On Doing the Work

11/17/14

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I am often asked by people starting out in the business of selling art what are two or three things they can do to begin making an income from their work. Of course, since I wrote a book about making art for a living and offer an online class on it too, I have some opinions about the topic. But the thing that I also want people to know is that, most of the time, even when you are doing all the things I recommend and even when you are doing them well, success and opportunity take time. So in some ways my three pieces of advice are: 1) this could take awhile so get started now (ie: don’t wait!)  2) show up and do the work everyday 3) be patient.

In his new book, Things a Little Bird Told Me, Twitter founder Biz Stone says, “Timing, perseverance and 10 years of really hard work will eventually make you look like an overnight success.” This quote resonated for me, as I am sure it does for a lot of successful people. Before I continue, I want to give a big fat disclaimer here: I am in no way comparing myself to Biz Stone. While I make a steady and respectable income as an artist and work with a great set of clients, I am not a millionaire (or even remotely close), and I have not near the fame or financial success as Biz. What resonated for me is this notion that to people who don’t know me or who have just started following my work, it may appear as though I walked quickly, easily and swiftly into my successful career as an artist. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Recently I wrote this essay in which I spoke about my determination — and how that energy and resolve eventually led to my own tipping point — in which regular opportunities began to flow my way. That tipping point for successful people is often when others begin paying attention, and so it can often look like their success miraculously occurred. Who is this person I am now seeing everywhere on the Internets? He/she must have come out of nowhere! When, in fact, that person has been working hard for years and years to get where they are. Furthermore, those people just starting out (and we were all there once) may then infer that this same “overnight success” (albeit false) can happen for them. Fact is, only a very small portion of the artist population experiences overnight success. It’s so rare that it’s practically non-existent.

What gets artists and writers (and anyone) to success (however you define it) is usually a combination of lots of different factors and strategies, and pretty much always includes showing up and doing the work — all the work, and not just the stuff that’s fun or easy. Whenever I think about this notion of doing the work I think about Cheryl Strayed’s brilliant essay in Dear Sugar/The Rumpus called Write Like a Motherfucker. I’ll leave it to you to read it (and I highly recommend it), but essentially she’s telling a young female aspiring writer that if she wants to get anywhere as a writer she needs to get off her ass and write. To become a good writer, you must write. To become a good painter, you must paint. To become good at selling your work, you must do the work of putting your work into the world — not once or twice, but over and over and over. Success and opportunity never come to those who sit back and wish things were different. They come to those who do stuff.

Not to confuse the issue, but while doing the stuff (the work, the self promotion, all of it) is really important, I also believe that so are more “woo-woo” things like having positive intentions and envisioning yourself being successful. You must believe it’s possible in order to do the work. Simply envisioning yourself being successful without doing the work will get you nowhere. In the end, having positive intentions and showing up and doing the work go hand in hand.

For more nuts and bolts information about making a living from your art, order my book Art, Inc or take my online class Become a Working Artist.

Have a great week, friends!

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Art Inc. Lives Among Us :: Installment 2

10/31/14

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You may recall that I wrote a post back in September sharing some of the photos that people had been taking and posting of Art Inc. on Instagram. I  never get tired of seeing them! I’m collecting them as we go (tag your photos with #artinc and with my username @lisacongdon) and each month I’ll make a different montage with 25 of my favorites.

This month’s montage includes two different cats (admittedly one is my own, I couldn’t resist), a graffiti covered bathroom wall in Edinburg, Scotland (in the coffeehouse where JK Rowling wrote parts of the Potter series), several cups of coffee (I should have devoted a chapter of the book to coffee) and one tablet device (love this one). Thank you to everyone who contributed! It was hard to choose just 25.

Whether you’ve picked up the book or not, I wanted to remind you that you can now access my online class Beceome a Working Artist and watch all 22 segments (two days worth of content that you can watch at your own pace) for just $99.  The class is based on Art Inc., I cover important aspects of building your career as an artist like self promotion, managing your time, understanding the fine art, illustration and licensing worlds and selling your work online.

Have a great Friday, friends! And remember to tag #artinc for the next installment.

CATEGORIES Art Inc
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New Podcast: Pencil vs. Pixel

10/30/14

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Friends, I’m excited to share my latest podcast interview, this one with Cesar Contreras of Pencil vs. Pixel. We talk about patience and putting in the hard work. You can listen to it here.

Have a great Thursday.

CATEGORIES Art Inc | Podcasts
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On Owning It: I Am An Artist

10/23/14

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About two months ago, I was at the book launch event for my latest book, Art Inc. I was signing books, one by one, and chatting with the folks who came to the table. Two young women approached, smiling widely.

