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From $0 to $1500 months: 3 shifts Emiko Venlet made to sell oil paintings

By Jessica Craddock

Mar 03

Jessica: I am here for the Artist Success Interview Series with amazing Emiko. She is an artist, a poet, a storyteller, and her paintings absolutely reflect all of that. There's so many interesting things going on inside of her paintings. You can get lost in them.

Jessica: Emiko, how are you today?

Emiko: I am good.

Thank you. Well, thank you so much for having me.

Jessica: Do you want to tell us about your art really quick before we get started?

Emiko: Well, I paint imaginary still life. So, I do use still life materials, but I mean real flowers and still life setting. A lot of it comes from my memories. I collect a lot of images over the years, and those are my favorite patterns and colors, fabric, feelings, texture.

I kind of combine all of that to create a story, so when people see my paintings, they always find thread of their stories in my stories.

That's why I call myself a storyteller, but I am not a story finisher. I let the viewer finish their story, and that's why I write poems. Poems are short; it's never complete.

I liked that feeling. My paintings, yes, like you said, that you will find so many different elements in it. There is no story, the beginning of a story. If there is no ending of a story, it's just that the collections of your memories just all together. That's what you'll find in my paintings.

Jessica: It's almost like a snapshot of the middle of a novel. You're looking at what's going on in someone's life, in a still life. It's very interesting.

Would you like to share the growth of your business in terms of numbers?

Jessica: Okay. Emiko, we talked about if you are comfortable sharing some numbers with whoever is watching this. Would you like to talk about that?

Do you want me to ask you specific questions, or do you just want to share?

Emiko: I don't mind sharing. I started working with you, Jessica, almost a year ago, right? Then when I started working with you, I had zero income from my art. Well, I had a bit, but not significant enough. It was close to zero.

I wasn't making any effort to making sales. I started making more art, the art that I loved back then. It wasn't going into sales, because I wasn't doing anything. Right now I am making $1500 average per month, some months more, some months a little less, but altogether getting to the place where okay. I can grow more. Before there was no mindset for growth because I was like, this is it. People buy, yay, but if they don't, I might even donate my art for free. Now I feel like, okay, I think I can go more and more, so it's a good place to be.

Jessica: That's amazing. I love hearing that.

That makes me so happy. I think that $1500 is what I hear from people who haven't started selling their art yet. Their goal tends to be somewhere between that $500 and that $1500 mark. I just wish I could make that. Once you know how to make that, then you can make it, and you can grow from there. By focusing on, I want to make $10,000 a month, but I don't know how to make $1500. It's a really specific skillset to get to that number, some mindset work and some learning how to do some stuff, and from there you can use those same strategies to grow.

I have three questions for you, Emiko, same questions I always ask.

What has been the biggest mindset shift you needed to make in order to get where you are now?

Jessica: My first question is what do you think was the biggest mindset shift that took you from almost no sales to consistently bringing in $1500ish a month?

Emiko: Right. I do think about hard on this question, because I could go either way, right? One way it could go, well, I got the skills I learned from the marketing skills, and I just used it. Then that made the sale, but then to get there, I had to shift my mindset about myself, about my art, and about my money situations. The biggest mindset that I did was probably this, the more you, you become, the more money you make.

It's so simple, but it comes down to just this notion. I think before that I was trying to copy this person did this, so they made the sale. This person made this kind of art, and that's why they're selling. So I thought, okay, I'm just going to be like other artists, trying to get their style, trying to do what they're doing, and in the process of that I lost myself. Then that just went backfire. It just didn't work, right, and I had a shift. I can't remember how that happened, but I was like, man, if I cannot be them, the only person that I can be is me. I know myself well, but then I don't know myself. I dove like weighty deep into who I am.

The therapist is a good idea, of course, but I'm not digging in the past or anything. It's just that I start to collect and then understand, I love this stuff. I don't like this stuff. Oh, I love this stuff. Why? I don't like this stuff. Why? So it's just back and forth questions to myself, and I'm writing down. Journaling can help too.

