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How Deeann Rieves had her first six-figure year as an artist

By Jessica Craddock

Jan 27

Jessica: We are back for another round of the Artist Interview Success Series. And I am here with Deeann Rieves, who is someone who I have been around for a long time. I love this girl. She is so amazing and great. And, I asked her to do this interview with me because I know that she is super passionate about helping other artists to reach their goals as well.

Jessica: And so I thought that this would be a really good fit. So Deeann, do you just want to introduce yourself, tell us who you are, what you do, a little bit about your business.

Deeann: Absolutely. Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it. It's always fun to hang out with you any excuse to do something and collaborate collaborates, always good.

I'm Deeann. I am a fine artist to painter. I do mixed media paintings. I use collage and machine embroidery, on painted papers and then use the papers as collage and create abstract. Figure figurative work, abstract landscapes and abstract florals. And I've been in business for like over 10 years, but I would say over maybe the last six to eight have been more serious than those beginning years.

I live in Nashville, Tennessee, and I have two little girls. They are five and two and a half, so that, you know, is a balance daily. It definitely plays a part. And this past year for the first time ever, my friend, Nikki and I launched a mastermind group for artists. So that was a new, fun role to play as a mentor to those artists.

I had done portfolio reviews and a few coaching mentor type things before that. But so that's been a new thing this year, but yeah, mostly just painting and selling my paintings on my website and I do a few, fine art festivals a year. So in-person type.

Jessica: Yeah. And, I remember last year when it was uber COVID-y, you did a basically you couldn't do all of your festivals that you were doing. So you did one on Instagram and that went really well for you. I thought that that was super cool. Good way to go around what's going on in the world and have some creative, fun ideas to play with.

Deeann: Yeah. I can't remember if it was my mom or my assistant that suggested that. And I needed a new booth photo for applying to shows and to do that, you really have to set up like at home.

So that, cause you can take your booth photo to show people like walking by and stuff and you need like a tripod and all the junk. So I wanted to set up my tent in our driveway and then I was like, well, that would be perfect. I should just do like an Instagram live. And yeah, it worked out really well.

Jessica: And last year you had a major milestone even with COVID. Do you want to share about that?

Deeann: Yeah. Last year I had my first six figure year as an artist, which was huge in December. I was like, I'm so glad. I'm so close. I'm like kicked butt till I got there.

Jessica: I remember talking to you and you were like, oh, I'm so tired, but

Deeann: yeah, yeah, yeah.

It was really exciting. A big deal.

How Deeann had a six figure year

Jessica: Do you want me to talk about why I think that happened? Yeah. Let's start there and then I'll ask you those three questions I sent you and then we'll be good.

Deeann: Perfect.

Jessica: So tell me about this year that you had.

Why do you think that it went so well for you even with all the things that could've gone wrong?

Deeann: Yeah. So before COVID and everything, my word for the year was intention. And I really felt in the past I was always sorta like flying by the seat of my pants. Like randomly would be like, oh crap, I haven't released anything in a few months.

And I have some paintings going, so I needed. Release them. And then I would stress and I don't know, I just, I didn't plan ahead enough. And so in 2020, like in January, I mapped out the whole year and all my collections, I mean, some things shifted here and there, but I was like, I want to do four releases or maybe it was three.

And the fact that I didn't have shows distracting me, I think really helped. Now I do, I did go back to doing shows some, the ones that didn't get canceled this year, because I do think that like at one I enjoy them. I enjoy the in-person connection and finding homes for the paintings in person instead of just shipping them out.

But also a lot of my sales were to people in the cities where I do shows. So I had a couple emails that were like, Hey, we were going to get a big piece from you this year. Can we do a commission? So my commissions were up. But I just feel like I was able to set intention for the year and stick to it and in a calm way, whereas this year just adding in a couple of shows I was already, I already was like, I feel like I'm winging it again.

Because at a show I need a variety of work and a variety of sizes. Whereas when you're selling online, it works better to have, you know, I do one body of work and, you know, two or three sizes in that all abstracts, or I did a show in September and I had just released florals. My booth was like a lot of florals.

