How To Be An Artist : Advice and Tips from A Fun-loving Painter

INTRODUCTION

In sound, appearance, depth and form, art reminds us that one is never alone in suffering, delight or pleasures. It connects us and sits above the superficial barriers and trivial differences that we allow ourselves to entertain or be divided by, cementing the reality that we are all human, all navigating this strange and great metropolis called life. The world is a colorful place and life is a vivid thing, chock-full of inspiration and experiences to fuel your artistic endeavors. You have nothing to lose in creating art. Why not start now? 

A few of my paintings


WHO DECIDES THAT YOU ARE AN ARTIST?

You do, of course. Who else would? The ''art bug'' bites people from all backgrounds and ages. Age, sex, class, ability and race have nothing to do with who can or can't be an artist. In fact, I would go as far as to say that anyone can be an artist. For me, the art bug bit me, quite hard, as a child and I never recovered. In fact, things have gotten far ''worse''. Once I entered adolescence and completed my first series of paintings, I knew that this was something that I seriously wanted to keep doing. The benefits were immense for me and it was something that just fit. I decided then and there that I was an artist. I sold my first painting at around age 16.




WHAT KIND OF AN ARTIST ARE YOU?

This is a multifaceted question, so I'm going to simplify things for the sake of this article. Do you intend to make your art available for purchase? If yes, then it seems that you are on your way towards becoming a Professional artist. Do you enjoy creating art for yourself or your friends and do not intend to sell it? Then you are most likely a Hobbyist artist

I should clarify that being a professional artist does not mean that you cannot enjoy what you create and being a hobbyist artist does not mean that you cannot sell your artwork. The two titles reflect your intentions, understanding and experience. As a professional artist there are several things that you will have to consider that a hobbyist artist usually will not. In either case it is important to enjoy what you are doing.

Some hobbyists enjoy attempting to paint artwork completed by other artists. This is ok if you give credit to the original artist and do not intend to profit from it. Bear in mind the different between inspiration and imitation. Many artists do not take kindly to having their artwork copied or outright stolen. There is enough room for everyone's style. Why copy someone else's work when you can create your own? 

Your art is yours. The possibilities are endless. Who cares what is currently popular to paint? Unless your sole reason for creating art is to make money, you don't have to get caught up in art trends. An art trend is a subject or theme that is currently very popular to paint about or build your art around. For some people, art is a means of income, which means that, unless they already have a base of people who regularly purchase their art, in order to continually generate sales, they must paint what is in demand. 

People have preferences and not everyone is going to like your artwork. That's just how it is but it isn't about people liking what you paint. It's about expressing and believing in yourself. There are countless ways that art can be used. It can be a tool for overcoming trauma, a diary to hold your thoughts, a scrapbook to capture your favorites things and memories, a statement to speak your mind and many many other things. I believe that being able to paint what you want and how you feel is important. There are no rules in art, only the restrictions that you place on yourself. 

Can creating art sometimes be overwhelming? Of course it can, like anything else. If you overthink and let doubt seep in, you are bound to be faced with artistic constipation. Yes, it's a horrible metaphor but it's true. Just relax. If creating becomes a ''chore'', step back, take a breath and reconsider things. Art is not supposed to stress you out.




THE HOBBYIST 

As a preteen, before I began listing and shipping my artwork, I was a hobbyist artist. When I first began painting, I did so as an emotional release. It was therapeutic for me but I also enjoyed creating art for my room and for relatives, who took interest, to display in their homes.

Because I did not come from a wealthy family, I sometimes had to opt for using more affordable materials. Using bargain materials is a common theme in hobby art and permits you to create more artwork without hurting your budget. ''Money doesn't grow on trees'', as they say and sometimes you have to work with what your income permits.

If at all able, you should try and purchase your art supplies in person, especially canvases, so that you are able to inspect the quality. Also consider that oftentimes, depending on where you purchase your supplies, cheaper quality materials are inferior to the more expensive brands. This isn't always the case but in my experience it has been proven to be true. This is not meant to deter anyone but it is something worth stating. Also keep in mind that not all stores carry the items or products that they advertise online. Don't get discouraged if what you are looking for hasn't yet appeared in person at your local store. Try browsing online for affordable art supplies, you may get lucky! Some pocket-friendly avenues to purchase cheap art supplies, if you are a Hobbyist Artist, can be found below.

