So happy I got connected with our guest today, because her work is gorgeous and she's just as fantastic! Here she brings you real world artist advice from her creative space in Massachusetts.
RWC: What is your current position/job title?
MC: Fine Artist/Painter of COLOR! (And full-time Mom of 3 little kiddos.)
RWC: Love that! How long have you been in that role? And what did you do before?
MC: I’ve been focused on painting as my business for 10 months now (despite it being a hobby for over 26 years). Before this, I was a graphic designer in the retail field creating store signage, packaging, and other print materials. For a short while I saw success as a wedding invitation and stationery designer and even did my own letterpress printing. Once I had children I had to simplify!
RWC: Where do you live?
MC: I live in the cozy countryside of Pepperell, Massachusetts!
RWC: What gets you excited about what you do?
MC: I love to express my vision in color. I try to make what I would want on my own wall and I try my hardest to spread happiness or soothing comfort through my paintings. It’s exciting to serve others in this way, and know that I’m contributing to the world in my own small way.
RWC: Right, we're always our own first client! Did you go to school for an art degree? If so where?
MC: I got a BFA in Advertising Design from Syracuse University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts: School of Art and Design in the year 2000. Almost all of my courses were art or design focused. I gravitated to any elective that involved drawing or painting!
RWC: Did you find it easy to transition from school to the “real world”?
MC: At first I found it easy. But I quickly learned that what I was passionate about or believed to be true were not necessarily what the paying clients were interested in. I spent a great deal of time creating things for others- much like a robot. I felt creatively dry and derailed. It was a humbling time as I learned to focus on learning about business and the realities of being a designer.
RWC: How long did it take you to find your niche/soul purpose/medium of choice?
MC: It was about 15 years after graduation when I decided to stop feeling fearful of following my ultimate dream of being a full-time painter. I’d always wanted to be an artist but had a misguided belief that it would be impossible and unrealistic. I’ve learned a lot about positive mindset in my years and I can make anything I want come to fruition if I plan for it and put goals around it. With the internet, I am able to reach a global audience in need of art! There’s no excuse!
RWC: So true. Mindset is so key to success. How much did you charge for your first client/commission?
MC: My first big painting commission was $900. The client had a specific size and color scheme in mind and I created an abstract piece based on her vision. She was happy, I was happy and it was an overall win!
RWC: Did you ever do work for free, and do you think it's necessary?
MC: Never do work for free! First of all, it is unethical. For people to value the arts, they must respect the time, education, sweat and expertise that goes into the final product. When you give it away for free, it ruins this understanding. Also, working for free (or for very little) undermines all the other artists of the world trying to make a good living. We aren’t just supposed to SURVIVE, we are supposed to THRIVE. We must always value our time, our talents, our education, and our expertise. Besides, when the plumber comes over to fix my pipes, I don’t expect him to do it for free. Nor do I ask! And I certainly wouldn’t walk into a restaurant and demand my meal be the priciest on the menu and I expect it to be FREE. Bottom line: Don’t devalue your business!
RWC: Do you have advice for art students?
MC: My advice for art students is to really explore deep down what it is you most would love to be creating in an ideal world. Remove the fear or doubt. Take that answer and run with it. Find experts in that field and see how they’ve built success for themselves. Really take time to learn from the ground up. And stand firm in your belief that YOU can do it too. There is enough success to go around and there is something for EVERYONE.
RWC: YES! I love to say there is room for every artist to be successful. What resources were/are helpful to you as a creative?
MC: I’m obsessed with podcasts. They are free and I learn a lot about marketing and business from them. I also love online classes at places like CreativeLive. I’m always learning new things and am so grateful that I can!
RWC: Huge CreativeLive fan. How do you define and acknowledge your success?
MC: Success, for me, is about having the freedom in my day to do what I most like to do. Sometimes I want to spend extra time with my family. Other times, I want to paint all day. I try to set my goals so that I have this freedom and still accomplish all I need. I also see success as making a good income from my art; it is a business and I want it to thrive and bring in an abundance of wealth! I’m not ashamed to put that out there because it is true and we all deserve to prosper! Each little thing that goes well in my business is cause for a mini celebration and I make sure to give thanks for any good press or kudos that come my way. You have to celebrate every little win and keep it fun!
RWC: What do you wish you’d learned sooner about living a creative and happy life?
MC: I wish I’d just gone for it sooner! I was so filled with self-doubt and fear. As I’ve gotten older, I’m less concerned with what others think…this has played a role in my newfound bravery to just throw my hat in the ring. Life is too short to sit around wondering what could have been. Over time, you start to see other artists having maddening amounts of success and you think “Well, if THEY can do it, why can’t I?” Don’t wait for everything to be perfect, just show up and share your gifts. That’s why you have them!
RWC: If there’s one or two things you think are necessary to spend money on to help/achieve a successful creative path what are they?
MC: I would spend money on classes on marketing/public relations…there are lots of online courses where you can learn at your own pace so you can be prepared to run your own art business. Never be afraid to spend money on bettering yourself for your career. It all comes back to you in the value of your art. Don’t be cheap with yourself or that’s all you’ll get back!
RWC: Do you have coaches/mentors that you look to as well? And would you recommend others to do so?
MC: I currently am working with a business coach and am thrilled with the results! It is helpful for someone else who is objective to look at my business and show me where I could be more brave, or to ask me the big questions that help get me “unstuck.” I now realize I can go after anything I want if I simply believe I can and make a plan for it. I highly recommend using a coach! I’ve had so many “a-ha” moments since I’ve started and it’s been invaluable!
RWC: How often do you set and/or reassess goals- both personal and business wise?
MC: I set goals each week and these support the goals I have for each month…for each quarter…and for the year. I reassess at the end of each month to see what progress I’m making, what is working versus what is not, and to figure out what my next goals need to be. I love this because I feel like I always know what general direction I’m going. My goals are like my North Star.
RWC: Can you tell us about any challenges of having an art business?
MC: The challenges are being your own boss and holding yourself accountable to reach your goals and maintain momentum. Selling art is not for the meek! It is a long-game—a marathon— and you have to have the passion and patience to lay down a good business foundation brick-by-brick. It takes a lot of tenacity and faith.
RWC: Wise words. What is the best thing about being a creative professional?
MC: I love having the freedom to make my own schedule! I also love knowing my work is making someone else’s day a bit brighter. I get to do what brings my heart and soul such deep joy and share it with others. I also like that I am in control of my own success.
RWC: Any other tips, tricks, or words of advice you'd like to share?
MC: You’ve gotta believe in what you do. Stand behind it, own it, and nurture it. Nobody else is going to do that for you. If you are unsure of your purpose with your work, then take serious time to ask why you make what you do? Why do you want to be an artist? What is special about what you do? This gives you the foundation for your mission and is the foundation for everything you will build. Without a “why” then you have no idea who you are serving with your work and you won’t know who you are marketing to. Really explore what it is you love to create and figure out the “why” and you won’t go wrong!
Thank you so much for your insight Megan!! To check out her work and purchase some paintings to make you & your walls happy head to her website: www.megancartyart.com
If you are a thriving visual artist and want to help others by sharing your path to creative success- reach out! We'd love to have you.
Peace, love & pixels,