Full disclosure: Lisa Congdon is my friend. My crazy talented, enormously gifted, incredibly smart business woman of a friend who decided in 2006 to take a chance on art and succeeded beyond her wildest dreams. Art, Inc.: The Essential Guide for Building Your Career as an Artist is her latest book.
If you’re creative in any way chances are you’ve daydreamed about making a career of it, and that’s exactly what Art, Inc. is about. It’s essentially a guide to making your dreams a reality and debunking the myth of the starving artist written by someone who has taken the plunge and lived to tell the tale. Learn about the ways artists can make a living from their art (you don’t have to be on a street corner with an easel, although that was always sort of my dream). Lisa shares her knowledge of licensing, sales, teaching, promoting, managing, and tons more. Not only from her own career, but from art world pros like Paula Scher, Nikki McClure, and Claire Desjardins who we’re going to dig a little deeper into below with an excerpt.
Claire Desjardins, Painter
Montreal native Claire Desjardins spent her childhood summers in the countryside, where she discovered painting. But although she loved the art form, she chose to study business in college as a way to a stable, well-paying career. After graduating, she worked for ten years in technology and marketing. Several years ago, she set up a painting studio at home to get back in touch with her creative side, painting for the first time since she was a child. Over time, she moved from small to large canvases and began painting abstractly. By 2011, she was selling enough of her work to pursue art full-time. Since then, Claire has received grants to attend artist residencies at the Vermont Studio Center and Da Wang Culture Highland in Southeastern China. She is represented by Galerie Lydia Monaro in Montreal and Muse Gallery in Toronto and is a top-selling artist on Saatchi Online. Claire’s work can be found in both private and corporate collections around the world.
Lisa Congdon: As a self-taught abstract painter, how did you go from painting in your studio to selling work?
Claire Desjardins: I’d been painting for several years, and around the advent of Facebook, I started posting my work there. I had given a painting to a friend and then another friend of his saw it on Facebook and he contacted me about whether I had anything else for sale. That was how it all started. I began meeting a lot of people online who were interested in my art. That year I did quite well with my art, but I was still working for a marketing communications company. I worked only four days a week, so I would paint on my free weekday. My company was restructuring and merging, and I got laid off in 2011. But it was a perfect time for me to leave my job.
LC: How did you first get gallery representation?
CD: I sold a painting to one of my fans on Facebook. It was one of my first paintings that I had sold to someone I didn’t even know, so it was pretty exciting. I made sure that I really took care of her. I packed the painting properly, sent it with a booklet of my art, and called her to make sure everything went smoothly. Sometime later, I received an email from Muse Gallery in Toronto. Apparently, the woman from Facebook who bought my painting lived around the corner from the gallery and had told them about me. The gallery owner looked me up, liked what he saw, and contacted me to work on an artist agreement together. I did some research on them and called other artists who the gallery represented. I asked them about their relationships with the gallery and eventually, it all came together. I borrowed my father’s minivan and drove a bunch of paintings to Toronto! They have represented me since and have given me a couple of solo shows, too.
LC: Right around the time you left your job, Anthropologie contacted you. They sell your original paintings and license your paintings to make prints and for use on their products. How did this relationship come about? What are the advantages and disadvantages of working with a big company to sell and license your work?
CD: It all began one day when I got an email—and in the subject line it said “Anthropologie Interest.” They were looking for local artists to feature on the walls and windows of the new Montreal store. Four of their buyers came to my studio. I heard that they had read about me on Mocoloco.com.
There are both advantages and disadvantages to working with a large company. The main and obvious advantage is the exposure of my art. Other advantages include the additional revenue, as well as seeing my art on different products. The disadvantage is less obvious; it’s that a small portion of the artistic community came to perceive my art as too commercial or that I’m “selling out.”
LC: What is your main mode for selling original work now?
CD: By far, I make most of my sales online. Specifically, I’ve had success with Saatchi Online. In order to nurture this relationship, I try to keep up with my social networking as much as possible. This is a very important component to my job, as it’s the only advertising I can afford (it’s mostly free!), and it reaches so many people. Whenever I post a new painting online, I make sure to link it to a page that allows people to purchase my art, like Saatchi Online. I make sure that I give them credit for the good things that they do, in a timely fashion. So if they include one of my pieces on their home page, I make sure that I blurt it out for all to read, on all my social media like Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Twitter.
