Resources for Artists

In contrast to the many stereotypes about artists, I love selling my work, I love business and I love treating my artistic practice like a business.

I am fortunate to have worked at an ad agency for seven years; while there, I learned so much about marketing in general, and digital marketing specifically. Over the past few years, I have written a lot about marketing for artists, and more broadly about advice for artists just starting out. I have collected all those posts here so they are easy to find and get to. I also have a couple resources focused on actually painting (rather than on the business aspect of being an artist).


Painting Supplies List

This PDF helps you make sense of the overwhelming aisle of paints and brushes. I share my favorite colors and when I think it’s important to invest in top-quality supplies and when I think you can save.

Paint Mixing Guide

I’ll admit this chart and the instructions seem way more confusing than they actually are. If you can figure this out and make your own guide, it will be an invaluable tool. I have used mine since Painting 101 at Tulane in 2006.

How to Not be a Starving Artist: Part 1

This post talks about being visible, being open for business and being professional.

How to Not be a Starving Artist: Part 2

This post talks about being open for business and the logistics of actually making sales.

How to Not be a Starving Artist: Part 3

This post goes into detail on being professional and shares the top five things that I think help you look like a pro.

How to: Art Festival Set-up

Showing your work at an art festival is no joke. This post gets into all the details about tents, walls, lights, weights, rain…you name it.

Pricing: A How-to For Artists Just Starting Out

We all know pricing is one of the hardest things for artists. This post will help you think through how to price your work.


What else would you like to learn? Let me know in the comments or email me at catherine@catherinefreshleyart.com.

Annual Report: Year Three of Self-Employment

My last day as someone else’s employee was just over three years ago – March 31, 2016.

You can read the long story about why I quit here.

I reported in after the first year and again last year. I’m doing it again for year three because, well, I need to know whether this being an artist thing is working. And a lot of you want to know whether it’s working and artists a few steps behind me want to know whether they can do it.

It’s working. You can do it. And it’s not easy.

I am thankful every day for each one of you – whether you simply take a few seconds to comment on an Instagram post, show up at one of my events, hang my postcards on your fridge or buy multiple paintings per year, I couldn’t do it without you. So, in a shareholder-type way, I feel I owe you this annual report.

Here’s what’s up…

All numbers are April 2018-March 2019.

Business stats

  • Revenue growth: 8%. In year two my year-over-year growth was almost 100% -- I feel like I was still getting up to speed then, so perhaps maintaining and then some is something to be happy about for this past year.

  • Paintings sold: 91 + 30 daily paintings on paper. Last year I sold 104; I sold 78 in my first year of self-employment and 18 during the year leading up to quitting my job.

  • Clients that bought more than one painting during the year: 10

  • Repeat customers from previous years: 10

  • Commissions completed: 13 (I did more than 30 the year before, which wore me out. I decided to not take commissions for much of last year.)

  • Shows and events: 10

  • Studio visits hosted: 9

  • Employee’s names I know at my closest USPS: 5

  • Hours I’ve spent loading paintings in and out of the truck: Wait, this isn’t all I do?

  • Wholesale accounts: 2

  • Additional stores carrying my work in Wichita: 1

  • Instagram follower growth: Um, lots – I think close to 400%

  • Months-long professional development classes taken: 2

  • Website visitor growth: 45%

  • Email list growth: 47%

  • TV appearances: 2, both on Wichita’s ABC affiliate’s morning show; here and here.

  • Speaking engagement at the Wichita Art Museum: 1 (!!!!)

  • Solo gallery shows and residencies: 1 (my second!) Read about it here.

  • Donations to charitable organizations: 3

  • Classes taught pro-bono to children: 2

  • Freelance/consulting hours worked: 22. I worked 78 in my second year of self-employment and 428 in my first year; my original plan was to freelance half-time, but being an artist has gone better than forecasted.

