How to Jump Start Your Art Career!

Are you an artistic person who loved to draw as a kid or took art classes in college, but you were discouraged away from art at as a serious profession? Or maybe you are a frustrated or struggling artist who has to work a ‘real’ job, or rear children with no time to create.

Obviously, we all have rent or house payments and other bills to pay. So how does someone being to follow their dream of being an artist? Walt Disney explains, “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”

Here is a list to help you get motivated and “jump start” your art career:

Get the creative juices flowing!


  • Take a painting or craft workshop
  • Start a sketchbook or journal. Carry it with you and make a few small drawings a day.
  • Watch an art demonstration on YouTube or on a DVD & paint along with it (hit the pause button when you need to!)
  • Create a ‘Studio’ space. Find a small corner of the living room, kitchen or bedroom to work. I worked at my kitchen table for year. I know a professional artist who paints in her bathroom! Just stay organized.
  • Get up an hour earlier or stay up an hour later – find time!
  • Make creative time a habit. Just like you make time to exercise, make time to create!
  • Think big, but start small…begin just twice a week, then you can add more studio time as you progress.

Now it’s time to develop your own style and artistic voice!

  • Do you prefer oils, acrylics, pen & ink, egg tempera, graphite, digital painting, ceramics, etc…???
  • Look for consistency of style and technique in your artwork
  • Start producing finished, frame-worthy pieces of art.


Ready for the ‘big-time’!

My own jumpstart art story:

Although I took art classes in college, I consider myself  ‘self-taught’. To my disappointment, I really didn’t learn very much about fine art in college other than rendering.

Later, my art career sprung up between loads of laundry, during the babies’ nap-time and late at night. To help me keep self motivated, I would enter various painting contests and I joined a local artists’ cooperative gallery. I read every art book, took some workshops with famous master painters and watched instructional DVD’s.

Landscape painter Kevin McPherson’s book, “Fill Your Paintings with Light and Color” was particularly motivating for me. In his book, Kevin suggests painting 100 little 6×8 plein air paintings. I did just that!  I took my pochade box with me in the car each day and when my kids were playing soccer, riding horses or in ice skating lessons. I would whip out a quick 30 minute outdoor sketch. This was a great exercise and really improved my paintings.

Painting and drawing consistently helped me get ready for to find the right gallery.  A friend saw my little works and offer me to show them in her store. I had a ‘gallery opening’ and a sell out show! While my  artwork was still hanging, I invited the Kneeland Gallery director over to see my paintings. She loved them and asked me to show with Kneeland – and the rest is history!

Oh…and by the way…it is never too late! I know many successful artists who didn’t start painting until they were retired. As long as we have our faculties, we can improve in art for the remainder of our lives and that’s why I Love Art!

Please share your story with me, I’d love to hear from you! Lori 🙂


I hope you enjoy these other articles:

Brand Yourself as an Artist on Twitter

How to “Jump-Start” Your Art Career!

When Are You Ready to Call Yourself a Professional Artist?

Do Artists Need Commercial Gallery Representation?

Tips for Selling Art on Facebook: A Success Story

Use the Hidden Meaning of Color to Improve Paintings

Learn the Two Biggest Mistakes Artists Make with Social Media

One Simple and Effective Way to Show the World You are a Pro

5 Small Business Mistakes To Avoid


  1. svitrolica May 26, 2010 at 11:10 pm

    Another great article with excellent advice. Lori, I’ve been reading for a while but not commenting, I really just want to say thank you. There are so many subjects that you deal with that as an artist who is just stepping out and beginning to sell, I benefit greatly from your articles!

    • Lori McNee May 27, 2010 at 2:19 pm

      Thanks for sharing your comment and returning to this site! I appreciate your feedback. This is the main reason why I started this blog – I wanted to share with others what has taken me a long time to learn. Please feel free to offer suggestions or ask questions.
      Lori 🙂

  2. Aj July 12, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    i really like this site, i added to my favorites. I am gonna come back and check the steps again! thanks for the information 🙂

    • Lori McNee July 12, 2010 at 11:45 pm

      Thanks Allan. I appreciate your comment and for visiting this site!

  3. Georgie McNeese (ArtByG) December 30, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    Very good and helpful read. Thanks for sharing.

    • Lori McNee January 6, 2011 at 11:54 am

      Thanks Georgie!

