Katie Carey is a writer, artist, and designer based in Denver, Colorado. She writes about the business of art and how artists can turn their practice into a thriving career. She shares her experience as a ceramic artist and entrepreneur through educational resources for visual artists.
Just like most artists, COVID changed painter Jodie King’s path.
She had been teaching what she calls “Honest Art Workshops,” a way for artists to fully engage and express what they are here to create.
King recognizes that an important part of starting out as an artist and building your skills is to emulate the work of other artists. Students often go to museums to sketch the work of the masters or you apprentice in the style of a mentor. Budding artists often sharpen their techniques through this method.
“When I got started, I was inspired by other artists too—I wanted to paint like them. But we can't. That's just a natural progression,” King said. “We shouldn't stay there.”
The in-person “Honest Art Workshops” are designed to help you find your true artist voice and cut through the noise of outside influence. It was April of 2020, the start of the pandemic, that King was scheduled to teach a sold-out workshop in Sedona, Arizona, when it was canceled due to COVID.
Threatened by a significant loss of revenue, King sat down in meditation. The same message kept coming to her. She needed to stay visible during this time.
She decided that, for her, the most visibility came through social media—specifically Instagram—and decided to go Live Monday through Friday to be with her audience during a time where most people were completely isolated. She was surprised by the questions she got. While she anticipated they would be about painting and finding their voice, most of the questions were about the business of art.
Things like, “How do I price my art?” “How do I get my art out there?” How do I maximize social media?” “How do I pack and ship my art?”
After 17 years in the art business and a previous career in entrepreneurship, King knew she could help. She launched a business master class that filled up in less than 48 hours, so she did it a few more times and realized how needed the information was and started “Art Biz for Rebels.”
We had the opportunity to meet with King over Zoom to talk more about her journey to a seven-figure artist and how she is helping others get there.
Artwork Archive: A lot of people have a hard time reconciling the art part with the business side. How do you help them with this?
Jodie King: When I first started painting, it was just for the creativity of it. I had been an entrepreneur in other fields before and I became an accidental artist.
I was living in a small town called Fredericksburg outside of Austin, Texas and they were doing a Christmas Tour of Homes. My house was not some bougie home—it was a little home. It was a sweet little 1914 bungalow that we had remodeled. So, I was painting and I had to clean my house because people were going to be coming through. So I just put some of my art on the walls.
As people came through, they were asking who the artist was, and I was shocked.
One of those folks attending the Tour of Homes owned a store in town, and she asked if I would put my art there. So, that's how it started.
So, I applied a lot of the business practices from being an entrepreneur to that. And then, as the years went by, I kept doing other things. And the art was always a side hustle. I had an organic clothing company with clothes in Nordstrom and Whole Foods. I reconciled the business with the art by going, "Okay, in all of these other businesses that I've had, there was never an assumption that when I started that I was just going to be poor," Right?
But, it was surprising. When I was talking about doing art, people were like, “Well, you better have a plan B.” Or, “It's not a real job,” all the things that we are told as artists. I just thought, “I'm gonna apply these business practices to the art business.” And it works.
I know there is a school of thought of art for art's sake. Just as a purist, we create art for art's sake, and I am down for that. I don't think anybody who doesn't want to sell their art or doesn't want to monetize it, should. That’s not for them.
But, if you do want to monetize your art, in my opinion, you don't have to sacrifice your creativity for the business.
I just think that artists are so valuable—so valuable to us, to our society, to the world, I think we are the storytellers. We are the mirrors. We are the keepers of history. You know, we wouldn't be anywhere without hieroglyphics. I'm just over the starving artist BS.
AA: Something that jumped out on your website is when you said, “true success is from the inside out.” Can you talk more about what you mean by that?
Jodie King: It goes back to the honest art premise. We have to be clear about why we paint, how we paint, and why it's meaningful. Why is it that we do what we do? And, how do we show up 100% authentically? As an example of this, there's a woman who took my “Art Biz for Rebels” course who really likes to paint water, that was her thing. But it wasn't until she got really clear on what it was about water that something clicked.
When she was in the water, under the water, or on the side of the water, she had all of the best experiences of her life. So her authentic voice and her truest self is just becoming bigger because she is honoring who she is from the inside. That is coming out in her art and her expression in so many different ways.
What my goal is through art and creativity is to encourage people to be the fullest, most expressive, highest, truest, boldest person that they can be.
When I talk about becoming the truest highest version of ourselves through the use of art and creativity, we can't do that if we're holding on to all this stress and anxiety and fear and fear of judgment, fear of anything really. So through creativity, we are able to process this, get it out, and become our boldest, most badass results.
