THREE NEIS GRADUATES.
Is being an artist a real job? Of course it is! Just like any other occupation, being successful depends on skills, knowledge and hard work. Choosing art as your job can often be pushed aside for a more conventional career choice. Sometimes, years later, a change in circumstances can be a big reason for reassessing your direction.
We need to validate ‘artist’ as a legitimate occupation, encouraging people to be confident in their chosen field. How do you make your passion for creating art, work for you? How can you set up your art practice to be an ongoing success? We talk to three NEIS Holmesglen graduates pursuing their passion.
Anthony Bertucci has moved between interior design and fine art commissions for design firms and private collectors, exhibiting across greater Melbourne for the last decade. Nature is his main inspiration, for all its beauty and energy. His work features mixed medium abstracts and digital reinterpretations of landscapes both real and fictional. When the more secure interior design work stopped, a rethink was required. “I needed more skills in business, financials and marketing. NEIS had all of that for me and more,” explains Anthony.
Pascale Garlinge (top) studied in England and France for a fine art degree, followed by interior design study and fifteen years of work in that industry. Immigrating to Australia brought work in fabrics, furniture and lighting until 2017. At that point, Pascale started a journey of serious health issues that included surgery. Working her way through recovery, Pascale diarised and illustrated her experiences. “I knew I had so much more to paint and it felt like the beginning of something I had denied myself for too long,” she says.
Kyles Honeyman had been interested in illustration as a teenager, only to turn to what was seen as a ‘safer’ and more lucrative career, spending 25 years in advertising and publishing. Kyles went through a divorce and became a carer for her ill parents. She decided to make a change and returned to study, completing her Bachelor of Illustration in 2017. Her artwork is crafted with an intense love for the beauty of nature, focusing on Australia’s unique native flora and fauna. This is great work when you can get it, but a full schedule would require something more. “Just after I finished studying, a friend told me about the NEIS program and how wonderful it was for getting their own art business started. I applied and was sitting in a NEIS class the next week,” says Kyles.
THE FULL PICTURE
Making art is why people are artists; understanding the business of art is how those people can thrive. NEIS training shows artists practical examples of how money comes in and goes out – how to manage and how to plan. Developing these skills will help artists make informed decisions.
“I think that artists get a bad rap when it comes to their skill set! Unfortunately making art is all-consuming and, as the most pleasurable part of the business, it is easy to let this take over.” Acknowledging this and wanting to change that balance, Pascale started NEIS training in Reservoir late in 2017.
“I would love to see more illustrators and artists do the NEIS program as it teaches the fundamentals for starting up and surviving as a creative small business. I found it helped me enormously by narrowing down my focus to find my niche market via solid research and statistical analysis of potential target markets,” says Kyles.
Becoming established and creating your best work is important to artists and to their business success. For those who meet the criteria, NEIS can offer income support, allowing artists time to develop their work, confidence and business skills.
The NEIS program offers intensive planning and financial management components as well as explaining the marketing channels available to a new business. Artists might enter this environment thinking it doesn’t apply to their chosen employment. It soon becomes clear, once other participants start talking about their own businesses, that having costs and needing to make money are universal. Some details are unique, but most principals apply to every start-up, whether a product or service. Work within each group of participants includes questions to be researched in the real world. These answers help get to the bottom of what each unique business will need. What will the reality be and how will you plan for it?
Kyles was surprised by the benefit she gained from surveys. “I groaned at the thought of having to do this task but had no idea it would yield such helpful information and provide me with over 100 potential clients who volunteered their email addresses for further contact,” says Kyles.
“The most interesting thing I learned from the NEIS program was allowing my ideas to flow freely. As an artist, it’s very important to allow things to breathe, to make mistakes but to allow for this. I had some of my most inspirational ideas in my marketing class with Libby. Listening to other people’s business solutions and problems helped me understand my own business and come up with some innovative concepts,” explains Anthony.
Pascale also benefited from networking. “I am really grateful to have met and connected with many more creative people this year – a direct result of participating in NEIS.”
DEVELOP YOUR VOICE
There are important questions NEIS trainers and mentors will ask, well beyond budgets and plans. What is it you do that is different? What is it that you can do better than others in your field? What will you be known for, as you become more established? Interesting questions for any new business; really interesting when you apply them to artists.
Kyles found her love of illustrating animals was easily translated into a pet portrait business. Help with structures for attracting work and pricing it were part of the NEIS training and mentoring. “Learning how to price my work to meet financial goals whilst considering overheads, competition and purchasing trends was also of great benefit.”
Pascale’s experience has also been unique. “My art and my personal life have become completely entangled over the last couple of years. I am the business! The opening of a group exhibition I participated in earlier this year, was attended by my surgeons, and girlfriends I have made through preventative breast and ovarian health organisation, Pink Hope, and Thou Art Mum. I have been heavily involved with Pink Hope over the past year as an Outreach Ambassador. I curated an exhibition, ‘In The Pink’, by north-east art group and network, Thou Art Mum. The art was pink themed and raised $2000 for the charity.”
Telling the story behind the images an artist creates can help to generate sales. Art buyers want to know about the work they are considering buying. Pascale explains, “Fortunately I love words about as much as I love art. Art does not have to be inaccessible and I believe that storytelling on social media plays a huge part in connecting people to your art. It takes a lot of guts to share your story and your real self in public, even though it might look easy. You have to be prepared to go places lots of people never would – hard places of exposure, vulnerability, judgment, rudeness, rejection – but it’s really the only way you can learn and grow.”
Kyles is also generous on social media, and an engaging storyteller. She regularly shares her work in progress, tips, techniques and stories. “Social media is a large part of my business. All my work has come through Facebook pet groups and word of mouth from those contacts,” Kyles explains. Feedback from happy clients is a testament to Kyles’ care and attention to detail.
There are many channels available for selling art, from brick-and-mortar spaces to eCommerce sites. Networking and NEIS mentoring sessions can help narrow down the options. Artists often skip galleries all together, selling their work directly and bypassing the middleman; and art lovers have become increasingly more confident to purchase online.
“I have decided not to pursue gallery work for the moment, as the commission, hire and framing requirements leave me very little profit as opposed to selling straight to the consumer, unframed for posting. My NEIS mentor had some fabulous tips and ideas for potential alliances and businesses to contact to sell my work through,” says Kyles.
“I sell my work online in my website store and on Etsy and Bluethumb. I also exhibit and sell in Melbourne galleries, cafés and stores, at markets and by referral. I paint and draw originals and commissions and sell prints and cards,” says Pascale.
Anthony recently found success in a gallery space. “Pushing myself to the foreground and laying myself bare in a solo exhibition was not only important for business reasons but also for spiritual lessons learned. This whole experience, from NEIS to my solo exhibition has taught me that resilience, perseverance and hard work pays off.”
With Christmas just around the corner, why not consider supporting a self-employed Australian artist by buying an original piece of art? You’ll find Anthony, Pascale and Kyles artwork for sale, and updates on upcoming exhibitions, here:
Would you like to start a creative business? Take the first step to self-employment with free NEIS training. Use the postcode search tool to locate your nearest NEIS provider for a chat.