LC: You are an advocate for signed agreements— whether in licensing or when you work with galleries. Why are they important?
CD: When you sell or license your art, money and image rights are involved, so spelling out the rules in advance helps to manage expectations and eliminate surprises later on. It protects both the artist and the reseller. Proposing the writing of an agreement should not be perceived as an unfriendly gesture or an indication of mistrust. In fact, it should be considered an act of ensuring mutual understanding. We all have contracts with our cable or cell phone companies, so why wouldn’t you have an agreement with the resellers of your art, whether they are galleries, agents, or commercial companies? The exercise of writing an agreement will raise many questions that had not been thought about before. Those questions can be imperative in terms of the health and sustainability of the relationship.
And once again here’s the fun part – two of you have the chance to win a copy of Art, Inc! Whether you’re an aspiring artist or know someone who aims to be this book is the guide you’ll want at arm’s reach. You have until midnight CST Sunday, August 24th to toss your hat into the ring!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
01/ See families lying in a week’s worth of their own garbage in 7 Days of Garbage.
02/ The Foodnited States of America.
03/ The Crystalline Series by Niche Modern have beautiful colors and shapes.
04/ This watch – DURR – shivers every five minutes to investigate the subjective nature of time.
05/ Completely brilliant – Motion Silhouette is an interactive shadow picture book.
06/ Can you believe these scenes by Bovey Lee were hand-cut from rice paper?!
07/ Head in the Clouds illustrates one hour’s worth of trash in NYC. Incredible.
08/ Ever wondered what’s inside fireworks? Check out Boom City.
09/ Photography, digital effects, and models combine for a glimpse In Utero.
10/ So glad Yumi Okita‘s textile moths aren’t real.
This week on Design Crush:
Have a listen to this month’s Mixtape #38: Just Trying to Be Where I End Up.
Make sure and enter our Loom Decor giveaway for a chance to win!
Love these gold-kissed art from Au Prints.
Beautiful textiles with a great premise from JOYN.
Super limited edition (but affordable) jewelry from fortune.
We pulled together 12 July DIYs – our favorites!
Blurry, washed out watercolor portraits by François-Henri Galland.
A little bit in love with the color palette of The Mercantile Collection!
Pretty leather pouches and bags by Georgie Cummings.
Design Crush elsewhere:
A bathroom floor refresh.
What is it about summer? Maybe it’s the longer days or childhood memories, or maybe it’s fewer pieces of clothing or more time spent outdoors. No matter what you can’t deny that something about the season just feels freer than the others. Joanne Dugan captures that magic in Summertime, a curated collection of 100 photos and quotes that capture the essence of the title.
01/ My Toy Plane shows just that in fun and imaginative scenarios.
02/ Pretty silk scarves emblazoned with NASA satellite imagery from Slow Factory.
03/ The 10 Commandments of Typography. Follow ‘em.
04/ The post-film lives of sixteen sets.
05/ Subtly geometric wooden iPad and MacBook sleeves from Grove.
06/ Fictitious Dishes depicts meals from famous works of literature.
07/ CATable end the battle for space with your feline companion(s).
08/ Each of BL76‘s price tag artworks is priced according to how many stickers are used!
09/ This hand-cranked sculpture made from popsicle sticks is a study in bird motion.
10/ This glow-in-the-dark energy efficient highway is beyond brilliant.
This week on Design Crush:
I’m teaching a class on creating a killer media kit next week at Alt for Everyone AND giving away 7 tickets! Have you thrown your name into the hat?
Lucite – modern chic or trashy cool?
Check out Wind & Willow Home and then support their Indiegogo to create a new soft goods line!
Crazy awesome collage work by David Woodward.
Don’t forget the card this Mother’s Day. And yes, it’s only a week away!
April was mega crazy, and honestly I’m glad it’s over.
One day I plan on hiring Erin Fitzpatrick to paint my portrait. You know, for posterity.
These kilim clutches prove it’s not just fit for your floors these days.
People You May Meet illustrated me and my animal menagerie!
01/ Fruit Juices shows us exactly how much liquid is products from a single piece.
02/ Mysterious animal crates were left around Paris to announce the reopening of the zoo.
03/ A Tribute to Budgie showcases bird illustrations made from food.
