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Old 12-11-2017, 12:35 PM
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benleb benleb is offline
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Building art business (while working day job)


I'd figure this topic would fit best in Café Guerbois — rather than General Art Business — since it's more of a personal nature.

I've been working towards building my own art business, selling traditional and digital art, as well as prints and silk screen prints. I'd like to have my work in galleries but will be mainly relying on online sales.

I'm a former graphic designer and, since I stopped doing this professionally in 2010, been working on developing my own personal art style. After all these years experimenting, I can humbly and proudly say that I've achieved a level of satisfaction that leaves me no shame in hanging my artwork in galleries aside other visual artists. I've developed a style that is 100% original, unique and easily identifiable amongst others. Being very graphic design inspired with iconic quality to it, it surely could be developed into a “brand” — yep! all those years of watching Shark Tank/Dragon's Den have influenced me a great deal, lol!

Creating these images has been the core of my life for the past 10 years and I wish I could do this full time cause since it makes me feel happy and alive. Developing this business and building a following is such an exciting project and I feel ready for it. At 48 years old, I'm at a point in my life that I find it difficult working for someone else and would be much happier — and really need to be — doing something for myself, even if it means a smaller income. I will also be able to do this as I get older.

Putting all the work to build this art business has been affecting my day job lately. I work around 30-32 hours a week for a big retail chain. It's been hard to get out of my bubble — creating art while listening to music — to dive right into the very fast-paced action of my daily job. I feel like I have to “transform” myself to fit the mold and I've been more irritable the last few weeks; my boss have noticed and I'm now (kind of) walking on eggshells.

The thought of putting an end to my art business project to put my mind uniquely on my job did crossed my mind, but it would make absolutely no sense, since it would mean shutting down a part of me that needs to live and keeps me alive — and where I see so much potential.

I'm trying to find solutions. I need my job to pay the rent but in a way would need to be free of it to put my mind and use my time on developping my art business. I have the freedom to not have a family to care for and mortgage to pay, so I can manage to live with less income. I don't have a lot of money in the bank though so I'm very limited on the financial aspect.

Maybe it's time to write a concrete business plan and take the steps to make it happen?

Any feedback would be welcomed. Thanks!

Last edited by benleb : 12-11-2017 at 12:44 PM.
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Old 12-11-2017, 01:42 PM
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La_ La_ is offline
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Re: Building art business (while working day job)

I think you've offered your own next step
Maybe it's time to write a concrete business plan and take the steps to make it happen

You're talking about making your art your business, your main income ... I have questions [mini dragons den welcomes you] ... what are your sales in the last year? (on line and/or live) do you show/sell locally, ever? who's your competition? do you intend to sell the artwork and/or market t-shirts/cards/posters/prints of the artwork - what's your target audience?

Art is Vast and super highly competitive market - in my small city, population is under 50k, there is ONE professional artist [two if you count photography], [three if you count tattoos], who make a decent living from art alone. There are Hundreds of artists here who have 'real jobs' to support their passions for art.

Pacis, der Frieden, Mir, Shanti, Friour, Paz, Pace, Kapayapaan, Fred, Piersica, Taika, Aman, Beke, Miers, Shalom, Salam السلام, Heping, Mir (Мир),Paix,Ειρήνη,Udo
http://yourstrulyart.blogspot.ca Peace - When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know Peace
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Old 12-11-2017, 02:20 PM
ianuk ianuk is offline
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Re: Building art business (while working day job)

The best advice I ever had in my life was when I was a kid and I used to run errands for an inventor, which was: Let me tell you the only thing you need to know about life, Ian "if you want a helicopter, build a helicopter.
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Old 12-12-2017, 03:34 PM
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eonworks eonworks is online now
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Re: Building art business (while working day job)

Some years ago I worked a low paying job, 15 hours a week, specifically so I could have more time for my art. The income from that job and my artwork was enough for a modest living. But, I'm single and I lived in a small apartment in a large town and had no need for a car. The public transportation was good where I lived, but I rarely used it as I prefer to bicycle or walk to stay fit.

Sci-Fi illustrator and concept artist | My Facebook
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Old 12-12-2017, 07:54 PM
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WFMartin WFMartin is offline
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Re: Building art business (while working day job)

Before I retired, I worked full-time, as a color separator for a lithographic printing company. It was a very good-paying job, with an enormous amount of overtime.

I was never foolish enough to allow either my music (bluegrass/country), or my art (oil and watercolor) to supersede my much better-paying, "day job".

