Be a Better Artist


Sometimes as an artist you have to do a whole lot more than simply paint. In my over 30-years I have learned that creating art is only around 20% of the story. You need to focus on lots of other aspects too if you wish to become a successful artist and sell your work.

Be a better you
Be a better artist and a better you!


I have written frequently around marketing your work, but what about those little details that would make a huge difference.


I hadn't realised just how important it was to make sure I documented my work in the early days. I lost track of who owned a piece of my art, I even lost track of some of the art I had created. Just the other day I was speaking to a friend I have known for years when she reminded me that she had purchased one of my early landscapes in 1994.

She had still got the work, it was one of my very early attempts at oil painting and featured a Double Decker bus crossing over Westminster Bridge in London. I hadn't even remembered that I had painted this piece, but there it was hanging in her conservatory and she reminded me that she haggled over the price and finally purchased it for the princely sum of £34. I had originally asked for £40, but as she was a friend she had insisted on a discount and made me a promise that she would always own the work and would hang it wherever she moved.

She had moved a total of fifteen times in the years between 1995 and 2016 with her work, each time the piece would be hung in a different room, and it had travelled. It had been to the USA, Australia, and all across the United Arab Emirates during this time.

Then I realised that there was a fair bit of my work already out there but I really didn't have a clue anymore what I had painted over the years. So I started documenting some of my work, or at least the work I can remember. I also found an old book I used to keep my orders in, a total of 108 pieces had sort of been documented, I even realised that two of my buyers had taken out a purchase plan of £5 per month to buy a couple of pieces. It was all in this little book. I also found out I am still owed £10.

So one of the details that you will need to focus on is to start writing the story about your work. I would suggest that you should write it as you create the piece. Why? For many reasons. Firstly it allows you to know where your art is, who owns it, and importantly if you lose touch with the owner they're less likely to buy your art in the future.

Documenting your art also helps to preserve values in the future and it preserves your own history as an artist. It doesn't have to be an epic tome but it should tell the story, maybe even the inspiration around creating the piece. You are essentially writing your own history of the arts.



Get organised
Get organised in everything you do!

You should be keeping up with the latest trends on social media. Frequently the algorithms change on the social network sites and there is a preference for something new. Visual posts always do better than test based posts, although text based posts were favoured even in early 2016.

I'm not necessarily talking about bringing in a picture from your website or print on demand site when you post, but actually creating a well executed post that provides some appealing visuals. You can always add a link in the post, or even add a link in to the picture, but make it as visually appealing as you can.

I have written before about using a different post for different social media channels, Instagram has always been visual, Facebook loves video, Twitter likes text with an image added, and Google Plus is becoming more visual in a different way. Google seems to favour posts that are shared in communities, so if you are not involved with communities then your post won't reach high numbers unless you have a high number of followers.

Pinterest has always been visual, but take some time to also create a description of your visual that will prompt other Pinners to share your pin.

The important thing to remember when sharing posts on social media is to continue a consistent message through different visuals. Take a look at the big brands such as Coco Chanel, Coca-Cola, and Nike, and see how they get their message across consistently, but also differently depending on the social media channel used.


I have no idea why but whenever I get to the point that I am beginning to lose focus I turn in to some kind of crazed domestic God. I start cleaning everything. A tidy workspace is bliss, and whilst they say that untidiness is the essence of creativity, it is also distracting.

Spending just five minutes each day on tidying up your work area means that you will be able to find that missing Prismacolor pencil the next time you need it. This week I spent just 30-minutes sorting out my paper and canvas stock.

What I hadn't quite realised is that I have an awful lot of different papers, everything from cold press canvas, to handmade paper. It had been sitting in boxes to prevent it from discolouration but whilst it prevented discolouration it was out of sight and out of mind. That thirty-minutes turned in to three-hours.

Now I have a few more boxes, but each box holds a different variety of paper and canvas. I can see exactly what I have, and what I will need to order more of, but best of all, it all sits neatly on once untidy shelves. In fact I am now inspired to write a whole post on paper types! You see I love stationery, paper, craft, and art supplies. I can literally spend hours in a stationers or art supplies store. I mean hours, I only come out for lunch.