04/ This Chinese beekeeper isn’t afraid to wear a coat of 450,000 bees. Uhhh…
05/ The transparent Axor Starck V makes the everyday faucet beautiful.
06/ CafeCat slowly melts his marshmallow self away in your hot beverage.
07/ Check out the 50 most amazing tree houses in the world.
08/ Screen Identity is a 7-foot tall smartphone exhibiting our digital sense of self.
09/ A journey of self discovery that includes wearing other peoples’ clothes.
10/ Rachel Sussman is on a journey to document The Oldest Living Things in the World.
This week on Design Crush:
I revealed the second half of my collaboration with Nissan – the new Murano!
Check out Houndworthy, a shop full of thoughtful things for pet and owner alike.
Dubbed one of the best gifts ever by my mom, Mother’s Day + Kolo’s photo books are a natural fit.
Taking a peek at my trip to Craftcation in retrospect.
I’ve dubbed 2014 The Year of the Textile, beginning with the lovely work of Caitlin Wilson.
Every Mother Counts + Minted have teams up to donate 20% of all art print proceeds through 4/28 to expectant mothers!
Tiny everyday objects are matched by color in the Tiny PMS Match project.
Modern birdhouses that both you and your avian visitors are sure to enjoy.
Serene dessert scenes from Jordan Sullivan.
You already know of my love for quotes. But wise words are made only better when hand-lettered, in this case by artist Lisa Congdon in the book Whatever You Are, Be a Good One: 100 Inspirational Quotations. Insights, calls to action, and encouragements illuminate every page making this a bright spot on any bookshelf. It would also make a thoughtful gift for anyone going through tough times or reaching an important milestone.
There’s something very appealing about two popular indie illustrators telling the stories of their hometowns on opposite coasts in simultaneously released books. In Hello, New York: An Illustrated Love Letter to the Five Boroughs Julia Rothman talks historical tidbits, idiosyncratic places to visit, interviews with locals, and her life growing up in the Bronx. Meanwhile, in San Francisco: The City in its Own Words, Wendy MacNaughton asked dozen of locals to describe their lives in the city. Both are amazing looks into two beloved cities.
I’ve been waiting over a year to lay hands on this book! Creative Block is the brainchild of my friend Danielle Krysa, aka The Jealous Curator. Between the covers Danielle taps into the minds of fifty successful artists and elicits advice and exercises for overcoming all manners of artistic impediment, that thing you probably know better as creative block. Of course the pages are also brimming with the artists’ resulting work. My plan of action is to read about one artist a week in the hopes that it keeps my creative mind fresh and ready to tackle anything!
01/ Watching the Super Bowl this Sunday? Make it interesting with Super Bowl bingo!
02/ Didga the cat rides a remote-controlled skateboard named Ollie like a pro.
03/ Project M is a five-story mural on a building in Berlin.
04/ Nekofont uses the flexible talents of Raizo and Mondo to create a typeface!
05/ Andrea Tese pays tribute to her grandfather in Inheritance.
06/ I don’t have trouble separating eggs, but Yolkfish is a lot of fun.
07/ Six designers are breaking up with products they once loved.
08/ Keeping Up Appearances is full of 15-foot crocheted doilies!
09/ NFL helmets get the haute couture treatment.
10/ Lip locking is all in a day’s work for The Makeout Project!
This week on Design Crush:
Jealous of this security envelope art from Zachary Royer Scholz.
Dying to own one of Pamela Barsky’s clutches that are oh so snarky.
See what Matt Jensen has to show for 31 Winter Walks.
Victoria Will captured Hollywood’s finest on tintypes are this year’s Sundance.
Blurry painted perfection from Miaz Brothers.
Beautifully modern and minimal pieces from Melissa Maya Pottery.
My experiences and favorites in the year of Alt 2014.
More cards I wouldn’t mind sending my imaginary significant other in Valentines – Part 2!
How is the month almost over?! See what happened in mine on Insta January.
This week you can also find me chatting about tips to update your modern entry way on Euro Style Lighting!
I’m playing Oprah today! Hundreds of products cross my screen on a daily basis as I search out the best to share with you, and a girl can’t help but have a few favorites! And while I wish I had one of each of these fantastic pieces to give to every one of you a la Oprah, I hope my opinion will hold its weight in salt for you. Because these are all shops and creators whose things I own, that decorate my home and my self each and every day.
