12 Ways to Make Money as an Artist

Is it possible to make a living from your art?

If you follow my art journey on social media, you may be wondering what life looks like at 75k followers.  Am I actively making a living? Depends on your standards of living, but yes I am. Though living in San Diego has definitely made me feel quite poor again… (The cost of living out here is INSANE.)

I recently got an email from someone asking if it’s worth it to put in the work on social media to grow a large following if I still make comments about being a somewhat starving artist. The answer is different for everyone. If you want money right this very moment, being an artist is probably the last thing you want to do. If you want to pursue your passion and have the patience to put in the work for a while without receiving an immediate reward, then yes it’s totally worth it.

Making a living isn’t going to happen over night.

It’s a hustle, and income will be inconsistent for a while. Growing an art business takes time and a lot of creative thinking. At times you will have to create your own opportunities and step out of your comfort zone in order to see your numbers rise.

Since you’re in it for the long haul, it’s important to remember to acknowledge any progress you make to keep yourself from burning out.

How you and I can make money as artists

First, there are two main categories of income.

Active Income: Income that comes directly from actions you perform. Ex. commissioned work, creating original pieces, teaching classes etc..

Passive Income: Income that you earn without additional work put in. Ex. licensed work royalties, online class subscriptions, affiliate links, advertising revenue etc..

If you want to create more consistent income or make more money without putting in more effort, you’ll want to explore passive revenue streams. In the beginning you are going to be very active to get things up and running.

1. Online Sales

This is where the bulk of my income comes from at the moment. Once you have a social following, you can start to drive that traffic to your store front. There isn’t a magic formula that ‘x’ amount of followers gives you ‘x’ amount of sales, but the more eyes on your work, the higher the chances of making a sale. You can also look at paid promotions and advertisements, but I’m not an expert on that (yet).

You can use your own website, Etsy, Weebly, SquareUp, and more. Just make it as easy as possible for people to give you money. (Less ‘DM me to purchase’ and more ‘Click this link to buy’.)

2. Event/ IN person Sales

This is my least favorite way to earn money (Hi, I’m an introvert!). Booking craft fairs, art fairs, or other in person sales events can give you a sizable boost in income. They usually take a lot of time to prepare for. You spend 8+ hours talking to people, and cross your fingers that you’ll at least cover your costs. Successful large shows can bring you thousands in sales within a weekend. Unsuccessful craft events can leave you in the hole, grumpy, and defeated.

Research and attend events before signing up for them. Talk to the artists that participate and see how their experience has been with that show. Make sure the event is well known, adequately advertised, and has a juried process for acceptance. Nothing worse than setting up your fine art next to a multi-level marketing vendor.

3. Commissioned Art

Somebody might love what you do, but want a different color scheme or size for their home. Accepting commissions is a good way to diversify your income and get to know your customers. Let your following know you accept custom orders on your website, individual posts, or social media bio.

4. Gallery Shows

Having a solo show at a fancy art gallery is a dream a lot of us have. You’re able to hang the work, mingle with art lovers at an opening reception, and hopefully sell pieces at a higher price. Even though galleries will take a large chunk of the sale to keep their business running, it’s still a great opportunity.

It’s hard to immediately get a solo show, but you can work your way into galleries by participating in group shows and building your own following in the surrounding community.

5. Teaching Art Classes

Teaching others is a great way to earn extra income. Most of the art instructors I had in school were full time creators. It’s how a lot of artists keep the lights on while building their careers.

  • Look into creating a community education course in your town for your favorite art techniques.
  • Consider hosting a painting party or becoming a teacher for the Paint Nite type companies out there.
  • Teach people one-on-one.
  • If you have a Masters in art you can look into teaching at a university or community college.
  • Explore online class formation on platforms like Skillshare.

6. Consulting Services for Other Artists

If you become an expert in social media, bookkeeping, video editing, or any of the non-art skills needed in the art world then you could definitely explore this option.

I didn’t plan on offering consulting services or coaching sessions to my followers when I started this journey. I just wanted to figure out how to find success. Once I started writing blogs to share what I’d learned about the business side of art, this new opportunity presented itself. (See what services I offer here.)

7. Patreon

Asking your followers to support what you do by pledging a small amount each month can help you establish consistent and passive income. This is easier to do as you become more widely known. (Check out my Patreon page.)

