Friday, April 27, 2007

A Friendly Butt-Kicking from Your Favorite Blogging Artist

"Cat with a Pearl Earring" - 2.5 x 3.5" colored pencil on Bristol paper.
Copyright 2007 Maggie Stiefvater.
Click here to bid.

10 Free Life-Lessons on Being a Professional Artist:

1. Paint or draw every day. Even if the result is a horrible grey mess or a cat juxtaposed in an Old Master's painting, you've exercised the creative part of your brain.

2. Sketch everything everywhere. You want to know the definition of embarrassing? Some inlaw asking a professional artist if they can draw their pet, child, face, etc., and the artist replying "I can't draw without gridding/ tracing/ hours of prep work."

3. Keep a huge inventory of all sizes. When someone sighs over your 18 foot long masterwork of horses making a salad, snooker them into buying a notecard or 8 x 10" instead.

4. For Pete's sake, get yourself out there and I don't mean group shows. No, you don't have to sleep with anyone to get what you want, but there are ways and means of getting solo shows and booths in front of people. The only thing stopping you are the excuses you make to yourself.

5. Forget the idea that an artist paints what moves him/ her and paints when he/she is moved. A professional artist is moved deeply by the electric bill. And a professional artist more often than not realizes that if their ultimate vision of painting horses preparing organic meals is not selling like hotcakes, it'll take a back burner to something a bit more popular until an opportunity opens up for the ultimate vision.

6. Professional artists look professional. They don't apologize for what they do, they are as confident putting their product out there as a realtor or fine jeweler, and they don't have crappy business cards printed out on their own computer. Spring for the gorgeous glossy 500 for $30 box done by a professional printer.

7. Oh yeah, and get yourself a website. Every time I hear an artist telling me that they're "getting around to it" or worse, they're "a computer idiot," I want to start spanking them with a keyboard. I sell 85% of my work via some sort of online medium. Don't shoot yourself in the foot.

8. Don't give up during the slow months. And oh yes, my pet, there will be slow months. Don't think of them as that, though. Think of them as "Spaghetti-Os Months" or "Pork & Beans Months." But for every lean month that you stick out, you'll have a fat one down the road.

9. Specialize. I don't care if you can paint houses, mouses, foxes, boxes, boats, stoats, green eggs & ham -- you will get farther in life if you pick only one or two subjects and styles. Get known for something. Chris Rock can sing too -- but who cares? People want to identify you with one thing - Maggie, that Horse Artist.

10. Be Nice. Yeah, you're an introvert. So what, so am I. All artists are, I think. But if you don't get over it and get to where you can talk to people with a big smile and enthusiasm, you'd better hope you have a helluva website. I gradually got over my fear of speaking in public, and yes, after a long workshop with a lot of people, I do go home and curl in a fetal position and sleep for a day to recouperate. But I get out there. I teach. I sell. I make a living doing what I love.

Now get out there and get busy.


Carol Nelson said...

I just discovered your blog and spent I don't know how long reading it! I LOVE your horses and cats and I LOVE your humor. My blog ( has nice paintings, but my commentary is pretty dull compared to yours. You are talented in many ways.

Jo Castillo said...

Maggie, You are too funny! Love the earring!

Thanks for the pep talk and encouragement. You do great work.

Liked the commission from yesterday, too.


Rita said...

You already know how I feel about everything you've just stated and all I can say is "Well said."
I hate excuses...

Belinda Lindhardt said...

Thanks Maggie for sending another but whopping this way i think i need it!!! :)
keep em coming!

vivien said...

a great list! to be pinned up in studios everywhere and chanted daily :>)

Katherine said...

Wow! Here endeth the first lesson. Consider yourself blogged! :D

You forgot that you need slow months to build stock for those hot as hades months when everything moves out the door just before you have all those top notch shows and fairs where you were hoping to shift a lot of stock! ;)

I need orange said...

Having spent WAY too much time in the '70s with someone who was going to write the Great American Novel (and/or screenplay) any moment -- well, as soon as he got the ideal studio, ideal bookshelves, etc, etc, etc -- I SO hear you on all this.

Just DO IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Your rules stated here are so very much as I recall Isaac Asimov's for writers:

1) write

2) re-write

3) stop re-writing

4) submit

5) repeat step 4 as necessary

He, of course preceeded websites, and your thoughts there are SO right.....

-- Vicki

ps -- got my pony!!! LOVE it!!!!! I need to ask you if there are special instructions for framing, so it doesn't get messed up? I've never had anything that was pencil on film before.....

Kasie Sallee said...

Thanks Maggie. Truly. I appreciate your honesty and your dedication to your art. Yeah, I needed that butt-kicking too.

Linda Alexander-Radak said...

Girl - you nailed it - I have printed this out and yes, it is being posted at our gallery/studios!

Robyn said...

OMG! Did you write this one just for me?? I've never even posted a comment before, yet you know me so well. Eerie ...

p.s: I love your cats! So, to me, you are affectionately known as "Maggie, that cat artist." :-)

p.p.s: Who told you about my grey mess?

Anonymous said...

Good points, Maggie.

I've become sort of known as the "Belted Galloway Artist." I do more than just "Belties," but people often show up at my site looking for Belted Galloway art. One search that I noticed recently was "Brian Belted Galloway painter". So that covers point 9. One down anyway.

Now I have to get back to my've put a guilt trip on me!

saffron said...

Really hard-hitting, oh so true, and hard to face lessons to learn!

Chuck Law said...

Thankyou Miss Maggie
Perfect timing for the free lesson as I emerge from a slow month...ah, OK ...months.

Sandrine said...

Maggie, you're such a hoot. Funny and talented, what else can a girl ask for? Oh, I forgot the fame and fortune part. LOL. I love to stare at my little Moose ACEO, I'm so happy I have it.
Keep doing what you do best.

Karen Mathison Schmidt said...

LOVE the Cat with a Pearl Earring picture! Vermeer is a particular favorite of my husband's and mine. We're keeping an eye on the auction - maybe we can swoop in at the last second and grab this baby ...

Great post, Maggie! indispensable lessons for any professional artist (you already know so much at a relatively young age - AND putting it into action - kudos for that!) Especially important I think are:

1 & 2. JUST DO IT - EVERY DAY: hone your skills so you're in practice when divine inspiration (or that lucrative commission) hits!

4 & 10. GET YOUR ART OUT THERE AND BE NICE! If you have to, think of yourself as an actor playing a role to get over shyness; and remember, they can't buy your art if they don't know about it!

Another thing you might want to add:
11. DON'T UNDERPRICE YOUR ART! There are plenty of books out there with guidelines on how to set a price - don't underestimate the value of your gift!

dinahmow said...

"Pearl Ear ring" so funny!
By the way, I should have told you before...I listed you in my Favourite Five blogs.

Maggie Stiefvater said...

Thanks everyone! I'm glad you all appreciated the butt kicking. I'm glad to have my own live-in butt-kicker, my husband, but we're not all that lucky . . .

Joan said...

I love your advice!! I think many of us think you're talking directly to them. I hope you don't mind but I'm passing on this link to friends. I get such a kick out of your journal.

Paopi said...

just what i needed! thank you! i think i want to be known a bunny painter. mehehe.