How to Start a New Artist’s Life


Back Porch

Let’s take a step back in time. It isn’t a very big step, just a few months to August, 2014. I’ve owned and operated Grasslands Gallery in Val Marie, SK, for five years, showcasing and selling original art and craft by almost 30 of Saskatchewan’s finest artists inspired by the Grasslands experience. Now it’s time to close the gallery so I can focus on making my own artwork. Apparently, though, I’m not completely done with the idea of operating art galleries, because I say to my old friend, the amazing watercolourist Catherine Macaulay, that if I ever do this again, I’ve learned some things. If you can avoid paying rent, or can negotiate a setting in which you pay rent only for the months you open, it would be a really good idea. Operating in a place where you will be anyway, or in a place that allows you to do other work, is the best. You should take a realistic commission. You need to be able to accept credit cards. You need to decide how much you want to spend on advertising. You need really good signs.

Then let’s take a bigger step back, many more years. Catherine Macaulay and I are on holiday near Ogunquit, Maine. I’d never before seen such a place as Ogunquit. It’s picturesque, a good tourist destination, and there are artists’ homes and studios by the sides of the roads, with signs saying ‘Paintings’. To make art and sell it? It seems like the best artist’s life. Like a dream.

Now we’re back in the present. Catherine and I are talking about how artists make a living, or don’t, and what options might be open to us. “You could put up a sign that says ‘Paintings’,” she says. “Sell them out of the porch.”

And how simply a world opens up. For my own back porch I won’t pay rent. My studio is in my house and I’m here a lot. To sell only my own paintings, the entire price is my commission. I can get Square on a cell phone to accept credit cards with. Advertising will be a few posters. Signs? Easy.

It’s exciting, this Backporch Gallery idea. Isn’t it? I knew you’d think so. I’m planning to open by July 1. Please stay tuned for details. You’ll be the first to know.

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18 Responses to How to Start a New Artist’s Life

  1. Renee June 12, 2015 at 8:13 am #

    This is wonderful news! Good for you!
    My own plans include the potential for an onsite studio/gallery that could be open to the public on certain days or by appointment. How sweet to be the master of our own ship.

    • Laureen June 12, 2015 at 8:26 am #

      Thank you for your enthusiasm – very much appreciated 🙂 And congratulations to you too, for your equally wonderful plans. Seems like we’re steering our ships in similar directions!

  2. Lisa Gibson June 12, 2015 at 9:24 am #

    LOVE this idea, Laureen, you’re on to something! I would think from a collector standpoint, it would be more satisfying to buy directly from the Artist in a more intimate setting.

    • Jeanne June 12, 2015 at 11:21 am #

      I agree!! It is always of value to meet the artist in person and make a personal connection.

      • Laureen June 12, 2015 at 12:00 pm #

        Fantastic support from both of you. This is me bowing with hands folded together 🙂

  3. Marilyn Nimegeers June 12, 2015 at 10:25 am #

    Awesome Laureen. We need more opportunities to display & sell our Art.
    You are a Master at this.

    • Laureen June 12, 2015 at 10:56 am #

      Well, maybe not a Master, but always willing to try new things 🙂 Thanks so much for the nice thoughts!

  4. Laureen June 12, 2015 at 10:55 am #

    Thank you Lisa! I do hope you are right 🙂

  5. Jeanne June 12, 2015 at 11:20 am #

    Great idea! 🙂

    Michael and I started making jewelry together since we can’t travel away from home – due to waiting for the call for his lung transplant.

    Giving up my art and photography to be his caregiver was incredibly hard on me. Without a creative outlet, life looked bleak, especially when feeling somewhat like a caged bird…it was driving this restless girl crazy!

    We currently sell everything word of mouth or by posting on Facebook and people contacting us saying “I want that one!” People always ask if we have them on Etsy, but I have to tell them we don’t have time to put them out there!!

    We got a “Square” which works awesome and we always seem to have a list of orders to fill (fingers crossed!).

    Couldn’t be easier or more relaxing. All of our time is spent enjoying our craft instead of trying to find ways to market and sell what we do.

  6. Laureen June 12, 2015 at 11:59 am #

    This all sounds wonderful! And a perfect system. Especially for you two. But also as inspiration for me. So much inspiration comes in on this blog. I can’t possibly say how grateful I am.

    To read about Jeanne and Michael’s story, you can ge here:

    • Jeanne June 12, 2015 at 1:54 pm #

      And we are grateful to you for constantly encouraging us to look forward and not give up. 🙂 <3

      • Laureen June 12, 2015 at 10:04 pm #

        🙂 🙂 🙂

  7. Cyndi June 12, 2015 at 12:06 pm #

    I want to do the same thing. Let us know how it goes for you!

    • Laureen June 12, 2015 at 10:05 pm #

      It’s amazing to have so much support in this. Thank you.

  8. Jane June 12, 2015 at 2:59 pm #

    That is a great idea which you have tailored to fit your criteria very well.
    Your renewed optimism after all the draining of energy for an exhibition is lovely to hear and also a good example for us all.
    Thank goodness for summer and daylight stimulating prairie life again. May many tourists add positively to your activities.

    • Laureen June 12, 2015 at 10:04 pm #

      Your good wishes help give me courage. Thank you.

  9. Eve June 13, 2015 at 7:11 pm #

    What a brilliant idea and I love the name. Great good luck with this new venture!

    • Laureen June 13, 2015 at 7:32 pm #

      Eve, having you in my corner – it can’t go wrong! Thank you.