Splendid Orlando Oxford. These shoes are a new addition to my wardrobe for winter and I love their sleek look (no laces!). Splendid‘s entire lifestyle collection is ultra-comfortable and effortlessly chic, which is perfect for my every day and mixes with existing pieces easily.
American Giant Womens Heavyweight Full Zip Hooded Sweatshirt. I’ve been a hoodie aficionado since junior high, but it’s tough to find one that doesn’t resemble a garbage bag on a woman’s body. This zip up from American Giant is not only sturdy, but made especially for us ladies. If I’m home I usually have it on over whatever I’m wearing, it’s that good.
Emily McDowell’s Foods of the World New York City Tea Towel. Emily McDowell just might be one of the funniest people I know, and her humor translates seamlessly onto her illustrated line of cards, dish towels, and other miscellaneous goods. This towel featuring a recipe that actually involves zero cooking is just the tip of the iceberg.
Warby Parker’s Durand Eyeglasses in Woodland Tortoise. Warby Parker has had my poor vision and my heart in its grasp for several years now. I just recently snapped up this pair from their winter collection, the round-ish lenses are super flattering and their buy 1/give 1 model is tough to beat.
Bloggers Love Cats + Bloggers Love Dogs 13-Month Calendars. Shameless plug alert! I teamed up with other well-known bloggers who are animal lovers to create these two calendar downloads featuring our pets. All proceeds go directly to the Humane Society of the United States and all of the little critters in need.
See Scout Sleep’s Nice Grill Cream + Vermillion Brass Buckle Collar. Both of my pups wear this collar and it stands up to their rough and tumble lifestyles like no other. All of the pet goods See Scout Sleep offers are high quality, environmentally-friendly, and handmade in Louisiana.
Cursive Design’s Apex Studs. Cursive Design is one of my favorite jewelry shops by far, I just love Sarah’s eye for detail. These studs, along with much of the fall/winter 2013 collection, were inspired by a project we collaborated on together for NYFW 2012. They’re molded from vintage glass and cast in yellow bronze.
Jaime Derringer’s Untitled 3. I’m the proud, happy owner of three works of art by Jaime Derringer. Her bold use of color and constant exploration of shape and space never leave me bored. And both Jaime’s original pieces and prints are super affordable.
Pencil Shavings Studio’s Gold Lucite Tray in Palm Springs. Pencil Shavings‘ designer Rachel Shingleton has a great way with both color and pattern. It’s reflected in her shop’s incredible line of phone cases, trays, paper goods, and more!
Alexa Chung’s It. There’s no denying she’s the darling of the fashion world, but after ready through this pink linen-covered book filled with short musings and photos she seems down-to-earth as well.
Paloma’s Nest Custom Monogram Tiny Text Bowl. Paloma’s Nest creates some of the best heirloom-quality ceramics I’ve seen. I own one of these plates and have gifted numerous others over the past few years. You just can’t go wrong with a piece that’s lovingly personalized like these.
Gingiber’s Deer Tea Towel. I love shop owner Stacie’s whimsical, geometric illustration style used on all of her animal characters! Gingiber‘s prints, pillows, towels (and more) are always the highest of quality and meticulously checked over.
Whimsy & Spice’s Chocolate Orange Cardamom Shortbread Cookies. Whimsy & Spice‘s tasty baked goods make the perfect gift for just about any occasion. Now’s a great time to stock up on hostess gifts, snacks for overnight guests, and of course a little something for yourself.
Miró Watches from Urbantrait. Among an incredible selection of modern watches from Urbantrait, Miró definitely stands out. Made from stainless steel, hardened mineral crystal, and calf leather it’s sure to stand up to wear and tear for years to come. Mine has made me a watch wearer again after years of depending on my cell! Find your favorite from tons of men’s watches and women’s watches.
Meow Meow Tweet’s Grapefruit Rosemary Body Oil. Come winter, lotions just don’t cut it for me. I coat myself in Meow Meow Tweet‘s body oil before I get out of the shower and don’t need to re-moisturize until right before bed. Each amazing scent if filled with natural ingredients and infused with botanicals.
strawberryluna’s Morrissey Pittsburgh Poster PETA Donation. My favorite stop for gig posters, and it doesn’t hurt that strawberryluna is based in my hometown either! Allison and Craig do stellar silkscreening work for more bands than I can think to name, and on more posters than I can count that I own.