And, I was mad at myself that I didn't have enough abstracts, but I didn't have the time. But also technically for shows, like if I applied with abstract work, that's what they expect. So it's the pressure is actually real that you should display what you applied with. Even though they're really looking at the caliber of your work in an application, but still, so yeah, I feel like in 2020, I was able to just really plan ahead and do the thing where you work backwards.

Okay, if I'm going to release this this week, then everything needs to be photographed in an ideal world the week before, which means everything needs to be finished by the week before. And if I'm going to have 18 pieces in the collection, how many weeks will that take me? You know, if I finish two a week or I don't know,

Jessica: Does that kind of planning work well? And it sounds like it does, but for some people it doesn't. So I'm just curious.

Deeann: It helps me, but I always end up, and I'm, I'm still trying to figure out a good balance for myself with mapping it out. Like I've been thinking about, okay, this year I felt a little, like I'm winging it again. Like I need to go back to really setting more intention.

But also giving myself, I get takes three or four weeks for me to really feel like I'm getting in the flow with a series, but then once I'm in the flow, I can bust them out. The issue is while I'm busting them out, balancing marketing it because that's when you also have to be like, you know, really on top of it with marketing, And I feel like I've noticed a pattern that the pieces that I finished right at the very end of a collection, I haven't talked about as much because I was like hurrying and squeezing them in.

And I haven't posted about them as much. And if they're a big piece, they don't usually sell. Whereas sometimes when I bust it right before a show and finish a big painting, it's the one that sells. Because you know,

Jessica: You're probably the most excited about it and you're like, right. That's what I just finished it now.

Deeann: Yeah, I think in 2020, I was just more intentional and really when I, it's funny, it's I think I thought I was intentional before that, but then

Jessica: we always are, no matter what it is, we're always growing in it. I feel like I have good life balance, but. A week will pass where I do it better.

And I'm like, oh no, now I'm good at it. And same with, you know, words of the year. And yeah, you can,

Deeann: I remember, okay, four or five years ago being like, why can't I sell out, you know, a collection, but I hadn't really launched my work like that. And I feel like I was doing what everyone else was doing, but then once I actually started doing it more intentionally, it did work more successfully for me.

Just the intention of posting about each piece as it's in progress. And then as it's getting its finishing touches and then groups of them finished together or, bedroom or above the couch or something, you know, well,

Jessica: and part of that too, is that you have done it and then done it again and then done it again.

And you've learned this works, this doesn't work. I can fit this in. I can't fit this in and you're starting not starting to, you have a pattern and it will continue to be a better and better pattern. I think the more, the more releases that you do, but I'm sorry. I think that you are very intentional and I really respect that about you.

And some people can do that really well. Others need a little bit more fly by the seat of your pants, but regardless of which way you go on that spectrum, it's still as a matter of that practice to find out what's working best for you.

Deeann: Right. Well, it's intention and planning ahead. Sort of the way I do my work.

Like I sketch out my pieces before I get started, but once I get started, I'm not like on this tight leash for that sketch, I'm going to do whatever I want, but I like having sketch before. So I like planning ahead, even if I can't even tell you how many times I've been like, okay, I'm going to only have two sizes in this collection are going to be 18 by 24 and 30 by 40.

And then I start working and I make 24 by thirties. And I'm like, this wasn't one of the sizes I said I was going to do. And then I'm like, okay, I'll do three sizes. And then I ended up doing four or something. I just, you know, sometimes yeah. You're gonna have the spontaneous, change the launch date because something happens in your life or, Change, how many pieces you're going to release because you haven't had the time you thought you were going to have, which is what I'm doing now.

Like I used to always, release my, my goal was always like 30. I don't know why I always had that in my head, but I've noticed that a lot of the artists who release online in this style release smaller numbers, I think 30 still works for me because I do shows. And if I were to only release 12 and sell them all, then at the next show I would have nothing.

So, I tend to sell about half and then I use the others for shows and for the artists collective that I'm in. But yeah, so sometimes it's adjusting from those plans, but the fact that you've even thought about it, mapped it out for yourself of You know, four releases gives you three months for each release.

