Read Part One
• I wanted to put myself in a position where I had no choice but to learn solid business and financial skills. Any type of business would help me learn this stuff, but if I was not passionate about it, I wouldn't follow through. (You can lead a horse to water...) To this end, pet portraiture has been a great "boot camp" for me to really learn the business of being an independent artist. I handle every part of it. Some might shudder at the thought of handling the financial parts. But it's especially important to learn that stuff, and even more so if it makes you uncomfortable. (That uncomfortable feeling is just your brain telling your body that you need some experience and improvement in that area.) If you intend to make a career as an artist, you are in the unique position where you simply have to learn how to run your business, and that includes the finances. Plus, since you are passionate about your business, you will learn all this stuff within the framework of something you truly love doing. That makes it less painful and more interesting. When you have setbacks, you learn from it, get up and try again. And when you have successes, it makes them all the more sweet knowing that you are responsible for every aspect of your business. It's a great feeling to have a handle on those things also from the perspective of self-esteem. I've been a life-long math-phobe. Hey, if I can do it, you can do it. Lastly, to learn things right from the get-go will preclude the development of any bad or lazy habits. A good accountant is an excellent, and I think necessary, investment. I have an accountant to help with estimating quarterly taxes and my yearly taxes and though they are not cheap, it feels great to know I am 'doing things right'.
• The over-riding criteria for my business was that it had to be something I was really passionate about. I love animals, and I always have. So, in that way, it was a natural fit. I also liked the fact that it was a kind of wacky, odd niche, which matched my personality. It was something that not everyone was doing at the time. I was sure that it would never be boring. But above all, my whole life I'd always loved creating cute and fuzzy characters through my artwork. Guinness was my first dog as an adult (a black pug, I married into co-parenting him). Guinness was my perfect creative muse, years before pet portraits were even a shimmer on my horizon. I drew and painted him all the time. Both Guinness's personality and his physicality perfectly matched my own creative sensibilities and lit up my imagination. (Today, a portrait of Guinness still hangs proudly in my home). Thanks to Guinness, I'd essentially already been doing pet portraits for a long time and strongly identified with the genre before officially making the leap. I have Guinness to thank for all of the inspiration. He was a wonderful companion and he clearly made a huge impact on me.
Today, though I still keep my toe in the pet portrait pool, my portraits are no longer the centerpiece of my creative work. But all that I have learned about running my own business, consistently pushing myself further than I ever thought possible creatively, and how communication with others and with myself all apply to that, came first to me via the pet portraiture business. It's given me gifts too numerous to mention. It saw my ship out to sea, and powered it to sail high and proud. But the point is, I started *something* with my art. For me, it happened to be pet portraits. But it could have been anything. I was passionate and committed. I made something happen. In turn, it propelled me.
Starting your own 'thing', no matter how small it may be, has an excellent peripheral effect: It's a great confidence-builder. When you take yourself seriously as an artist and as a business person, and you walk it like you talk it, suddenly you will find that others are starting to take you seriously, too. As a career artist, you are a maverick. You are likely going to be paving your own way in everything you do professionally. As a creative professional, by default it comes with the territory. So get used to your entrepreneurial, independent business-person self. Embrace it. Own it! Every new venture you take on will be building on a previous one. Every new experience you gain is wisdom in the bank. In the long run, you will only get richer in all aspects for continually challenging yourself in new and different ways.