The First Painting of 2017!

Happy New Year to you all! I hope 2017 will be a healthy, creative, and prosperous one. I've been thinking a lot about my work/business/career and the way I'd like it to develop this coming year, so I'll be writing about that soon. Also, my website finally has its own shop for 2017! I'm adding new items whenever I have the time, and eventually there will be a selection of prints, original paintings, and painted stones that you'll be able to buy directly from me. You can find the shop here, and I'll also be keeping my Etsy shop open too - I've just had a very busy Christmas on there, which was wonderful! A big thank you to everyone who placed an order during 2016 - your support is deeply appreciated.

So, on to the new painting!

Midnight Walk 3. Acrylic on canvas. 20x20" / 50x50cm © Natasha Newton 2017

Midnight Walk 3. Acrylic on canvas. 20x20" / 50x50cm © Natasha Newton 2017

Midnight Walk 3 was a pleasure to paint - apart from those tiny branches that actually started to drive me a little batty towards the end! ;) But I've really enjoyed painting trees like this again, and I'm now working on the companion piece to this one, so I'll be sharing that soon. I have a lot of plans for tree paintings in 2017 - my new surroundings are definitely inspiring me and it feels as if I'm being drawn back to this subject matter and new ways of depicting them.

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My New Studio & Two Bird Paintings

Let's address the first thing - I have a new studio! Well, strictly speaking I'm in the long process of renovating my new space and setting up a studio with a separate room for a little office too. At the moment I work from a lovely but small studio in Suffolk, doing everything in the same room. I love that little room, but to be able to have a larger space with great light...well, let's just say that I feel very fortunate. It's going to be a lot of hard work (not to mention expense!) to get it up and running, but I'm not someone who's afraid of hard work in any respect, as those who follow me probably already know! I love to work, and all the effort I'll be putting into this new space will eventually mean I'll be able to create art in a more organised and much more efficient way. And I'll be able to work on larger paintings - something I've always wanted to do! I'll be sharing the process of gradually decorating and setting up the new studio in future blog posts.

This is a photo of my current studio, taken in June 2016.

And this is a photo of a small section of the new studio, empty and undecorated at the moment, apart from a large table with a tabletop easel for me to work at! I'll be using most of the furniture from my current studio, but I've also purchased other pieces to add to the new space. I look forward to sharing those in due course!

And here are the two new paintings on canvas - I worked on these in both studios! The one on the left is Two Swallows, acrylic on canvas, 16x16" / 40x40cm, and the one on the right is Eternal Conversation, acrylic on canvas, 20x20" / 50x50cm. Both of these were very special commissioned paintings and each has a very personal story behind it. Sadly, I'm not at liberty to share the stories of these pieces, but it was an honour to work on both of them. I'll be posting all new work (certainly any new collections and major pieces) here on the blog from now onwards, so please check in regularly to see what I've been up to!

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New Paintings & New Prints!

Life has been busy. I'm currently back and forth between two places, I'm setting up a new studio, I've been working my way through a huge list of commissions for months now, and I've just returned from a week long walking holiday in the Peak District. I'm exhausted just thinking about it! The Peak District was, as usual, incredibly beautiful and inspiring. It actually snowed on the day we left, so we drove home through a magical winter wonderland. I took a lot of photos and I'm going to be using them as reference for some new paintings very soon, which I'll be posting here on the blog. I've been busy creating a lot of work over the past few months which I've shared on social media and added to the relevant sections of the website or shop, but I haven't necessarily posted these pieces on the blog. I'm going to start doing that from December, so that this becomes a good record of recent and/or available work that you can easily scroll through to check what's new.

Today, I wanted to share these two new night landscape paintings with you:

Night-time in Fen Meadow. Acrylic on canvas. 20x20" / 50x50cm © Natasha Newton 2016

Night-time in Fen Meadow. Acrylic on canvas. 20x20" / 50x50cm © Natasha Newton 2016

Moon Rise. Acrylic on canvas. 16x16" / 40x40cm © Natasha Newton 2016

Moon Rise. Acrylic on canvas. 16x16" / 40x40cm © Natasha Newton 2016

The first painting, Night-time in Fen Meadow, was created especially for someone as a commission so the original has already sold, but you can find signed art prints of this piece in my shop. The second painting, Moon Rise, is currently available through Junction Art Gallery in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, UK - you can find more details on my stockists page. This is also available as a signed art print through the shop, and both prints are fast becoming my most popular recent designs! I never tire of painting night landscapes, and I'm looking forward to creating some pieces over the next few months incorporating some new ideas I've had - it will be fun to try a new twist on some old favourites!

Having The Courage To Be Yourself

I've decided that I'm going to try to write when I feel inspired to do so, and as I've been feeling ill today with a migraine and I've been unable to do anything much apart from rest and sleep, I thought I'd use this moment where I'm feeling slightly better to do something useful with my day.

Intermission 7, 8, & 9. Acrylic on canvas. 16x16" / 40x40cm © Natasha Newton 2016. Available at Blue Tree Gallery in York, UK.