DOLLAR GENERAL - This store has various sized canvases, paint and brushes available for purchase. 

DOLLAR TREE (All Items are $1) - Dollar Tree has paintbrushes, canvases and paint available for purchase. 

EBAY -  Ebay has a large selection of art supplies and sometimes you may be fortunate enough to find bargains. As with all online shopping, be aware of who you order supplies from. It's a good idea to order from a nearby seller with good feedback, to ensure that your supplies reach you in a timely manner and to avoid delays. Browse Ebay's art supplies here

WALMART - Walmart has a good art selection. Some of the materials available here are quite affordable. Both hobbyists and professionals can shop here. Walmart has canvases, paint, brushes, aprons, easels and much much more. If you intend to buy canvases I suggest you very carefully inspect them to ensure that the canvas does not have holes, puncture wounds or tears. Canvases of this quality are not ideal for painting on or selling and should be avoided. Also be careful not to purchase old paint that has begun to clump within its container.


PHOTOGRAPHING AND SHARING YOUR ART AS A HOBBYIST 

A good quality photo can be very beneficial. Even if you do not intend to sell your artwork, it is still a good idea to ensure that any photos taken of your art are of good quality. Depending on what your budget is, you may be able to find used cameras on Ebay or Amazon which are still in good working condition and that take good photos. If you own a smartphone you may also be able to take decent photos on it. If neither of those are an option and your artwork is small, you could try scanning it on a scanner. Some scanners may fail to capture certain bright colors within paintings, so bear in mind that you may need to do a bit of color correcting. 

Art is meant to be shared! Many artists, hobbyists alike, enjoying sharing their creations in a fun environment with other like minded people. If this sounds like you, I suggest joining art groups, many of which can be found on Facebook. I joined several art groups on Facebook in an attempt to connect with other artists. Some of the groups that I joined were nice and had a good atmosphere. Others were pretty bad and a waste of time. I eventually left them all. These groups aren't everyone's cup of tea and sometimes you just outgrow them.

Not everyone likes Facebook. So, if groups aren't something that appeal to you and you would prefer a more basic platform to share your artwork, I think that Instagram may be your best bet. Twitter is good too but is still heavily saturated with politics, leaving much less room for art. Instagram is pretty straightforward. Once you've created your account, take a clear and strong photo of your art, type up a caption and add relevant #tags. Tags (or hashtags) help to build your audience by allowing other users to find your artwork.

One thing to remember regardless of where you share you artwork is that likes do not determine how ''good'' of an artist you are. You determine that.


SHIPPING YOUR ART AS A HOBBYIST 

The type of artist that you are should not dictate how thoroughly or carefully you package your artworks for shipping. Most of the Hobbyist artists that I have spoken with do not ship their artworks, they display them within their homes or give them to friends. Being that I am not a hobbyist artist, I feel that I can be more detailed in describing good shipping methods and how I package my artwork in my SHIPPING YOUR ART AS A PROFESSIONAL ARTIST section. Stroll down to read.



THE PROFESSIONAL

As a professional artist, my passion for creating and lifestyle guide much of my decision making. Well, that and common sense. I take art seriously in the way of quality, communication from the artist and how well art is prepared for shipping. When I purchase art from other artists I ensure that they are artists who take their art as seriously as I take mine. No one should have to deal with an artist who is unwilling to answer questions pertaining to an order placed with them. Communication and information relating to shipping out artwork are things that should be offered or given to the buyer. When people take the time to purchase art from you, you should take that very seriously. I do. I create art that I myself would purchase and treat every order accordingly. I adore art and I know that I would be devastated if I were to receive a damaged or dishonest work of art. 

Keep in mind that as a professional you should consider using more quality materials, being that you are going to be offering your art for purchase. Late into my ''teen-art'' years, I understood that I had to purchase higher quality materials. By ''higher quality'', I mean more durable, neater and reliable. From my experience this often meant visiting stores that catered to artists. Art shops are the best places to go and gather preferred materials. Although their prices are dearer than the stores that I mentioned above, their great quality is unmistakable. Many artists, including myself, enjoy going out and gathering materials but given the current circumstances, a great deal of them are choosing to order their art supplies online. Ordering art materials online is usually safer and definitely warmer but you may be faced with shipping delays. Some really great sites and shops to purchase high quality art supplies from, if you are a professional artist, can be found below. 


