Proverbs 29:18 tells us that without a vision, people perish. This is true even in the creative world. As Christian artists, we spend our time enthralled in our artistic passions because that’s the way God designed us; spending countless hours “in the zone”. However, when we’re looking to take our art somewhere bigger, enlarge our skills and really use them to build a business, we must start with a vision.
Big Vision, Bite-Sized Goals
First, you need to get clear about what God has called you to do. As a Christian artist, you may already know what that is, but maybe you need help getting there. So set your target, that vision of where you see yourself headed. After all, if you don’t know where you’re going, you'll never know when you get there. Write down what that vision looks like to you. How does it feel? What level of income are you hoping for? Are you selling your work and if so, how much, where and to whom? How does your business fit into your overall life? Clarifying who you are, what you want to accomplish and the life you want to experience along the way becomes your guiding principle, the spot on the horizon you’re always moving towards as enabled by the Holy Spirit. Remember, the Bible says in Proverbs 16:9 “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”
After you have your big goal, it’s time to start breaking it down into bite-sized pieces. I like to first break down the big goal into one-year goals. It needs to be aggressive enough to want to work towards, but also realistic. I call them SMARTi goals. These are goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, have a time frame and incentives when you accomplish your goals. I like to add a little incentive for achieving them.
So, what do your big goals look like? How much money do you want your art business to bring in this year? Do you want to sell a specific number of pieces? What about learning a new skill, applying for a certain show or getting in a certain gallery? Do you want to record an album and get it out there on iTunes? Dream big, dream specifically and create your SMARTi goals.
Paralyzed or Powerful
As we all know, a big, lofty goal can sometimes put you in a state of confusion or paralyzation. We can get overwhelmed and that can lead to a lot of inaction. Instead, I invite you to shift your focus and allow that vision to become the fuel that encourages you to keep moving forward as enabled by the Holy Spirit!
One way to take the fear out of big vision is by creating bite-sized objectives. Once you have your big yearly goals, simply break them down into 90-day goals that are much more manageable. This way, every quarter of the year is taking a little bite out of that big one-year goal and closer to your vision. And even if you don’t achieve every goal you set, you’re still a lot further down the road toward your big goal than you would have been simply floating along on autopilot like most people.
Next, we’re going to break it down again. Every week, within your 90-day goals, set an objective. Now, you’ve created even smaller bites. To do this, I like to work in reverse and plot out everything that needs to be done for the big goal. Break it all down to little tasks and assign them as your weekly objectives. Accomplishing lots of small, daily and weekly goals takes you towards your 90-day goal one step at a time. And remember, every 90-day goal you accomplish is one step closer to the big, yearly goal. I know, from experience as a thriving artist, this will set you on the path to the vision that God has for you in your life. Do this and you’ll be amazed and the acceleration you experience.
I hope this has been a big encouragement to you. If this article has been a blessing to you, take a moment to share it with a friend.
Thanks for reading!
My Facebook feed this morning looks something like this: art, pandemic report, art, scripture meme, art, “don’t worry if you just lost your job you can make money now online”, art, meme...
Let’s just say it’s a really “convenient” time for people to be trying to sell courses and webinars on how to make money online... be wise, act with intention, not desperation and realize there is NO EASY WAY to make “quick money” on the internet.
Online businesses in any industry - now more than ever - require rapport, connection, and relationship. Anybody can teach you tools... there are tons out there. I teach them every day. The key is building connection with your audience.
Now is the time to care for your audience, clients, family and friends. Yes learn, grow and invest in yourself during this time, create art, build your inventory, spend time listening with the Lord but don’t be fooled by promises of quick, easy results just because it’s “online”. There is no silver bullet.
There are, however 7 things every Christian artist can do right now, even in this crazy season of pandemic, to thrive. Here they are:
There are many creatives around the world looking to take their passion for art to the next level. A big question I get a lot is how to transition from being a hobbyist into a full-time working artist, one that will pay the bills.
It’s simple when you think about it. How do we get from any one place to another? We build a bridge, of course. And like with any bridge we must start with a good foundation. I find that the Lord will begin to make a bridge for us as we're faithful with what He has already given us.