“I am so excited about this book!” one of them exclaimed.

“Oh, thank you!” I replied.

And then I said, assuming if she was excited about my book it must be the true: “You must be an artist!”

The young woman paused with clear hesitation. “Well, I do some graphic design…and I paint in watercolors, but…”

“So you’re an artist,” I replied.

“Um, I guess so?” she said, her cheeks turning red.

I have wondered for a long time why it is so hard for artists — especially women — to own their status in the world. It took me years to identify confidently as an artist. Why are we so hesitant – at least until we’ve graduated from school or until we’ve “made it” — to proclaim, “I am an artist”?

And so it made perfect sense to me that the first chapter of my book, Art Inc: The Essential Guide to Building Your Career as an Artist, be dedicated to the notion of claiming our identity as artists.

For time immemorial society has seen artists as a different breed. We are moody and temperamental. We starve to follow our passions. If we are at all concerned with making money or if we do make money from our work – especially through commercial work – it must mean our intentions as artists are somehow corrupted. From all of this has grown the starving artist myth.

And, furthermore, most of us have been taught – either directly or indirectly – that if what we create brings us any reward at all (financial reward, recognition, even industry awards) that this reward is fleeting. This notion that our careers are built on a foundation of scarcity (which is no foundation at all) has permeated our society and our psyches.

And that is, in part, of course, because art is subjective. Our careers and our future careers as artists are based on whether people like our work, whether it becomes a commodity others want to own or pay us to make. We are always reminding ourselves that we could tomorrow starve, so we better be grateful for what we have today.

No matter how we came into the world of making or selling art, we all believe in some small way (or many of us in some big way) that at any moment it could all go poof! and disappear, that the people who pay for it today could go away tomorrow and pay for someone else’s work instead.

So many of us spend a lot of time feeling like we are lucky at best and that if we are making money from our work we might not even deserve it. Even artists who have been at this for a lifetime may feel like “imposters” in this world, that at any moment they will be “found out” and exposed for not really being talented or legitimate.

This sense of impermanence, of treading lightly, of not knowing whether my future was secure, even after my work was in demand, has been a big part of my story. And I have come to learn from talking to scores of other artists that it’s an incredibly common story.

It has been 14 years since I first picked up a paintbrush. And I spent much of that time feeling like an imposter. I didn’t study art or illustration formally in school. I did not follow traditional pathways to get where I am. Most of what I do most days I taught myself how to do. I don’t even know most of the time if there is better or easier or “more right” way to do what I do.

And for that reason, I used to spend a lot of time feeling inferior; like for some reason I did not deserve the success I was experiencing. And worse than that: that’s what I feared others might think about me too.

But at some point, I decided, this is bullshit.

And then the next part of my story became my internal fight to think in broader, more confident terms about who I am as an artist and what I can accomplish — not just in the near future — but over my lifetime.

I began spending a lot of time reminding myself that regardless of whether this has all been luck or whether I have any talent isn’t what matters. Who cares about that? What matters is that I am happy getting up every day to paint and draw. What matters is that I make my best effort every day to be myself in my life and work. What matters is that I work really hard at my career. What matters is that I am thoughtful about the work I want to make and the people I want to work with. What matters is that once it started, making art for a living hasn’t failed me.

I have also come to own & embrace all of my experience, including my unconventional (and late blooming) path, including feeling like an imposter, including my mistakes, including all of the less attractive parts of my story. Because all of those things, in addition to my hard work & my successes, have helped to make me who I am.

I am an artist.

For more on owning your identity (and potential) as an artist, see my book, Art, Inc. or my online class Become a Working Artist.

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The DELVE Toolkit

10/16/14

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I love hearing about new resources for artists, and I was really excited recently when Sara Jones showed up at an event I had in New York and introduced herself to me. She is one of the founders of Kind Aesthetic, an creative agency who helps artists create a visual, written and emotional representation for their practice or business. One of their services is the DELVE Toolkit.

The DELVE Toolkit for artists & creatives offers personalized, one-on-one, professional guidance to visual and performing artists, creative entrepreneurs, crafters and makers to help them best communicate what they do, get (and stay) organized, and achieve their professional goals.

What you get:
+personalized direction and weekly assignments
+hours of one-on-one conversation plus email access to Kind Aesthetic
+the drive and focus from two professionals who truly care about your success
+honest, clear feedback
+constant, steady motivation and manageable tasks
+confidence, accomplishment, self-reliance and new amazing work habits and skills

You can set up a free 20 minute consultation by emailing hello@kindaesthetic.com

You can also read more about the toolkit here.

