How Did You Begin Making Art?
“I’ve been drawing, painting and making things for as long as I can remember, but I began professionally making art by accident. I had been toying with the idea of becoming an artist for a while in 2013 when I broke my ankle and was off my feet for six weeks. I had a lot of time to paint and a lot of time to think, and by the end of those six weeks I was well on my way planning my first art show.”
Can You Describe Your Philosophy as an Artist?
“My philosophy as an artist is to try and communicate ideas and feelings to people, and not just simply “express” them. Painting, for me, is like a visual language, so when I’m painting, I always want to think about whether I’m speaking a language others can understand—at least on some level.”
What Is the Strongest Influence In Your Work?
“I think the things that have most influenced me are all the illustrated children’s books I read as a kid by writer-illustrators like Bill Peet and Richard Scary, and the hours and hours of Disney movies and cartoons I watched. In a way I think all these fantastic creatures and stories I grew up with have blended with the reality around me to produce my painting style and subject matter.”
What Is Your Favorite Thing To To To “Refill the Well”?
“Often during the day I will do small things like listen to music or walk along the seawall here in Vancouver, but really I’ve found that the best thing I can do to “refill the well” is just to stop draining it for a while and take a day off. When I can put in 24 solid hours of not working, I am always rewarded by renewed motivation and new ways of looking at things.”
What Made You Realize You Could Earn a Living as an Artist?
“I definitely didn’t know from the start that I could do it, but I did get a great initial response to my art from friends and family, and not long after that from galleries. I think this early positive response, along with the constant encouragement of my boyfriend gave me the faith I needed to sacrifice personally and live like a student, with a long term view in mind. As I continued to paint, I realized that all those hours of painting were actually making me a better painter, and combined with the gradual building of the business end of things, I eventually came to feel confident in my ability to support myself—but it has definitely been a long and winding process.”
Do You Rely Solely on Sales from Your Pieces for Income?
“I now rely solely on sales from my work for income, but in a slow month I know my boyfriend is there to share the burden, just as I’m there for him when he has a slow month in his new business. Being part of a “team” financially and emotionally is really important for me as an artist, I think because visual art can be such an isolating pursuit. A huge part of my success has been knowing I have someone to celebrate it with at the end of the day who is as invested in it as I am.”
What Venues Do You Use to Sell Your Art?
“I mainly sell through galleries in the US and via private email lists I administer which people can sign-up for on my website. I don’t sell original art directly on my website, but I do sell prints, jewelry and merchandise there. I have and Etsy store, but it is not always stocked, depending on how busy I am with other pursuits. I also do commission work.
Whenever I sell things personally I keep my prices in line with my gallery pricing because I don’t want to undercut galleries.”
What Business Connections Have You Made that Helped You Showcase Your Art?
“The single most important one has been my publicist, Lee Joseph of Lee Joseph Publicity. Lee knows and loves the business and knows my market, but just as importantly, he’s part of my market, a personal friend and a fan of my work. What really gets the job done is ongoing relationships with people like Lee who are not only professionally solid, but personally invested in their clients’ success and can share in it with them. For me, again it is that sense of having someone on my “team”, someone who believes in what I can do and will go the extra mile to help nudge me towards my goals.”
How Do You Keep Your Work Fun?
“I definitely do go through periods of frustration and burnout. Sometimes it isn’t fun, but when I get too distracted by the business end of things what makes it fun again is stepping back, picking up a brush and painting. In a way, creating work is like fuel for creating more work. I anchor myself in the art and remember that I always need to make time to paint while I take care of things on the business side.”
Ms. Watts concluded the interview with a few valuable tips for an artist interested in starting his or her own successful art business. “On a practical level, especially if you have not been to art school or business school (as I have not), find a basic workshop or class to take about being a professional artist. Even one afternoon of instruction can give you a great idea of where to start.
Generally though I would say: have common sense. That may seem vague or obvious, but if it does it’s only because it’s so huge and important. I think artists especially need to be aware of it because “common sense” isn’t necessarily a prized quality in an artist, but when it comes to presenting and selling one’s work it really is central to success.”