Life stats

If you read the long story of why I quit my job, you know that quality of life was a big reason. Success on all the business metrics is what enables all of the following, which are much more important.

  • Evenings spent not working: Almost all of them. While I love working and could probably work all the time, this is a very intentional decision to support the health and longevity of my marriage.

  • Bunnies and fireflies counted on my evening walks with my husband in the summer: 143

  • Days spent not working and not traveling over Christmas: 7? 10? I don’t know but it was amazing.

  • Week-long trips home to see immediate and extended family: 3. We have to live in Wichita for my husband’s job, so me having flexibility to travel home is significant.

  • Family birthdays I was actually home for: My dad’s, my mom’s, my aunt’s and my nephew’s

  • Duck blinds built with my dad: 2

  • International trips: 1, Spain

  • Additional, short trips with friends: Kansas City, Washington DC area

  • Times we have been to Elderslie Farm (our favorite restaurant in our new home of Wichita) for their monthly tasting menu, a three-hour affair: 4

  • Times I want to go back: Every month (every new menu)

  • Workouts: I haven’t been working out as much as last year, but I work out every other day and more often add a workout than skip one. I’d like to be slightly more active.

  • Meals cooked for friends because we like entertaining: Lots

  • Meals cooked for friends because they needed a helping hand: Lots

  • Times I made this cobbler: Too many. It really is the easiest and absurdly delicious. I add cinnamon and ginger, depending on the fruit.

 

Five myths about buying original art: Why starting your collection is easier than you think

Recently, I took to Instagram stories to discover some of the reasons people don’t buy art that they like (beyond not being able to afford it). As suspected, I uncovered some super interesting misconceptions and hang-ups people have. I’m here to disprove these myths because everyone should have things that make them happy and that bring beauty to their walls.

You need to be a gazillionaire.

Short story: If you have disposable income, you can afford art.

Okay, okay, so art can be quite expensive (of course), but it isn’t always. Depending on the size, and especially if you are buying from an artist early in his or her career, it’s pretty easy to find original art for under $100 and especially for under $500. Look at my collection of small pieces. These ranged from about $50 to $250 each.

Bottom left:  Molly Whalen ,  Erin Spencer , me. Top right:  Erika Lee Sears ,  Polly Jones ,  Sari Shryack , Cuban street artist,  Donna Walker .

Bottom left: Molly Whalen, Erin Spencer, me. Top right: Erika Lee Sears, Polly Jones, Sari Shryack, Cuban street artist, Donna Walker.

I’m not saying $100 isn’t a chunk of change, but there are a lot of things people spend $100, $500 or even $1,000 on without thinking twice. A new phone when your old one still worked just fine. A little shopping spree at the beginning of the season. Dinner and a movie (and movie snacks). A gym membership you’re not using. Going out for lunch every day. A designer purse. New cars every few years. A weekend getaway.

I learned that a lot of people have disposable income, they are just buying other things instead of art. So, can you actually not afford original art, or do you just think you’re not the type of person that can buy it? Are you prioritizing other things and have you evaluated whether your spending aligns with your values?

Certainly, if you are struggling to make ends meet, I am not advocating for buying art over groceries, etc.

You need to have a huge house.

Many people think they don’t have room for art (I understand that some truly don’t), but you don’t need to have a giant house to start your art collection. And even if you want to go big, you might be surprised to realize that you have a couple options for hanging large pieces in your home. The painting below is HUGE – 5’ tall by 4’ wide. See how it fits just fine between my two normal-sized windows in front of my normal-sized table and chairs?

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This painting over the fireplace is five feet wide! Even in our home full of windows, there are several other places we could hang these big pieces.

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You and your significant other need to agree on it.

I’m lucky in that my husband is very creative and is interested in art and design. We have an eclectic collection of art and furniture that we have found and made over the years. So yes, when looking for things for our main living spaces, we look for things we both like. But surely you have at least a little space over which you have sole jurisdiction.