  4. Mark Sanders January 19, 2012 at 10:51 pm

    Love your site Lori! Lots of great information!

  5. Donna Ham January 21, 2012 at 8:03 am

    These are all such wonderful ideas and I loved learning about how you got started. I am learning about painting mostly on line. There are so many artists, like yourself, who are not stingy with their knowledge. Since I work full time and my schedule is not always flexible, going to an art class has always been out of the question. I am exploring and discovering all sorts of painting techniques on line. I studied art in high school and then married, had children and have worked pretty much non stop leaving little time for my love of art. Then one day a few years ago, I started playing with paints. What a glorious discovery. I started with acrylics and abstracts. Recently, I started working on still lifes in oils. Who knew at 60 that I could actually fulfill my love of painting. I love your posts. Thanks for sharing your talent.

  6. keith johnson March 15, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    Hey, thats awesome. I am going to order the book this evening. Just curious, how much did you charge for the 6×8 paintings in the show? Love your site.

    • Lori McNee April 23, 2012 at 12:39 pm

      Hello Keith, my gallery 6×8 paintings are framed and priced at $550.00 USD. You may have been asking out of curiosity, but if you are interested in purchasing a painting directly from my studio…please email me at [email protected].


      • Krishna September 15, 2014 at 10:41 am

        Hiiii dear lori am krishna am an indian i have gone through your paintings and loved it a lot they were just amazing and i would like to learn from u and wants to take help of yours as am good at sketching i would like to share it with you an publish

  7. C. Vidal August 3, 2012 at 6:48 am

    “Later, my art career sprung up between loads of laundry, during the babies’ nap-time and late at night.”

    Love this. I do not feel alone anymore 🙂 Read this, reall,y keeps me motivated.
    Best wishes.

    • Lori McNee August 28, 2012 at 11:00 am

      Yay! I am so glad to inspire you. Let me know how it goes.

      Happy creating, diaper changing, and folding laundry!

      • C.Vidal October 2, 2012 at 7:27 am

        I am taking baby steps. Step 1: Keep my sketchbook. Step 2: small paintings. Step 3: get patience! 🙂
        (I have no diapers, but I have homeschool)
        Best wishes.

        • Lori McNee October 10, 2012 at 7:06 pm

          Great baby steps! A sketchbook is so important. I’ve gotten a bit lazy about keeping one over the years and just started carrying one around again. Thanks for sharing.

          Best wishes to you too,

  8. Sam Delfin September 11, 2012 at 8:40 am


    • Lori McNee September 12, 2012 at 8:20 am

      You are welcome Sam!

  9. Janeen Violante March 21, 2013 at 3:34 am

    This is such an inspirational post–I love the idea of carrying a sketchbook–my professors always preached that….but somehow i just never did—maybe I will now with your inspiration(?) ..I just should DRAW more! Here”s more of my story.

    • Lori McNee June 10, 2013 at 5:23 pm

      Yes, drawing will spark all kinds of new ideas and creativity! Let me know how it goes…I will check out your link. Thanks 🙂

  10. Hina April 3, 2013 at 8:07 am

    Hi Lori,
    I remember my Mom telling me the sotries of my childhood thatduring my first pre-nursery entrance test, drawing was the only good thing I did!. I always loved paiting since childhood and remember how my dad used to get them frame( though they really sucked lol). I painted, sketched whenever I got time from studies.

    I wanted to learn art but from the part of Asia where I am coming from if you are an artist you never have enough worth to earn good money and good career so I kept painting as my hobby. I gifted them to family and friends.
    By profession I am an engineer and later came to Germany for my Masters in telecom. Today I am working as a consultant in well reputed company and achieved everything which I was being told I could never achieve as an artist. After so many years I started to paint again ( let me remind, I randomly saw your blog and realized I used to paint too and started off again 2 years back.) I am not so good in abstract but I think I will improve with time. I would love to share some of my paint work maybe it will encourage me to carry on painting which was always my first love but studies and professional life never allowed me to carry it on with full pace.

    I would like to show my paitings in a gallery or even in resturants and it would be great if I can have some tips from a professional:).

