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Painting Life's Moments: A Toronto's Portrait Artist's Journey

Updated: Mar 31

I think it's no secret that people don't flock to art school or aspire to be painters for the financial appeal of the job. Those who pursue this path are well aware of the challenges, and if they weren't at the start, they sure find out soon enough. Though all of this isn't to say that one cannot make a decent living as an artist. I, along with many of my contemporaries who live and work in this high-cost city of Toronto, are proof that you can pursue art and turn it into a career.

In this post I wanted to touch on points such as;

  • How to Thrive as an Artist?

  • Navigating the World of Portrait Commissions: Tips and Insights

  • Things to Remember when Starting out on Your Own Personal Art Journey.

Survive or Thrive as an Artist?

The age-old question for artists remains: do we merely survive or do we thrive? For many, the notion of thriving as an artist seems like an unattainable dream, overshadowed by the stark reality of financial instability and societal skepticism. However, as someone who has carved a niche in the bustling artistic landscape of Toronto, I stand as a testament to the possibility of not just surviving, but thriving in this challenging profession as a portrait artist.

Toronto mural artist
It's me - the artist on this journey! My name is Natasha and I'm a full time Toronto artist

Thriving as an artist isn't just about selling paintings or landing commissions—it's about cultivating a mindset of abundance, resilience, and continual growth. Here are a few key strategies that have helped me and my fellow artists flourish in the ever-evolving art world:

  1. Diversify Your Revenue Streams: Relying solely on painting sales can be precarious, especially in unpredictable economic climates. To thrive, consider diversifying your income sources. This could involve teaching art classes, offering workshops, selling prints or merchandise featuring your artwork, or even collaborating with brands or businesses on creative projects.

  2. Build a Strong Online Presence: In today's digital age, having a robust online presence is crucial for reaching a wider audience and attracting potential clients. Social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok provide powerful tools for showcasing your portfolio, connecting with art enthusiasts, and marketing your services. Don't underestimate the importance of maintaining an engaging website or online portfolio either—it serves as your virtual storefront and can significantly influence potential clients' perceptions of your professionalism and artistic style.

  3. Network, Network, Network: Building relationships within the artistic community and beyond is essential for expanding your opportunities as an artist. Attend gallery openings, art fairs, and networking events to meet fellow artists, collectors, gallery owners, and potential clients. Don't be afraid to put yourself out there and initiate conversations—it's often through these connections that new opportunities, collaborations, and commissions arise.

  4. Invest in Your Skills and Professional Development: The art world is constantly evolving, and as an artist, it's essential to stay abreast of emerging trends, techniques, and technologies. Consider investing in workshops, courses, or mentorship programs to hone your craft and expand your artistic repertoire. Additionally, don't overlook the importance of developing your business acumen—understanding pricing strategies, marketing tactics, and basic financial management can empower you to make informed decisions and navigate the business side of being an artist more effectively.

Navigating the World of Portrait Commissions: Tips and Insights

Portraits hold a special place in the realm of art—they serve as timeless reflections of individuals, families, and cherished memories. Whether it's a striking likeness of a loved one or a whimsical portrayal of a beloved pet, commissioning a portrait is an intimate and meaningful endeavor. As an artist who specializes in portraiture, I've had the privilege of collaborating with clients to create custom artworks that capture the essence of their most treasured moments. Here are some valuable insights and tips for both artists and clients embarking on the journey of portrait commissions:

Toronto portrait artwork commission
One of my watercolor commissions

For Artists:

  1. Communication is Key: Establish clear communication with your client from the outset. Take the time to understand their vision, preferences, and expectations for the portrait. Ask questions about the subject's personality, interests, and any specific details they'd like to include. Maintaining open and transparent communication throughout the process ensures that both parties are aligned and satisfied with the final outcome.

  2. Set Clear Terms and Agreements: Before beginning work on the commission, outline the terms and conditions of the agreement in writing. Clarify details such as pricing, payment schedule, timeline, revisions policy, and ownership rights. Having a written contract protects both the artist and the client and helps prevent misunderstandings or disputes down the line.

  3. Provide Regular Updates: Keep your client informed of your progress throughout the creation process. Share work-in-progress photos or sketches to solicit feedback and ensure that you're capturing their vision accurately. Incorporate any requested changes or adjustments in a timely manner to maintain a positive and collaborative relationship.

  4. Deliver Exceptional Quality: Strive for excellence in every aspect of your work, from artistic technique to customer service. Pay attention to detail, use high-quality materials, and aim to exceed your client's expectations with the final result. A satisfied client is not only likely to return for future commissions but also to recommend your services to others.

Toronto live wedding painter
Me presenting a painting commission to my clients

For Clients:

  1. Do Your Research: Before commissioning an artist, take the time to research their portfolio, style, and reputation. Look for artists whose work resonates with your aesthetic preferences and who have a track record of producing high-quality portraits. Don't hesitate to reach out to them with any questions or inquiries about their process and pricing.

  2. Communicate Your Vision Clearly: Clearly communicate your vision, preferences, and expectations to the artist. Provide reference photos, descriptions, or any other relevant information that will help them capture the essence of the subject accurately. Be open to collaborating with the artist and offering constructive feedback throughout the process.

  3. Respect the Artist's Expertise: Trust in the artist's creative expertise and allow them artistic freedom within the parameters of your vision. While it's important to communicate your preferences, remember that artists bring their unique style and interpretation to each piece. Embrace the collaborative nature of the process and trust that the artist will deliver a portrait that exceeds your expectations.

  4. Be Patient and Flexible: Creating a custom portrait is a labor of love that takes time and dedication. Be patient throughout the process and understand that artistic endeavors can encounter unexpected challenges or delays. Trust in the artist's commitment to delivering a masterpiece and be flexible in accommodating any necessary revisions or adjustments along the way.

Toronto portrait commission
Some of my young and happy clients!

By approaching portrait commissions with clear communication, mutual respect, and a commitment to excellence, both artists and clients can ensure a rewarding and satisfying experience. Whether you're commissioning a portrait to commemorate a special occasion or seeking to capture the essence of a loved one, the collaborative process of bringing your vision to life is a truly special and memorable journey.

Things to Remember When Starting Your Art Journey:

  1. Embrace Your Unique Voice: Your perspective is valuable; don't be afraid to express it authentically.

  2. Practice Consistency and Discipline: Dedicate regular time to honing your craft to achieve mastery.

  3. Embrace Failure and Imperfection: Mistakes are opportunities for growth and refinement.

  4. Seek Inspiration Everywhere: Stay open to diverse sources of inspiration to fuel your creativity.

  5. Embrace the Journey, Not Just the Destination: Enjoy the process of creation and celebrate small victories along the way.

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