Have you taken my Become a Working Artist Course on CreativeLive or read my book Art Inc? The DELVE Toolkit sounds like fantastic followup support and action to get your art career moving.

Happy Thursday.

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Become a Working Artist on CreativeLive!

10/06/14

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Last week I taught a two-day intensive class on CreativeLive called Become a Working Artist (and thank you to my student Alexa Heung for capturing the photo above). You can now purchase the 22-video class on CreativeLive for $99. The course includes hours upon hours of content, tips and exercises you can watch at your own pace (once you buy the course, you own it forever). You can read reviews of the course, watch a preview and see all the topics I cover right over here.

Thank you to the entire crew at CreativeLive who worked on promoting, recording, streaming, and producing my class, my three special guests (Carrie Lederer, Lisa Solomon and Betsy Cordes), my hosts Chris and JKO, and my entire in-studio class (all 17 of you!). And thank you also to those of you who tuned in all over the world to listen, learn and participate. It was a really wonderful experience. Here is a photo of the crew and my in-studio students after we wrapped last Wednesday.

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Become a Working Artist, now available for purchase. And, as always, there is my book, Art Inc, a great companion to the class.

Have a great Monday, friends!

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Art Inc. Lives Among Us!

09/26/14

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Thank you to everyone who has expressed excitement over reading Art Inc. I never get tired of your photos on Instagram. Tag them #artinc and with my username @lisacongdon. I’m collecting them as we go!

Whether you’ve picked up the book or not, I wanted to remind you that I am teaching a free live online class this Tuesday and Wednesday (September 30 – October 1) through CreativeLive. It’s called Become a Working Artist, and I’ll cover things like self promotion, managing your time, understanding the fine art, illustration and licensing worlds and selling your work online. You can RSVP for the class here, and if you aren’t available to watch it while it’s streaming live, you can purchase it to watch later here also.

I also want to give a shout out to the students and alumni at California College of the Arts where I’ll be speaking at their Building an Artists Life 2014 event today on the Oakland campus.

Have a great weekend and happy Friday!

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On Becoming a Working Artist

09/23/14

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Yep, sometimes I feel like a bit of a maniac, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

In 2001, I took my first painting class. I was 31 years old, and looking for something to fill my time outside of my job at an education non-profit. I was slightly nervous. I hadn’t taken an art class since I was a kid. I didn’t even take art in high school or college. I was creative, yes, and I sewed and made crafts at home. But an artist? No way. Would I enjoy it? Would I be any good? I had no idea.

That painting class changed my life. Not in a big explosive way. And not overnight. But it set me on a trajectory that led to what I do today. Fifteen years later, I am a working artist. At first it was a hobby — a hobby that gained momentum and grew exponentially as I grew artistically and as I began to share my work on the Internet, which was relatively new at the time. Then several years later, in 2007, I left my job and began my self-employed life.

Along the way, there was no guidebook for me. I was self taught, and I’d never gone to art school. I was intimidated by the art world and had no clue about the worlds of illustration or licensing. Even selling my work on a platform like Etsy (also new back then) felt overwhelming. But over the course of time, I asked a lot of questions to whoever would listen and I read as much as I could. I tried new things. I kept a blog. As awkward as it felt, I began to spread the word about what I was making through all the ways that were available to me — in hopes that people would buy it, or want to hire me for an illustration job, or ask me to be in a gallery show.

And for a few years, all that effort felt frustrating. Stuff happened (the sales, the illustration jobs, the shows), but it came slowly. My income didn’t add up to as much as I wanted or needed. But the art-making part was so fulfilling to me (in a way I had never experienced) that I kept at it, with the hope that some day I would hit a tipping point and begin to make a regular, full time income as an artist. I was determined.

And then at the end of 2010, I hit my tipping point. And for the last four years I have been in a place of opportunity — sometimes so great that it is as overwhelming as the frustration I felt when I was first starting out. In the course of a few years, I went from starving (not literally, of course) to thriving.

On that path, I learned many things about what worked and what didn’t. I began to write them down. And in 2012 I began to work with Chronicle Books to write Art Inc: The Essential Guide for Building Your Career as an Artist, which came out this past August. In this book I wrote about all the stuff that I did that led to a steady income, steady work, and an abundance of opportunity so that I could share that information with other artists who are just starting out. I also interviewed almost 20 people — successful artists, agents and gallery owners — on their perspectives about what it takes.