8. Affiliate Programs

You know those blogs I write to share my supplies and tips? Yeah, I earn commissions if anyone makes a purchase through the links I include in my posts. Since a lot of your social following will probably be other artists that wan to do what you do, you can take advantage of their willingness to learn and earn passive income.

You’ll need a website and a desire to write blogs…

9. YouTube Channel Monetization

If you enjoy making video content of your art or anything related to your art, consider creating a YouTube channel and work at becoming a partner to enable monetization. This means you’ll be able to earn money through ad clicks on your videos. It take a lot of work to get this up and running, but the income potential is pretty cool. #youtubefamous

10. Licensed Artwork

You know those nameless pieces of art in hotels, lawyer’s offices, and the home decor section of Target? Those were all created by an actual artist. It may be mass produced and sold by a corporation, but there is an artist out there collecting 5-7% in royalties from each sale. If you get a collection of works licensed with a large enough company, you can create a nice passive income stream.

Society6, Redbubble, etc.

These sites are an option for getting your work out there, but you’re the one that has to maintain the product listings and you still only get a small percentage of the sale.

11. Sponsorships and Influencer Payments

As your social following grows, you will have more power to pair up with big brands to promote their products. I started reaching out to large companies once I hit 20,000 followers on Instagram to see if they would be willing to provide free supplies in exchange for social exposure. Free supplies might not be income, but it’s a great perk.

The best part is as your social influence grows even more big brands will actually pay you to promote their products through targeted campaigns. There are multiple social influencer platforms that you can look into to make yourself known to brands seeking authentic promoters.

12. Twitch Creative

Do you like live streaming your process? Well there is a whole market for that. Twitch was originally for gamers to stream their game play, but there is now a creative section for artists to stream what they do in the studio.

There are artists who make a complete living through their streaming channel by allowing people to subscribe and overlapping it with Patreon pledges. Check out how Sezzadactyl does it.

I was going to explore this option in November of 2017, but I got distracted…


There are definitely a crap ton of other ways you can earn money as an artist, but these are the options I have personally explored. I currently earn income from online sales, commissioned art, affiliate programs, consulting work, and Patreon on a monthly basis.

Since I have at least five streams of income per month now, I don’t have to panic when the sales in my store slow down. The biggest takeaway I want you to have from this post is that you must diversify your streams of income. Do not just depend on one area for money. Yes, it would be great to be able to just sell original works of art and pay the bills, but you leave yourself vulnerable when the market changes.

It’s not going to be easy.

I work all the time. Whether I’m doing social media, bookkeeping, marketing, updating inventory, or actually making art—it feels like my art business is my life. I love it, but it’s not something that I would recommend for people who just ‘like’ making art or need money to pay the electric bill by next week.

Again, building strong and consistent streams of income from your art will take time. After quitting my full time job in 2016, it took me a year to finally see forward momentum. I hardly made any money during that year. In 2018, I’ve seen loads of progress, but I’m still working on consistency. I’ve made anywhere from $269 in a month to $8,800 in a month.

Start with one income stream and go from there. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through email or Instagram.

Or, if you would like one on one help to grow your following or find your direction as an artist, check out my consulting services.

Thanks so much for reading!


P.S. If you enjoy my blogs and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep doing what I do like writing these blogs. Plus, you get extra little perks like phone wallpapers and discounts to my store!


Further Reading:

Are You Forcing Yourself into an Art Business Before You’re Ready?

Why You Shouldn’t Feel Like a Failure When You’re Not Making Sales


October Giveaway!


Please stay tuned on Instagram. Winners will be announced Tuesday 10/23. Thank you to all who entered!