Intermission 7, 8, & 9. Acrylic on canvas. 16x16" / 40x40cm © Natasha Newton 2016. Available at Blue Tree Gallery in York, UK.

This is actually something that's been on my mind for a while and in a way it isn't art-related at all, but judging by the feedback I've received from several of my readers, you seem to appreciate the more personal posts, so I'll occasionally be writing about other subjects that are close to my heart.

Just to start so you know the incident that sparked this off - the other week I bought a bracelet from a company I hadn't heard of before called Dogeared. It's just a simple bracelet made from four strands of black silk with a little gold bead that you can use to adjust the bracelet to the size of your wrist. I love simple jewellery anyway, but I especially loved this as the accompanying description said something along the lines of making a wish as you put the bracelet on, and then every time you look at it you must remember that when you let your true colours shine, amazing things can happen.

Being someone who has struggled with feelings of low self-worth and self-esteem my whole life, and the doubts that come along with that, I thought that the meaning behind this bracelet was a nice concept. And weirdly, it helps! The other day I started to doubt myself in a social situation. It was nothing major, but I felt those uneasy feelings of self-consciousness coming back. I noticed I was wearing the bracelet, and that little reminder to "let my true colours shine" was all I needed to feel just a bit better. I immediately relaxed. It made me realise that sometimes just a little nudge in the right direction can be all we need, and that how we feel about ourselves really does come from within. Of course, it helps if you've had (or have) people in your life that cherish you, value your feelings and opinions, and tell you - or more importantly, show you - that you're worthy of being respected and loved.

I am lucky enough to have that, but still I fight daily with these feelings from within. I'm going to be very honest here and tell you that I wear make up every day. Some days just a little make up, some days more. But I wear it every single day. The reason for this isn't because I'm vain or that I love myself; in fact, it's quite the opposite. I feel so self conscious without make up that the thought of going out without it - or even answering the door without it - fills me with...well, 'fear' might be going a bit far, but something like it. I long to be one of those women who can get up, wash her face, and run out of the door. But something stops me. And that something is the fear that I'm just not good enough. But the only thing that's stopping me from being that woman is me. I'll tell you something else: despite being well past my teenage years and 20s, I still get spots. Over the past few weeks I've had more spots than when I actually was a teenager! This has made me even more self-conscious of my skin, which is crazy really, because I certainly don't judge other people in the way I judge myself. I don't care if someone else has a few spots, whether their skin is a little blotchy or not air-brushed to perfection. In fact, I like it. So why do I always feel this need to be 'perfect'? I'm searching for a perfection that doesn't exist anyway. This worry about my appearance extends to almost every part of my body. I long to feel comfortable in my own skin, and so all of this is a work-in-progress - I'm trying to deal with and get over these feelings. The reason I wanted to talk about it and be honest about it, is because I think that if there's someone else out there feeling like this, at least you'll know you're not alone and I know from personal experience that this fact really helps.

I find other people's quirks and imperfections endearing, and I think I - or we - need to extend this kindness to ourselves. Even people who you may think 'have it all'; a confident personality, good looks, a wonderful job, a loving partner etc., can still feel the way I do. We never know what's going on in someone's mind, so being kind at all times is very important. If you find someone with whom you can be yourself; the real, vulnerable, imperfect you, and yet they still love you - hold onto them and cherish them. And learn to love yourself in the same way they love you.

Being yourself - your true, authentic self - will draw the right people towards you. So fight those negative feelings, remember that even the most unlikely people can feel like this too, and "let your true colours shine". We may never be fully at ease with ourselves, but we can definitely keep trying to have the courage to be ourselves. Because you are worthy of great things and great love - and that really does start with valuing yourself.

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How I Make A Living Through My Art

A question I am often asked is: How do you make a living as an artist? I've answered this question several times in person and via email, but for a while now I've been thinking it would be a good subject to discuss on the blog.

© Natasha Newton 2016

© Natasha Newton 2016

I actually think many factors are important; such as being authentic, consistent, professional, and genuine, both in the work you create and as a person; being friendly with an ability to be sociable; being able to promote your work without being too pushy or annoying people, and also having confidence in your work and talent without becoming arrogant. All of these traits are important, and will also potentially influence how much success you have as an artist. But having said that, there are some grouchy, irascible, or even just incredibly introverted and shy artists out there who are able to have very successful careers! I am not going to talk in depth about personality traits today, but instead I will focus on the multiple income streams you can explore as an artist & illustrator to help ensure you're earning money consistently, and are able to support yourself and make a living through your art.

I'm certain there are many more ways to earn money as an artist than I will mention in this list, but as I'm writing from personal experience I will concentrate on the avenues I use and those that have worked for me...