HOBBY LOBBY - This store has a tremendous amount of canvases, palette knives, paints, easels, brushes  and more, from several brands that I trust. I enjoy visiting in person but if you aren't able to do that, visit their site instead. 

JOANNE - I can't say enough good things about this shop. They have a great selection of canvases, paint, packaging supplies, brushes, and more. Their store layout is easy to navigate, as is their site, so give it a visit! You could walk away with a 50% off coupon, which is always a plus.

AMAZON - This is a very popular site and for a good reason, it seems as though Amazon has everything, including many materials used in art. If you don't have Amazon Prime, I suggest signing up for it. Prime is very beneficial if you are on a deadline or need supplies asap, that you cannot find in person. Some Amazon listings do not qualify for Prime delivery. If you are unable to sign up for Prime, try buying from sellers with higher seller ratings and good feedback. Use Amazon wisely and you could find yourself smiling all day. Peruse their assortment of art supplies here. 

WALMART - Yes, depending on your location and store, Walmart does have some quality supplies. If you are looking for palettesbrushes or packaging supplies, Walmart is a great shop to check out. You may find that the products offered online differ from what is available in stores.


PHOTOGRAPHING YOUR ART AS A PROFESSIONAL ARTIST

As a professional artist, great photos of your artwork are paramount. What good is it to spend hours on a painting and then not be able to show it to anyone? Being that we are in the midst of a pandemic, you cannot publicly exhibit your art. Most exhibitions and art shows have been postponed or cancelled altogether. Presently the only other option for showcasing your art is through using the internet and in order to share your artwork on the internet you must first capture it on camera. 

Consider that art buyers ordinarily base their purchase of art on the photo of the work presented. If your photos are of poor quality I can't say that you won't be judged by that. Photos of your art reflect you, as an artist. Your artwork deserves to be shown in a genuine and exceptional form. The best way to capture your artwork is by photographing it or scanning it. 

Digital cameras, Mobile cameras and Scanners are all viable options to consider. I prefer using digital cameras and I have surprisingly found that the price or brand of a digital camera often does not determine its abilities or photo quality. You will never truly know how good or bad a camera is, until you try it out or spend hours reading reviews that may or may not be helpful. 


WHAT CAMERA DO I USE?

You may find many answers to this question. There are so many cameras available on the market and I am sure that several of those can certainly get the job done. I can only share my own experiences. The digital camera that works for me may not work for you. 

A good camera can be an artist's secret weapon and you may find few who are comfortable with letting that flashy cat out of the bag. My artwork carries many vivid brushstrokes and bright swishes of color. Because of this, I have had to search high and low for a camera that works for me and accurately captures my efforts. This was a pain in the neck. I often became frustrated because there were so many cameras to choose from. After many hours and weeks of feverishly researching digital cameras, purchasing ones that took bad photos, returning them, pouring over more camera brands and reading digital camera reviews from several sites, I finally found a camera that suited me and may also suit you. See photo below.  
























The Polaroid i1237 Digital Camera is the camera that I use to photograph my paintings.

Sometimes the first photograph will be the perfect one and other times it won't. Depending on your lighting and where you are positioning your art piece, It may take a while to correctly capture the appearance of your artwork. I have found natural light to be superb in capturing the true quality of my paintings. When photographing your art, avoid direct sunlight and shadows, as they sometimes alter or distort the image. In times of bad weather, photograph your artwork inside. Position it on a flat surface near a window for best results. Ensure that when you photograph your art that it is positioned straight and that you crop the background out before you share or list it. 

I'd also advise you to create a neat and unique watermark to display on photographs of your artwork that you decide to share online. Watermarks protect your art from art thieves. Art thieves are people or entities who steal your artwork or use it without your permission and without giving you credit. Art thieves can even attempt to sell prints of your art or use it on clothing and product designs without your consent or knowledge. People have said many disparaging things about watermarks but what's more important, their opinion or protecting your masterpiece? 