Jessica: When you are thinking about who am I, what might you be asking yourself in order to dig deeper, to find the answers to those questions, and how do you remember to do that?

What's your process?

Emiko: I love that question, because I did use this to my students when I taught in the summer, to know what you love and to know who you are. It can be pretty simple, but the truth hurts sometimes. You have to have the courage to face that, but the simplest question that I used to ask a lot was, okay, what are the qualities that I had that I don't like?

What are the qualities in the past that I had and I still have, and people criticize. What are the qualities or characters that I have my parents didn't approve, or maybe I was made fun of. I could collect a couple of threads in there. You don't have to dig too deep to hurt yourself. You don't have to go back to those memories, but there are some threads, and for me, it was, I was a dreamer. I was always a dreamer, and I was always writing. I couldn't write so well, so my sentences are always short. That's why it was easy for me to write poems, poetries, and I always try to find joyful moments. I almost find comical qualities in the tragedies.

I used to hate that quality me, because it makes me a bad person. I turn that around, so I turn those stories about me, turn them around and use them to strengthen my art and myself as an artist. I think I start journaling and writing it down when things get a little bit hard, or when you hear people say about your artwork or yourself, you start to question, is this really true?

If it is true then it must be about me, but it's not bad or good. It's a skill you might need to develop to turn that story around. It's not from faking negative stories into good positive stories. No, I still dream a lot. I'm still a dreamer, but I put different meanings to it, and I use it as a skill and a strength.

Jessica: Okay, I'm going down this rabbit hole, because I want to. Then we'll get to the next question. How does changing those stories help you sell art?

Emiko: I feel confident about talking about my art. When I feel confident talking about my art or pricing my art higher, people don't doubt about you anymore.

I don't doubt about myself, and I don't doubt about my work and the price I put on. There is value, and I give a lot of value to it. That confidence that you just naturally have, because you accepted the part that you used to hate, people just come and they want to buy.

I don't have to push. I know if I push, I don't feel confident, and it doesn't make sales. It's hard truth, but it's that simple.

So it does.

Jessica: It is a hard truth, and it sounds so, you're like, it's that easy. Okay. Well, go do it. Then do it. Go do it.

Perfect.

What one practical step have you taken that has gotten you the furthest?

Jessica: Let's see. Okay. What was my second question? What is the single biggest action step that you took or that you take regularly, that has led to your being able to explore yourself, have that confidence, and sell your art.

Emiko: Great. Making connections.

It's the simplest one, but I did not think about it before. You taught me. It was the most challenging path that I had to take, but I'm glad I did it. That led me to where I am right now with the amount of sales I make. I still remember one connection I made, and I reached out to her.

She reached out to me. That connection eventually led to many more sales later on. It's not that she bought like tons of art from me, no. Because of that connection I made, there are threads, more people are introduced to my world, to my art. Then there'll be more opportunities to teach, to show, so I have to say, that's the action I took.

I'm still glad I took that one little action. I still keep taking it, and I try to remind myself that. Yes, remember?

Jessica: Okay, let's do two more. What was hard about that. Why was it hard for you, and why was it worth it?

Emiko: Why was it hard? Well, I think we're all afraid of being rejected. You reach out and they say, no, I can't do it, or reach out and then you don't hear from them. Their rejection probably was in my mind, and that was the hardest part. Try to make connections. It's not screaming sales right from the beginning.

There are chances that it will not reach to sales. It will not make a sale, this one connection, so I think my mind immediately went, well, why would I make an effort if it's not there? It doesn't make direct sales. That's probably why it was so challenging. It's just not directly rewarding me.

Jessica: It's not you do this, you get this.

Emiko: It's easy, right?

If it's A to B, so clear, then you will do A, of course.

Jessica: Yep.

