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Starting An Art Business

By Aleksandra Freeman

My home business is color pencil portraits and I will tell you a bit about that here. I always loved to draw, ever since I was young, I dreamt of a career in art. I graduated with a B.A. in art in 1997 but that didn’t do much for me. The problem I see with getting an art degree is that there are never business classes offered and that’s a huge block when trying to plan a business.

When my husband and I had children, we decided that I would be a stay-at-home-mom, something I’ve always wanted to do. I continued to dabble in art and, frankly, accidently stumbled across my business. One fall I took a photo of my father and my son in an apple orchard. My husband loved that photo so much that he asked me to paint it. To tell the truth I was a little hesitant...I wasn’t sure if I could do it justice. But I did paint it and it came out beautifully. A few weeks later I showed the painting off at a local playgroup I was attending and immediately got a commission for another painting. And so my business began. Once I began to get commissions I decided that it was time for a business plan. I spent a few weeks researching price plans, contact sheets, basic rules that both the client and I would have to follow. If there’s one thing I can suggest is to definitely research every aspect of your business. I found some wonderful information in books, magazines and online which helped me a great deal. Also, it’s very important to be totally familiar with your medium. I use color pencil. I love the way they look and the fact that they are not messy and don’t take up a lot of room. It’s necessary to know your tools and your papers to achieve the best possible result.

Currently marketing is my greatest obstacle. I mostly rely on word of mouth and I happen to live in a small town. Most of my commissions have come from the playgroups that I attend. Also, because I like to take my own reference photos and I prefer to include an outdoor background, my commissions become obsolete in the winter months. I hibernate artistically until spring arrives but I’m hoping this will change with time and as my client list grows. I have also recently created a website for my art work which I’m using to find clients from all around. This means that I will not be able to take my own photos but I am willing to work from family photos that the clients take themselves...I just like to send them some hints and tips before they take the pictures. I will also be holding an art exhibit next month and plan to place some newspaper ads, so all this should definitely help.

Working around my children is not easy. I have a 4 year old, a 2 year old and a 7 week old, all boys, and they definitely keep me busy. I find that working nights, when the oldest are asleep works out really well. If I am coming up on a deadline, I try to work around the kids, put in a movie for them or have my husband take them is he’s not working. In any case, at times I stay up until three in the morning but the work gets done and my children still have my time. We are also homeschooler’s so it may get harder as they get older but I’m a night person anyway so I think it’ll work out.

So, here’s my advice to anyone interested in this line of work. Know your craft. Believe in yourself. You do not need a college degree to do this. Frankly, I did not study color pencil or portraiture during college and that is what I’m doing, Research the market in the area where you live. As far as I know, I am the only artist of my kind in this area; this gives me the upper hand. Also, if you plan on painting kids, you need to be comfortable around them and know how to get a really good reference photo that is the base of my painting. Realize that it will take a while to get your business off the ground. I have been doing this for almost three years and I’m just beginning to make some money (not a lot of course, but some). Know how much you want to charge and if that is reasonable for the area you live in. Most of all, be true to your art. Don’t be afraid to tell people about what you do. I never leave home without my portfolio book and I always write down everyone who shows interest. Be persistent and you will succeed.

You can visit my website at

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