November 18, 2021 | Alyson Stanfield

An Unusual Path to Finding Art Commissions with Leisa Collins

Independence Hall painting artist Leisa Collins | on Art Biz Success

A lot of artists make a good living, or at least a significant part of their income, from commissions. You know how it goes. Someone approaches you to repeat that piece you’ve already sold, but they’d like it in more neutral shades, 40% larger, and vertical instead of horizontal. Don’t judge.

Or they want a drawing of their beloved pet, and you consider yourself an abstract artist. Leave the pets to Sema Martin who, in episode 68 of The Art Biz, walked us through the exact steps she repeats for each commission—steps that ensure she stays organized and meets her deadlines.

What would happen if you turned the whole commission process on its head? If you got to make whatever you wanted and found the perfect buyer in advance?

In this episode of The Art Biz I talk with Leisa Collins, who started her art business by targeting people whose homes she wanted to paint. Her attempt at the flyer-on-the-doorstep thing was met with crickets, save for some abusive language by one recipient.

Then she got more specific and went to direct mail. That’s when her career as a house portraitist took off. To date she has painted more than 2,500 house portraits and has a waiting list for commissions. She no longer has to send direct mail, but maintains that the personal relationships with clients are paramount.

I’ll let Leisa explain how she did it. She’ll also share her quest across the country to paint a house in all 50 states, that following up with prospects results in 85% more sales for her, and how she has partnered with realtors to provide closing gifts for their clients.

November 11, 2021 | Alyson Stanfield

Lessons from a Wildly Successful Pop-up Art Gallery Event with Mai Wyn Schantz

oil painting deer and blue bird artist Mai Wyn Schantz | on Art Biz Success

So many art venues shut down during the pandemic.

Many of them undoubtedly mourned not only what might have been, but also the fact that there wasn’t an opportunity for closure.

My guest for this episode of The Art Biz is Mai Wyn Schantz, artist and former gallerist. When she shuttered her gallery at the beginning of Covid, Mai Wyn was thrilled to be able to spend more time with her daughter.

But she hated to lose the relationships she had build over the years as the gallerist overseeing her eponymous space. Not only the relationships with her artists, but also the relationships with loyal collectors.

She needed closure, and she was determined to do right by her artists.

As soon as she felt it was safe, Mai Wyn organized a pop-up farewell exhibition with her artists. Her goal was to break even, which, as you’ll hear, was far too conservative a goal. Her “little” pop-up was more successful than she dreamed of.

The success of the event is due to Mai Wyn’s determination and commitment to the relationships she has nurtured throughout the years.

We discuss: the timing of the pop-up, the details for pulling it off, including the space she worked with, and what she learned from the experience. Mai Wyn is quite open about at least 3 things she would do differently next time. And they’re BIG important things.

November 4, 2021 | Alyson Stanfield

Boldly Reaching Out to Art World Influencers with Laurence de Valmy

Laurence de Valmy Painting on Art Biz Success

People. You need them.

You need people to buy your art, people to show your art to, people to attend your shows, people to write about your work, and, let’s face it, you need people to support you emotionally along the way.

You need other artists around who “get” you. It’s in these friendships that you will find understanding as well as ideas that challenge you to be a better artist.

The relationships you nurture can sustain you, but you’ll never know to what extent until you start taking them seriously. Until you believe with all of your soul that you can’t do this on your own.

This month on The Art Biz podcast, we’re emphasizing the value of 1-on-1 marketing. I almost hate to call it marketing because it’s really about building authentic relationships. Relationships with other artists, gallerists, writers, curators, buyers, students, collectors, and agency administrators.

Let me just say that you aren’t alone if this type of personal relationship building doesn’t come easily to you. Many of us were born without that gene, and if this is true for you, it’s not too late. It’s a skill that can be practiced and improved upon over time.

As I said back in episode 107, the not-so-secret secret to higher level growth for artists is in personalizing your marketing. Really caring about humans and having private interactions rather than broadcasting to social media or a large list all of the time.

But what do you do if you move to a new place and don’t know anyone? Or if you’re just getting started? Where do you begin?

In this episode I talk with Laurence de Valmy about how she has used her bonus talent as a writer to make connections in all arenas of the art world. It all started with the thought that there were people out there who knew more about how to “be” an artist than she did. She trusted that she could learn from them. Even if you aren’t a writer, I think you’ll be inspired by her boldness and creativity.