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This map over my dresser is so big that it fits in the “we both need to like it” category, but the little pieces on my dresser? That’s my territory. You might have a desk at home or work. Or perhaps you or your partner have a man cave or a she shed or a large walk-in closet or dressing table where you could display small work.

You need to have interior design know-how.

I don’t know the first thing about interior design. I just know what I like. My husband and I have a range of art in our home. When buying art, you don’t need to worry if a painting is going to look good next to the one other painting you have, because you probably aren’t going to hang them right next to each other! With the exception of my collection of small paintings, our art would not look great hung side by side. But mixed in with our furniture and other décor pieces (blankets and pillows on couches, lamps, coffee table books, vases, flowers, decorative dishes, etc.) it all looks very “us” and tells our story.

This is a limited edition screen print. We love this rapper and went to this concert on our anniversary. We framed it in a cheapo frame from Wal-Mart or something.

This is a limited edition screen print. We love this rapper and went to this concert on our anniversary. We framed it in a cheapo frame from Wal-Mart or something.

I love this colorful  Erin Gregory  giclee print from One Kings Lane, but hope to “upgrade” soon and put a piece of original art here.

I love this colorful Erin Gregory giclee print from One Kings Lane, but hope to “upgrade” soon and put a piece of original art here.

We commissioned this buffalo by  Kasie Sallee  to commemorate our time in Oklahoma.

We commissioned this buffalo by Kasie Sallee to commemorate our time in Oklahoma.

You have to frame it.

Sure most paintings look great in frames, but there is no rule saying you must frame paintings. Many artists will sell their paintings ready to hang on a wall without a frame. Custom framing is rather spendy; if you’re dead set on a frame but can’t handle the additional expense, buy the painting now and frame it sometime later when you have the funds.

*****

So, that’s it! Buying original art isn’t as big of a deal as you might think. What did I miss — what are some other reasons you haven’t purchased art that you like? Does this make the whole thing seem any more approachable? I’d love to hear from you.

Arnold Gallery Residency at STUDIO | SCHOOL

I am honored to have been selected as the first recipient of the Arnold Gallery Residency at STUDIO | SCHOOL in Wichita, Kan.

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STUDIO | SCHOOL, Wichita’s former Metro Boulevard Alternative High School, was purchased and upgraded by Logan Pajunen, who envisioned a space that would bring artists and entrepreneurs together to foster community and collaboration. The building features multiple artists’ studios and a high-end gallery space. The Wichita Eagle covered the school’s reopening with an article and video.

At the beginning of March, STUDIO | SCHOOL and Pajunen welcomed me for the first school’s first residency.

The Arnold Gallery Residency invites artists into the bright, spacious gallery to work, making it a place of active creation. The residency also includes a Final Friday show and reception, as well as the opportunity for the artist to host a talk or critique.

I have spent one week working in the gallery and am completely in love. While I also love my home studio, the gallery at STUDIO | SCHOOL is huge and bright. (See my Instagram videos of the space here.) I have the ability to display and view multiple paintings at once and to view them at a distance. I love the old, wood floors and high ceilings. I also love being around other creative people and leaving my house to go to work.

STUDIO | SCHOOL will host a Final Friday reception for me on Friday, March 29th, from 6 - 10 p.m. You can see the Facebook event for Final Friday here. STUDIO | SCHOOL is located at 751 George Washington Boulevard in Wichita. The residency will continue through mid-April. Please contact me if you would like to come visit.

Who Knew I'd Want to Paint Mountains?

In late October, I traveled to Eastern Oregon to visit my little sister. She lives in a tiny ranch town nestled between rolling hills of hay and craggy, imposing mountains. Despite growing up in Portland, I had never spent any time in the eastern part of the state.

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This was a good trip for a couple reasons: my sister and I don’t get to see each other very often and I really enjoyed my 48 hours with her (and all the Arrowhead Chocolate we ate).