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🔴GIVEAWAY ALERT🔴 CLOSED! WINNERS WILL BE ANNOUNCED 10/23 This is my biggest giveaway yet! Thank you all so much for following me and supporting what I do! With the help of @Brea_Reese I have put together a perfect gift for a dedicated doodler and a little something for my international peeps. • • United States Prize: 1 Winner 1- Art Supplies bundle (See pictures for details) 1- 8″x10″ Original artwork by MEA • International Prize (1 Winner) 1- 8″x10″ Archival print of “Campfire” 1- Coupon code for free phone wallpapers from the MEA store • • To Enter: 1. Follow @messyeverafter and @brea_reese on Instagram 2.VERY IMPORTANT: Fill out the giveaway form through the link in my bio. • (Optional) Each one counts as an additional entry! 3. Comment on the giveaway post and tell me what inspires you to create. 4. Tag 3 people you think might be interested in this giveaway! 5. Share my giveaway post in your stories and tag @messyeverafter • • • Rules: *Giveaway ends Thursday 10/18 @7PM PST. Winners will be chosen at random and will be announced on Tuesday 10/23. *This is in no way sponsored, administered, or associated with Instagram, Inc. By entering, entrants confirm they are 16+ years of age, release Instagram of responsibility, and agree to Instagram’s term of use. No purchase necessary. Prize must be claimed within 48 hours or it will be forfeited. • • • • • • #messyeverafter #sandiegoartist #artforyourhome #interiorart #artforinteriors #contemporaryartgallery #modernpainting #artcollector #artistmafia #theartlovers #art_motive #artdaily #worldofartists #sendyourbestart #thatsdarlingmovement #smallmomentsofcalm #quietchaotics #tinytinymoments #aquietstyle #gatherandcurate #livemoremagic #asecondofwhimsey #myeverydaymagic #collectivelycreate #bedeeplyrooted #freedomthinkers #liveauthentically

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My Favorite Supplies-October 2018

My Current Favorite Supplies

MEA’s October 2018 Look in the Artsy Tool Box

Hey! It’s time to share some of the supplies I’ve been working with lately. As always, the links in my blogs are affiliate links from Dick Blick and Amazon and I will earn a commission if you make purchases within 24 hours (yay!), but this in no way changes the opinions I give about the products I use. I share what I love. Simple as that.

Brea Reese Watercolor Inks

I’ve been testing a lot of supplies from Brea Reese and these inks are outstanding. I’ve used other brands like Higgins drawing inks, but Brea Reese Watercolor Inks win. They are also lower in price which always makes this frugal artist happy.

My favorite colors:

But, considering the awesome price you may as well get them all!

I can’t say it enough. I love these inks. The vibrancy, saturation, and coverage is wonderful. Not to mention they look awesome when you dip your paint brush in water.


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Opaque White Drawing Ink and Pen

You know my style by now. I LOVE drawing white lines. I like ’em swirly. I like ’em straight. Most importantly, I like ’em crisp and opaque.

I’ve tried many supplies to get the look I crave. I’ve used gel pens, white drawing inks, colored pencils, paint markers, and a teeny tiny brush with acrylic paint. Almost two years ago I discovered fine line applicators for my acrylic paintings, but it was only a couple of weeks ago that I found the perfect drawing ink for my drawings and watercolor paintings.

I use this glorious ink with a simple sketching pen and I don’t think I’m ever going to need another white ink again.

Try it. Love it.


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Watercolor Papers

If you’ve ever worked with the “wetter” kinds of media, you know the importance of a quality, heavy watercolor paper. Regular paper will warp and rip. Mixed media paper can’t handle much moisture beyond markers, and cheaper watercolor paper will still warp when soaked. The only downside to good paper is that it’s also a bit painful on the bank account.

I always start with budget materials when practicing and slowly work my way up to the good stuff. Here are the papers I currently use:


And that’s all I’ve got for now! Thanks for taking a look inside my tool box! Let me know if you have any questions about the materials I use. I’m always happy to share my tips and techniques to help you find your creative path.

Now go get messy!


P.S. If you enjoy my blogs and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep doing what I do. Plus, you get extra little perks like phone wallpapers and the ability to pick my brain whenever you want through the artist Q&A perk.

Further Reading:

My Current Favorite Art Supplies- August 2018

Fine Line Bottles for Acrylic Paint Detailing

Instagram Tips for Artists

Instagram Tips for Artists

 A collection of resources for Fall 2018

As a full time artist, I am constantly trying to figure out ways to promote myself. This morning, I went down a Google rabbit trail and found a couple of articles on the Instagram for 2018 that I hadn’t read yet. (Considering that I was busy trying to sell my house and move to California when they were published it makes sense I missed them.)

Both of these articles come from the Later blog, which is an awesome app for scheduling your social media posts. I don’t personally use it at the moment, because I usually post content from my studio each day instead of scheduling things in advance, but it’s still a great tool.

After reading both articles, I figured I should share them with you and add a bunch of other useful info I’ve written to help you succeed as an artist on Insta.

