Making a Living with My Art
Laurel Mill, watercolor
Making a Living with My Art in My Senior Years
My goal in my senior years is to survive by making a living with my art, which includes writing, photography and visual art. Since recently becoming the victim of a corporate layoff I have decided this is the opportunity to concentrate on marketing my artistic talents. At age 67 I didn’t relish the thought of job hunting and learning new skills. I wanted to turn the skills and talents I already have into my job. Now I have the time to devote to it and I am working hard. I’ve been self-employed for most of my adult life, so it’s not like I am not used to making my own living. As a young married woman I took in sewing so I’d have spending money. Once the children were older I began working with horses. I worked in the horse industry for thirty plus years as a riding instructor, trainer and boarding stable owner. After I was divorced I supported myself and my grandchild running my own business.
I began my writing career after my children were grown. I wrote in my spare time while running the stables. Even after retiring from the active horse business I kept on writing. I now have six published books to my credit. The photography came about as a way to strengthen my freelance writing. It is always a plus to be able to provide good photos along with my articles. I did the photography for The Book of Draft Horses and The Book of Mules and then began showing some of my work as fine art photography.
- Increase knowledge - I’ve enjoyed painting since I was a child. A friend paid for my first art lessons when I was twelve. I continued painting until after my children were born. Then art took a back seat to the horse business and several years as a single “mom” raising a grandchild. Recently I enrolled in art lessons again, this time honing my watercolor skills. I also am taking a photography workshop. I am a huge fan of online video tutorials to learn more watercolor and photography techniques.
- Shows and Events - Necessity being my best motivator I have entered as many shows as possible. I have several events coming up, some combining art and book signings in one. I am vigilantly on the lookout for opportunities to sell my art and books. It is awesome when I can combine both. I sometimes go with a friend to split traveling expenses. That allows both of us to participate in events further away from home while reducing our overhead.
- · School Visits – I love working as a visiting author to schools. I have several presentations I do, depending on what the teacher requests of me. I talk about North Carolina’s wild horses and the part they played in our history. I share with students some things I learned in my research about the Native American’s who lived on our coast when the first English explorers arrived. I also do writing workshops and explain how a book is created – from the author’s idea until it reached the bookstore shelves. I always leave time for Q&A and signing books. Schools pay a fee to the author as well as allow us to sell our books.
- Online Marketing – I have a website to promote my writing and school visits. Included is an events page to announce book signings, presentations and art shows. I have an Etsy Store for my watercolors and photographs to show my work to folks worldwide. When I add new items to my Esty Store I post the link on my Facebook page. I also made a Facebook page titled “Books by Donna Campbell Smith.” Here I post my events, links to articles I’ve found about the Outer Banks which is the setting of my children’s books, wild horses, history of the Native Americans that lived during the historical period in my children’s books, writing blogs I find interesting, and anything else I think might intrigue my readers. I want that page to offer information as well as promote my books. I use my Twitter and Linkedin accounts to network and announce events or share links to online articles I’ve written. I participate in online writers and artist forums.
- Networking – Beside my online presence I look for opportunities to network in “real life.” I am a member of my county chapter of the Arts Council and am a board member. I attend art events, visit bookstores and galleries, sign up for workshops and facilitate a writers group and give writing workshops myself. Networking, both online and in real life, have led to many good opportunities as well as direct sales of my art and books. I found a publisher through a writer’s forum, was invited to submit photographs for a museum display, and was offered the opportunity to write The Book of Miniature Horses in collaboration with the photographer who’d taken the pictures. That led to my writing and photographing two more horse books.
While pursuing all of these opportunities to grow my art and writing into a business that will pay the bills I am feeling very confident. I am working on balancing the promoting end with the creating end, being sure I always have something new and fulfilling to do. So, far the bills are getting paid and I still can lunch with my friends.