I worked at my art in my spare time, even it was for only an hour a day. I did well at my day job, because I always realized that at home, waiting for me, was my art endeavor. I made a substantial amount of money from awards, and sales of my art. In fact, I even sold about 18 paintings to fellow employees.

When I retired, I then felt that I could devote much more of my time to the creation of paintings. And, that's what I do now.

Keep yer' day job!
wfmartin. My Blog "Creative Realism"...www.williamfmartin.blogspot.com
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Old 12-16-2017, 03:59 PM
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robertsloan2 robertsloan2 is offline
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Re: Building art business (while working day job)

Write your business plan and look at everything you'll need to do to transfer over. Also look at other income sources related to your art. There's art sales. Commissions. Selling rights to your art and doing illustration - which means you can sell the painting itself to one buyer and the image to an author who's self publishing a book and wants an original cover. Doing merchandise of your most popular images with Zazzle and CafePress. Setting up passive income streams by doing articles on art and art lessons, creating tutorial videos on YouTube.

All this goes into the self employed lifestyle. Major gallerists will still do these other streams and it all adds up to publicity. Creating a newsletter and a contact list for your buyers, updating your blog regularly with news about your career. Making your art career transition entertaining to blog readers is a good choice, because everyone remotely interested in buying it is constantly reminded of you and may buy a painting you did as an example in a tutorial or one that was entered in a show, etc. etc... they keep getting reminded of the particular one they love.

Really use the Internet to your advantage in this.

In terms of life choices for the long term, there are some recent changes that may make it more difficult. The FCC decision on net neutrality may make it harder to get visibility for independent artists and artisans, not sure how that will shake down. It will change things for the worse, but how much and how fast still remains to be seen.

To be cautious, have some savings to fall back on and cut your living expenses as far as you can while transitioning. The less financial pain you go through in changing over the better. But speaking from experience - the freedom is worth the money, the time is worth the loss of the apparent stability of a regular job with a boss and scheduled paycheck.

Life satisfaction is worth more than the numbers in the bank. My daughter followed my footsteps in self employment and is extremely successful at it. I'm disabled and have recently solved the mystery of why my businesses never really took off past a certain point - if something about the market or venue demanded physical work I couldn't do, then I started to decline and about six months later would have a total health crash. My disabilities got bad enough that now I'm retired, living on Social Security.

Pay attention to taxes and to planning. A business plan is a good thing. Think of everything. Being your own boss means making good decisions about time management and effort. The unpleasant parts of the job are what make the rest possible - the paperwork, the planning, the advertising and marketing, the work that's the "running the business" part. All independent artists seem to grumble and get annoyed at it - but successful ones learn those chores, optimize them, get good at them and spend as much studio time as they can. Don't forget why you're doing this.

Don't get too hungry, to the point that you're taking commissions you hate or doing subjects you don't like. Find your boundaries, the point at which you have no time for doing art just for yourself is the point that the business needs you to do something to improve income. Avoid that desperation level, that way lies burnout. I have been through it more than once and gone back to working for other people when I did, only to find that jobs like retail or clerical are soul sucking because I'm actually better off as an independent artist. Retired artist is good enough.

There is a personality factor involved. If you enjoy the setup and planning, like organizing art shows, like paying attention to the business stuff, then you've really got the means for success in your hands.

When the market changes, do something new and add new income streams. Very small companies have the advantage of changing direction quickly and adapting to new circumstances. Some artists get big and found galleries, bringing the whole sales thing into their own roof. Some locations are really good for that. The decision may affect where you live.

Literal local art markets are a blessing. This can be something like a local farmers' market, the trick then is to advertise to the middle class and upper middle class that great art can be found there along with the good organic foods and crafts. Your presence can change the feel of a venue. Wherever other artists similar to your style are selling or exhibiting is a good space - clients and buyers come in looking for that sort of thing and from there it's an individual taste matter of oh I love THAT painting. That one. It's still a personal falling-in-love experience, buying art. All marketing tools and tricks are about making it easy for that event to happen, then statistically accepting those sales as what they are.

Every buyer is also advertising you every time they show a friend what they bought, every time someone visits their house and sees it. Art careers are cumulative.

Moo cards and things like that help, little freebies that carry images of your best works that they keep around for bookmarks and whatnot and then find your video and wow, yeah, I should see what they're doing now... hello new sales.