What would that look like? Time-wise for the year with holidays and when you're busy and your personal life or whatever, it's going to help. If you plan ahead of time.

Jessica: I'm a huge fan of planning. I love planning, but then I usually blow it up like 95% of the time I blow up all my plans, but just have having been able to get them out of my head and onto paper is extremely useful to me.

It's like a, a calming effect, but then I can open it up for, okay, now where's the inspiration going to come from? What do I really want to be doing and how can I make that work within what I have set? Yeah, that's a really fun way of working for me. So I just wanted to ask you a couple of questions about specifically last year, you hitting that a hundred thousand mark.

So other people can one believe it's possible for them, but also get a little bit of how to mindset actionable strategy to do so as well.

Biggest Mindset Shift

Jessica: So my first question is what has been the biggest mindset shift needed in order to get to where you are now from 10 years ago to not taking it very seriously to last year, breaking that six-figure mark for you?

Deeann: I think the biggest mindset shift for me, years ago in Atlanta, I had coffee with an artist, Michelle Armis.

Really respected her career. And, she was so nice. And at the time, I mean, honestly, it was before Squarespace was like a common thing. And I didn't have a Squarespace site. I had more of a like portfolio, like the kind of the way in art school.

They were like, you make a portfolio website and you have your CV and you apply to group exhibitions and you shipped the work and they ship it back and you build up this prestigious CV of art shows more power to you if that's what you want to do. But I was making no money. Yeah, I was excited and I loved going to like gallery openings and Nashville, or like driving work to Knoxville or whatever.

But then we moved to Atlanta. And I was like applying to stuff like that and just getting nowhere. And Michelle was like, why don't you have, a shopping cart on your website? And I was like, I didn't say this to her. Cause she had it. But I was thinking, I just think isn't that kind of tacky because that's how they taught us in school.

Don't like, why would you ever do that? And I remember, britt bass, who I ended up getting to know too. And Atlanta, I remember her calling her work collections and I was thinking like fashion, because in school they, it was a series. So it was just sort of like, okay, let's talk in this language that people know.

And let's add a shopping cart on your website because that makes it more accessible because Michelle was like, instead of getting an email. That says, hi, I'm this what I'm interested in the piece entitled, blah, is it available? And what is the price she was like, instead of that, you need to get an email that says this painting sold, ship it.

And, she was like, that happens to me, you know, all the time. And she had an assistant and I was like, I want that. I would love that. And she was like, think about how many people don't email to ask the price. Cause they're like, what if it's, you know, too much and they're embarrassed or it's just, you know, transparency in that kind of thing has become the norm, which I'm so happy about.

Over the last however many years. So I got a Squarespace website and made it a shop like where you could have a shopping cart and then started to sort of think of my work in like collections, which wasn't a huge shift because I had definitely worked in. Series sort of, but that same year I, did, art show at a school, like a fundraiser, like a lot of the schools in the south, like private schools will do a fundraiser art show and you give 30% of the profit to the school, which at the time I was thinking, well, that's great.

Cause galleries take 50. And I did one of those shows in Atlanta and, it was great. And I met tons of really nice artists and all of them were like, you should try outdoor stuff. And I was thinking again, Ooh, tacky. No. And they were like, you can make good money. And I was like, really? And, it was a joke at the beginning.

Me and my husband would laugh because literally every person I talked to about outdoor shows said, yeah, I make about 5,000 a show. And I was like, at the time thinking like, what, how. I never sell anything when I do it, you know? And, and they, but they also said everything you need to buy. It costs about $5,000.

So I was like, why is everything 5,000? And then one artist said, it's not that much. She was like, if you get this tent and these walls, you don't have to buy an RV. Like you can, or trailer like these walls roll up and they're mesh. And so you can put them in your car. And the tent in the walls is like $2,200.

And then you need to buy a little table in a director's chair and start applying to shows. And I was like, okay, maybe I can do that. So I remember this being like a huge conversation between me and my husband. Can I spend $2,500 to like, maybe try to do outdoor shows? But luckily since I was in Atlanta, which is such a big city, there's tons of outdoor shows I could apply to.

