So you want to know how to actually make a living as an artist? You're in the right place! For the last 25 years, I've made my living using my creative expression and I'm going to share with you the top things I've learned so you can begin actually making a living from your art.
You Can't Have Business Dreams with Hobby Habits
A lot of artists "dream" of making a living from their art but few are actually willing to do what it takes. What does it take, you might ask? Things like:
Over the years as I've grown my own very successful art business (I'm a woven sculpture artist) and mentored literally thousands of Christian artists, I've found for an artist to really thrive, they have to cultivate 5 specific areas of their life: heart & mind, art, brand, business and life. Unless you are working on all these areas simultaneously, it's unlikely you'll be able to make a living as an artist.
See, making work that is masterfully created and unique is simply the starting point. That's a given. It's ground zero. Once you're making work that's uniquely beautiful you've got to go about cultivating an authentic connection with your potential audience.
For more on this subject, check out The Thriving Christian Artist Podcast. It's free and filled with hundreds of free episodes that will empower you on your creative journey toward actually making a living as an artist.
Need some more help starting to cultivate those 5 hey areas? Take my "Start Thriving Now" ecourse. It's free and will be a big encouragement to you.
Artists who are Christians need encouragement, inspiration and equipping as they pursue God's creative calling on their lives. Here are some of the best books for Christian artists on the market today:
Book artwork and descriptions are from Amazon.com descriptions and are the sole property of the copyright holder.
Artists who are Christians are often looking for inspiration and encouragement not only creatively, but also in their spiritual life and businesses as well. For most Christian artists, their faith is not something that's just ancillary to their journey, it's at the core of who they are and how they operate in the world. Rightly so!
Over the years, I've been asked what podcasts are the best podcasts for Christian artists to be listening to and so I thought I'd create this quick post to share some of my favorites:
One of the questions that I get all the time is, “Matt, how do I find my artistic uniqueness and express that in the marketplace?” It’s a great question and a real sign that the artist asking it is ready to take their art to the next level. Why, you ask? Because differentiation and uniqueness are what set you apart from other artists in the marketplace.
Art, after all, is a language. It is visual, auditory, and it speaks to the soul of all people. Like the spoken language you use every day, your artistic vocabulary doesn’t just appear overnight. Here are three essential things you need to know about developing and refining your creative voice.
You’ll Know It When You See It
One of the things that I really believe about finding your unique, artistic voice is that you don’t find it; you recognize it. You uncover it. You allow it to emerge over time. However, one of the things artists often neglect is being in the studio enough to ever see that emergence happen.
As you pursue this process, just start by doing the things that come naturally to you. Then, get in the studio and create tons and tons of work. Develop that masterful competency that only time and practice brings forth. And as you do, you’ll start to see themes and styles come out as your unique creative voice emerges.
Consistently Cultivate Inspiration
Creating lots of work over time forces you to cultivate continued inspiration in your life. As a creative, you must keep your artistic eyes and ears open all the time. As you receive that inspiration, you respond through your work. And then the inspiration/creation cycle starts all over again.
As you cultivate inspiration, you start to recognize what you are interested in and drawn to as an artist. You begin to gravitate towards a preferred medium and limited palette of materials and supplies you’re using. You begin to recognize the things in life that inspire you the most, and you start to purposefully pursue that source of inspiration.
One final thought on cultivating inspiration; be consistent, be intentional and be faithful. Get serious about cultivating inspiration in your life regularly. Then, faithfully steward those ideas by journaling them. (Need more tips on this, check out this podcast episode that is all about cultivating creative inspiration.)
Don’t Rush the Process
Creating tons of work and developing masterful competency while consistently cultivating inspiration takes time. One of the biggest roadblocks to artists developing their style happens when they pressure themselves to sell their work too quickly.
Investing time in your art is the key. There is no shortcut to gaining experience and building skills, both of which contribute to developing your creative voice. Allow your voice to emerge, over time, then refine it. As you do this authentically, people will recognize your uniqueness and respond to it, giving you an excellent opportunity to connect with those people when you make your move to the marketplace.
A Resource That Can Help
I’ve taught on this subject many times over the years. Recently I put together a 6-part mini-course, Developing Your Unique Creative Voice. This course helps artists define and refine who they are and what they do as artists. If you are ready to start showing the real you through your art, then click here to learn more.
I hope this helps as you continue to pursue the development of your own unique artistic voice. If this article has helped, take a moment to share it with a friend, share it on social media, and comment below!
Thanks for reading.
There’s a fresh wind blowing through the arts right now, all over the world. Many have called it a New Renaissance of sorts and as an artist, that’s exciting!
For many artists, it's brought a new vitality, a resurgence of buyers and the opportunity to significantly grow their businesses through new tools and technology platforms, but is that it? Is that the end game?
I believe there's much more on God's heart for artists.