Let’s consider a Kingdom principle: Be fruitful and multiply. Unfortunately, many people are looking for multiplication in their life before they have demonstrated fruitfulness, and it just doesn’t work that way. They may have temporary growth but it will never be lasting. Because of that, I want to give you five things today that really help you be fruitful in this season so that you can start to lay the foundation for your “bridge”.
Body of Work
One of the most important and primary stepping stones on your bridge is developing your artistic skills or what I call artistic mastery. Let’s face it, to be recognized, celebrated and purchased in the marketplace, you have to have great work. It’s the foundation and there’s simply no way around it. It took me 15 years of honing my skills, developing my artistic voice and building a substantial body of work. Trust me, this is not a part of the journey that can be skipped. Each piece you create is one more step to mastering your skill.
Once you have that recognizable and masterfully produced body of work, the next step is to, well, get noticed. There are many ways to get clients, as well as keep them. Some of these include social media, a well-designed website, and email marketing, not to mention powerful strategic partnerships you can develop with industry professionals that will refer you to their clients. All the artistic mastery and skill in the world will be for naught if no one knows you’re out there.
Time and Space
Next, you must dedicate the time and space to give to your work. You need a dedicated place you can go to and create. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate, massive art studio. It can be the corner of your office, tucked away from distractions, where you just allow yourself to do your thing. Once you’ve chosen your space, now you must schedule the time to be there and then stick to it. If you don’t do this, your art will tend to simply fade into the background where it is forgotten. Creating space and honoring your time to create enlarges your capacity to steward the gifting God has invested in you.
Now that you’ve put in your time, created awesome art work and started to master your chosen medium, the next thing you need to do is to make it make money. After all, if you aren’t making money, you can’t do this full time, can you (unless you have another income stream that provides for you outside of your artwork and doesn’t require your time)? This looks different for everyone. For me it was doing shows, showing in galleries, and creating wholesale accounts. After those started to gain momentum, I was able to get a studio and for me that really kickstarted both the mastery of my craft while I greatly expanded my body of work. For you, it may look different, but a consistent revenue stream is a must. Without consistent (or at least somewhat consistent) cashflow, it’s hard to make decisions and move forward with doing your art as a business.
Maybe the most important part is really having a grasp on your vision. Where are you now and where do you want to go? For me, I started my art very part time, making extra spending money or money for Christmas. At the time, that was all I expected of it and for that point in my life, it was great.
However, once God called me to really begin to transition into art full time, my vision changed. I realized that I really needed to do things differently. I needed to do more marketing, more shows and definitely create more art.
My vision may not be the same as yours. You can’t compare your journey to another’s because no one is on the same path. You could be wanting to supplement your retirement income or making your art as gifts for a mission project or even doing it as a part-time hobby because you already love your full-time job. You get to define that. You decide with the Lord and with your loved ones what is it that you want your art business to look like. And then before you know it, you’ll start to see that bridge intentionally appearing in order to take you from where you are now to where you dreamed!
Lastly, as always, remember that God is with you the whole way on this journey! He definitely has a plan for you! If you trust in Him (and the vision He’s given you) and follow the journey faithfully, you will be fruitful and multiply with great success. That’s God’s promise! What more could we ask for as sons and daughters of God?
I hope this has been a big encouragement to you. If this article has been a blessing to you, take a moment to share it with a friend.
Thanks for reading!
You know sometimes as an artist, getting started can be the hardest thing to do.
I recently got a question from one of my listeners, Ethan, who said, “Matt, I’ve got a goal, I’ve got a vision, but I never seem to get on track with either. It’s always been one step forward two steps back for me and I'm just not sure how to get started towards seeing some real progress being made in my life.”
I can absolutely understand where Ethan is coming from because I've been through that same thing before in my life. I was sitting at church the other day after reading this question, and my Pastor gave a great example, right out of Genesis, of how God starts a project.
Structure Is Not A Bad Thing
He used the example of when God began to form Eve. He started with a bone He borrowed from Adam. And this is so significant because this bone was used to form a structure upon which the Father built Eve’s body.
Think about it, all physical growth inside your body starts with structure. From the teeniest cell to the strongest bone, if you didn't have this foundational structure in your physical body, then just be a blob of ooze (I know… gross).