    • Lori McNee June 18, 2013 at 1:30 pm

      Hello Hina, I am happy you randomly found my blog. I am behind on comments because of family business, and am grateful for your patience with me. Congrats on pursuing your painting dreams. I have written a lot of post about becoming a professional artist I hope you find lots of help with this link. Let me know!
      Lori 🙂

  11. Paula Shaughnessy June 7, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    Just thought I’d mention… for anyone ready to “test the waters”! Please see the link above – cash prizes, public jury, no entry fee & all entries will be accepted (with a minor caveat that it’s an open show so they have to be family friendly) – so it’s a great first show for an emerging artist, for a great cause, too!

    • Lori McNee June 10, 2013 at 2:10 pm

      Thanks for sharing!

  12. Trevor LIddell September 2, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    Good work Lori. I like that you are being so generous with your knowledge and time as well as producing your own art work.
    All the best,
    Trevor Liddell
    Melbourne, Australia

    • Lori McNee September 17, 2013 at 8:20 pm

      Trevor, I truly appreciate you taking time to acknowledge me in this way. I love helping others, and it is especially nice to hear back from you. 🙂 Best, Lori

  13. Puja Datta September 10, 2013 at 1:58 am

    Hi Lori, Read your blog. Good to see that there are people who believe in following their dreams. I am a working professional for the past 10 years and not been able to enjoy the work that i am doing. I want to pursue my dream in art especially in sketching. I have been sketching few wild birds from last 2 years. and since then it has generated a lot of interest. I want to grow my career into something which i love and cherish. Will write to you soon on the progress of my dream.
    Regards, Puja

    • Lori McNee September 17, 2013 at 8:34 pm

      Puja, I love hearing your story and hope to hear more. If you have a guest post idea to share please send it in! Good luck with following your dream. ~Lori

  14. Richard Whiteside October 20, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    Dear Lori,

    I have just browed your website and I find the advice regarding the different topics of beginning an art career very useful.

    I started as a copy-artist – drawing famous faces, movie posters and TV characters. I have been drawing still life sources and cartooning for two years; I currently have my own portfolio, but I am struggling with finding sources local to my area in Brentwood, Essex, in which to display my work to become recognised.

    I am also a self-taught artist as I never studied at a college; I simply learnt from various manuals, DVDs and instructional programmes on You Tube.

    However, I intend to begin my career as a Fine Artist/cartoonist very soon, and I shall keep you posted on my success. I may need to contact you for various tips during this stage – hope this is ok?

    Kind regards, Richard.

    • Lori McNee October 24, 2013 at 8:43 pm

      Hello Richard, I am happy to hear that you are learning from my blog. I hope you will find topics that help answer your questions. You are welcome to ask if needed. Good luck with your learning and career!
      Lori 🙂

  15. Doug hoppes December 4, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    Good article, Lori. Still struggling here a bit. My galleries in Vermont are selling some of my smaller paintings but not a lot of the large ones. Heading out to Massachusetts this upcoming summer to see if I can get more representation ther and more sales. It’s tough out there.

    • Lori McNee January 20, 2014 at 12:28 am

      Hello Dougie! Thanks for the comment. I am way behind on responding…I am so impressed with your hard efforts and really enjoy seeing your paintings on FB. Good luck with your galleries in 2014!

  16. Ashley Smith June 13, 2014 at 6:12 pm

    Hello Lori,

    If you could please email me at [email protected] that you be very appreciated. I am in need of some help / assistance. Thank you 🙂

  17. Keir Robertson June 30, 2014 at 8:57 am

    Hi! I would like to say I really enjoyed this article. It has some advice that I found really useful and it’s also nice to hear someones personal story, it helps to make you feel less like you’re on your own! There’s loads of us in the same situation. You’ve really upped my motivation. 🙂

    • Lori McNee July 20, 2014 at 2:59 pm

      Happy to hear that Keir!

  18. Apoorva December 4, 2014 at 3:51 am

    Hey, thanks for the advice. It’s very helpful to build my career. Painting was my hobby and now after reading your article I want to become a professional artist.

    • Lori McNee February 8, 2015 at 1:34 am

      That is great news! I hope you find other helpful tips here.

  19. bharati August 31, 2015 at 10:41 pm

    hi Lori,i really liked your articles.and specially how in spite of your household chores you manage to get time for painting…..
    painting …sketching…its something that i born with but with time other responsibilities occupy me more and i somehow keep it under warp .but from quite sometime i have this strong urge to start up my career in art.and after reading your articles its even more inspiring….

    • Lori A McNee September 17, 2015 at 4:35 pm

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I have put my own tips into practice and really believe they work! I look forward to hearing about your progress 🙂

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