Getting Established

I’ve wanted to live and work as a professional landscape artist for decades. Finally, awakening this long-held desire to paint feels incredibly exciting. But painting isn’t just about the act itself. I aim to support myself financially through art, specifically landscape painting. I want to travel and explore the wild places on our planet, capturing their beauty for others to appreciate. My goal is to finance my travels by selling my landscape paintings. The more art I sell, the more places I can visit. Despite never having studied art—opting instead for architecture—I’m essentially starting from scratch to establish myself as a recognized professional artist. There are steps to take and goals to achieve along the way. I can’t rush this journey. Learning through practice and developing the skills needed to compose and paint landscapes takes time. Learning to market my art is an even bigger learning curve.

Becoming an established artist takes time and meeting certain criteria. Currently, I’m not at that point. To gauge my progress, I look at the membership criteria set by the Scottish Artists Union. It’s a demanding list, requiring artists to meet at least four of the following: having public exhibitions, getting commissions, winning prizes or bursaries, having internationally recognized qualifications, participating in artist residencies, having work purchased for public or private collections, selling work through galleries or online, participating in trade fairs, being recognized by art bodies, having work featured in the press, giving talks about one’s art, organizing socially engaged arts events, or teaching art workshops in further/higher education.

So far, I only meet two criteria: I’ve sold £10K worth of work through my website and spent 20 years teaching digital art and design.

Now that I’ve proven I can paint and sell my landscape paintings and illustrations, I am closer to being ready to apply for residencies and approach galleries. However, despite spending a lot of time reading, listening to podcasts, and watching YouTube interviews about approaching galleries, I still need a larger body of cohesive artwork. The Light Movement Podcast has been particularly helpful, offering advice from professional artists on getting gallery representation. They recommend having a minimum of 30 paintings in a similar style and from the development stage before even considering contacting a gallery.

Some might argue that gallery representation is no longer essential in today’s social media and online marketplaces. However, I plan to pursue it later this year. Being represented by a gallery would significantly boost my confidence and open doors to art networks I can’t reach alone.

As part of my journey toward my goal, I applied for the North Islands Atlantic residency. Unfortunately, I didn’t get accepted. It would have been amazing to combine my love for sailing with art. One of the criteria was being an established artist, and with 80 applicants from all kinds of art, the competition was tough. I still need to become an established landscape painter, so I’m one of the 74 disappointed applicants. There will likely be more rejections in the future. Becoming a professional artist might take a long and winding road, but I’m still excited for the adventure ahead. Bring it on!