A lot of times as artists we want to resist structure. Maybe it doesn’t feel artsy enough or maybe the idea of structure conflicts with what you feel about being Spirit-led. But the thing we have to realize is that EVERYTHING God has ever created was built within the framework of a Spirit-inspired structure. (Don’t believe me? Check out this YouTube video about the Fibonacci Sequence.)
The Power of Connection
After laying a foundation with the skeletal system, God used tendons to connect everything together. Whether you’re talking about your physical life, your spiritual life, or your artistic life, you can't sustain growth in your life without meaningful connections in your life.
I think this is one reason I see so many creatives struggle. Somewhere along the way, they bought in the lie that they are the only one struggling to make it in life, in art, or in business. If this is you, then don’t let the loneliness, isolation, and fear of what others might think or say keep you trapped and hidden one moment longer. Be intentional. Seek out and connect with other like-minded artists and mentors right now.
So, if you're looking to unleash transformation in your life, start with structure, pair that with authentic connection, and then combine that with your strengths. In your physical body, I’m talking about muscles, but in your life and art, your strength(s) are those unique gifts and talents God has sown into your life.
Think about it. These gifts and talents were given to you by God so that they could be exercised, built up, and finally used by you as you step out and fulfill the plans and purposes that He has for you. As an artist, it’s your talents and skills that bring a unique perspective to the works you were created to make.
Skin: What the World Sees
So yes, it’s a weird point, but if you were just a bunch of muscles sitting there, you'd be kind of gross, right? So you need to have skin, or more precisely, you've got to learn how to present the thing that God is doing in your life and art out to the world. It’s about putting a face on what you do so that others can be drawn to it.
If you find yourself struggling to show depth of your talent and the strength of your character through the connections you’re cultivating, then it might be time for a “face lift.” Ask the Father to show you what He says about you and your work, listen to what He says, receive it, then share that with others.
And Finally, Breathe It All In
I love the final point my pastor made, and it goes to the core of what I've taught for years about being filled and skilled out of Exodus 31. Once Adam had been completely formed, his skeleton, tendons, muscles, and skin all in place, God had one more step left on His “Create Mankind” action plan. Adam and Eve were just mounds of impressively arranged dust right until the moment God Breathed HIS life into their bodies.
My friend, that's when life, true life, comes rushing in! Without the breath and life of the Holy Spirit moving through your creative process and guiding your steps as you grow your art business, you very well may end up striving, frustrated, and paralyzed.
If you’re sitting there wondering why it feels like God has left you on the side of the road (and He’s not), may it’s time you took a “deep breath.” If you can relate to this, then I challenge you to invite the Creator of all Creatives to breathe His life into all that you are doing.
I hope this has been a big encouragement to you and if it has been, then please take a moment to share it with a friend, ok?
Thanks for reading!
All artists, especially Christian artists want to know how to sell their art! I mean come on, without selling your art most artists don't have the ability (or space) to keep making their work unless of course they have another income stream that funds their "art habit".
So after making and selling a lot of art over the years I've come to the understanding that there are essentially 2 primary ways to sell your artwork as an artist:
Regardless, SOMEONE has to:
If you're the kind of artist who only wants to make work in the studio and not deal with marketing/sales, then you must find a good gallery or broker to represent you. Realize this costs - usually 50% of your retail price. However, they are doing most of the work to sell your art. Hoping your work will sell, doing social media only or simply putting your art on one of the hundreds of art websites online is NOT a strategy.
If you're the kind of artist who enjoys selling direct to your clients, then realize you are equally an artist and an entrepreneur. You'll need to develop a marketing strategy with multiple outlets, testing and measuring results as you go. There's no silver bullet. Without cultivating both sides of the equation - being both artist and entrepreneur - you'll live in constant frustration.
Or of course... a combination of both ie: selling direct and utilizing galleries, partners, etc. Over time, you'll discover a combination that works best for you, your personality and your profitability.
I get this question quite a bit, "what in the world does being an artist and creating art have to do with the Great Commission?” Or better yet, “What does art have to do with savin' souls and seein' people come to Jesus?” These sorts of questions always seem to highlight a lack of understanding about what it means to walk in the fullness of God’s Kingdom.
Another way to approach this question would be like this, "Do we all have to look, act, and do Kingdom life in exactly the same way to be effective for God?" Well, I’m happy to say that the answer would be a resounding “no”.
