Becoming a Successful Self-Representing Artist

Matt LeBlanc Artist - Becoming a self-representing artist

Matt LeBlanc Artist

Is it better to strive for success as a self-representing artist or try to get your feet wet in the gallery world?

That is such a common question these days among artists. I truly believe that most artists will come to a cross road where they will have to decide on which route to take as it’s extremely hard to be successful in both worlds.

About six years ago, before starting my art career, I made sure to research the art market and ask myself that very same hard question. It was very apparent to me back then that the self-representing route was my true calling. After selling over 2,500 works worldwide and amassing a fan base of more then 25,000 fans in less than 6 years, I can definitely say that it was the best decision of my life. The past six years weren’t easy but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

I’m often asked why my work is not in galleries. For me it was really about being able to do my own things. I have nothing against galleries. I’m just a true entrepreneur at heart. I want to create my own strategies and my own marketing campaigns. I want to create my own destiny. I like to be my own boss.

I get almost daily emails from other artists asking for tips and strategies on how to be a successful self-representing artist. Before I get into a list of my top strategies to achieve success, you have to really ask yourself if your personality is right. Be really honest with yourself. Could you walk in a room full of business people and start at least four conversations? Can you sell yourself in 3-4 sentences by saying more then “I’m just an artist”? To be a self-representing artist, you have to be a rocking entrepreneur.

matt leblanc Becoming a self-representing artist

In order to succeed, you have to sacrifice who you are today for who you want to become tomorrow.

This sounds so easy but it’s not. It’s like loosing weight. You have to sacrifice who you are today (your eating habits & exercise) for what you want to become tomorrow (the best shape of your life). Same thing applies in business. Are you willing to make huge sacrifices so you can be successful? Most artists will say yes but don’t really truly mean it. SACRIFICE is the key word. You have to want it really bad not just kind of bad.

Over the years, I made huge sacrifices. I had two jobs for five years putting in 70-80 hours a week. I needed to bring my business to a point where I could leave my day job and have no financial stress. That was a big sacrifice but I made it. I’m not saying that everyone should do this way but it was surely the right way for me.

Be an entrepreneur at all cost

In order to be successful, as a self-representing artist, you need to spend as much time “on the business” as you do at creating. This might be hard for a lot of artists but that’s what will make you successful. You can have the best art in the world but if you don’t have a strategy to sell it, then it will remain in your basement. Again, you need to have the entrepreneur attitude. If you don’t, you have to seriously think about getting an art agent or focus at getting into galleries that will sell for you. I’m constantly thinking about where I can take my business and how will I get there.

Be creative outside the canvas

Becoming a self-representing artist

If you want to focus on only one thing, this is probably it. As artists, we are all creative. However, artists that can be creative outside their canvas will have the most success. What I mean by that is stop trying to do like the others and start thinking about how you can do it better. What creative things can you do to get notice and get people to start recognizing you?

I’ve built my career on thinking outside the canvas. A good example is my show FUSION. Instead of having your typical wine & cheese art showing three years ago, I’ve created an evening of art & entertainment that is now becoming one of the most popular show of my region. The show sells out consistently at 500 tickets and is a great example that we can achieve the impossible as artists.

Think strategically

Stop focusing on the now and focus on the future. We get so consumed in our daily lives that we forget the future. We work on today without thinking about tomorrow. The problem is when tomorrow comes and there’s no work, that’s when you start panicking. I make sure to schedule at least an hour per week to plan my next month and my upcoming year. Always work towards your goal and how to achieve them. Positive reinforcement on your goals will get you there. It sounds silly but visualize yourself where you want to be and you will eventually get there. It’s that simple.

Diversify your efforts

One of my key strategies over the years was to make sure to build multiple revenue streams. If one fails, I have many others to fall on to get me revenue. I see too many artists just focusing on one stream. I also see too many artists that are all over the place. Make sure you test a revenue stream and that it’s working for you before committing to it for the long term. Start with your website and build other streams.

Remember to give back

There’s nothing better in life to have the ability to give back to your community. Helping others is such a great feeling. I always believed that was given a talent and I would be naïve to think that it was only for me. I constantly use my talent to help others. I estimate that I’ve raised well over $75,000 to various charities over the years. I’ve also recently created my own foundation called Mado’s Gift in the memory of my sister. This is the best thing I’ve probably done in my career. I get to teach art to kids and we raise a lot of money for sick kids. They brought me so much love and joy and I hope to grow this charity more then I was able to grow my business. My sister would be proud.

Guest artist/author Matt LeBlanc  has used the techniques and skills he honed over 10 years in advertising agencies to become one of the most well-known, successful, and appreciated artists in Atlantic Canada in just six years.