October 28, 2021 | Alyson Stanfield

Personalizing Your Marketing to Improve Results

artist Claire Renaut newspaper and resin scuplture | on Art Biz Success

We’re all about the quest for more followers, more likes, more shares, more views, and more comments these days. It feels good when more people respond to your art because, as I’ve said for too long to remember, art is a form of communication. It’s the means you use to share your ideas … your soul … with the world.

You can say your art is a form of self-expression and you might be right. To an extent. But that self-expression isn’t meaningful until other people respond. Until they comment, share, and start a dialogue with you about it.

That communication, as I’ve also said, completes the work. Yes, I know that you think the work is complete after you sign it, but it feels incomplete until it’s shared with others. Until the circle of artist to artwork to audience and back to artist is closed.

When you put the work out there and don’t get the appropriate number of expected likes or comments, you are unfulfilled. And that sucks. It’s not fair. It’s not fair that Mark Zuckerberg decides who can see your art. It’s not fair to the work and not fair to you that your art has to perform with such high expectations in a digital atmosphere over which you have little control.

What choice do you have? We all feel beholden to the social media algorithms for our success. But are we really? I believe we are taking huge risks by relying on mass communication to complete the circle of communication. To complete the work.

We know for a fact that art must be experienced in person in order to be fully appreciated. So why do we insist on validation from social media giants?

I want to talk about what really works for moving the needle with your art. It’s a secret shared by my highest level clients, only it’s not such a secret.

October 21, 2021 | Alyson Stanfield

Learning How to Be a Boss with Ali Manning

Coptic stitched book artist Ali Manning | on Art Biz Success

Whether you’re overseeing a single part-time assistant or a team of helpers, when you’re the boss, you have to step up and own your authority.

You have to be more organized, more focused, and more responsible.

Want help editing your video? You’d better get the raw footage to your helper a couple of weeks before your deadline. Ditto for social media posts that need to be plotted and emails that must be created and scheduled.

You have to be more deliberate because people are depending on you.

You must hire thoughtfully and thoroughly and know when it’s time to fire people who aren’t a good fit.

It takes a great deal of effort to find the right person to help with your art business, so you want to get it right. Because of this, you need to find a way to retain good team members. You want them to take ownership in your business and pride in the work they do on your behalf.

You won’t think about this from the beginning of the relationship with a new team member because you’re so focused on getting the help you need fast. But you absolutely should be thinking about it: How do I keep good people on my team?

We talked about working with a team with Angela Fehr and Robin Edmundson back in episode 104. Then in episode 105, Trudy Rice discussed how she assumes the roll of boss even while working with her sister as an employee.

In this episode I talk with Ali Manning about the responsibilities she feels as the person in charge of her business. In particular, the responsibilities she has to team members.

We discuss her membership-based business model, the dynamics between team members, how she hires, when and why she hires employees instead of contractors, and how she keeps team members happy. We also get into the hiring mistakes that both of us have made in the past—freely admitting that it was our fault, not that of the employees.

October 14, 2021 | Alyson Stanfield

How to Work Successfully (and Sanely) with a Relative with Trudy Rice

Acrylic painting of Banksia botanical artist Trudy Rice | on Art Biz Success

I can’t think of a single relative that I would hire to help me with Art Biz Success. I love them (most of them) dearly, but working with them? No thanks.

And yet so many artists are lucky to have help from close family members: spouses who help pitch festival tents, kids who stamp envelopes and do data entry, and siblings who design websites and help install artwork.

Then there are artists who not only don’t have support from family, they have close family members who are negative, resentful, and jealous, which puts an incredible strain on the relationship and the artists’ emotional well being. If you are an artist who can count on family members to pitch in, I want you to know how lucky you are. Truly, deeply fortunate.

Trudy Rice counts herself among the blessed. In this episode of The Art Biz I talk with Trudy about her working relationship with her sister, which has been a godsend.

In order to have a successful working relationship with anyone, you need guiding ground rules. You need employee policies and agreements. And you need boundaries established between business and personal. We discussed some of this in episode 104 with Angela Fehr and Robin Edmundson.

It can be uncomfortable to enact formal arrangements with those close to us, and yet it’s even more important to have them with the relationships that mean the most. They can absolutely save your relationship.

