Making a Living from Art (part 2) / by Emma Ashby

I consider myself very fortunate to live in the great, art-loving community of Portsmouth, New Hampshire!
Beautiful shot of downtown Portsmouth by my friend Philip Cohen of

Beautiful shot of downtown Portsmouth by my friend Philip Cohen of

With the support of my friends and community I have enjoyed some success locally, having been accepted in several juried exhibitions, sold quite a number of artworks and been nominated twice for the “Spotlight Award” for ‘Outstanding Abstract Artist’. It has enabled me to get my work into a number of different galleries, in New Hampshire, Cape Cod and Florida. All very encouraging! However, my percentage from the sales barely cover the material costs and renting/running a studio. Encaustic is not a cheap medium! Was this something I could actually make an income from? 

The move to leave my part-time job in retail to become a ‘professional’ artist was a big one. I knew it required devoting a lot of time and energy, not just in constantly developing a body of work, but in teaching others as part of my strategy to become more visible and to earn a living. It also meant being prepared to promote myself every chance I got to remain competitive in the art world. Self promotion is not something I am very good at! Thankfully, I have a very supportive husband who was trained as a graphic designer and who has helped me to construct a website, get on social media and produce videos, all of which have proven essential to increase visibility and create awareness. I am so thankful that I have someone to help me with this important side of the business. I know some artists who are great at it, but not me! Teaching others, on the other hand, is something I love!

I realized that while there are many artists teaching encaustic in other parts of the country, there are still relatively few in New England, which presented a great opportunity to educate people about this medium, and the interest has certainly been growing! What has been encouraging though, is that the majority of people who have registered for my workshops have done so because they were interested in my art and not just the medium. Since I started my workshops and advertised them on social media, I have had people come from as far afield as California, Hawaii, Canada and even Dubai! Who would have thought!

It’s been over two years since launching my art as a business. I am still learning along the way, and there have been the inevitable struggles, but I haven’t looked back. While continuing to exhibit and stretch myself as an artist, I am also teaching six different classes and have a core of students who regularly book in ‘studio time’ to come and use my studio and equipment to work on their latest creation. I am enjoying the new relationships I am forming and loving this new season in my life. The United States is known as the land of opportunity. I can honestly say that coming from the UK, I have found that to be true!

If you are interested, here are a couple of blogs I found helpful about what it means to be a professional artist: Joanne Mattera Art Blog Fine art tips from Lori McNee