AA: What would you tell a student who is having trouble selling their artwork? Either it’s not selling or they don’t know how to price it or where to sell?
Jodie King: When somebody says, “I'm painting, but it's not really selling,” the first thing we need to look at is the quality of the work. Because it has to be there—you have to have quality work. The Color Course for Rebels is about how there are four pillars for visual art.
I think of it as a table—a four-legged table—and all four of those have to be incredibly strong for the art to be strong, right? Those four things are, in my opinion, great composition, great and interesting colors, values—then the fourth one is just so important, it is energy.
We need to be able to know that the artist is in there, right? You can have just white and muted colors and that has an energy to it. That's got a peaceful, calm energy to it.
Whatever it is, it has to be real, that realness of who you are as a person.
If we go back to my friend who is the water artist as an example, she really started selling her work when she started telling the story of the piece. Like, what this piece is and why it's important, and then people will relate to the story. If you just put it out there without the story, nobody's really gonna resonate with it. So, you’ve got to connect to that collector.
There has to be quality and we have to be able to connect. When we put those together, then we can really start selling art.
But the pricing piece is also important. So, we have to look at the pricing and say, “Are you pricing your work in a way that makes sense to the collector?” I always teach it in terms of real estate comps. Let’s say you're going to buy a house. You have two different houses in the same neighborhood. House A is priced at 100,000, and House B is priced at 500,000. But they look similar, and they're pretty much the same. You then have to explain why this House B is more expensive, right? So pricing is key because the collector is not going to go forward unless it makes sense to the collector.
AA: One more scenario: So someone is just starting their art business. They're talented, the work is there and they're ready to go all-in for their art business, like, what do you tell them?
Jodie King: The first step is to understand who you are and why you're doing what you're doing. So that's key. Also, we have to get clear on our money mindset. I've seen so many artists who have great quality work, but because of their own self-worth, they cheat themselves out of earning more money with their work. This goes back to the mindset. They will tell me that their friends or family want to buy their work and then offer them a 30% discount—even when they didn't even ask for it. It all goes back to our self-worth. We have to understand our value. Even if they are your friends or family, they wouldn’t buy it if they didn’t like it.
That's why I'm always championing, “do you understand how valuable you are as an artist in this world?”
Before you created that thing, there was never another thing like that ever done in this world. You birthed a whole new thing into the world that was never here before. Yeah, that's so freaking cool. I mean, that's amazing.
AA: Why do you think having a business mentorship is important for an artist?
Jodie King: I've been painting a long time, and the biggest difference for me earlier on would have been having a mentor that could’ve told me, “Here's how you do this. Here's how it works.”
There's no secret handshake. There's no secret code that only the art world knows about. But, if I had had a mentor, I would have had this information earlier.
The reason I think it's so important for an artist to have this information is that you can have the information from the get-go. That doesn't mean it's still not a long game, but it's made a whole lot shorter. The other thing is that creating art can inherently be quiet—there's a lot of solitude. I love that so many artists are introverts, but to have a community of people that support you when you get into a slump—having a community where you don't feel alone, that you can feel supported—that's priceless.
Knowing that other artists are going through similar things, there are just so many, so many great things about having a community of people. It’s like that saying, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
AA: You talk about the importance of staying organized and art inventory in your course. Why is that so important to finding success as an artist?
Jodie King: I’m passionate about Artwork Archive. One of the women that took my “Art Biz for Rebel’s” course in the Spring just messaged me and told me she just sold a 48” x 60” painting off of Artwork Archive. I think there is a misconception that an artist has to have a dedicated website when they start out. I tell my students you have to have an online presence to validate that you're an artist. If somebody types in your name, and you don't have an online presence, you really don't exist. But, if they start with Artwork Archive, not only will they be able to inventory all of their work, but they will be able to use it as a liaison platform until they are able to make enough revenue to create a cool website—but then I go on and I show them how if you have an exhibition, you can print out the wall labels.
Then I show them how, once you sell a piece of art, you're able to print out the Certificate of Authenticity. Then I show them how they can use it for portfolio pages. Because as an artist, we don't want to look like we're stupid, right? So when someone says, “ Hey, can you send me a photo or information of this piece,” you can send it on a Portfolio Page to that designer that makes you look so legit and professional.
Want to learn more?
Jodie just opened up her premium “Art Biz for Rebels" business course and it is selling quickly. If you want to get down to building a strong business but don’t know where to begin or prioritize your time, this course is loaded with proven detail on creating a more resilient business model. Jodie is offering Artwork Archive members $250 off the launch price. This offer will go through September 19th using the code: ARTWORK250. This course will not be available again until Spring 2022.