1. Selling through galleries & exhibitions.

This is how I started my career as an artist. I was initially a fine art painter (illustration came later) and to get my work 'out there' into the world, I applied to exhibit in small, local art shows. These are a slightly less scary way to start exhibiting, and I learned a lot, gained in confidence, and made some lovely friends along the way. I then made the decision to enter my work into juried art exhibitions in London, where the work goes before a panel of judges and only a small percentage of the paintings make it through to the final exhibition - often around 10-15% at the time I was taking part in these. I was successful in getting my work selected on several occasions, and I not only sold work but I also won an art award (£500 worth of art materials - which, for a struggling young artist, is a lot!).

I then decided to approach some galleries locally in Suffolk, and to my delight a couple of them agreed to exhibit my work. As my art became more known and I became established as an artist, galleries started to approach me, and this is now the case with almost all of the galleries I currently exhibit with! It takes a while and a lot of hard work, but if you're professional and consistent you will find that the opportunities start to find you, rather than the other way around. Although these days I would still approach a gallery myself if I found somewhere I would love to exhibit - the worst they can say is no, and after a while and a certain level of success, you can cope with occasional rejection! Showing with galleries is wonderful for building your reputation and gaining a wider audience for your work, but you have to be aware of the gallery commission on each piece sold; usually between 30-50% of the selling price, but sometimes more. Another avenue is renting a space, either alone or with other artists, and staging your own exhibition. Usually there's a rental fee for the space, but if you sell any paintings you will get to keep the full amount they've sold for!

2. Selling privately & accepting commissions.

I'm often approached - either online or in person - by people wishing to buy paintings directly from me, rather than through a gallery. This is where a well-designed website and a good social media presence is essential. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have all been wonderful platforms for me, enabling me to gain and grow an audience for my work. Check out the links I've included to these sites to see how I use social media to inform and engage with my followers. I also accept many painting commissions each year, and often have a waiting list/backlog for commissioned pieces. These have become a much larger part of my annual income than I envisaged at the beginning of my career! If you feel you're able to take on commissions, I would recommend you do so. They're sometimes challenging, they will occasionally push you in directions you would otherwise not have explored (which for me is a good thing!), but they can be incredibly rewarding.

3. Selling through an online shop.

I've been selling on Etsy in one way or another since 2006 - my goodness, that's 10 years ago now! My current shop has been up and running since 2008, and I still get a thrill every time I see I've had another order, even 1,300+ sales later! I sell many items including affordable art prints, painted stone collections, unframed watercolour paintings on paper, illustrated greetings cards, and large canvas paintings. Etsy has become a large part of my annual income and my most expensive sale on there was around £900. I've sold several large paintings on Etsy and that was something I really didn't expect! I thought it would be a great place to sell smaller pieces, and only added some larger pieces because I thought it would be a good showcase for my work - again reaching a different, wider audience. It just goes to show that you never know what will sell or where it will sell...and you never know until you try!

Another interesting fact about Etsy is that it's where several galleries, shops, art directors, publishers, and magazines have discovered my work - another thing I wasn't expecting!

4. Commercial illustration commissions.

I didn't set out to be an illustrator. I considered myself a painter, and I imagined that I'd try to make a living by selling my paintings. However, as I became a little more known and after I started sharing my work online, companies, art directors, and publishers started to approach me with a view to using my work to illustrate magazine articles, book covers, product labels, and so on. At first I was very nervous and unsure of myself - commercial illustration isn't easy and requires a totally different mindset to creating fine art. There are tight deadlines, strict briefs, often a lot of stress, and a lot of back and forth between you and the client. You are essentially employed by them for however long it takes to complete the project, and you have to deliver the goods on time. It's not for everyone, but as I have grown in confidence I actually really enjoy these jobs - they can sometimes be very lucrative too!

5. Licensing your work.

One essential thing I've learned is that you should make the work you've already made work hard for you. By that I mean; if you license your images to companies or publishers (this can include book covers, greetings cards, prints and posters, or magazine articles, to name just a few), you will receive a fee for work you've already made. This is why it's important to make sure you have great digital copies of any work you create. This can mean photographing or scanning it - anything that gives you a high resolution digital image for reproduction purposes. When you license your work, you can receive a one-off fee for the use of the image, or a percentage of any future sales. In other words: royalty payments. Believe me, royalty payments are a fantastic bonus to your income!

6. Wholesale orders.

Another avenue I've recently explored is selling my work at wholesale prices to shops and galleries, both in the UK and overseas. At the moment, I just offer the art prints (and sometimes the painted stones) in this way, but wholesale orders have meant that my work is stocked in many more venues than before. The great thing about selling your work wholesale is that you receive payment up-front for the goods, unlike sale or return where you are waiting for the pieces to sell before you receive payment.

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I think I've managed to cover all of my different streams of income! One thing I've found is that the more irons you have in the fire, the more you stand a good chance of making a regular income. Also, for example, if gallery sales go through a quiet period, I find that I still have income through my online shop, royalty payments, or commissions etc. I really hope that this article has helped some of you - if you've found it valuable in any way and feel like sharing it via social media or giving it a little bit of love (press the small heart at the bottom!), please do so as it all helps! Thank you.