Talking about discolouration, if you have any paper or canvases that have become discoloured you can still use them! I find discoloured papers to be ideal for use in mixed media projects, and whenever I create some props for use in TV and film, discoloured paper is what I usually need. I sometimes go to extreme lengths to get perfect discolouration, leaving it out in direct sunlight for a few months, using coffee grounds, soil, in fact you name it, at some point it has probably been used to add a certain effect. One piece I created recently was to sit on a desk. That's all it would do, it would never be read, nor would it be visible for more than a second or so. for that piece I had to give the impression that the work had been created in the 1940's.

1940's papers didn't look like inkjet paper so the process began. That process took around six weeks of exposing a cream coloured handmade paper to sunlight, adding a little dirt, more yellowing, and lots of leaving it sitting around.

Theming is taken very seriously not just by the film industry, hotels, theme parks, retail outlets, so if you have anything sitting around, have a practice at recreating something from the past or even the future. The work whilst not that plentiful at times, is out there, especially from indie productions. For the best effects, keep that old typewriter that you have sitting in the attic. It's also so much fun, almost like creating a whole new world. If nothing else it will give your imagination a workout. I will be covering this subject in a future post if you need a start with some ideas.

If you don't fancy recreating historic documents there is still hope for anything you have that has become discoloured. If you have canvases, boards, or anything that you would usually paint on then applying a wash over it after cleaning with a very mild artist cleaner will bring it back to life. In some cases you don't necessarily need to do much at all to be able to reuse it. If it's still not right, use it for practice.


Art supplies are expensive so if you find that you have a stock of art supplies that you no longer use, there's no point in keeping them. You need to be ruthless or you need to trade. Other artists might need exactly what you have, and might be in the same predicament. Many will happily swap some art supplies for other items that they might need.

If you can't trade then donate what you no longer need to community groups, the homeless, or to schools and art clubs. I am discovering that some schools get little to no art budget at all, more on that soon.

If you are a regular reader of this blog you might have already joined my Artists Exchange group on Facebook. A community of almost 4,000 artists, buyers, collectors, hobbyists, and people who really love art. But I wonder how many of you will have considered posting art trades?

Sometimes known as craft swaps, swaps typically take place between strangers and not just necessarily in the same country, state, or region. There are online swaps all over the Internet and a number of face to face swaps.

Usually it involves taking a photo or two of what you have, building up a relationship with the swapper, and then having a sort out and deciding what you need. If you've ever been disappointed with some new pastels, someone else might love them.

Art swaps are also becoming popular, usually for lower priced art, and sometimes between artists. An artist will swap one of his or her works for another artists work. Why? Because occasionally you can sell someone else's work much easier than you can sell your own. I can sell artwork for other people, but when it comes to selling my own even after all these years, it is still a confidence thing. Just make sure if you do participate in an art swap that you are not swapping an original Matisse for a Banksy. You get the idea.

In a gentle way you can shake the world
As Gandhi once said, in a gentle way you can shake the world.



Can't afford to buy new canvases? That's a familiar story for many artists who are starting out. There is no need to despair because the answer could be sitting just a few feet away from you. In my early days I pinged on everything. That new wardrobe that my parents purchased from a once epic furniture store in the UK called MFI. Remember them? I did, I painted my first mural on the inside of one of their most expensive wardrobes.

I would use anything, stones, rocks, wood, and then one day I discovered wood scraps from a local wood working store. They would throw out the off cuts every day, so I would take a walk with my school bag and ask if I could have some off cuts. Every time I went after the first few times, the carpenters who worked in the store would keep them to one side for me. Eventually they even started cutting them to perfectly sized boards with square edges. You just need to ask.

Corrugated iron and steel were particular favourites and as there was a lot of home development going on in the new town that was being built in Shropshire at the time, there was lots of variety. I even used left over tiles that would have been thrown away usually.

Learn to ask and be polite. That's all you need to do. Take a sample of your work, even trade a small piece if you need to, but if you ask nicely, people really will help you.


Here's a detail that most people miss, sometimes you need to adapt. If you are open to new ideas you will become more successful in your art career. If something is not working then change it. Change the plan, not the goal.


If you are serious about breaking in to the arts world and becoming discovered then you need to be able to fail. The fear of failure is why we often don't do what we want to do. Sometimes an artist will win, they will create a stunning work, they will enter competitions, they will walk the length and breadth of the city touting their works to every gallery. These artists know that at every point, in every gallery, they can fail at any time.

