventures!
Two years later for my 18th birthday, Dad sent me a gift. I’ll never forget opening that package and finding his old Olympus OM-10 camera.
That camera became my best friend. Together, we explored the world as I sought to find my place in it.
For years, I shot pictures at sporting events and public gatherings, thinking I might become a photo-journalist.
Later, people began to hire me as I picked up commercial photography work.
But it was when I changed my college major to fine-art photography that I knew I wanted to be an artist.
I used that Olympus OM-10 for all my assignments, and even took it with me for a year abroad.
When I returned home, my Dad died.
It happened unexpectedly - right before my wedding. I was marrying a photographer of great repute. I’d considered quitting photography myself, not wanting to share a profession with my husband.
And then on our honeymoon, my Olympus OM-10 was stolen.
I’ve never missed anything so much. That camera was a part of me, my story, and the only thing I had of my Dad’s.
I took the loss as a sign. So I created a new life for myself, without a camera.
I began representing other artists and photographers, selling their work to museums and galleries, helping to grow their careers.
But I missed my Dad.
One Christmas, I pulled out the boxes of slides he’d left behind. I poured myself a glass of wine as I sat in the dark looking at the projected images of his photographs.
I loved my Dad but he was no photographer. The vast majority of his images were pictures of his car, or pictures from the window of his car. There wasn’t a whole lot of interesting imagery going on.
Until there was.
One roll. One roll of film was interesting. After literally thousands of shots, one roll captured my attention.
I was mesmerized. I could see what he was going for with each shot. These images spoke to me, making my heart sing.
And then I understood why.
This was the roll of film that I’d shot all those years ago. My very first roll of film. I was able to recognize my own 16-year old eye.
And I liked what I saw.
Even though he was gone, my Dad had given me a gift. He had reminded me that I was a photographer.
I bought a digital camera and started shooting again.
I eventually split with my husband and built up a successful career as an international arts dealer.
My photography was something I only did for myself.
And then one Christmas, a friend sent me a gift.
It was a framed picture. A true work of art, he said. A work by a great artist, someone he thought that I needed to pay attention to.
It was a photograph that I had taken.
Not long after, I made the decision to leave the art business and focus on representing just one artist’s work – mine.
Today, I travel the world taking pictures.
My online business school for artists allows me to share what I’ve learned about showing and selling art. I’m teaching artists how to build their own careers.
And I’m able to use my creativity in service of others.
It’s been a gift.
I don’t know about you, but 2016 has been rough for me as I suffered some very sad personal losses. Not the least of which was the loss of my image library. My pictures.
Though I had four different back-ups on various hard drives and in clouds, my photo library was corrupted.
I lost thousands of my favorite pictures.
It’s been heart-breaking in a way that only another artist can understand. All that work, gone forever.
I wondered if maybe it was time to step away from photography?
A few weeks ago, I dropped by a neighborhood garage sale to poke around. There, still in the box, was a pristine Olympus OM-10 camera.
“It’s never been used,” said the owner. “Someone gave it to me as a gift in 1979 and I never even took it out of the box.”
It was a gift. To me.
It felt both familiar and strange in my hands.
Shooting an old film camera is nothing like digital. It makes me work slowly, to focus, to make every shot count. This Olympus OM-10 is teaching me about myself as an artist all over again.
It’s a wonderful gift.
I love that the word to describe an artist’s talent is “gift.” Don’t you?
In many ways, all artists view their creativity as a gift, a special endowment that we’re entrusted with. For better or worse – right?
When did life first show you that you had a gift?
What do you hope to do with it?
My wish is that 2017 is the year for you to share your gift in a way that makes your heart sing. And lets the world take notice.