It's cumulative and deeply satisfying. Retail in general is not a career that goes to the heart, unless it's owner of a mom and pop store or maybe a managerial career. But those things take a different personality. The artistic personality is a bit more suited to focusing on doing art and selling art - and selling art is different from groceries. People don't need it. They need it emotionally and it's something that enriches life.

Oddly, sometimes in hard times people will reach for that instead of necessities, scrimp one level farther to have something like that and draw the line. Because months of doing without followed by a small windfall leads to a luxury purchase for sanity's sake, usually something you thought about for a long time. For me, that was actually art supplies and mediums, a good choice for luxuries because they last a long time and generate income later.

It's a way of life. That's what you're choosing. Actual Jobs with a boss are nowhere near as secure and stable as they were when I was young. They may still have advantages like health insurance in the benefits, but that's usually only while working there and people don't stay at jobs for life. You don't really get work somewhere 20 years and retire thing any more unless it's a military career.

Working for yourself may lose some employee protections, but that's mostly if an employer is ripping you off. Working for your own self, be a decent boss to yourself and recognise when you are working too hard and have no time off to relax. It is easy to fall into that and run yourself into the ground. The key is to have a few hobbies or some alternative styles that you're not marketing, like fan art or coloring books or something to refresh yourself. If everything you paint is for sale, the normal ups and downs of the market will slowly exhaust energy and you don't have the emotional strength. Art never works as a "drag yourself to work no matter how you feel" occupation, while retail does.

I found that out with physical illness, but it goes for emotional burnout too. The quality of the work suffers. I went back to some of the unsold pieces that I created at times right before a burnout crash and discovered that it wasn't "technically perfect but no soul" stuff at all. It was technically bad because I was making errors that I knew better and hadn't done for years, due to sloppiness and distracted laziness due to pain and lack of motivation.

It helps to get into an artisan mindset and take pride in skill and in doing the work well. It helps to enjoy the process as much as the results, to be thinking about how to do it and how to improve it more than who's going to like it or how much money. The money is the means to an end, it frees you to live in the studio. Stay in that mindset and life is really, really good. As happy as you imagine it right now.

Just don't mistake a bad market for something wrong with your art.

Art markets constantly fail and change. It is their nature. When one fails, seek new ones. That's the selling part and it's got nothing to do with quality (unless desperation is sapping quality). But, jobs fail like that too. Locations close, companies get sold and downsize, you never know when things will happen to overturn your life. What an art career gives you is freedom and portability.

You are reaching out to people who need art in their lives the way they need a morning kiss from a loved one. A need that isn't immediate-survival but the longer it's denied, the need for beauty can really consume a person. Your art satisfies those real needs. When a buyer puts it up in their office, they glance at it and have a moment's break from what they're doing. Just looking at it is a little vacation - whether it's abstract, or a fantasy scene, or a landscape or a loved one's face. Whatever it is, art renews people. When times are hard, people need that.

Just like people in the Depression liked blockbuster movies with chorus girls and a happy ending, people in hard times want to have a feeling that there's more to life than work. When they know you're living that life, it extends to them. They know you personally. They know that you're real and it came from someone. The dream of buying art from a real artist is also that of personally knowing an artist. So you're not just selling to your friends. It's more that your buyers become friends, and when they start collecting seriously they're around a lot with a solid reason to like you and become good friends. That's what the whole newsletters and blogs thing is about. It's a real relationship based on something outside "chase the bucks."

And way, way outside "work is something you hate but need to do for the money." Never let it turn into that. That is the point you need a vacation riding horses or cooking outdoors or playing music. And doing art that isn't salable or important. Your sketchbooks are your playground, never make 100% of your art time commercial.

There's a good chunk of my collected experience. It is an occupation that's a way of life and it's a good life. If I was even a little less disabled I'd still be doing it and making quite a bit more money than I used to thanks to increased skill and knowledge. Over the long term, it is cumulative and builds on itself, everything you learn about the business and the process of creation builds on itself for life. Retirement mainly means having an income stream that comes in by calendar to supplement what you're doing.

Which, with a few changes in living situation that are slowly coming down the pipeline, will actually be coming my way. I'll lose the small "disability" check when I have an income again but not the "by age" part and so now have a basement under my earnings, making it a lot easier to make a living.

Spend less money and enjoy life more, it's well worth it. A lot of what you spend on The Job for commuting, work clothes and the like, are expenses that vanish. Artists can look casual and scruffy, except for certain very specific occasions you don't need to Dress Professionally and having paint stained jeans is just dressing the legend. Eating out isn't something that happens as often, but eating in can be more convenient.