But also, my husband and I expect to move home to the Northwest in about a year and a half. While I wouldn’t hesitate to say that the PNW is more beautiful than Oklahoma and Kansas, I have never been compelled to paint mountains and 1,000 trees.

So while I can’t wait to move home, I’ve had this nagging concern bubbling up about what I will paint when we get there. (Of course, I can continue to paint flat land and big skies, but I’ve found that it doesn’t hurt sales to paint the scenery that your local market knows and loves. Plus, I only paint from my own photos, so I need easy access to views I want to paint.)

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I saw a painting everywhere I looked while visiting my sister in Wallowa County. The big sky, the remoteness, the wheat-looking crops felt familiar and the mountains, at turns purple, pink with the rising sun and a deep blue, called my name in a way that surprised me. This unexpected desire to paint these scenes was a relief; it felt like the beginning of a transition toward home after what will be 15 years away, like my artistic sensibilities were “getting ready” and I could trust myself to not let me down.

CatherineFreshley_Wallowa3.jpg

I came right back to Wichita, sorted through my hundreds of photos and immediately covered a dozen canvases with the first coats of paint. The series (which also includes two paintings from the most special place to me – Oysterville, WA) is now very much in-progress. I hope to finish it and make it available to you by the second week of December. I’ll send an email a couple days in advance to let you know the exact date and time that the paintings will be available on my website. Email subscribers will get first dibs.

Annual Report: Year Two of Self-employment

My last day as someone else’s employee was two years ago – March 31, 2016.

You can read the long story about why I quit here.

A year ago, I reported on my first year of self-employment and I’m doing it again. I love numbers and metrics so you better believe I am keeping track of all this for my own nerdy enjoyment, but also, in an annual report-type way, I feel I owe this to you.

Every purchase you make is an investment in my dream. Your purchase conveys that art is a valuable component of our lives and that being an artist is a worthwhile vocation that deserves compensation. It tells me, emotionally, that I should keep going. That’s important because though I love painting and building a business, it’s not easy. But in addition to the touchy feel-y, this exchange of art for money allows me to keep going. I am fortunate that my husband has a great job, but I have always loved making money and not making money is not an option I give myself. If I don’t sell paintings, then I have to go back to working for someone else. Back to helping someone else build their dream. No thanks.

All numbers are April 2017-March 2018.

Business stats:

  • Art revenue growth over the previous year: 98.9%
  • Paintings sold: 105 or more than two per week. I sold 78 in my first year of self-employment and 18 during the year leading up to quitting my job.
  • Calendars sold: More than 100.
  • Calendars gifted: More than 20. These two stats make me especially happy because I worked with a local printer to design and produce them.
  • Cards and prints sold: Lots
  • Clients that bought more than one painting during the year: 9
  • Additional repeat customers from previous years: 6
  • Commissioned paintings completed: 34
  • Minutes spent looking for the end of the tape on a roll of packing tape: 43. I now only buy 3M. It's worth the extra dollars
  • Shows and events: 9
  • Events at which I definitely didn't cover the cost of my time: 3
  • Instagram follower growth: 360%
  • Website visitor growth: 213%
  • Front page features in the Enid News and Eagle: 2 (here and here)
  • Emails I sent to reporters and interior designers that went unacknowledged: Feels like dozens
  • TV appearances: 2
  • Solo gallery shows: 1 (my first!)
  • Five-day plein air painting workshops: 1 (it was amazing; read about it here)
  • Professional sports teams that commissioned a huge painting from me: 1 (Oklahoma City Thunder)
  • Original paintings donated to charitable organizations: 3
  • Additional donations: 3
  • Bad paintings that I painted over: At least 4
  • Words written about how to not be a starving artist (aka free advice for other artists and small business owners): 7,357 (start here with post one)
  • Weekly, hour-long, video status calls with my mom: Every week so far in 2018. She recently quit her job to focus on her multiple artistic interests.
  • Freelance/consulting hours worked: 78. I worked 428 in my first year of self-employment.