Without having to think through a hotel expense or travel expense.

Jessica: those add up too.

Deeann: Right. But when I started to prepare for that first year that I got into, I don't remember how many it was that first year, maybe three shows or four.

I remember thinking, okay, I need 30 to 40 pieces in a variety of sizes. I need it to look pretty in the display. So like now I have this like graph paper that I have, like my booth drawn out and I try to make sure that the pieces are the same height across. Or I'll make a little vignette with a tall piece and then the pieces on the side, or like symmetrical or something.

When I started to plan ahead for that kind of thing and started to think, okay, I need 30 pieces. And then if I sell five or six and I have another show, three weeks later, like I'm going to have to make five or six more that year, just the quantity, making that much work for all those shows. I grew as an artist because I got out of my head a bit with oh, this has to be like this gallery worthy, whatever.

And they were still really nice pieces. Like not to say that I was doing anything less than craftsmanship wise, but just the idea of making so much work. I just got in a better flow of working

Jessica: You got out of the perfectionism trap.

Deeann: Yeah. Or just like the pressure that you put on one painting, and while I was working on a big piece like that, I would start to make small pieces and practice and play and whatever.

And, I just got in a better head space on working in a big collection like that. And then once the shows started, I got so much feedback of from the people's I mean, yeah, you have the random people that are like, say stupid stuff, but not as many as the people who give you good advice. Or I noticed, they would say you know, do you have anything that's vertical?

Like all my pieces were horizontal. And I was like, Ooh, okay, no, to self. Or they would say, do you have a pair? Or I was thinking I needed something, but I want it to be like framed or whatever. So just free feedback on everything I'm doing that I could consider, like obviously,

Jessica: and it wasn't just feedback from some random Joe Schmo.

It was feedback from people who were looking at your work and interested and cared enough to come into your booth and ask you these questions too,

Deeann: right? Yeah. So that year was a big risk. I spent all that money on my tent. I spent forever on my website trying to get my Squarespace website launch.

And honestly, I didn't sell work off my website for, I mean, not significantly for at least a year, maybe even two. And about that same time, Instagram became a big thing. So it was like the perfect storm for me of like I got Squarespace. I started really upping my game on Instagram to make it, like at the time I think I had 600 followers and I took, Emily Jeffords had this little Instagram class that was like an hour long.

It was like $25, which is so funny because now she's like amazing. But like she had this little Instagram zoom, it wasn't zoom, zoom, wasn't a thing, but some little video class and I took it and I just started doing all of her advice. And by the end of that year, I have 5,000 followers, which not to discourage anyone now because the ins the algorithms different.

I don't think you can, maybe you can jump from 600 to 5,000 in a year

Jessica: maybe, but probably not the same way.

Deeann: Probably not. And I remember thinking the next year, oh, maybe by the end of next year, I'll have 10,000. And by the end of February, I had 10,000. It was like a, just a snowball of, and that summer I had my first child.

But Instagram was feeding me to people at that point. I wasn't doing as much of the hustling to get followers. But I remember other artists being like, how much time are you spending on this app? It's ridiculous. Now. They were like, oh, this is it turning to sales. And at the time I remember that year, like the time being like, not really, you know, but now yes, so I feel like it just, everything takes time, building your website and trying out different avenues of selling your work and, building your, finding your people, on Instagram or on your mailing list.

It just all takes a little longer than you think, but it does pay off when you keep doing the work

Jessica: And even with, I mean, I know that the large following helps you as well, but I also know that you are very good at talking to people and networking and meeting people in your area and having coffee with people.

And I feel like that is a huge way that you are able to create a lot of these sales, as well as you know, you do have a really big audience and that's so useful, but am I off base here? I feel like a lot of people that you sell to are people you've had conversations with and maybe met in person, or they saw your work at the show, or all these different little things that weave together to create the perfect storm for you.