Thank you to my good friend, Matt for another killer post! It has been an honor watching Matt’s successes. I value Matt not only as a colleague, but as a good friend! This man is an inspiration to us all. ~Lori


  1. Sally M. Magdalena June 19, 2013 at 8:06 am

    Dear Ms. Lori McNee,
    I have been following your twitter and I found most of your tweets are helping me so much. I am new in this art world (surely I can learn a lot from you). I gave up my career as a painting teacher and started as a full time artist on early April 2013, but I still give private lesson in painting at my studio.
    So when your post about being a self representative appeared, I found it very interesting. But I still find a difficulties to create an artist statement or artist biography and I wonder if you have any tips or advice about it.
    Thank you very much.
    Sally M. Magdalena

    • Lori McNee June 19, 2013 at 8:16 am

      Hello Sally, thanks for taking time to read and comment on this post. I am glad you find my blog helpful to you. I have written about writing bios and statements and am planning a new piece about artists statements that will be posted soon. Here is a good one to help with bios I hope you find it useful!
      Cheers! Lori

  2. Swarez June 19, 2013 at 9:12 am

    Love Matt to bits; what a guy! I’m the same too – self-representing and I have never been on a better position. Well written, insightful, full of brilliance – like his art.

    This is the way to go now – embracing the global connectivity we all have access to. Ignore that and the world becomes a shuttered and insular place.

    • Lori McNee June 19, 2013 at 3:43 pm

      Bravo to you too for embracing the global connectivity! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

  3. amper June 21, 2013 at 12:23 am

    there are very many things to learn to be a successful artist . i know some artist , but they just focus on earning money , not the artwork . maybe we must realize this realastic , the fine art will become more and more popular . love Matt’s artwork . excellent.

  4. Dickson June 21, 2013 at 2:53 am

    I have to say – what a fantastic post. It is so easy to get caught up in your art, your life, your family etc, and neglect to put the time in to become a successful self representing artist. We have only started taking it seriously in the last year, and whilst our network is still small, it is growing steadily.

    I can’t wait to see where we are in two years time!

    • Lori McNee June 24, 2013 at 11:39 am

      Yes, Matt is a great inspiration to other who are striking out on their own self-representing path. It is an exciting time and I wish you luck 🙂

  5. Sophie June 28, 2013 at 7:44 am

    What a great post. I have just been assessing where I should be going as I am working 70 hours a week between the art and my two other jobs. I also think I have been putting too much pressure on myself to see results sooner and should cut myself some slack since it hasn’t been six years for me. Thank you for writing this article and congrats for sticking it out!

    • Lori McNee July 16, 2013 at 10:22 pm

      Happy you were inspired by Matt’s post. He is a great example. Good luck with your own career, and congrats on sticking it out!

  6. Sarah Schmid July 2, 2013 at 8:49 am

    Great article Matt! Sometimes I think of myself as an entrepreneur first and an artist second. I sell my art online as well. It’s hard and there are times when I get discouraged but doing things like reading your article and this blog help me stay motivated. Thanks!

    • Lori McNee October 24, 2013 at 9:29 pm

      Yes, Matt is an inspiration for sure. Happy you enjoyed his story.

  7. kim Bruce August 4, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    What resonates for me (probably because it’s true) is having the personality for marketing your work. It’s the most difficult hurdle for so many artists.

    Having just launched an online shop for my own work, I realize that just because I built it doesn’t mean people will come. Now the real work begins.

    Thanks to Matt for the insightful post and kind of a kick in the butt for me.

  8. Lauran Childs August 26, 2013 at 12:49 am

    Thanks, great post! I’m a self-representing artist too and have just never been attracted to the gallery system. Am currently looking for sponsorship of my art show during Art Basel and learning everything I can about social networking. It’s great to hear from artists who are more evolved at that.

  9. Adriano Borges Ribeiro November 1, 2013 at 9:31 am

    Hi Lori, this is very inspirational, I kew Matt on facebook, thank you.

    • Lori McNee November 2, 2013 at 9:11 pm

      Yes, Adriano. Matt is an inspiration to us all! His energy and ingenuity is amazing. Thank you for the visit.

  10. Oliver S. January 3, 2014 at 6:39 pm

    Yes, Matt should be an inspiration to us all!
    I used to be represented by a chain of Fine Art galleries in California, Nevada and Hawaii.
    They took from 50% to 65% commissions.
    Never again!!!

    • Lori McNee January 19, 2014 at 11:51 pm

      Hello Oliver, good luck with your own art business. I hope you can take some of Matt’s tips and apply them to your own career.

  11. Steve Urwin June 25, 2014 at 7:06 am

    Makes complete sense to me,thanks for the direct comments.I have put into place more avenues for income over many years,still trying.

  12. kathryn June 30, 2014 at 4:00 pm

    I can see why this artist is successful, he acts as a business first, then an artist, with interesting out of the box ways to sell his art and probably, I’m guessing has a big personality. Unless you have his drive to succeed most artist won’t achieve his level of success. It’s inspiring to get this motivated and goal oriented as him!!

  13. Tyreece Gary "TY" January 12, 2015 at 1:08 pm

    Good afternoon, Lori! I am an aspiring artist that has been at a standstill for almost 5 years. And now, I am considering on taking my art a lil more serious. Though I have a decent amount of work to show, should I continue to create? Or focus more on marketing my work? If you suggest I continue to create, how much time do you suggest I balance between marketing versus creating?

    • Lori McNee February 8, 2015 at 12:35 am

      Well, there is no sense to marketing if you don’t have anything to sell. 😉 So, of course continue improving your craft and creating your product. Marketing can become quite time consuming, so work to find a balance. Social media, blogging and traditional art marketing works well. There are lots of helpful posts on this blog that should give you some direction. I hope this helps!

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