Time Well Spent
When I moved to London back in the mid-90s I did all sorts of jobs in order to pay for my first studio. I’d worked in a pet food factory in Suffolk for 4 months after leaving art school, so I really wasn’t fussy about how I paid for paint and a place to work. During those early months, as I tried to find my feet in the Big Smoke, I delivered pizzas in East Finchley, ran a bagel shop in Shepherd’s Bush and cycle-couriered all over town, painting as much as I could between shifts.
Some good friends were letting me sleep on their sofa in North London (an incredibly generous offer, which overran its suggested timeframe by about 23 months), so I’d commute across town to my first studio in Morning Lane, and try and fathom out how to be an artist.
I’d been commissioned to produce a large canvas for a friend of a friend whilst still living in Suffolk, and this was the catalyst that got me out of dog biscuits and into East London, and that kick-started my professional life in art.
I was clueless and broke, racking up debts, and I was permanently on Space Studios’ blacklist of artists in the red. This was a situation that didn’t change all that much in the ten years that followed, although the numbers started to become less scary as time went on.
I found some good opportunities during those early years and started to sell paintings quite regularly, sometimes through galleries and agents, often through some early-adopting online art dealers, but most often through my own endeavours. I experimented with some targeted guerrilla marketing, some actual market trading (in the golden era of Spitalfields Market) and found exhibiting opportunities in some unlikely venues, all of which led to new clients and new interest in my work.
I’ve found this independent approach to be quite an effective one over the years, although as I look back at the decisions that have led to this way of selling work, I do wonder where I would be now had I opted to let other people sell my paintings for me.
Self-representation demands determination and organisation. It also requires more time than I typically have at my disposal these days, as a parent and main carer to two small children. Until recently I was also working for a market research company two days a week, a job I’ve had in various iterations since 1998. I finally ditched this financial safety net at the start of summer 2016, after my best ever year of art sales and with the prospect of more time in the studio just around the corner. [My next blog post will have more on this topic]
I swing between wild optimism at the prospect of being an artist all of the time (and not being in an office at all) and mild panic at the idea that I need to sell more art, more often, if I am to make this decision work.
It feels like the adventure has just begun, so please keep watching to see how I fare. And if you’d like to make my day, email firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me which picture you’d like to buy.
Thanks for reading.