Deeann: When I do my collection launches, I released to my email list first for a couple of hours. And that's usually when all the sales happen and my email list. Obviously some people come from Instagram, like pretty much, pretty much every collection I might be having. There's definitely been some where I was having 12 and 15 and 20 conversations with people in DMS.

Last year when I was doing my figure collection, I was taking more of your advice at that time and was aimless killing it on the DMS, just in conversing back with them. Like when I first started the collection, I think you made a post about, when someone said. I like that, or that's pretty ask them why, instead of saying thank you.

And I felt funny about doing that in my comments, but in my stories, it felt very natural. So especially at the beginning of the collection, it was amazing feedback because it was a new collection for me in that I hadn't done figures. Like I said, at the beginning of our conversation, like basically I was doing abstract work for a while, but I always had this dream of rotating landscapes, florals, figures, and abstracts, but doing them on the same style.

And so it was the first time I was going to release a big figurative collection. And then when I was starting to talk about it in my stories and people were like, Ooh, I love that one. I would say, what do you love about it? And just getting started on this collection, I'm still figuring out where I want it to go.

And half the people said, they liked that the girl had a bun in her hair. And I was like, okay, more buttons show the top of her head more and make sure she has a messy bun.

So as I was planning the next few like compositions, I made sure to include her messy bun. So that was funny, but like also just people would say things like, you know, that they liked, I get a lot the colors, they like the colors.

So. Why did I start talking about that? We were talking about, oh, you were saying, yeah, even though I have a big following, honestly, I think the big following is crap. Like my posts don't get seen by that many people. And I, so some of the people in my mastermind group, one of them has 1600 followers and she released a collection of 44 pieces and sold them all within like minutes.

Wow. They were small. But it was because she had this amazing story. She did all the right things. She talked about it for weeks. She built it up. It was a really gorgeous collection. And then I have. There are artists that I am, that I know from shows and stuff who they might have four or 6,000 followers.

And they sell out of their collections every time they release something. So the number doesn't mean all that much, even though I know it's easy to love them. It doesn't. Yeah. It makes you feel a little legit or something, but the point being, if you don't have the huge following, it's fine. That's not going to make that big of a difference.

As long as you're having those, I have sold better. My collections have sold better when I have been more intentional in DMS and with my mailing list, if I send an email, which I'm already kicking myself, because I'm releasing a collection in a couple of weeks and I haven't sent any. So my list, if I send an email like four to six weeks before the collection to say Hey, this is what I'm going to work on next.

Make sure you're following along on Instagram. That usually goes better. Cause they at least have it on their radar. Especially if you think, if you're, if you're wanting to sell bigger pieces, like I sell a pretty good amount of bigger work. Like a lot of my friends who sell out of their collections.

When you add up the number, it's not,

Jessica: it's not about selling out and it's not about how many you sold.

Deeann: Right. So I am, but if somebody is going to buy a big piece, they need to know a couple months beforehand that it's like on their radar, okay, this is the price point. I'm going to spend $1,400 in a couple of months.

So they can say,

Jessica: Deeann, you got homework. When we hang up here,

Deeann: what's my homework?

Jessica: Your homework is to go send that email.

Deeann: Yeah. Yeah. I meant to send it at the beginning of October, but I had a show and I was just like chasing my tail. But yeah, I do need to send the email because even a couple of weeks is better than nothing.

Yeah. Okay.

Biggest practical action step

Jessica: So you might've already answered this question, but what do you think the one practical step that is, that has helped you jump the furthest?

Deeann: Yeah, I guess I did sort of answer that.

Jessica: I mean, like my thought was maybe it was that you were intentional about planning it out, but it might be something.

Deeann: Yeah, I definitely, I would say that's the most practical step I've taken in the last few years. Like just planning ahead, better. Cause like I said, I think I thought I was doing what my like the collection model or whatever, but I wasn't really yeah.

Not in the way that I did in 2020. And it,

Jessica: well, let me ask you a different question then. What were the, what did you think that you were doing? How do I word this? You thought you were being intentional, but you weren't doing it as well. What was the difference between those two?