It's a lot of little life choices like that. Well worth it. Your heart's right on this. Your knowing to do a business plan means your head's already moving in the right direction on making it real, too.

Robert A. Sloan, proud member of the Oil Pastel Society
Site owner, artist and writer of http://www.explore-oil-pastels-with-robert-sloan.com
blogs: Rob's Art Lessons and Rob's Daily Painting
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Old 12-18-2017, 01:50 PM
dsrandall dsrandall is offline
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Re: Building art business (while working day job)

When in art school I started learning picture framing among other jobs to pay my way through school. I have followed that path into retail art supplies and framing, art galleries and framing, and now art and framing. I used to offer work by other artists with my own in the mix but realized that as the artist, standing right in front of folks, I was selling as much and more of my own work as all the others I had. I now am discontinuing and depleting the others art and selling and displaying my own alone. I have never made all that much money but live and breath the art world. I sell primarily to folks standing in front of me and my work. Not much online. It's a Mom & Pop shop I own. I paint in the front window of my shop and frame others art work too.

Last edited by dsrandall : 12-18-2017 at 01:54 PM.
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Old 02-03-2018, 11:42 AM
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benleb benleb is offline
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Re: Building art business (while working day job)

Thanks everyone for the feedback.

When posting the OP, I wasn't as ease in my new job and managed to change department since, which was a great move. I work mostly late afternoons/evenings shifts which allow me to work on my art during the day — where I find myself to be more creative & productive (than in the evening). Plus, I do between 25-40 hours/week at my job so that gives me more time for my art when my work's schedule is less busy.

I think I have a perfect balance between “day” job and plenty of time for my art. I don't have the pressure of having to create & produce for money and have plenty of time to build my art “business”.

Thanks again for your very valuable input!
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Old 02-03-2018, 03:58 PM
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slyfox75 slyfox75 is offline
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Re: Building art business (while working day job)

Don't you just love it when things sort themselves out! Glad to hear that you are able to work AND paint now!

Keep Living the Dream!
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Old 02-03-2018, 09:46 PM
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maryinasia maryinasia is offline
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Re: Building art business (while working day job)

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Old 02-09-2018, 03:11 PM
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laf.art laf.art is offline
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Re: Building art business (while working day job)

Good for you

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Old 03-03-2018, 02:05 PM
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bvanevery bvanevery is offline
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Re: Building art business (while working day job)

Originally Posted by benleb
I'm trying to find solutions. I need my job to pay the rent but in a way would need to be free of it to put my mind and use my time on developping my art business. I have the freedom to not have a family to care for and mortgage to pay, so I can manage to live with less income. I don't have a lot of money in the bank though so I'm very limited on the financial aspect.

I'm 48 myself. I live out of a car with my dog. That eliminates the rent problem, but I did have to "pay for it" by becoming a proficient amateur auto mechanic. Otherwise my car wouldn't keep running. I cannot afford to pay a mechanic for all the work I've done on my car.

I'm not currently painting out of my car. I have done it briefly in the past, with small works I carried around. It was hard on me, the setup and takedown. Compounded with my lack of joy in painting at the time, I hung it up. You would be much better off, having that portion of your artistic identity and direction "settled".

You would still be left with logistical issues, going this way. Probably would need a storage unit for finished paintings. Or a sympathetic relative, in the urban area you generally inhabit. Problem with either of those things, is the weather changes. I find that during the winter, I'd probably need 3 to 4 months where I'm "fully mobile" and not relying on fixed site storage.

In my case my car is really too small for that. I'd definitely be limited as to the size of work I could do in the winter. If I had a van, I'd be in better shape about that.

I recently considered learning some digital art skills, as it would be far more portable when I'm on the road. However I decided with my tiny budget and my traditional acrylic media experience, it is not the right thing for me for now. For instance, I can't currently afford new computer equipment. I'm working on 2 business class laptops that are 10 years old. If I were to go digital, I'd probably want to work on very large, high resolution screens. That's more of a fixed location, desktop setup, not a road trip setup. I suppose with a big enough van, I could put a desktop office in there, but I don't currently have the means.

I'm supposed to be an indie computer game developer and have many ambitions remaining in that realm. So those complicate my artistic picture. I'm also not currently interested in selling paintings. I need to make some paintings just for me. You sound like you're way past that point, you've got a body of recent work that satisfies you. In contrast, I'm about to create that body of work, somehow.

