Charlie Kirkham the Birmingham based artist became a member or our mastermind group a few years ago, and took advantage of the half price Blogging for Business course and other resources. Charlie has created products that are not only stunning but cater to all budgets. Here Charlie generously shares how you too can make your creative passion your reality.
A lot of people question the ‘best’ way to make a living as a creative. In this post I’ll walk you through some of the options available to you. One of the most important things to reiterate before we start is that your artistic abilities are separate from your business acumen; think about Paul Cezanne and Vincent Van Gogh. There is no problem with keeping creativity as a side hustle or dedicating time to turn in into a full blown entrepreneurial experiment (think Andy Warhol’s factory).
The biggest question to ask before you start is ‘Do I really want to make money from my art?’.
Don’t just shrug and tell me “Yeah of course I want to make money from my art”. Everything comes at a cost. Do you want to make money from being creative enough that you will take on the stress of having to create to order, work to commissions or deadlines and hunt for opportunities?
If the answer to all this is yes, then let’s get started.
OK, so you are ready to put the blood, sweat and tears in to make a creative income.
Here you’ll learn:
- Different approaches to creating an income from your art
- Tips for success
- Examples from artists who’ve made it
The Traditional Model AKA Gallery Representation
When most people think of artists selling work the image of a gallery springs to mind. The traditional artist career went like this:
- Go to art school, graduate show, group shows, solo show and somewhere between the final three secure representation with a gallery.
This is the classic model followed by RCA alumnus David Hockney for example.
Open Competitions & Open Exhibitions
If you’ve never shown before, start with smaller venues and artist groups. Local shows and venues might offer free entry for artists, they are generally non-curated which makes them ideal for complete beginners looking for feedback.
Once you know how to present work, frame and hang it well, move onto more prestigious opens.
Good places to start are looking through ArtOpps ArtOpps – Showcasing the very best artist opportunities or joining the Parker Harris mailing list Artist Opportunities – Parker Harris
Selling Directly From The Studio
This is the dream! You host a studio visit and along flocks a gaggle of wealthy art lovers to buy all your incredible artwork. Selling directly from the studio means you get to keep all of the money. Regular studio visits both in person and online build your reputation and make people want to buy from you.
E-Commerce / Marketplaces
If the traffic to your own website is lower or you want to piggy back on the marketing of the bigger players than using a third party website is a great option. The most familiar to us are places like eBay and Etsy.
Residencies are not only fantastic from a creative energy perspective, they’re also a great extra earner. These are listed on places like ArtsJobs and Arts Opps, again carefully read the criteria before applying.
You can make your own micro residencies. For example, when I created a series of prints based on Temple Church in London, I spoke to the church who offered me a week of free entry to the site. On the back of this I went to the Eaton Fund who sponsored all the materials and even attended the private view of the resulting exhibition. It was a great way to build a micro-residency at no cost to myself.
Top tips for art selling success.
Tell people what you do! Prep yourself an elevator pitch to let people know you’re creating work, looking for venues and happy to take on commissions.
Get your online presence looking fab. Set time aside to make sure your social media and website reflect what you’re making. Limit the number of works shown on your website to your best 20 (at most!) and share the stories on Social Media. It’s not all about followers. My Instagram has under 1000 followers but I’ve made multiple sales, been invited to 12 group shows and made great connections through this channel. If you focus on community and connections, sales opportunities will follow automatically.
Charlie Kirkham is a Fine Artist based in the West Midlands. The tri-artist and public collaborative painting “Coventry Phoenix” was commissioned by Coventry County Council for the 2012 Coventry Mysteries Festival. In 2013 she completed a Diploma in Portraiture at The Heatherley School of Fine Art, Chelsea.
In 2018 Charlie was awarded a Visions of Science Bursary Award by Edge Arts Bath in collaboration with The Milner Centre for Evolution, University of Bath. Her work has been selected for the ING Discerning Eye at The Mall Galleries, London (2014, 2016, 2021). For more information, please visit charliekirkham.com. For an extended version of this article, please visit charliekirkham.blog and sign up to the mailing list.
This is very generous of Charlie and it’s a great example of how INsiders care about one another’s success regardless of industry or profession. If you have a burning passion to turn your art into a full time business we have the plans, training, support and confidence building tools to make that a reality. Passion is not enough and we will be by your side to make that business dream a reality.