All of us are in this beautiful symbiotic relationship as the body of Christ. A relationship where each one of us brings a different and unique expression of God not only to each other but also to the marketplace, as well as to the whole world. It’s through our uniqueness, the way God created us, that God chooses to use us as He touches and interacts with people in beautiful and life-changing ways.
This is the way the Kingdom was designed to work. We are not the ministers of a come-and-see gospel, but rather the ambassadors of a go-and-tell movement that God put inside of us by the power of the Holy Spirit.
When Jesus died, He didn't just die just for your sins; He died to restore you into the fullness of the Kingdom so that you could be everything that God designed you to be. And upon embracing that, God calls us to go forth to uniquely express His glory and His mercy and His love in the Earth.
Maybe the real question needs to be, "What do I have to offer? What can I do uniquely in the Earth to reveal and release God's Kingdom so that other people who may never grace the door of a church, have a myriad of ways to experience the light and life and love of God?"
Think about that for a second, because when everybody does that - business people and teachers, people in government and even artists - we ALL fulfill the Great Commission. And the best part is we’ll be doing it while embracing the unique design and gifting God has placed within each of us.
That is what art has to do with both the Kingdom and with the Great Commission. It’s us - you and I -using our God-given creative vision and talents to do our part in seeing billions and billions of people come into the harvest in our generation.
I hope this has been a big, big encouragement to you. Take a moment right now to say, "God, thank you for making me uniquely who I am so that You can be glorified through me."
Also, if this article has been a blessing to you, take a moment to share it with a friend.
Thanks for reading!
Thriving: The Power of Convergence
I’ve encountered many artists over the years who really struggle with stepping into thriving because they don’t understand one foundational concept: convergence. Thriving isn’t simply doing one or two things well, but rather doing the right things well at the same time, over time. Although that might seem like a juggling act – and it can feel that way some times – it’s not as out of reach as you think.
Here’s what typically happens with artists. They get two out of the three areas but forgetting that third, continue to struggle. For example, artists who are great artistically and have a strong spiritual connection end up having only a hobby or ministry because they don’t pursue the development of their art business. Artists who are great artistically and have a strong business sense often flourish in the marketplace with their sales but sometimes lack a deep spiritual connection and sense of life in their art practice. Then there’s artists who are deeply connected spiritually and have built a business but their artwork is lacking, leading to immature work and frustration.
For artists who want to pursue their art in the marketplace in the context of their relationship with God, thriving happens when they are growing artistically, spiritually and in their businesses. Each feeds the other and provides momentum for the journey. This place of convergence is what I call your “sweet spot” and it should be a goal for every artist who wants to thrive spiritually, artistically and financially.
This place of convergence is the focus of my artist mentoring program, Created to Thrive. Click here for more information on how to be a part.
I was talking to a friend the other day who happens to be quite an accomplished artist and a real spiritual father to many creatives around the world. We were chatting about our mutual passion to help artists thrive and, knowing I work with many hobbyist and emerging artists, posed the following question:
"How do you tell someone who is mediocre and not really called (or ready) to make his living with his art (simply because it will never sell) that perhaps God gave you the passion for art just to enjoy and glorify Him with, but it is not your calling to make it your financial sustenance?"
It's a great question and I'm sure the reason no one talks much about it is because it can be a really sensitive issue for the artist... No one wants to have that hard conversation with an artist who's thinking they are ready to take on the world when in reality, they are still stumbling around with the basics. And then sometimes, there are those really hard cases that almost seem like the American Idol auditions where someone thinks they are God's gift to art when in reality, there's not much there but desire and belief.
As I've thought about it, I hope these ideas will help you navigate your own artistic calling and season in that journey.
How to Sell Art...
First of all, this is a huge question but surprisingly simple. It's simple because it has to be based on you, the artist. How do you like to sell your art? I've found over the years, there are basically two ways to sell your art: direct to the customer or through a strategic partner (or, I admit it... a combination of both). It's really important to understand which strategy is most effective for you when you're asking how to sell art.