Articles to read:

Later-The New Instagram Algorithm  – This article does a great job of detailing exactly how the new algorithm works and goes over some of the common rumors floating around (shadow banning, using the same tags over and over again, business accounts getting hidden in the feed, and more).

Later- 5 Exciting Instagram Updates Coming in 2018 – The name kind of says it all, but if you are one of those people who loves to try new things and have fun with the apps you use, then give this article a read.

A year ago…

I have been tracking my Instagram growth since it started blowing up September of 2017. I literally had 300ish followers on September 15th. Today, I have 63,500. In one year. Without spending money on bots, advertisements, or anything like that. Holy crap, right?

Since I am addicted to the high of getting new followers and social engagement, I have worked very hard over the last year to make sure my account continues to grow. And it does. I get at least 100 new followers a day. And instead of being a turd and just rubbing my success in your face, I also work hard at trying to help other artists get the same level of exposure.

Which is why I’m writing this. I don’t know what the next year will look like for you, but if a dysfunctional, kind of unlucky weirdo like me can make something like this happen–well then I say your potential is limitless.

I’ve written a lot of blogs over the last year, and I repeat some of the same info, but continue on to read my current tips and past writings to help give your Instagram account a boost.

My Basic Tips for Growing your Instagram Account for Fall 2018:

1. Focus on creating great content.

I’m serious. This is the number one thing you want to figure out.

I’ve said this over and over again. It doesn’t matter how much exposure you get. If you’re content is lacking in quality, followers aren’t likely going to stick around.

2. Put in the work.

How many times have people tried to sell you something to make your dreams easily come true? Do those things actually work? Unlikely. You have to put in the work.

Chasing dreams is really fricken hard. I want to give up a lot. Even now. People will try to dangle shortcuts in your face, but they are focusing on their own marketing plans and don’t really care if you succeed (Instagram bots, paid promotions, content sharing accounts, etc.).

Disclaimer: Maybe those shortcuts work. Honestly, I’m too poor and stubborn to spend money on those things and what I’m doing works–sooo do with that what you want.

3. Have Fun!

You are an artist. You get to play with art supplies! Life is pretty great when you can have the luxury of doing art. Focus on your passion and don’t forget your reasons for creating. (Maybe read reasons not to to an artist and are you forcing yourself into an art business before you’re ready if you’re not sure what you’re doing or why you’re doing it.)

Mainly, don’t take things too seriously. If you are starving and your life depends on making an art sale, then I do suggest finding an alternative source of income. If scrolling through Instagram is constantly making you bummed out, then stop doing that. Don’t let your art goals suck the life out of you. And don’t let social media take the fun out of creating.

Your mental health matters way more than the number of followers you have.

4. Give me your money

How’s that for a sales pitch?

Unlike the bot services and paid Instagram promotions, I actually care about you as an artist. So, if you ever want one-on-one advice on how to refine your brand, grow your account, and communicate with your audience–I’m your girl.

I offer an Instagram review package where I look over your account, give you feedback on areas you’re killin’ it in and areas that need improvement, provide specific advice on hashtags for your niche style, advice on captions, posting frequency, photo compositions (lighting, staging, etc.), community interactions, profile aesthetic, biography tips, and more. If you’re interested, definitely let me know.

I can’t physically give you more followers, but I can help give you direction. And, if I don’t think I can help you, I won’t take you on as a client. I don’t want your money if I can’t do anything for you.

5. Read these Other posts

I’m serious when I say I want to help other artists find success. Growing your organic Instagram following is a great way to get art sales. I’ve put in countless hours growing my own following AND writing these blogs posts for you guys.

If you are determined to put in the work and grow your Instagram following, these posts are for you.

How to Choose the Best Instagram Hashtags

How to Write Engaging Instagram Captions

How to Brand Your Instagram Account: A Guide for Artists

How to Increase Your Instagram Followers in 2018 Tips for Artists

How to Increase Instagram Followers as an Artist



And that’s all I’ve got for you today. Let me know if you have questions, comments, concerns, complaints, or cat videos that you’d like to share. Leave a comment below or reach out to me directly on Insta or by emailing Kelly@messyeverafter.com .

Now go get messy!


P.S. If you enjoy my blogs and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep doing what I do. Plus, you get extra little perks like phone wallpapers and the ability to pick my brain whenever you want through the artist Q&A perk.

Should You Host an Instagram Giveaway?