Deeann: Well, on Instagram, Instagram wise, I think I would think, oh, I've talked about this a lot and. I have a good friend who like awhile back released a collection and then was like, I don't know why you know more pieces didn't sell. And I looked, and I couldn't find more than six or seven posts about the collection and, you know, they, whatever the thing is about, people need to see things however many times, six times

Jessica: I think gone up.

Deeann: Yeah. I just feel like, so once I've gotten through, once I've picked a collection date launch and know the direction of the collection and, and I it's best, if you can title the collection or start talking about what it means to you with the title so that you can create like your unique hashtag for that collection.

And then every post you post about it, you put that hashtag in the text so that if they click on that, they can see all your posts about that collection. And I try to make a story highlight too, like the collection that's happening. And so sometimes my call to action is join the mailing list. Sometimes it's take a look at the collection as it's unfolding and the story highlight or look at this, hashtag to see all the pieces in the collection so far.

And my collections have done better when I ended up having 30, some odd posts with that hashtag. And I've been thinking about it for four to six at least. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, three months would be ideal, but usually, like I said, it takes me about a month to get in the flow. And so that month I'm usually like juggling commissions.

And then like playing and planning the next collection.

I don't remember what we were talking about.

Jessica: We were talking about social media posts. You say you do about 30 in it. It does better if you hit about that number. And then, if you start emailing four to six weeks ahead of time, what did you do? One a week, right?

Deeann: No. And I wish when you're now in your. When I'm releasing, I try to send one at the beginning when I'm like, Hey, this is what's happening. Next, last year, I was better about, I would send one like two weeks before. So it worked really great this one time when I actually did what I wanted to do, which was I, I created a blog post. Like the, the work I was releasing was on paper.

So I created a blog post about framing. I did my like real big newsletter, say sign up for my mailing list, push three weeks before the collection. And at the end of that, I sent out the blog post to my email. Remember that blog post about framing. And so then in the DMS on Instagram, the people that were like, you know, talking to me, I would say, Hey, Did you sign them for the mailing list?

Like you should have gotten an email yesterday about framing. And a few of them were like, oh no, it went to my spam or whatever. So like they were able to fix it before the collection launch day, because I sent an email like two weeks before, anyway, ideal, but I certainly don't do that every time.

Email is definitely somewhere where I could step it up. I don't do any

Jessica: well, you can't be perfect everywhere.

Deeann: My assistant wants more hours. I was like, okay. And that would be emails. Like you can help me with, actually doing that.

Jessica: And I think I'm sure you have a lot of stuff you can repurpose to.

Deeann: Yeah. Well, and I haven't blogged in a year. I mean, like that was, I think that was the last time. I blog like once a year, so we get up that to.

Jessica: Okay. Last question. And then we'll go have kiddie time.

Advice for someone who isn't sure they can reach their next level

Jessica: What advice do you have for someone who isn't sure that they can make it to their next level, whether that's six figures or whether that's 1500 a month or whether that's a hundred dollars a month, whatever it is.

Deeann: I'm big on goal setting. I remember for years, my goal was 400 a month. And then for years it was 800 a month. I don't remember anything in between there. And then it was 1600 or were like, you know, whatever. Like I just, I think it's good to have a goal and to be aware of. Your goals. But I, my income, even though I did hit six figures last year, and this year too, it's pretty inconsistent.

Like I'd have months where I make 2200 or 2,500 and it's literally just like finishing up two commissions and they both pay me the second half of the payment.

And then like when I have a collection launch, like there w if I have a collection launch and a show, those months will be like 16,000, and the month before that is always really low because. Making the work.

Jessica: you're cranking it out. Yeah.

So, I think that that's probably are, even though I talk about consistent income in my mind, having a $2,000 a month and then a $16,000 a month, that equals an $8,000 average. I don't think that most models of selling art are going to get you the exact same amount of money every single month.

There might be some places where you can get consistent with it. But if you're like doing collection releases and shows and outdoor shows, it's going to go up and down. That's just the way it is planning for that.

Deeann: And like, when I say now my low month is 2200, like I remember just a couple years ago, I had a couple low months.

$400 or one month, like literally once I added my expenses up, it was like I was in the red which, but then I made up for it the other months.

