:: Interview answers are unedited. ::
James Maher, U.S.A. New York | Fine art photography
Art and I
I am a lifelong New Yorker, and like many Manhattanites, am a terrible driver and cook; however, I am an excellent navigator and know where to find the best Chinese takeout. I have devoted myself to mu photography business in New York since 2005. My fine-art photography has been sold and licensed to collectors and companies globally, including Tiffany & Co. and G-Star RAW, I work with various businesses as a portrait and studio photographer, I am a regular contributor (both photographic and written work) to a variety of websites and magazines, and as a certified New York tour and workshop guide, I frequently leads photography workshops. I also have had a multi-year regular feature for the NY Daily News reporting on different neighborhoods of the city through street portraits and interviews with locals.
I have been working on a documentary project since 2012, which consists of nearly 150 portraits and in-depth interviews primarily with long-time residents, business owners, and employees in the East Village neighborhood of New York City. The project has become a historical account of the mid-to-late 20th Century of one of the most vibrant and lively neighborhoods in the city.
Can you live from your art? Do you consider yourself already a professional artist?
Yes abundantly. I have studying marketing, seo, and business development from the very beginning, and this has helped my business grow significantly.
I did a lot of local marketing, marketing with local businesses, websites, and most importantly through my social network. This grew quickly after a steady grind.
I also did a ton of work developing a website and focusing on SEO and guest blogging/writing. There wasn't one breakthrough - it was constant and steady growth.
My steps are to continue growing steadily and expanding consistently. I never planned on going viral - I have planned on slow and steady growth that eventually spirals.
I use lists to keep myself focused - both short term and long term lists that keep my mind on what I need to do.
James, what are the biggest challenges on the way to become a professional artist, what can others learn from your experience?
Time and stress. It's very important to turn your mind off from work as it can be all consuming since there's always more to do.
Always make sure to take some time off and focus on the most enjoyable aspects of your work to keep yourself from burning out.
How important do you think is the traditional art-market (galleries, shows, fairs, museums, critics, curators) in becoming a professional artist?
Somewhat important. I would like to go in that direction eventually, but it's not a sustainable way to make an income. I think of that as the step after I have achieved everything I need to achieve business and income wise.
How do you work online (social-media, e-commerce etc.) and does it drive results?
I do a lot of guest blogging, I create products and reach out to different websites to share what I do and build buzz. I use ahrefs to find new writing opportunities. I'm always searching for new places to share my work. I prefer email lists to social media but use them all. All of my income comes through my website. I don't see any other way around it. It's doable as a significant percentage of your income, but I think it's advisable to have another income source through your art as well while you build up the art sales. It takes time to build up an audience of art collectors to reach a full time income. You need to diversify.
What do you think the people expect from art nowadays? What would they like to see?
They want to get to know the artist. Art selling is a relationship building business.
Plan to spend a lot of time allowing your potential collectors to get to know you.
I don't know much about the art world. I stay away from that world. I prefer to create my own art world.
What advice do you have for artists that aim to make a full-time living from art?
Study marketing and make marketing just as big of an element of your business as your art. Treat your marketing as an everyday thing. Build your local network and local marketing first because that can achieve the largest gains, then go for all the online aspects. My first step was my local community, but I quickly began SEO and link building to build up my online presence.
Build your local network and local marketing first because that can achieve the largest gains, then go for all the online aspects. My first step was my local community, but I quickly began SEO and link building to build up my online presence.
Grind and be smart about how you spend your time. It's very possible to do, but you have to be smart and you have to actively market yourself.
Just realize when something you are doing isn't working and shift from there. Find what works and focus hard on that.
Dalia Ferreira, Venezuelan based in France) | Documentary photography/mixed media
Art & I
Dalia Ferreira is a Venezuelan artist and journalist. Her artistic work goes from documentary photography: cities, identities, mutations and urban transformations.
Ferreira alternates this raw material in her mix media lab. She has participated in more than 30 art exhibits and 13 solo shows.
In 2014 Ferreira was the first Latin-American artist selected by Google Cultural Institute as a Google Open Gallery Artist.
Can you live from your art? Do you consider yourself already a professional artist?
Yes abundantly. I have an intensive activity in my social media accounts. More than 19K in Twitter, 10.9 K in Instagram, Full Profile in Facebook, More than 1.5K in LinkedIn and a great Google Plus.
I don't stop working, communicating, social media sharing and gallery distributing.
Dalia, what are the biggest challenges on the way to become a professional artist, what can others learn from your experience?
The biggest dangers are within each one. When you feel afraid, go to your atelier and get to work. You also need to take time for your marketing actions. This requires time and dedication, but you'll see the results.
1) Create awesome artwork 2) Communicate it in all the ways you can and 3) Go digital !! Don't hesitate to make online catalogs, videos, posts, story telling, animations, a great and engaging shareable content, links, trends.
How important do you think is the traditional art-market (galleries, shows, fairs, museums, critics, curators) in becoming a professional artist being able to live from art?
Somewhat important. The world is changing, new technologies are becoming leading options for the new generation of young collectors. It's actually happening. But we still cannot underestimate traditional ways. Visiting a Gallery and talking to the people person to person will be always better than writting an email that will probably give you the same polite negative answer.
How do you use online (social-media, e-commerce etc.) to drive results?
Thanks to my social media relevance, I was identified and selected by Google Open Gallery as the first Latin-American artist in their platform.
My web site is also among the artist's sites published as a worldwide example of a well done page.
It’s doable to live from online art-sales nowadays, but it takes a lot of online effort. The artist have to work in two ways: his artwork and all the marketing actions to promote it and make things happen.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin, Mail Marketing, Google Plus, Pinterest, online galleries. But posting is not enough. You need to create relevant content about your artwork, you need to create campaigns, to be coherent, also to go beyond publishing in your own timelines and find influencers, communities and to socialize. Go for a combined strategy.
What initial steps should artists definitely avoid, in your experience and opinion?
To create and stay locked. I could even dare to say that I have seen cases where an artist may not be the next Dali but their social media activity is so good that they become beloved talents.
What is your view on today’s art-world and/or art-market? What would you like to see different? Do you think it’s more easy for artists nowadays?
Art has split in 3: A) Contemporary Art (deep investigation in centres and institutes), independency, real creation B) Art Market (auctions, art-fairs, galleries, top 10 art-stars) C) Affordable art for general public (not art experts).
ArtMarket is a big business in continous growing for financial investment reasons. The art-market don't "waste" time in new talents. Galleries think of artists as providers and not as partners. And at the same time there is more ans more people saying "I'm an artist" tha ever before so real artists need to work and move a lot.
Any final advice?