This September 30 – October 1, I am teaching a two day intensive online class through CreativeLive called Become a Working Artist. The class is based on Art Inc, but goes deeper, and will cover things like goal setting and action planning, the nuts and bolts of selling your work, demystifying the worlds of illustration, licensing and fine art, promoting your work successfully and managing work flow. My goal is to give people who are interested in making a living as an artist practical information that will help jumpstart or enhance their process. Whether you are interested in making a full or part time living, this class will give you concrete information to help you on your path. If you watch the class live, it’s free. Or you can watch it later (and take your time with the content) for $79. You can RSVP for the free class (or purchase it now) here.

I hope to see you there.

Have a happy Tuesday!

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In Conversation with Design*Sponge 9/17

09/08/14

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New York City friends! I’m super excited about my Art Inc. book launch party next week at Powerhouse Arena in Brooklyn on Wednesday, September 17. Come listen to Grace Bonney (aka Design*Sponge) and me talk about building a career as an artist, followed by a social hour (with wine!) and a book signing for Art Inc. You can RSVP for the event here. Hope to see you there!

Can’t come on this night? I’m also speaking the following evening at CUE Art Foundation in Manhattan. Or come to both events! Info on that event here.

Have a great Monday!

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New Online Class: Become a Working Artist

09/02/14

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Friends, I am so excited to announce a new online class I’ll be teaching through CreativeLive starting September 30. It’s called Become a Working Artist. In the two-day class we’ll cover:

+Embracing yourself as an artist and mapping your future

+Setting actionable goals

+Understanding the fine art world

+Developing your business’s personality

+Promoting your work successfully

+Making money selling your own work

+Understanding the worlds of illustration and licensing

+Preparing for and managing success

The class is FREE if you watch live on September 30 and October 1 between 9-4 pm. It will also be available for purchase after the live taping for $79.

Want to participate in the live class as part of the studio audience? We are still taking applications. You can apply here.

The class text book is Art Inc. (order that now if you plan to participate) and you’ll also receive a workbook with extra tools and information.

Hope to see you in class! RSVP today!

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New Podcast: Accidental Creative

08/27/14

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I am so thrilled today to let you know that I was interviewed by Todd Henry for his podcast over at The Accidental Creative. We chatted about several things, most notably the “U” curve in the creative process. You can listen here. Enjoy!

CATEGORIES Art Inc | Podcasts
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I’m Giving a Talk in New York City

08/25/14

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New York & NY Area friends: I’m giving a talk in Manhattan on September 18th at 6:30 pm called I Am An Artist: On Ownership & Other Enterprising Acts. This talk at CUE Art Foundation (on West 25th Street) will be followed by a book signing of Art Inc & cocktails. Space is limited and you can purchase tickets here (free to CUE members!).

Hope to see you there!

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CreativeLive Interview

08/15/14

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As part of my book launch for Art Inc, I recorded an hour long interview through CreativeLive. Last Tuesday Meg Ilasco interviewed me in front of a live studio audience about how I got started making art, managing my workload, my personal projects, and a range of other art-making & art-career related topics. You can watch the interview for free right here (scroll down to see the video link).

I’m also going to be teaching a business class with CreativeLive at the end of September. Stay tuned for more information on that next week!

Have a great weekend.

 

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New Podcast :: What’s Your Story

08/15/14

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Friends, it’s launch week for my latest book Art Inc, so I’m posting all of the different podcasts I’ve recorded recently (see category Podcasts for all of them). Last week I sat down with my friend Meighan O’Toole (who, by the way, is an amazing social media and digital strategist for creative brands) to record for her new podcast series What’s Your Story. We talked about the information I share in my new book and a lot about my own experience with social media, self doubt, and community.

Folks who have been following along with my work for awhile might remember this podcast I recorded with Meighan in 2011 where I talk more about how I got started as an artist.

You can listen to the new 30-ish minute podcast over here.

Happy listening and have an excellent Friday.

CATEGORIES Art Inc | Podcasts
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New Podcast :: Converge on Fasttrack Creative

08/13/14

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I am so honored to be part of Dane Sanders’ podcast series Converge. Dane and I talked recently about the idea of making money and expressing yourself honestly as an artist — along with many of the other challenges and opportunities that are part of being a working artist.

Host Dane Sanders is the real deal. Like me, he fell into art-making later in life (he’s a photographer). An educator at heart, he spent the first part of his life in academia and has now dedicated his life to helping other photographers and artists find their voice & place in the market. He is a fantastic interviewer to boot. I hope you will give it a listen.

In the podcast Dane and I refer to my new book, Art Inc, which came out yesterday! You can listen to the podcast here.

Have a great Wednesday!

CATEGORIES Art Inc | My Books | Podcasts
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