Trudy and I talk about what her business was like before her sister Jenny started helping her, the specific tasks that Jenny is responsible for, and how they structure their business partnership to make sure they are both happy and fulfilled.

October 7, 2021 | Alyson Stanfield

Trusting Another Artist to Help You Run Your Art Business with Angela Fehr and Robin Edmundson

Watercolor painting summer evening landscape artist Angela Fehr | on Art Biz Success

It’s darn hard to hire someone to help with your business. You’ve been working by yourself for so long that you aren’t sure you can trust anyone to do the tasks the way you’d like them done.

Or you feel like it’s easier if you just do it yourself.

But if you want your business to grow, there comes a point at which you must hire to support that growth. And the wisdom is to hire before you think you can afford it.

In this episode I talk with Angela Fehr and Robin Edmundson.

Angela had been building a thriving business teaching heart-led watercolor since 2013, while leading a community of artists to support one another on that journey. She knew she needed help, but she wasn’t prepared to struggle to find that help. She was content in setting her intention and being open that the right person would come along.

Enter Robin—a student that Angela had her eye on. And, I’m kind of proud to say, a member of my former Inner Circle program for artists.

You’ll hear us discuss how Robin was and is the perfect fit for Angela, and vice versa. They’re building a team using Robin’s unique talents to support her in this process. We talk about the technology they use, how they work with other team members who have since come on board, and how they communicate with one another to stay on top of tasks.

September 30, 2021 | Alyson Stanfield

Juggling Multiple Art Styles and Audiences with Robin Maria Pedrero

Acrylic painting horizons artist Robin Maria Pedrero | on Art Biz Success

Whenever you have multiple styles or subjects, you probably also have multiple audiences. The abstract work might have one following, the functional pottery another, and the pet portraits yet a third. It’s hard to find people who are interested in all of them.

This means you’re kind of running multiple businesses.

On the one hand, you’re looking for exhibitions and venues for showing your abstracts. On the other, you’re promoting your handbuilt ceramics to people who appreciate their beauty far above what they would find at a big box store.

At the same time, you are trying to connect with pet guardians proud enough of their animal that they want to memorialize their mug with a framed original piece of art.

This is a lot of work you’ve created for yourself!

I’d never tell you not to do this, though I’d be tempted, because experimentation is such an important part of your life as an artist. Sometimes you need the different styles because they feed off of one another. Or they fulfill different parts of your artist’s soul.

Still, did I mention? It’s a lot of work to juggle different styles and audiences. You’ve been warned.

In this episode of The Art Biz with Robin Maria Pedrero, you’ll hear about the three different styles and subjects she paints. Robin has a very full art business, and she has joined the podcast to share her story about how she juggles her various styles of art and the diverse audiences for her work.

She also has fun during the process.

September 16, 2021 | Alyson Stanfield

Who Are The People On Your List and What Are They Doing There?

Jessica Cook painting | on Art Biz Success

Long long ago in a land far away, during a time in between undergrad and grad school for my art history degrees, I was an administrative assistant to a US Senator. I wouldn’t know until much later how priceless that experience was.

For starters, it taught me the importance of a mailing list. (It also got me in a photo on the cover of the New York Times. But I digress.)

Why Your List Is Mission Critical

I quickly recognized that my boss’s donor list and the Rolodex on top of my desk (yes, it was that long ago) were the most cherished assets in our office. They were the source of campaign donations, community support, and wise counsel.

Later, as a museum curator and educator, I saw how much we relied on our members and donors for financial support. It was critical to keep them in the fold of the museum’s activities.

I want to make sure you understand just how important a mailing list is.

As I said, lists were indispensable to the Senator and to the three museums where I worked, which is probably why creating a database of names was the first thing I did when I started my business.

I focused on expanding my list by sending a newsletter with useful content every week beginning March 30, 2002.

That was a long time ago. In 2002 artists were hungry for knowledge about building their businesses. And I was fresh out of my work at the art museum, which was a job that required me to produce a great deal of content. That made the transition to writing content for artists easy, and it was relatively easy to attract people to my list because the market and virtual space weren’t saturated at that time.

Those were the good old days.

Artist's Annual Review on Art Biz Success
Sticky Notes with Notebook: Artist Planning Sessions at Art Biz Success
Image of Clock: Artist Planning Sessions at Art Biz Success