Another piece of advice I would say, so a few years back, I was at a creative conference and they were talking about like your big north star dream. What is it that you really want?

And at the time and still really is I wanted to sell big paintings and have them in beautiful homes. And when I did my books that year, cause I'm really bad about not doing any of my bookkeeping, like January from the whole year before, I've gotten a little better, but still not great. When I did my books, I took some time to do more calculations that I had never done before, which was like dividing it into like, how many big paintings did I sell and how much did that make me and how many medium paintings did I sell and smalls and works on paper.

And then last year I added prints. So that was another column. And then what was the average sale price of those three or four columns? And that was really helpful. But way back then, what I realized was what I wanted to sell was big work. And I had only sold maybe four or five big pieces that year, but I had only made four or five big pieces.

And it was like this aha moment of okay, I've got to stop putting so much pressure on, if I'm making a big piece and I still do this to this day, if I have a big panel, I put it off for a little longer. Cause I'm like, okay, I really want it to be good. I really want it to be like something that someone's going to love or something.

Whereas my small stuff, I feel the more freedom to play because I'm like, I don't know. I know it'll sell because it's easy. Like a smaller price point. But, I realized I needed to make more big painting. If I wanted to sell big paintings, I needed to make more big paintings

Jessica: Can't sell them if they're not there.

Deeann: Yeah, exactly. It's you know, if I wanted to sell 12, I needed to make 20. That next year, I did sell a lot more big pieces because at the time I was more intentional about making sure to create big work and yeah, some of those hung out with me for longer. I drug them to six or seven shows and then they would eventually find.

Jessica: That's a really big issue that I come across with people a lot as well. I really want to do this, but I can't do it yet. I have to, and I'm not saying that's necessarily what you did, but I have to play down here because for whatever reason, I'm not good enough. I can't do it yet.

They all of these reasons why I can't because, and I feel like. 90% of getting what you want is clearing out that I can't, because, and just saying, I'm going to do it anyway, and then making it work because it will work if that's where you are putting your intention and your focus.

Deeann: Well, and if it's, if it's big work like literal big paintings, it's a lot to figure out like, and no one, like an artist one time told me like, oh, I always bring one really giant piece to a show.

I don't ever expect to sell it at the show, but it leads people into my booth and it starts conversations about custom work. And I thought that's brilliant because if people can't see the large scale, where. Like some people might be able to be like, could you make me something huge? That's like this, but you've gotta be able to show them like even, one time in one of my portfolio reviews an artists was like, I really want to make like really big pieces and work with interior designers.

I was like, well, then you gotta make some big work because even an interior designer, who's a visionary. Doesn't know what your large work looks like if you've never made any and I can't tell you how many times someone has liked a small piece and wanted a commission of a big piece. And it is such a puzzle to figure out like how to go from small to big on something very specific like that.

But if you do it for yourself, okay, how do I make my work? Because. Well, for me, I have to use bigger brushes and bigger, you know, like I can't use the same materials. And so you have to be able to figure that out before you try to pitch those big pieces to anybody.

Jessica: Well, I mean, it's like I just bought a house today but I've been looking at houses for a couple of months now.

And even though I can see things that probably a lot of non-creative people can't see the houses that have the furnishings in them that were, you know, already set up so you could see what it might feel like to live there or so much different than the ones that were blank or were full of junk. And so just helping people to feel what it's going to feel like.

See what it's going to look like. It's going to make a huge shift for you compared to just, oh well, you can see it, right. You know, you give me eight grand.

Deeann: right. Yeah. Like even on Instagram. So many times when I start a conversation with, especially another artist, I'll go check out their account. And most, so many times their account is literal painting, painting, painting, painting, painting, you know, it's like full squares, full color, no wall space, no change in the depth of field of this isn't a big room or this is like the painting from the side or the painting from like across the room.

Or the painting next to another painting. Like I think just varying so that you give people, like you were just saying like a vision. More of a vision of the work. The other thing years ago, I didn't mention, I realized, for my work, like I have to include a really nice detailed photo because I play up the embroidery, like that's part of my artistic voice.