More than Marketers
During this current resurgence of the arts, God is highlighting artists, our work and our creative process. It's an exciting time but God's not simply interested in raising up more talented artists and better marketers for our own sake. This move is not just about creating great art and making money as an end in itself (although both of those things can be the fruit of following Gods lead)! He’s actually waking up our hearts, drawing us into wholeness, transforming our minds and raising up an army of creative sons and daughters who know who they are and what they are called to in the Kingdom.
This is definitely a God-inspired movement - a tidal wave of creativity in our generation - but to simply see it only as a renaissance is to miss the essence of what's going on. This move is very different and if we don’t recognize the differences, we will miss the central focus of what’s Gods really doing in this hour. Here’s why:
3 Philosophies of the Renaissance
During (and as a result of) the Renaissance, three main philosophies emerged that have guided artists for generations since:
These three systems formed the basis of how most artists approach their work and business - Christian artists included - even today. It goes like this: pursue my artistic expression (because that’s who I am), make it all about my desires, my talent, my expression and then find others to support me through grants, donations and sales. For some that works, although not long term. For many, it doesn't work, resulting in a starving artist mentality on one side or a success-focused art marketer on the other.
The ugly side of patronage during the Renaissance of the past was that the artist became dependent on and was at the mercy of the patron (rather than a healthy identity in the Lord), adding a complicated (to say the least) dynamic to their life and art. Today, being a slave to the market or latest marketing trend can yield the same frustration.
More than an Arts Renaissance
In this season, God is using this renaissance to lead us to revival and ultimately, thriving in His Kingdom. He's also raising up an army of artists who operate in three wholly different ways:
Lasting Success, Grace to Grow
As an artist myself and one who’s had the great privilege of walking with thousands of artists over the years as a mentor, I know this:
artists who seek the transformative power of God in the context of their life, art and business will always experience more lasting success than those who simply seek after the latest artistic fads and business trends.
Further, artists who center their art and business in their relationship with God also have the grace to grow and mature over the long term, building what Proverbs calls “wealth without sorrow.”
I want revival, not just renaissance. Revival starts in the heart - my heart - and flows out to others by the Spirit of God through my art, my business and my life.
Revival awakens and empowers me from within.
Revival centers my life, work and business in hearing Gods voice and following His lead.
Revival calls me to community and lasting impact, for His glory.
Sure, becoming a better artist and a better marketer is a part of this process for artists but it’s when God shows up that everything changes. That kind of lasting transformation will never happen as the result of my own effort.
When God shows up, transformation is released.
When God shows up, my life and art has meaning.
When God shows up, then the world is changed.
Pray this with me: Oh God, raise up an army of artists - sons and daughters - who know your voice, follow your lead and release the beauty of your Kingdom in the earth! Here I am, use me.
Overcome the 5 Biggest Roadblocks Every Christian Artist Faces So You Can Thrive in Your Creative Calling!
Join Matt Tommey for the 5-Part Artist Rise Up Masterclass + Art Challenge to learn how to thrive spiritually, artistically & in business as an artist in God's Kingdom beginning September 22, 2020. Registration is Open Now.
Enjoy this live video from a recent Facebook Live. We has some connectivity issues for a few moments early on... just scrub through them and keep going :)
Many artists have dreams of creating a business from their art. Even more have dreams of growing their current art business beyond a trickling side hustle into a real part-time or full-time business that can provide then the financial and time freedom they desire.
Well, if you're one of those artists and you're tired of spinning your wheels then I hope this article will be an encouragement to you!
For most artists, one of the first big hurdles to overcome is the concept of being both an entrepreneur and a creative. I know, I can hear you now "But Matt, I'm not good at all the business stuff... I just want to create!" If that's you, then wonderful! I'm happy for you. You, my friend, have a wonderful hobby you can enjoy for many years to come. But here's the truth: you can't have business results with hobby habits. Either you learn to embrace both parts of the journey, or you come to terms with the limitations of not doing so. There's no right or wrong answer, but you can't have it both ways.
Entrepreneurship and creativity are what I like to call "harmonious opposites". On the surface, they seem like they are the antithesis of each other but in realty, they actually fuel each other when held in a healthy tension. Living in and cultivating that tension is your job. Let me explain.
Creative expression in and of itself is a wonderful pursuit for every person, regardless if they feel they are called to be an artist or not. However, for those who want to grow in their capacity, skill and function as an artist, a few things must happen, right? Mastery of skills, techniques, material usage, design, composition, the list goes on. Without these fundamentals, creating can become limited and boring. However, with this foundation artistic expression becomes and ever-expanding world of possibility. In essence, skill development is the runway for artistic freedom and I bet if you've been an artist for any length of time, you've probably experienced this reality in your life.
