Making a living as an Artist

It’s funny isn’t it? no one ever seems to ask a Lawyer, Teacher, Landscaper or any other ‘standard’ profession if they have another job. Yet, as an artist, I’ve been asked so many times if its my hobby, or if I have another source of income. Why tho???

For years I have called myself a Graphic Designer as a result. It seemed to me that it was a more professional thing to say, avoiding the follow on questions you get as an artist. But something changed this year, and I have felt the need to really express myself how I want, to be more genuine and to just be me, no matter what image I gave off. Years of trying to emulate something cleaner, more professional has really been hard, and not true to myself at all! I guess the wedding industry doesn’t help with all its white everywhere!! ha ha

One of my dearest friends in the UK, NikiSkiStudio, recently added a post on Instagram about how she has finally come to accept the term artist, to describe what she does. She had been selling herself as a housewife, or a teacher on maternity leave, or a graphic designer. Not until her son wrote a little snippet about his mum, describing her as an artist, did she finally accept her true calling. She is a fantastic artist, painting AMAZING commissioned pieces for so many people and providing such a good lesson to her children. She is happy, expressive and being the best she can be, and yet she was still struggling with the confidence to say ‘artist’. Clearly its not just me struggling with my identity.

But there is a real misconception that has been about for years, that as an artist, you will never have a ‘real job’.

I would love to put that crap to bed, and really push the fact that now, more than ever, is the perfect time to believe and trust that no matter what your passion, there is always a viable way to forge that into your career. There is certainly no need to settle for a ‘job’ and then practise your passion as a hobby!! Definitely not the best idea for the soul.

I do have to admit though, my journey as an artist/illustrator has been a rocky road, with many tears, panic and poverty stricken days. But I knew this was my calling. I knew this was what I needed to do and through perseverance, and learning, I have managed to successfully create a gorgeous wedding stationery business, work on countless illustration projects and support my family with my income.

How it started for me….

For me, art was always part of my life. I loved art throughout school and always was creating something crafty. I loved sewing, painting, DIY, you name it. I wasn’t sure what to do after high school, so I enrolled in a Fine Art course at college. I thought that year of painting, would pass the time without me having to get a ‘real’ job, and I could then decide later what I would do with my life. Turns out, I HATED fine art, I just didn’t have the concept thing going on, and definitely couldn’t talk about my art in the correct way.

That year did make me want to keep going with art however, and I enrolled in an Illustration degree at the University of Plymouth in Exeter. I loved it there, and although I did fail my first year (waaaayyyyy to much partying!), I went on to leave the course with a great mark and the Student of the Year prize.

Again, in an effort to pass the time before I had to make the decision on my career, I went off travelling for 2 years. This is where I ended up on the shores of Australia, still no idea on a career, but still painting and just creating art for the sake of it.

The real turning point for me was after I had my son, I found myself a single mum, trying to support him. No one would give me a job (as mums are not the most sought after worker around), so I had to think on my feet. It was then that iampoppy Designs was born. I felt I had no other choice than to sell my prints to try and make some money, and perhaps even take on some commissions. I started posting to Instagram and Facebook, doing a few craft markets and opened up a website. It helped that I had all these skills to not need help, so the money wasn’t an issue.

The business has continued to grow, although I have had a few slower periods where I had my second child. But generally speaking, I have managed to grow at a steady rate, perfecting skills and moving the business in different directions as my interests change. Wedding stationery became my thing in 2015 and really gave me the growth I needed to survive as an artist.

This year, I’ve been slowly heading into a more illustrative direction, and teaching more WORKSHOPS to share my skills. The key to making it a success has been the knowledge that this is it, I have no other options, no back up plan, and as such have given it my all. I’ve worked hard, late nights, weekends, and bent over backwards to make clients happy, for that all important word of mouth referral. I’ve also been lucky enough to have help from amazing like minded friends, business coaches, and youtube!!! ha ha, we all love a good youtube tutorial.

So if you’re in any doubt as to whether you can make it, dismiss those thoughts and just focus on what you NEED to do in order to kick start your amazing career. Check out my post next week for some tips on how you can make it as a wedding stationer…

ooh, on a side note, some amazing PODCASTS to listen to, to get inspired are Mamamia Lady Startup and On Purpose with Jay Shetty. You’re welcome!!! 🙂