This is my 'Stonehenge' painting. I used a very vivid combination of colors within this piece and it took me nearly an hour to capture it correctly. I was so elated when the colors finally showed up correctly! 



SHARING YOUR ART AS A PROFESSIONAL ARTIST

The internet can be a very convenient place if you are patient and use it wisely. One huge tool for artists of every background is social media. I've listed a few social media sites that can serve as useful art tools and summaries of each one below. Depending on your location you may not actually need to use the internet. However, given the situation surrounding this pandemic, many people, artists included, are embracing the internet. No matter where you decide to share your artwork online, be unique with your profile and most importantly be yourself. 















FACEBOOK PAGE - Facebook is a very well known site. It has been jokingly said that everyone has a Facebook account. Currently Facebook has hundreds of millions of active users and many of them may be interested in owning art. Facebook alone may not be very useful but Facebook pages certainly are. You must create a Facebook account before you can create a Facebook page. Once you have created your page be sure to fill in the relevant information and add links in your description, then upload a good profile photo of yourself and suitable banner. Be original with your page. Have fun!

INSTAGRAM - Instagram is another popular social media site that can be useful for artists. Be sure that your art isn't too graphic, if you plan to share it here. Instagram's algorithm can be tricky and may get you into trouble if you upload too many graphic images. If your art isn't of the nude or erotic variety, using Instagram should be a breeze. Add your bio, upload a profile pic and start posting! It's usually a good idea to tag your artwork. The more tags, the more eyes your art will catch. I would not suggest using filters on Instagram when you upload images of your art, being that filters distort the true colors featured within your work. Some filters look tacky and others are very unflattering. A true photo of your art should be enough.

TWITTER - Twitter, before this raging wave of politics saturated it, was once a very fun and useful site. It is still useful but many users are leaving the platform because of politics. Upload your profile photo and cover image after typing up a bio relevant to your art and you are on your way. Twitter is a very simple site to use. In one post you can upload up to four photos and you are given a 280 character limit. Get creative and make those 280 characters count!

BEWARE CERTAIN ART SITES - There are tens of hundreds of art sites online, all offering you space to display your artwork for little to no cost. There's nothing wrong with that but there is something wrong with sites demanding that you do not watermark your artwork. There are some very shady sites out there, who take advantage of artists and attempt to steal their artwork. The only way to prevent this from happening is to avoid those sites altogether. By carefully researching, you can easily weed out what sites to steer clear of. 

As I stated above, remember that no matter where you decide to share you art, the attention that your art receives or lack thereof, does not determine how great of an artist you are. You do.



PRICING YOUR ART AS A PROFESSIONAL ARTIST

This is a rather touchy topic. If you price your art too low, there is ''something wrong with it'', it's ''flawed'' or ''too cheap'' and if you price your artwork too high, ''you're delusional'', ''you're greedy'' or ''you're ripping people off''. There will always be someone who cannot afford your artwork or who feels the need to criticize your prices. It seems that you can't win. 

The good news is that there are an incredible amount of true art lovers out there, who would love to own your beautiful artwork and who are willing to pay full price.

If you are finding it difficult to work out pricing, my advice is to sit down and think about a price range that is comfortable for you and that makes sense. Figure out your shipping rates and combine the two sums for a grand total. Would you honestly be comfortable paying that amount for one of your artworks? If no, then try again until it makes sense to you.



SELLING YOUR ART AS A PROFESSIONAL ARTIST


It is essential that you have a site where you can list your artwork. Having social media accounts is all well and good but oftentimes those sites are not ideal for selling your artwork. They are ideal for sharing it. Ideally, your site should include a store where visitors can browse or purchase your artwork. These are called ecommerce sites. Currently there are several ecommerce sites available and all of them offer varying design flexibility and monthly or yearly plans. Some popular ecommerce sites are Wix, Shopify, Big Cartel and Squarespace. I suggest browsing these and other sites online to get a feel of what is available and what suits your income or preferences. Every artist is different. It is always a good idea to browse and weight the pros and cons before making any site commitments.

Once you have sorted out your site and begin listing your art, be sure to include the materials that you used, dimensions of the art piece and any other details relevant to the work in question. You want to be specific so that people are aware of what they are viewing. 

A certificate of authenticity should also be included with any artwork that you ship out or sell. COAs prove that the work of art was created by you and are necessary and beneficial in the long run.