Emiko: There's B right ahead, but I couldn't see B. I couldn't see what comes after, but the that's why it's so worth doing it. Like you said, it's magic. One connection, it's like a web. I used to think one connection, one sale.

No, it's actually one sell, many more. That possibility that you cannot foresee when you start is totally worth trying.

Jessica: You've got a couple that have just snowballed on you, if I remember correctly. The latest one you were talking about is that you had a studio visit with someone who you were really excited about and hoping that they were going to buy something because they'd shown interest. Then they didn't end up buying, and you were so disappointed. Then she shared you on her Instagram stories or a post or something like that, which led to someone else finding you.

That person has bought how many paintings from you now?

Emiko: Seven or eight.

Jessica: When you make that direct correlation, if I do A, B has to happen. You're going to be disappointed often. You're not going to want to keep going, and you're going to stop. When you do A and see what happens over here, what can I do next, there's always more threads to follow, like you were saying. That drive leads to another, creates a web, makes infinite possibilities from every connection you make. It's just about starting and finding all of those people that you love, that you want to make those connections with to grow. Honestly, I think that is the secret to growing organically.

Emiko: Yeah, I think so, and it's not something that you learn from all the marketing courses out there. They might talk about, whatever, I don't know what they call it, but I had never heard of this magic.

Jessica: We like to talk about magic around here.

Emiko: Yeah, but it's so true, and that's exciting. That gets me going.

Jessica: Yeah, me too.

If you don't believe it, look for the proof. Look at your own life. When have wonderful things happened that you're like, well, I can't recreate that. Where did it come from? What was the initial starting point? My bet is that it came from someone that you feel connected to.

Notice those things, take that in, and use that as your fuel to go do some more. This is not supposed to be a coaching call.

How do you make connections?

Jessica: How do you make connections? What's one way that you, Emiko, make connections?

Emiko: Well, right now my main platform is social media. When I say social media, it is Instagram. When I first started making connections, that was really through Instagram, but I had never thought of checking out local people, not artists. I didn't search for artists, because I had that enough. I was looking for ideal buyers, so I had to look for local shops and local places, restaurants, cafes, organization that I truly enjoy getting to know. It is what people do, but I never thought of just going there and checking what they're doing. If you genuinely like something, give them a line, you leave a comment, engage and you don't have to over engage.

You just go there and show them your genuine interest. That's exactly what I did when I started, and that was scary enough. Believe it or not, but that's what I did. Now I still do that, but right now, it is more, I search for people that I really directly want to connect to. Then I just send them DM voice messages.

Jessica: What do you say to these people? You're like randomly reaching out to people that you've found that you want to talk to? How do you do that?

Emiko: So there's one a florist that I really wanted to work with, but I didn't know what to say. I didn't want to say hi, and just introduce myself out of the blue.

I really did follow her. I did genuinely enjoy her work, so I gave her lots of likes and left comment here and there. I did not hear back from her, but one story. One story that she posted really made me smile, so that's how I started. I just said that was so funny, so I shared my stories, right.

Then I heard back, and I started getting a little bit more detailed, what I read in her feed. She was looking for volunteers to deliver flowers to some local hospitals and stuff, and then she didn't have any staff. I said I wanted to volunteer, but I can't on this day.

I hope everything goes well. So just little conversations, I didn't go directly to, "Hey, do you want to work with me?" I'm like, oh, that's too much.

I started little by little into her world so she feels also welcome, and she wants to get to know me.

Now I've finally told her that I'm really interested in working with you, because I love your design. I love what you do, and here is a suggestion. She replied, "I'd love that." We'll see how it goes, but I'm finally learning to have small conversations in the beginning.

Jessica: Yeah, and it's not that it has to be small or it has to be big, but it has to be something that you can do.

Emiko: Yes. That I felt comfortable enough, but the challenge is always just the beginning. Right. The challenge is to actually do it. Once you're in the conversation, it will flow.

