The Art Biz ep. 94: Calculating Risks in Your Art Business with Leah Smithson

There is no such thing as the artist's path. Look at the careers of 50 artists side-by-side and you'll see 50 different paths. And probably none of them happened exactly as planned.

In this episode of the Art Biz Podcast I talk with Leah Smithson about her path, which kicked into gear after her father suffered a massive stroke and she began researching how creativity works in the brain.

Leah Smithson Core painting | on Art Biz Success
©2021 Leah Smithson, Core. Oil and acrylic on linen, 29 x 27 inches.

Leah's interest in learning has led to her nontraditional portrait paintings, jewelry, public art, and murals. You'll also hear about how she embraces technology and has been teaching herself augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR).

Leah and I discuss how she decides which risks to take on and which projects to get involved with, how she schedules her week, and how her well-meaning husband cajoled her into co-hosting a podcast with him.

Leah has taken many risks in her art career, and I love her point of view: You'll never know until you try. You can decide to take a risk because even if it doesn't turn out as you'd hope—even if it's a disaster—you'll be glad you did it anyway, if it's something that fits with your goals.

If you’ve ever considered which step to take next or which opportunities are right for your art business, you need to listen to this advice from an artist who has failed and continues to experience success.

Music by Wildermiss


Artist Leah Smithson presentation of mural for Apple | on Art Biz Success
Discussing her new piece commissioned by Apple for a mural while making live art at the new Apple Tower Theater in Los Angeles.
  • Leah Smithson shares her art and the family experience that led her to focus more on her own creativity. (1:19)
  • Unpacking the effects of art and creativity on the brain. (5:05)
  • The evolution of Leah’s art in the face of emotion and self-expression. (6:46)
  • Income streams and the impact that Covid-19 had on Leah’s work. (10:55)
  • Taking calculated risks in art and tuning in to what you want for your art business. (14:52)
  • Learning from Leah’s failures. (17:10)
  • How to identify the right opportunities for your art business. (22:08)
  • The role of research in Leah’s art. (27:55)
  • Creating digital art experiences with AR and VR. (31:43)
  • Leah’s typical workweek balances studio work, social media, podcasting, and community projects. (36:37)


Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards

Leah Smithson Quotes

  • “The faster you get it out there, the quicker you can make progress.”
  • “I try to balance an educated decision with being tuned in to what I really want to do, so even if it doesn’t go well at least it was because it was something I wanted to do.”
  • “Even when I fail I can still be happy with the decision I made.”
  • “I’ve learned that the next time I take a risk, it needs to be something that I really want to do. And even if it’s a disaster, I’m happy I did it anyway.”


About My GuestArtist Leah Smithson | on Art Biz Success

Leah Smithson is a Los Angeles-based artist with a surrealistic nature to her work. Having moved around as a kid, her style comes from a patchwork of influences from classical painting to cyberpunk. In her murals, digital works, paintings, and sculpture, she often uses nature & portraiture to express the complexities of being human and our connection to this earth. As a muralist, her goal is to create little rabbit holes of experiences in the cityscape, providing moments of inspiration to remind us that our lives are about more than just surviving.

Leah was born in Tennessee and has also lived in Atlanta and the Bay Area of Northern California. She co-hosts Vessel: Art as a Doorway, a podcast with her husband.

Follow Leah on Instagram: @leahsmithsonart

Music by Wildermiss

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