*FREE SITE THROUGH BLOGGER -  I didn't want to leave this out. When I first began sharing my art online, before I discovered ecommerce sites, I created a Blogger account. I sold many of my older paintings on Blogger. Blogger is free, so this is a great option for someone who does not have the available funds to invest in an ecommerce site. If you have a PayPal account, you can list your artwork on Blogger and add PayPal payment buttons, in case someone wants to purchase it. You can also create a unique domain through Google Domains to take your blogger from (example.blogspot.com) to (example.com). Domains are not free. Domains on Google are $12.00 per year. Blogger is fairly easy to use, very customizable and can definitely be beneficial to professional artists when used correctly. 



SHIPPING YOUR ART AS A PROFESSIONAL ARTIST

Photo of me holding 'A Walk Among Pumpkins' after packaging it up, before I shipped it. This painting arrived safely to buyer a couple of days later.

Woohoo! Someone bought your painting! Now it's time to pack it up securely. It's no secret that packages are sometimes mishandled en route to their delivery destinations. If your artwork isn't wrapped carefully, harsh or unpredictable weather conditions can also potentially cause damage to the art piece. I like to take my time when packaging my paintings. It's actually pretty enjoyable. Below I have listed what you will need to successfully package your painting. 

Scissors

Foam board

Heavy duty bubble wrap

Heavy duty shipping tape

Cellophane wrap

Thick cardboard

Packaging paper













PACKAGING AND SHIPPING YOUR PAINTING 

Be sure that your painting has completely dried.

Clear out an area, like a table, to lay your painting down flat. 

Carefully wrap your painting in cellophane wrap. This ensures that your painting stays dry and free of dust. This can also protect your painting from surface damage.

Next, cut to size the foam board, leaving an inch or two of space around the perimeter. Tape two or three pieces of foam board underneath and on top of your painting. This protects your painting from dents, pressure, punctures and other injuries. 

If you aren't using foam board, cardboard works too. Just be sure that the cardboard that you are using is durable enough. You want something strong to protect the surface and back of your painting. Use enough cardboard. Three pieces of thick and heavy cardboard should do the trick. Be sure that the dimensions of the cardboard are suitable for your painting. If too large, trim it down, leaving an inch or two of space around the perimeter. If too small, you will need to find larger selections of cardboard. The cardboard must cover the front and back surfaces of your painting. Tape the cardboard in the same manner as the foam board. Use enough tape to ensure that it stays in place.

Now grab the heavy duty bubble wrap. Wrap your painting in bubble wrap until all corners and surfaces are covered. Tape it down, ensuring that it completely covers your painting and stays in place. 

Now we're getting somewhere! Grab your shipping box, which should look something like this :

Carefully place your painting within your shipping box, along with any documentation that accompanies it. Securely tape your box closed and correctly address it to buyer. 

Once you have addressed the package, I suggest adding a fair sized piece of tape over your address and the address of the buyer, to preserve them both. This ensures that neither address is washed away or distorted during transport. I always practice this and you have nothing to lose by taking this simple precaution. 

I send all of my paintings through Certified Mail. Certified Mail is a reliable way of ensuring that the artwork reaches the buyer. I really enjoy using this service. Here is an excerpt about Certified Mail from Stamps.com : ''Certified Mail is a special USPS service that provides proof of mailing via a receipt to the sender. With electronic USPS Tracking, the sender is notified when the mailing was delivered or that a delivery attempt was made.'' 

Be sure that you also receive a tracking number to give to buyer. Wouldn't you want to know where your art is? Both you, and the buyer can track the parcel, depending on which service you've opted for, by visiting this link via USPS site. 

I think that I touched on all of the topics on my list, with that said, thanks for reading and keep creating!














Cierra G. Rowe is a fine artist from rural Kentucky. Aside from creating art, she also enjoys writing poetry and somewhat fun articles like this. 











I do not own the clipart photos used but I did alter and paste some of them together to compliment written sections and their topics. Photos of artwork shared within this article were all taken by me, of my artwork, using the Polaroid i1237 digital camera mentioned above. For questions or concerns relating to this article, email me directly at cierraroweart@gmail.com. 

© 2020 Cierra G. Rowe