The same is true with entrepreneurship and the fundamentals of business. Unless an artist embraces the fundamentals of marketing, sales and running a business they simply limit their capacity to thrive in this modern world as an artist. Gone are the days where an artist can rely on one gallery to sell their work. Buyers want interaction with the artist more than ever which requires artists not only to be makers, but to be great marketers as well. It's simply a required part of the package. Otherwise, you've got to be ok with creating art as a hobby with no predictable way of seeing sales.
The Juggling Act
Now that you're (hopefully) starting to embrace the harmonious tension between being both an entrepreneur and a creative, realize that functioning in that world is not a singular path. Rather, it is much like a juggler, who starting with a single item, then adds other items to their act and keeps them all in the air. Skill and experience make that easier as you grow.
The big question for most artists is "what things should I be juggling and what things should I be leaving out?" That is, what are the really important things that I need to know - especially starting out - and what are the things I can grow into? Without knowing this, most artists will spend hours, days and months spinning their wheels doing things they think are important yet not having any data to confirm their suspicions.
A Blueprint for Success
Over the years as I've developed my own thriving art business and helped thousands of other Christian artists do the same, I've discovered there are some key elements you need to be focused on in order to start or grow your art business.
They include things like:
✅ Having a simple, clear pathway for your purpose
✅ Knowing where to focus your time, attention and resources to accelerate growth
✅ Understanding what habits make success easier
✅ Clarifying God’s plan for your life and art
✅ Discovering why people aren't buying your art
✅ Transforming lookers into raving clients
✅ How to build a personal brand that attracts buyers both online and offline
✅ Knowing the key elements every artist website should have to start making sales
✅ Feeling confident in creating a simple artist marketing plan
✅ Knowing how to handle the business side of being an artist without being overwhelmed
These key elements are the beginning of starting or growing your art business to the next level. While the details of each of these items is way to much to go into within this one blog article, I've created a special one-day online workshop called "Jumpstart" where we'll be walking through the details of each of these items (and a whole lot more) in order to give you a simple 30-day plan to get started. Not only that, I'll also be sharing my favorite tech tools for artists so you don't have to wonder about which technology solutions to use as you start out on your journey.
If you want a step-by-step pathway to start or grow your art business so you can start thriving spiritually, artistically and in business, then join me for Jumpstart, August 14, 2020 from 11am - 6pm EDT. It's 100% online and anyone is welcome to attend.
When you register for this live workshop, you'll also get 3 bonus resources including:
✅ The Thriving Christian Artist Success Blueprint
A simple blueprint to help you understand the 7 things every artist needs to focus on in their art business to help get started and grow. (a $17 value)
✅ The Thriving Christian Artist Starter Kit
A 26-page PDF and Walkthrough Video explaining in detail the 7 topics in the Success Blueprint plus my Tech Tools for Artists list and a 30-Day Planning Guide. (a $37 value)
✅ Sell Your Art & Make Money Quick
Over 60 of my best ideas and strategies you can use right now to start selling your art both online and offline. (a $97 value)
Looking for free resources to grow as a Christian artist spiritually, creatively and in business?
Here's 7 great places available now:
✅ The Thriving Christian Artist Podcast: https://www.matttommeymentoring.com/podcast.html
✅ Matt Tommey Mentoring Blog:
✅ YouVersion Bible App Devotionals from Matt Tommey: https://www.bible.com/search/plans?q=matt%20tommey
✅ Books by Matt Tommey
✅ Topical Mini-Courses by Matt Tommey
*✅ Start Thriving Now Mini-Course:
*Only for those artists who are NOT in the Created to Thrive Artist Mentoring Program.
I recently had the great pleasure to sit down for a wonderful conversation with my friend, Libby John who hosts the "Art & Faith Conversations" podcast. We talked about my new book, Created to Thrive along with alot of the back story that has brought me to where I am today as an artist.
Listen to the podcast here or by searching "Art & Faith Conversations" under Podcasts on iTunes or Stitcher.
Starting Mid-May, 2018, you can connect with me via my new podcast, "The Thriving Christian Artist". It's for artists who want to bust through roadblocks that have held them back for years, create the art they love and live the life the they know God created them to live as an artist in His Kingdom.
During each season of the podcast, I'll be sharing encouraging teaching and inspiration from my own journey as an artist plus interviews with both emerging and established artists in every creative medium who are thriving artistically, spiritually and in their business.
You can listen, subscribe and review my podcast via iTunes, Stitcher, GooglePlay or my website www.MattTommeyMentoring.com/podcast
I hope you're full of faith and expectation for an incredible 2018!
To help you along that journey, I wanted to share a simple tool that I use in my Created to Thrive mentoring program called "What's Working, What's Not & What's Next".
It's a simple 5-page PDF that will help you evaluate where you are and where you want to go this year. Consider this my new year's gift to you! I'm praying this year will be your best year ever! Just download it here and then let me know how you're using it by commenting below.
Matt Tommey is an artist, author and mentor who is passionate about empowering artists to thrive spiritually, artistically and in business.