A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to go to a talk by artist Sarah Jane Brown, where we spend a wonderful Sunday afternoon, sat amidst her paintings in a gallery, listening to her story of how she’s shaped something she loves into a successful business. Based in remote West Wales she exhibits and sells in London galleries, taking a prolific and disciplined approach.
After a couple of decades working in business finance, and experiencing something of a slump of the soul, Sarah set about doing what she had always wanted to do – paint. Through evening classes originally, then a foundation year and degree ( she was student of the year and got a first) she became an artist. Half way through her course she held an exhibition at the beautiful St David’s Cathedral of her work and it sold out… she sensed she was on to something.
Sarah emphasizes how her heart and soul create her work. She works in batches of ten paintings, never knowing what the final outcome will be, but she collects mood and theme boards beforehand. What she does identify beforehand is the emotion and feeling she wishes to convey Then she moves intuitively from one painting to another, so they almost end up talking to each other and having a conversation, until the whole series is completed. It struck me there are parallels here for those of us who are keen to create a series of books.
She took us through a series of questions an art coach suggested to her:
When you were younger what did you want to be?
What are your favourite things?
What are your secret dreams?
I lose track of time when…
If I could be/do/have..
She further suggests adding the answers to these up and crafting them into a life mission statement, starting with My life’s purpose…. Hers is about creating work that inspires a sense of optimism and purpose. Sarah has recorded this mission statement on an app, Sublimator, which plays in the background behind her favourite music. She reviews her mission every year.
While she loves to paint above all else, Sarah spends a couple of hours every day on doing the business of being an artist… and she employs a relation who is a marketing expert for five hours every month to help market her work. She has an accountability partner – someone she skypes once a week, with whom she shares written goals and to do lists and who challenges her – which is reciprocated when Sarah is dodging challenges or skipping over the unpalatable…
Sarah uses social media enthusiastically and has been on courses to learn more about it. Her philosophy is that the more you give of yourself the more you get back, and that people love to feel included in the personal side of a life. She talked about the joy of creating and how the creative process can be therapeutic, but then how boosting it is to let your paintings go when you sell them and they bring value and meaning to the buyer. She spoke of how important it is to value your clients and have a personal relationship with them – to the extent that Sarah has one photo of herself she uses across social media and the same photo is on her business card. She talked about giving little ‘wows’ to your customers (something creative businesswoman Julie Dodsworth talks about) and gave us, her appreciative audience a little ‘wow’ of a takeaway couple of cards of her beautiful work.
Almost all this advice applies to freelance writers too, I reckon, and from Sarah Jane there was much to uplift and inspire. Here’s her website.
Here are this month’s links:
The Invisible College: excellent BBC radio creative writing lessons from likes of Roald Dahl and Allen Ginsberg.
Marketing resources: an absolute monster of a post from the ever helpful Joanna Penn, to keep you busy over the summer.
Joanna is featured in this list too, 20 Writers To Follow On Twitter and I’m certainly going to be adding these to those I follow! If it is summer where you are and you are planning to be writing, then may the word juices flow and feel free to update me on any news and progress you may have over at the course, on Udemy.