When I first started asking how to sell art, I did what most artists do and looked to others who I saw being successful and modeled them. Unfortunately for me, their model didn't work for me. Many of the artists I knew were introverts who enjoyed mostly making in their studio rather than interacting with the public. Consequently, they had adopted a wholesale methodology which required them to make production items, sell at a 50% discount, sell through stores and galleries, and never have any interaction with their end user. For me, as an extroverted people person, that was very unfulfilling. When I made beautiful work and faced the reality of packing it up and shipping it off to a gallery far far away, that gave me no emotional payoff, which for me is an important part of being an artist. I love hearing people say "Oh my gosh, that is so beautiful! I love it!" Without that, I was missing something huge!
The other methodology I saw most artists doing included doing as many retail craft and art shows as possible. They seemed to live on the road. In the summers, they were in the mountains and in the winter, they all headed to Florida. Always on the road, always staying in hotels or travel trailers. Again, not my idea of a beautiful artistic life.
For me, I chose to pursue selling my art through a public studio in Asheville's River Arts District, a collection of over 200 artists in 23 old warehouse buildings in Asheville, North Carolina. It's a mecca for artists and art lovers, as well as wealthy retirees who like to incorporate local art into their homes. I get to make, sell and interact all out of my studio. I deliver most of my commissioned works and I get a high level of interaction with my clients. We build relationships. They visit the studio with friends and for me, that's huge!
So what's the bottom line? You have to determine how to sell art for yourself based on how your wired, what you're creating and the life you want. Without being clear about those questions, you'll end up really frustrated. If you're going to be an artist, you want to do so while living a beautiful, creative and fulfilled life.
Where You Sell Your Art...
Now you understand why these two questions go together. How you sell art ends up determining where you sell your art. There's no cookie cutter plan that works for everyone. As you consider where to sell your art, make sure you craft a strategy that fits how you like to create, sell and live life. The artist life is not just about cranking out product, but about authentically creating your work, connecting with others who love what you do and making a profit.
That being said, here are some of my best recommendations:
Where to Sell Your Art For Artists Who Want to Sell Direct To Clients:
We talk about these issues every day in my Created to Thrive Artist Mentorship Program and over the last year, I've created several in-depth teaching videos on this subject based on my own experience and the experience of hundreds of artists I've helped over the years. Find out more about becoming a part of my artist mentorship program here.
Also, let me know what's working for you! Comment below and let's keep the conversation going.
Get my Free 9-Page PDF "Sell Your Art & Make Money Quick". It's packed with over 60 different proven strategies for selling your art in any market.
Since I have the great honor of working with hundreds of Christian artists in my artist mentorship program, I'm always getting questions. One of the most common questions I get from newbies is "what can I do right now to start thriving?" Here's 12 things you can do right now to start thriving as a Christian artist:
1. Just show up & do the work
There’s just no substitute. It’s been said it takes 10,000 hours to become a master at your chosen artistic medium. So whether you’re a painter or metal artist, potter or basket maker you’re going to need to put in some serious studio time. The beautiful thing about it is that for the artist, the process of being in the studio can be the reward. Yes, we’re all after fantastic art that we can sell and make a living from, but for the artist, the magic of creativity happens long before the sale happens. It happens when we walk in the studio, turn on the music, prepare our materials and just get in the zone.
2. Push through the ugly
Many Christian artists I’ve ever known, including myself goes through periods of creating crap. Sometimes its for a week, or months or a year or sometimes it’s in every piece. If you stop in the ugly phase, you’ll never get through to the place of creative resolve and resolution. Keep pressing, reworking, walking away and returning until you know that you know it is finished.
3. Encourage yourself and silence your inner critic
The voice of the inner critic will never go away by itself or by wishing it would stop. The voice must be silenced by a greater voice; the darkness pierced by the purity of light. The dominant inner narrative in your soul can be guided, not by your emotions but by your choices. Who are you and what do you want? Practice some creative visualization, create a treasure map, journal your personal and creative affirmations daily and listen as the critic is silenced.
4. Take time to rest and renew
It’s been said that creativity happens best on the edge of order and chaos. That being said, we can’t live 100% of the time in that tension. You need time to reflect, rest and renew your physical body and your inner life so that fresh ideas can clearly come to and through you. This is not a luxury for the artist, it is essential.
