Sagely Advice From Artist Shop Artists

They say if you want to write, read a lot. If you want to draw, draw all the time. If you want to become a Jedi, go to the swamp planet Dagobah and seek out a small green elf-ish man (creature?) for lessons.

The point? Sometimes before you start your shop, create your social media channels, or grab that lightsaber, the best thing to do is to pause and look to those who have done this before, and learn from them.

We talked to a few of our Artist Shop owners, like Tara McPherson, Chris Cooper, and Terry Fan and asked them:

What advice do you have for artists who are trying to start their shop or brand, and are trying to make it work in the art world?

Check out their answers and wise wisdom below. And if you have any advice for what to do/not to do when starting your online shop and brand, leave it in the comments!

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Draw all the time. Make sure your ideas are interesting. And double make sure your design communicates the idea clearly. And please don’t use Photoshop/Illustrator until you really need to.”

– DINOMIKE (Michael Buxton)


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Art of Coop

“Work. Take all the jobs you can take, but don’t do it for free – even if you’re only getting paid a pittance. Make sure they pay you something. If they know they can get it for free, they never start paying you. And don’t copy other artists’ work – you’ll go farther creating something original than riding on someone else’s coattails.”

– ART BY COOP (Chris Cooper)
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Tara Mcpherson

“I always think of success as a trifecta…One part talent, one part hard work, and one part a little bit of luck! There was never some ‘big break’ that I had, it was a nice slow progression over many, many years. I started with a sweet little handful of my passion and love, and it snowballed into something amazing and wonderful. When you’re starting out it may seem overwhelming if you look at the whole success of someone’s career, but taking it in, in little pieces and steps from the beginning, you see that each step is possible. And with a lot of drive and tenacity, you could do it too!”

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Ok. Here are some tips (in no specific order): Push yourself. Do a ton of work. Try new techniques. Study styles that appeal to you. Be nice. Promote your work (your website, design blogs, Dribbble, Behance, etc.). Avoid trends like the plague. Ask yourself: ‘Would I wear this/hang this on my wall?’ Say your prayers and take your vitamins.”

– LUNCHBOX BRAIN (Andrew Gregory)
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Terry Fan

My advice to artists just coming into this would be to seek out the best sites and focus your efforts rather than spreading yourself too thin. Some sites are legit and the staff are nice, but the traffic may be terrible and sales dismal, so in the end it may not be worth the valuable time spent uploading work and setting up an account. There are some useful Facebook forums like “Artists vs. Distributors” where artists share tips and their experiences with various print-on-demand sites. It’s a great place to compare notes and if there is a particular site that is unethical, it’s sure to come up.

It’s also a good idea to stay as organized as possible if you’re on multiple sites. I have a POD site folder on my desktop containing separate folders for each site. With my email I’ve also created little labels for each site and slot emails under the labels as they come in. If you’re not super-organized about it, things will get crazy real fast and there’s no way anyone could possibly keep on top of that.

Another big challenge is maintaining a positive attitude in the face of uncertainty/hardship. Regardless of talent, in such a competitive field every self-employed artist will face difficulties at some point – there’s just no avoiding it. So I think how a person faces/deals with hardship becomes very significant. I try to look at everything as a learning process and avoid using the word ‘fail.’ Really it’s true because there can be no learning without a lot of mistakes and mishaps along the way. If you keep an open mind and don’t put self-imposed limits on yourself, you’d be surprised at what can happen.”

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Parlor Tattoo Prints

You can’t just work hard, but you’ve got to work smart. Be honest with yourself and know both your strengths and weaknesses and pick your endeavors accordingly. Develop a personal style and stay consistent. Use social media to your benefit. But most important, study, train, and practice. There are too many great talents out there and you want to compete as best as you can.”

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 “Don’t force it. Developing a style takes time, lots of time. No one is going to come and knock down your door in the first few years. Practice and learn and grow. Be humble and work hard. The internet makes it easier these days to get yourself noticed. Build a presence and you’ll get a core following. Do the art you want to do, don’t chase ‘likes’ and insta-fame. Do the kind of art you love. Remain passionate and at some point, something will click. You will find your groove and others will notice.”

– WOTTO (Craig Watkins)
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Do it, and do it a lot. I picture it like an RPG game: every time you do it, you gain experience points in that skill. Soon enough you’ll level up!”

– GINTRON (Nicholas Ginty)

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Do you have any advice for artists trying to sell their swag and start their brand? Share it in the comments! We want your input!

We’re an artist community built on the power of helping each other succeed — if you’re reading this and have tips of your own to share, please do so in the comments! Thank you!

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