Don't hang around. If failure is putting you off then you need to know that whenever a change comes in our lives, or we make a decision, it happens quickly. You might have been thinking of doing something for many years, but the change doesn't happen until that very moment that you take a decision and act on it.

Whenever I hear people say it took me five years before I could pluck up the courage to ask if the gallery owner was interested in my work, what I think is that, no it didn't. It took you five years to think about asking the gallery owner to take a look at your work, it actually took about three minutes once you had acted on that overly long decision.

If we all won all of the time we would just produce the dullest art. Imagine for a moment that whatever you painted you knew would sell. Would you enjoy it, yes. For a while, until your creative passion started to niggle at you for selling out and not being creative. Failure makes you look at things differently, try different approaches, try different techniques, and come up with something that no one else has done. You need some failure to become successful.

As Tony Robbins once said, If you want to take the island, then burn your boats. With absolute commitment come the insights that create real victory.


There is a time in every artists career when they take on a free commission. I have done it myself frequently all because each time I was told that it would be great exposure. What a load of flannel that is. Not once has the exposure ever led to more sales, and in one case the exposure I got was confined to an occasional dinner party when the commissioner decided to hang my art in his dining room.

Don't undervalue yourself as an artist. Keep your prices consistent, and don't offer a huge incentive to buy your original art. Here's the thing, you set a price for an original at say $5,000, and you have some collectors who buy at $5,000. Now imagine being a loyal collector only to find that your last piece sold for $2,000. Now add to that you have just lowered the value of your collectors art in some circumstances. Consistent pricing is critical.

In fact the only times you need to start looking at pricing is when you start selling at the beginning of your career, and again when you have sold consistently, or haven't sold at all, or you get a gallery gig. If you have collectors, think about what price they paid for their last piece from you. Then increase it slightly. If you are not selling, it may be an indication that your work is under or over priced, or currently not in vogue. Generally the rule of thumb is to keep prices moving up gently.

If you display in a gallery, always be ethical when it comes to pricing. I recently heard an artist say that if you purchased his work in a gallery you would pay around $5,000 for a piece this size. He then said, because I haven't got to give 50% to the gallery you can have it for $2500. Now that seems quite logical, except that when the gallery finds out you are cutting them out of their commission, you might not be hanging on their walls.

Even if you have no exclusivity contract, treat a gallery with respect. If you are selling your work at $5,000 in the gallery, make sure that your other works are priced the same on a like for like basis in any other area you sell your work.


Remember also that art buyers need to buy in to the artist and not just the art. That means that you will need to engage with your buyers, collectors, and get to know each other. Be who you usually are, it's much easier to sustain over a longer period of time, and you will be far more respected by your collectors and your peers.

If you really want to do something you will
Do something each day. Spend fifteen minutes a day on you. It will make a positive difference.



I love hearing from artists and art lovers all over the world so if you have something you can add to this feature then please do get in touch. If you know of any useful tips, art material and craft swaps, let me know!

Also if you are a printer paper manufacturer, I will be reviewing various papers for an upcoming post. If you would like your paper to be reviewed, please do get in touch. I will be comparing both low and high end papers using a range of different printers. Prove to me that your paper is the best!


My next blog is a stroll down memory lane, looking at the history of the digital camera, and my top ten predictions for the digital camera of the future. Make sure to add this site to your favourites, and sign up to have my latest posts delivered directly to your inbox. No spam, just great content.


M.A has been producing art for more than 30-years and specialises in abstracts and landscapes. His work is available on this blog, and in more than 150 retail locations across the USA and Canada, including Deck the Walls, The Great Frame Up, Framing and Art Centre, as well as other online outlets including Designer Prints, Earth Prints, Zazzle, and you can purchase directly from Facebook by clicking the Shop Now or Shop button at

You can also purchase M.A's work at and at Fine Art America. Orders placed through Pixels and Fine Art America come with a 30-day money back guarantee and are printed on some of the finest print stock available today.

Small signed pieces are also available directly, so if there is a piece you would like contact and ask for details.

M.A's other products include steel and acrylic prints, museum quality stretched canvases, posters, art prints, photo prints, phone cases, emergency phone chargers, apparel, home decor, towels, pillows, cushions, tote bags, carry pouches, and more.

If you would like M.A to attend a gallery event, review a product, or even speak at your event or function, please email



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