5. Fill your imagination
When it’s time to create, artists create from the heart. And we go inside our imagination to draw upon the inspiration and understanding that lies within. If we’ve not invited the Holy Spirit into our creative process and intentionally filled our imagination with inspiration, then the work becomes mundane; studio time only makes us and our experience in creative bored and anxious. What exhilarates your spirit? What makes you stand in awe and wonder? Movies? Music? Sculpture? Great art or theatre? Whatever feeds your inner life should be on your regular menu."
6. Don’t eat seed
Over the years I’ve found that emerging artists have one main question they are always asking: “How do I make money with my art?” The better question is how can I keep the money I’m making with my art. Becoming a successful Christian artist for most people is able building a bridge to a dream; transitioning from a 9 to 5 job or even beginning to sell your work to the public for the first time. Regardless, all of that takes money. I always encourage artists to take the money that’s coming in initially from selling or teaching and put it away in your business envelope. That way, when a big show, marketing need or other opportunity comes along and you need capital to invest, you have it. Money invested at the right time in your business can be valuable seed to produce the harvest of success you desire.
7. Create what you love
We’ve all done it. You sell a couple of pieces that are similar and you start thinking “If I make 1000 of these, I’d be a gagillionaire... so I better get to work!” Only to find out that at the next show, you only sell a grand total of zero. While we must always keep an eye on what’s selling and what our clients are genuinely responding to at the end of the day, we must make what we love. Otherwise, we become robotic craftsmen just replicating patterns with wrote skill instead of creating out of the place of inspiration and passion. Create what you love and trust the money and opportunities to follow.
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8. Reach up and reach back
None of us have gotten where we are in life without those special people God placed in our life at the right place and time to teach us, lead us, guide us and inspire us to go to the next level. No matter where you are in your creative journey, you can do the same for someone else by reaching out in genuine relationship. In addition, there’s always someone who’s further along than you are in whatever creative endeavor you find yourself. Continue to purposely reach up to them as well and become a river of inspiration; both receiving and giving the abundance that’s flowing through you.
9. Tell your story
Art is not a commodity. No one buys great art or fine craft because it was the cheapest or it was on sale. People buy fine art and fine craft because they desire connection; connection with the maker, the process, the materials and ultimately their own human experience. Your personal creative story is a huge part of that because when people connect to you they connect to your work. It’s no longer just a basket, mug or painting, but rather a reflection of the story of the maker who poured their heart and soul into the piece. Art becomes like ancient cairns, pointing the way and commemorating significance in the journey.
10. Dream Your Dreams
Most Christian artists I’ve met over the years are so completely overwhelmed with where they are right now – creatively, relationally, financially – that they’ve lost their ability to dream and imagine outside of their current life experience. What happened to the kid on the playground who believed he could climb to the top of the highest tree on the mountain? What happened to the little girl who wanted to be a famous fashion designer in New York City? I’ll tell you what happened. Life happened, they got bogged down in the details and lost their dreamer. Without dreaming and imagination, we become robotic manufactures of commodities. With dreams, desire and imagination become artists who allow all of life to converge in the studio where we create beautiful objects that help others to live with wonder.
11. Say No to the Wrong things and Yes to the Right
You’re an artist, yes, but you’re also an entrepreneur, shipping department, marketing department and custodial staff in addition to whatever personal and civic obligations that may find their way into your life. If you say yes to everything, you allow everyone else’s emergencies, priorities and passions take precedence over yours. Design your life. Dream your dreams. Create what you love. Life a beautiful life with beautiful people and allow your priorities to be the measuring stick for everything else you allow into your life. That’s not selfish, it’s healthy.
12. Connect to Your Source
If you’ve been an artist for very long, you realize that your creative gift is not your own or even the result of all your own hard work. Pure and simple it’s a gift from the Creator and we simply have the incredible opportunity to collaborate with that Creators process, inspiration and gifts in order to reflect His beauty. Without that connection we die creatively because we cut off the source of our inspiration. With that connection, we go further than we ever could on our own good ideas and hard work. With that connection, we simply lean into the process of creative collaboration that’s already been designed especially for us. With that connection, we always prosper because that’s the design of the Creator.
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Matt Tommey is an artist, author and mentor who is passionate about empowering artists to thrive spiritually, artistically and in business.