I will probably end up painting at my Mom's when I'm visiting her, at times throughout the year. If I become more satisfied with that, then I will probably figure out how to store at least one painting in my car at a time, of some maximum size. Take the hit of living with that albatross around my neck.

Even if this doesn't sound like the the most attractive or practical option to you, I thought I would make mention of it. I quit my day job 20 years ago. Endeavored to find myself as an indie computer game developer. Failed, went bankrupt during the dot.com bust. Did survival jobs for several years, like you're doing now. Wasn't willing to do it anymore. Got 1 computer gig where I got paid decently, but the job was a career ender. Lived off that money for a few years. Finally adopted this "live out of a car" lifestyle, which surprising me greatly, has gone on for 8 years now. I never would have believed it. Everything has taken so long to happen.

Yet I have not lost hope, and am still master of my own destiny. Perhaps this year I will finally figure some things out. In any event I'm definitely ready to "graduate" from parts of this. Some parts of it are getting old.

Social disruption when I leave for the winter, is one thing that wears thin. I do not like the loneliness. I at least have my dog. I try to keep myself occupied with historical sites and landmarks, when I'm on the road in winter.

Another is it's really hard to get a date, living this way. Now, maybe if I were actually making money doing this, that would be more doable, although there would still be barriers. I've taken one of the highest levels of personal risk, that a person could take in US society, and still be considered nominally functional. The vast majority of women, in my experience, do not have the stomach for that.

I've met some who have not automatically condemned my lifestyle, and who might even be nominally intrigued by it. But I've met none who are interested in interrupting their own world and sharing mine in any way. If there are any out there, who are not drug addled / best avoided, they are very difficult for me to find. Every so often I consider and review the strategies I've used in that regard, to find them, but mostly I draw blanks.
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Old 03-03-2018, 02:51 PM
theBongolian theBongolian is offline
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Re: Building art business (while working day job)

Originally Posted by bvanevery
I'm not currently painting out of my car.
so you're "Building art business (while not working and not painting)"
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Old 03-03-2018, 04:04 PM
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bvanevery bvanevery is offline
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Re: Building art business (while working day job)

Originally Posted by theBongolian
so you're "Building art business (while not working and not painting)"

Yes that is accurate at this time. I don't currently see any money at the end of my rainbow for working on paintings. It may happen for me someday, but it has to be preceeded by a pretty profound act of soul searching. Currently, I still need to solve the problem of how to lay my hands on aluminum plate cheaply.

I have made the OP aware of the practical difficulties of living out of a car, if he has any inclination towards that, to solve his "rent and boss" problem. I've solved those problems, long ago, but it creates other problems that one should be aware of. You may not be aware, but it is all too common for people to glamorize living out of a car. Then, incredible disappointment often sets in, when six months later a person's life is not actually better.

More of my energy has been going into the game programming problem lately. It has always been a battle, these divergent interests. Computers do stand a better chance of making me money in the short term... yet what I'm actually willing to do with them, tends to be absent money. I imagine I'll figure out how to get computer happiness + money someday, but boy it sure is taking me far longer than I would have ever imagined.

Part of why I'm relating my own life experience, is I believe there is no easy road, whatever road one tries to invent and walk down. Be prepared for that. One's resilience in the face of difficulty, disappointment, and failure, is the measure of whether one can ever possibly succeed on one's own terms.

A fair number of people do run computer based businesses out of their cars, actually. Techies. Remote programming stuff. Last I brushed with such a crowd on Facebook years ago, I couldn't stand that particular enclave. Too gold plated, with no idea how a "no money" guy out in the National Forests would actually solve anything.

Once in my travels, I met a family who was raising their 2 kids on the road. One was a young girl, the other was a toddler. The Dad was an organic farmer, and would work where someone else's land was available. The Mom was a botanical illustrator. She would submit finished illustrations over the web. It was hard on her, trying to focus and keep the toddler quiet and the young girl from getting bored. I was impressed with the degree of emotional restraint I saw her exercise at times. I hung out with them for a few days, before moving on.
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Old 03-09-2018, 07:57 AM
zardoz71 zardoz71 is offline
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Re: Building art business (while working day job)

The idea doing out of a car, seems a bit crazy for my European eyes but if you looking for alternatives I would suggest to look in the way Emma Colbert does it.

She is working on her pastel paintings in a camping van, abroad in Europe with her partner. She posted a video about her studio in the "motorhome".


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