So like I have to include a really nice detailed photo. So I always have the frontal photo, photo, a detail, like texture photo. And then if I'm offering frames, I have to show it framed. And then having a piece like in a room, or even just if you have a really nice dresser or something in your studio that you can always prop the paintings on back up a bit, put a, you know, flowers next to it, or a plant or something, you know, it's it just gives people like, if you're, if you think about.

If you're going to spend $600 on a painting or $1,400 on a painting and you're looking at it on the computer, you're going to want four or five photos and angles of that piece. So that you feel like, you know what you're getting

Jessica: exactly before you get shipped to your house. And you're like, this is not exactly what I wanted and that's even a bigger mess.

So it's almost like a customer service thing at that point.

Deeann: Yeah. Yeah. And for like, when I do minis, I don't do that many photos, but I used to, you know, for a while you've got to show, I don't know. It's that's how you show you're legit. Not that you're in a gallery or,

Jessica: well, and you also mentioned that you like to have at least 30 Instagram posts that gives you, I mean, you're also making 30 pieces for your collection, but for those who are making smaller collections, that gives you more ways to play with the same work, which I think is really great to showcase things more than once. So it's not just, oh yeah, I made a post about it and nobody bought it.

It's more of a, like you were talking about it. We'll talk about it some more. I'm going to talk about some more, not just the six or seven Instagram posts and wonder why people aren't buying it.

Deeann: Yeah. In organized like the hat, the like individual hashtag thing is maybe I know when hashtags first started, I was like, this is so annoying, but it's, it helps organize it for you honestly.

Like I like going to the hashtag myself and being like, oh my gosh, I haven't posted one photo. of this Piece.

So that'll be my next post. I can see how many posts were about like, you know, if each painting needs two or three posts, maybe not for all the minis, you can have a post, where they're together.

But, yeah, it like I've went and looked for a collection that I remembered from an artist, and I literally couldn't find it in her feed anywhere. And she had mentioned it once. And you don't want that, you know?

Jessica: No, but at the same time, this is all advice considering weird, trying to sell from Instagram, if, and from your content on Instagram.

And that's one really specific way to. To market yourself and that's great. And you absolutely can do that. And there's otherwise, maybe the, maybe they have all theirs put out locally and they're selling it that way, or they're going to shows like you, so there's lots of different ways to do it. But if you are trying to sell through Instagram, you need to have a strategy where you're putting yourself out there quite a bit.

Deeann: Yeah. And now you got to do videos.

Jessica: and now you got to do videos. At first, I was like, oh, I don't want to do video. And I was like, wait a minute. I, I like video. I can do video.

Deeann: Well, like most new things. I'm a granny at first. And I'm like, I remember when stories came out. I was like, oh my gosh, one more thing to do.

And then I started to really enjoy stories and, So many of my Instagram posts and reels just like totally bomb. So I'm kind of like, okay, I got to just keep going.

Jessica: I just think you do a great job in your posts and then your stories. I don't know that I've seen that many reels from you, but I haven't been on Instagram whole lot lately.

Deeann: Well, I think, you know, it's easy to overthink reels and think it has to be fancy or whatever, but if it's short and sweet with a really small caption and like more like stories

You know, you want your post to be intentional, but sometimes you gotta go ahead and post it and move on with your day and not put so much pressure on.

Okay. Just a minute. All right. Well, you've got a lot going on. You answered all my questions. I can let you go. You got stuff to do, but, I did want to tell everyone in case they are not familiar with you, where to find you, how to sign up for your newsletter or your Instagram handle.

Jessica: It's @ deeannrieves right?

I'll put a link. And, your website is the same, right? www.deeannrieves.com. You can sign up for her mailing list if you're curious what she's about. Definitely follow her on Instagram because she is a big, shiny light over there.

Deeann: Hey, I try, I try. Yeah. All you can do.

Jessica: Yeah. Well, thank you Deeann, for indulging me and everyone who is so curious I know "behind the scenes, how does it work?" Now you know. Yes. All right. Having a beautiful day.

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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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