The Art Biz ep. 33: Reinventing Your Art Career with Ali Cavanaugh

In 2014, Ali Cavanaugh had 11 galleries representing her work throughout the U.S. and even overseas. It was all she could do to paint fast enough to supply these galleries with new work.

Artist Ali Cavanaugh's studio table
Ali’s studio table

What a great problem to have, right? But something wasn’t sitting right with Ali. So she asked each of the 11 galleries to return her work. One by one they sent back what few paintings remained in their inventories.

There was no animosity. Ali greatly appreciated all the work the galleries did on her behalf, but she was no longer satisfied with the status quo.

She had begun to reconsider not just what her business model looked like, but the art itself.

Artist Ali Cavanaugh's evermore
©Ali Cavanaugh, evermore. Modern fresco, 8 x 10 inches. Used with permission.

She decided to take control and be very deliberate about her next moves.

Music by Wildermiss

In episode 33 of the Art Biz Podcast, you’ll hear about:

  • Ali’s first steps as an artist and initial gallery representation.
  • Why galleries weren’t interested in work behind glass.
  • How Ali took 6 months to teach herself a new watercolor technique and why it was important to do this.
  • How Ali used her blog to attract press coverage and interest from galleries.
  • How Ali has expanded her audience using social media.
  • Ali’s philosophy of the artist’s journey and micro-evolution.
  • Why it’s critical to challenge yourself as an artist.
  • Why Instagram is the perfect platform for getting affirmation for your work.
  • The reason Ali pulled her art from galleries and what happened to those 25 pieces.
  • How Ali began raising her prices and why art fairs were the best venue for the new prices.
  • Ali’s monograph that was published by Unicorn Publishing in 2019.
  • Details of Ali’s intention to renovate a property in the small town of St. Genevieve, Missouri.
  • Ali’s upcoming plans for Patreon.

Music by Wildermiss

About My Guest

Ali working in the studio
Ali working in the studio. Photo courtesy Fred Lynch.

Ali Cavanaugh studied painting at Kendall College of Art and Design and the New York Studio Residency Program in New York City, earning a BFA from Kendall College of Art and Design in 1995. At the age of 22, she co-founded an atelier–The New School Academy of Fine Art–in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She relocated to Santa Fe, New Mexico in 2001. It was during her six years in Santa Fe that she developed her modern fresco process on kaolin clay. 

Her paintings have been the subject of numerous national and international solo and group exhibitions. Cavanaugh’s  paintings have been featured on book covers, countless internet features such as the Huffington Post, Fine Art ConnoisseurArtsy and in numerous print publications including The New York Times Magazine, American Art CollectorAmerican Artist Watercolor. She has painted portraits for TIME magazine and The New York Times. Her work is featured in more than 400 private and corporate collections throughout North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. She currently lives in St Louis, Missouri.

In 2019, the gorgeous monograph Ali Cavanaugh: Modern Fresco Paintings was published.

Follow Ali on Instagram: @_alicavanaugh_

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32 thoughts on “The Art Biz ep. 33: Reinventing Your Art Career with Ali Cavanaugh”

  1. Loved this interview! I have seen Ali’s beautiful work at the Cobb Marietta Museum some time ago She has been very inspiring for me on numerous levels ( her faith, talent, business sense etc) Thank ya you for this!

  2. I’ve been following Ali’s career for years. Her skill with watercolor and the lush surfaces she creates are just so inspiring. Thank you for sharing your idea of the artist journey with us, Ali. I too am working through some changes in my studio work. It was helpful to hear your own story as you move through this journey we call life.

  3. Such an amazing pod cast. It was so helpful!
    Getting out there on Instagram really works. I need to be more consistent. Ali is an incredible artist and sounds like a remarkable woman. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom.

  4. Ali, such beautiful work; thank you for this, your generosity & frankness. I also rely on prayer, couldn’t do without. Thank you, Allison; this is an amazing podcast.

  5. Incredible! Such a great interview full of nuggets of knowledge! I’ve followed Ali for years because I showed with her at a gallery in Memphis, TN. I enjoyed hearing the clarity of her vision and the solid no nonsense attitude of what she has done throughout the years to achieve her vision.
    I am an artist in huge life transition as my husband of 22 years is in transition. We built a life together, both fine artists, he a master and me following in his footsteps. I have kept creating throughout my journey with his disease, yet that is all I could do is create and I had to leave a lot of my business on the side lines because I have had limited time with all the caregiving. Yet I’m grateful to know that I am a striver and still willing to challenge myself. I’ve found inspiration and blessings in the brokenness through the journey of his disease.
    You truly are a creative visionary! Blessings to you!
    Thank you Alyson Stanfield as you are and will always be my touchstone!

    1. Lisa, I’ve always loved your work. Thank you for all of your kind words. I had no idea about your husband. Life is a journey. One day at a time. Sending love and prayers, Ali

  6. Thank you Alyson and as always, thank you Ali. The business of art is not for the faint-hearted. It is creativity, work, research, innovation, and implementation. You are consistently generous with your advice. Thank you for sharing. Ordering your book today. You always inspire me to be more. Your friend always, Jan Heaton

  7. Wow. Really wonderful and inspiring to listen to. I really related to Ali speaking about the need to continue to challenge oneself artistically, the expression one’s art takes, and Ali’s need to work with intent.

    Really inspiring how she took her career, her success and art future into her own hands.

    Thank you as always, Alyson for all you generously share with us!

  8. fantastic interview. and i love how she does watercolor on aquabord. i’m starting to play with aquabord and it’s so inspiring to see how she creates these wonderful artworks on it!

  9. Loved listening to this while I painted, today! I appreciate that Ali shared about her faith as part of her process- the mention of God and faith is not something I typically hear on artists’ podcasts! Also like your voice, Alyson- you are easy to listen to. I got a lot from this podcast -like how Ali treats her art as both a challenge and a true career with defined creative goals she is working towards. I’ve had success selling on FB and Instagram, but primarily credit it for the encouragement it provides (with feedback) like you mentioned. Thank you, both!

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Trish: I’m so happy you took the time to listen to Ali’s inspirational podcast. And I’m happy to hear that you were comfortable with my voice. I understand how important that is and that I can’t please everyone. Glad I pleased you!

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Your Artist Mailing List: Rethinking + Assessing

Get a transcript of episode 182 of The Art Biz (Rethinking Mailing Lists for Artists) followed by a 3-page worksheet to evaluate the overall health and usage of the 3 types of artist lists.

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