Life stats

I quit my job because I can’t not paint. But with a full-time job, I could only paint nights and weekends, which meant that other aspects of my life weren't getting the attention they deserved: my health (eating well, exercising, sleeping) and my relationships with my husband, family and friends. Without hesitation, I would say that my health and my relationships are more important than painting, but it was easier to ignore those than my easel. For that reason, these “life stats” are hugely important to me as a significant indicator of whether this is working.

  • Evenings spent not working: Almost all of them. My husband and I went on a lot of walks after work or after dinner during the last year and spent a lot of evenings in our inflatable hot tub. Yes, that’s a thing and it’s awesome. It allowed us to actually spend time outside in the summer in Oklahoma. Don’t heat it and you have a little pool!
  • Winter Olympics events watched: So many. I’ve never watched so much of the Olympics in my life and it was fantastic.
  • Players I can name on the Portland Trail Blazers' roster this year: 11 AKA I've never been such a good fan
  • Friends’ weddings attended: 3 (Portland, Milwaukee, Minneapolis)
  • Week-long trips home to see immediate and extended family: 2
  • Additional, short trips with friends: Santa Fe, Dallas, Monterey, Carlton Landing, OK, West Tennessee, Oklahoma City
  • Books read twice: 1 – I read and re-read Daring Greatly by Brené Brown because it was so good.
  • Five-workout weeks: This is my new thing and I’m loving it. I’ve been working out five days a week for the past 10-ish weeks. I haven’t worked out that much since the last day of high school track practice in 2005. (Between 2005 and 2017 I probably averaged 3 days per week.)
  • Hours meditated: 15
  • Meals cooked for friends because we like entertaining: Lots
  • Meals cooked for friends because they needed a helping hand: Lots

You guys. You are making this happen for me. I have replaced my income and my quality of life (and my husband's) has vastly improved. "Thank you" doesn't begin to cover it. XOXO

"Beneath Blue Skies" Opens at Wigwam Gallery in Altus, OK

UPDATE: Show extended through March 30.

I am pleased to announce that my show, "Beneath Blue Skies: The Landscapes of Catherine Freshley," curated by Aaron Moses, is now open at NBC Oklahoma's Wigwam Gallery in Altus, Oklahoma.

CatherineFreshley_Wigwam

The show features 15 original paintings of Oklahoma and Kansas, four of which the bank has purchased for its permanent collection during the past two years.

Moses said, "The landscapes of Catherine Freshley succeed in capturing both the appearance of the rural American landscape and the sensation unique to walking or driving in great open spaces."

This is my first solo show at a gallery and I am honored to have this opportunity. The gallery is hosting a reception on Thursday, March 8th at 6:30 p.m. I hope you will join me.

CatherineFreshley_Wigwam1
CatherineFreshley_Wigwam2

Wigwam Gallery is located at 117 W Commerce Street in downtown Altus and open by appointment only, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. To schedule a showing, email Moses at amoses@nbcok.com. The show hangs through March 22.

Stillwater Medical commissions six paintings for waiting room

I am pleased to share that I now have six paintings hanging in the waiting room of the new Stillwater Cancer Center in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

REES, out of Oklahoma City, was the architect and specified my work for the project. I was hired by D&K Art Design, an art consulting firm. I worked with D&K to develop a body of work that would fit the space and their color scheme and, of course, hopefully bring peace and optimism to the center's visitors. Four of the paintings are 36"x36" and two are 40"x40."

CatherineFreshley_StillwaterCancerCenter2
CatherineFreshley_StillwaterCancerCenter1
CatherineFreshley_StillwaterCancerCenter3
CatherineFreshley_wheatinEnid

Stillwater Cancer Center is a division of Stillwater Medical, partnering with Oklahoma Cancer Specialists and Research Institute.

To learn more about my corporate work, click here.