Jessica: Yeah. It's just getting started, stepping outside your comfort zone. I make you do that so much. Yeah. You're tired of me by now I'm sure.

What advice do you have for someone who isn't sure they have what it takes to get to the next level?

Jessica: If someone came up to you and said, I'm not sure that I can do this, that sounds hard. I don't know if I can actually make money for my art.

What would you say to them?

Emiko: Well, I would first tell them to go see you. Work with Jessica, but I think having a good mentor, great mentor will help. It's not what I wrote down actually as an answer, but it really does help to open your mind, let you see the possibilities. A good coach, a good mentor can do that instead of guiding you too much. That's what you have to do.

I've taken tons of calls like that. This is what you're supposed to do to make money, and if you don't follow, then you don't. But it's not like that. Sales doesn't come like that, and a good mentor can guide you and open up that you see the possibility. Look, this is what could happen. Would you take it or not?

Then it is your choice to take it. Yeah, working with a good mentor, I think it's one of the things that I know it costs money, but it'll come back tenfold, I promise. I think it's so true, and that's the first thing that just popped up in my head. I think a lot of people wants to know it is vital.

To me it is really vital, and it's really helpful. I think it really comes down to that.

Jessica: I very rarely am without a mentor. I've been in business for a long time now, and I will not go without a mentor. It's too easy to get stuck in your head and not be able to see what is around you.

Even though they tell me the things that I already know, when I hear them again, refreshes it and I can then go do it. There's just a lot of power in that. What was your other answer out of curiosity?

Emiko: Keep asking yourself this question, is this what you want to do or not, cause a lot of actions we take it's either autopilot or based on fear. As long as it's based on true fear, then any action you take, won't get you to where you want to go. You only take to a place of more fear. If it's something that excites you and you want to do it, and if you want to do it, you want to try, then you definitely see some results. Then you definitely want to continue, and I think that's the important aspect of running a business. You want to do it, right? You have to find what you want to do, what you love. I think it's about knowing yourself better and better, better and better.

And the simplest question you can ask yourself is, is this is what I want to do?

What is your desire? What is it that I want? If this is not what I want, then what do I want? You don't have to get that right away, but sometimes we are so afraid to admit this is what we want that we don't go get it.

If it excites you, then you just go there. If it doesn't, then ditch it and find something else, and that's okay. That's the second advice that I would give, just keep asking yourself questions and you'll find yourself there.

Jessica: I love it. Trying to think if there's anything else I want to ask you.

Anything else you want to add while you're here?

Emiko: No I'm good. I'm good.

Jessica: Okay, well, I'll let you get back to your painting that you're working on. Can we see it?

Emiko: Yeah. You see it?

Jessica: Ooo, look how pretty that is. I love all your textures and patterns. Nice work. Nice work. Okay. How do we find more of your work?

Emiko: My Instagram account is Emiko Venlet, V E N L E T, and my website is Emiko Venlet, the same name.com. (https://emikovenlet.com/password)

Jessica: Perfect, and Emiko is E M I K O.

Last question, what are you doing right now that is exciting to you?

Emiko: Right now I'm working on the group show, so I'm trying to finish. This painting itself is really exciting. Honestly, I love swimming. I think it's really important to find something other than painting that you love doing, and I'm trying to get faster in my swimming laps.

Jessica: That's awesome.

Emiko: It's exciting! I YouTube it a lot, and that relaxes me as well when I see people swim. So strange, but I love it.

Jessica: It's about living a whole life, right?

Emiko: So true. Yeah.

Jessica: The whole thing is important.

Emiko: Yeah. Yeah.

Jessica: All right. Well again, thank you, Emiko, for sharing all of your words of wisdom.

I very much appreciate it, and I'm sure everyone else does as well.

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About the Author

I teach intuitive artist entrepreneurs practical and energetic strategies to create consistent income and life balance.

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