advertising my art business

Hello. I'm a portrait painter full-time. I can draw and paint from life, but I am more comfortable working from photographs in the comfort of my own home. Working at home produces the most accurate likeness of a person, or whatever subject, for me. I use a projector to trace outlines first. When I paint, I use a magnifying glass on top of the photo...look through the lens with my left eye....hold my head still...keep both eyes open....paint the portrait with my right eye. Sort of superimposing the photo on the canvas. This let's me make sure things are the right size and in the right place. Otherwise, without this method, I'm totally guessing.


My business is uncertain right now. I'm not as booked up as I'd like to be. To advertise, I put samples of my work in Frame shops, or dog clinics. I sometimes rent a booth at an art festival. (None of this advertising seems to work very well. Lately, people find me by word of mouth or google). There's one portrait painter in town that will set up an easel outside a frame store. Although his/her artwork doesn't look very good to me, lots of people take his/her business cards. This artist paints from a photo while passers-by watch. I COULD do it this way, but I would produce a product that isn't nearly as accurate as I make at home. Yet, I might get more business if I would just do it like this artist does it. Apparently, the public doesn't care if it's not a perfect likeness. It really bugs me every time I run across this person...only because it makes me second-guess what I'm doing. I'm not sure I'm feeling jealousy...I feel it's more that this artist is taking away customers from me ...when I COULD produce art that looks better (if from my home studio)!

I wish I could find a job that would let me be comfortable with myself, pay well enough, and something that's interesting. I'm not looking to make lots of money, but I don't want to live in substandard housing either.

My family says I should just see this form of advertising as an option. Mull it over. I've performed in front of crowds before..starting with a traced subject. I felt ashamed that it was traced, but why not start out this way? That's a lot of pressure, performing - so I need all the help I can get. But, working in front of people will not produce the best looking portrait that I can produce. (I guess I could also bring my magnifying glass to the performances...but I'd need really bright light). So, I have to ask myself what's important to me. The money or the end product? I don't think I can live with myself producing a product that I know could have been better. I wonder if other business owners see what their competition is doing and ask themselves similar questions. Any thoughts about this? Thank you.

Ben's Answer:

Too much thinking. Not enough doing. There will always be competition. And always someone better than you. Your town is probably big enough for the both of you. If you need to take your magnifying glass and a bright light to set up shop in front of a store - why not do it?

Perfectionism can be the death of a great idea. You can improve your skills, your technique and your results in public, if you practice and try new things in that new setting. I'm sure you're your own harshest critic.

An artist needs to make art. Spending too much time analyzing yourself will just hold you back - in my humble opinion. The world needs more artists! Our world is turning into a cultural wasteland! We should see art wherever we go. It makes the world such a more interesting and beautiful place. You have a role to play. So don't hide out in your house. (Unless you really are happier there). Face your fear and show people what you have to offer. You may surprise yourself.

Best wishes,
Ben Schwarcz, MFT
Santa Rosa Psychotherapist

P.S. If you'd care to post a copy of one of your paintings on this site, I'd be honored:
Art Therapy for Depression

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Mar 02, 2010
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Another way to get drawings transferred
by: Roy

Hi, the portrait Artist who discussed their methods might find SimmTrace useful, you can make your own for free (software is free also) take a look at the video on http://www.simmtrace.com/ a lady called Julia is using it for her portraits.

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