Should You Host an Instagram Giveaway?
Advice from a fellow Artist

It seems that social media is rife with giveaways these days. I can’t scroll through my Instagram feed or go more than a week without seeing or being tagged in another artist’s giveaway post. I even see a lot of artist’s accounts that include “Giveaway at ‘x’ followers” or something similar in their bios.
Everyone is doing it, so it must be useful, right?

I have come to the conclusion that for the most part, giveaways are overrated and new artists think they need to host one right away in order to compete with other creators and grow their following. In my experience, giveaways aren’t all that spectacular, and they may not do more than frustrate you.

What’s the main point of a giveaway?

Giveaways can be really beneficial. They have to benefit the giver in some way, otherwise it would be silly to keep doing them. So what are some of the potential perks of a giveaway?

  • Gain followers/Find potential new customers/Be exposed to a new audience
  • Reward current followers
  • Keep your community engaged with your account

Yes, those things sound great!  The issue is just how much can you expect from a giveaway?

The biggest reason smaller accounts do giveaways is to gain new followers, and this is where they can be a let down. When it comes to rewarding current followers and keeping your current community engaged, giveaways can easily be successful.

How can you gain followers with a giveaway?

Through asking others to tag their friends/family or share your post your work will be exposed to a new audience. If these people like your work and like the item(s) you are giving away then they will follow you and tag more people. And the cycle continues. Plus, if your giveaway post gets a lot of engagement, it can potentially be boosted in the discover feed giving you access to an even larger audience.

Easy, right?

But just how many new followers can you expect from a successful giveaway? If you are just focused on increasing followers, a giveaway might disappoint you. When I hosted a giveaway at 300 something followers last year, I gained less than 30 new followers and had under 15 entries. When I hosted a giveaway two weeks ago (my account was at 60k) I gained 700 new followers and had over 200 entries.

I’m sure the numbers are different for other accounts, but this at least gives you a frame of reference for what a giveaway can look like.

Ultimately, the success of your giveaway hinges on whether you are giving away a product that your audience wants. Free stuff is cool, but useful free stuff is even better.

If you plan on giving away your art, I hate to break it to you, but if your following is small then it’s likely that nobody wants your art right now. (Read this blog post before you get mad at me!) So, if you want to gain new followers, you need to make sure your free stuff is appealing (I’ll go over that more below.)

Should you host a giveaway on Instagram?

First of all, you don’t have to do a giveaway just because everyone else is. I am a huge proponent of goal setting and doing things with intention. Which is why I encourage you to plan things out, be strategic with your future giveaways, and make sure that it is the right decision for you and your account.

I’ve hosted multiple giveaways over the last year and my followers did increase, but not much more than their usual rate, so any giveaway you see from me will never be done to gain followers. Instead, I host giveaways to celebrate new milestones and show my appreciation for my existing followers. I also host giveaways to increase my brand recognition like encouraging people to use #messyeverafter on their posts.

It’s up to you to decide what is right for your account, but don’t feel any pressure to host a giveaway just because the other kids are doing it.

If you are going to host a giveaway, I have a few tips to help make it successful.

1. Give a product that your audience actually wants.
If you don’t have many followers (under 1000), you won’t get much interest in your giveaway if you are only offering your art. Even if your art is really awesome and especially if a bunch of your followers are artists themselves.

Instead, think about offering art supplies with your art. You can partner up with different art supplies companies and host a giveaway with them. A lot of your followers will probably be fellow artists, so giving away art supplies will attract more people to enter your giveaway.

Once your following grows, your art will definitely be sought after as a prize and you will have more marketing power to get free supplies from companies to decrease your costs.

2. Don’t give away items that have limited uses.

For example, a hand painted case for an iPhone 9. You will only attract super specific people with these items.

3. Keep your costs low.

Establish a budget and don’t go crazy with the items you choose to give away. Factor in domestic vs. international shipping when choosing your items. Sure, giving away an 18”x24″ canvas might sound awesome, but when your entrant from Australia wins and you have to pay $60 to ship internationally you might cry actual tears.

If you spend $100 on a giveaway that only gained you 50 followers, you might wonder if it was worth all the trouble…

4. Wait until you have a sizable following. 

Personally, I wouldn’t waste my time with giveaways until you hit 10k followers. If you are trying to grow your following with a giveaway, this advice is really frustrating, because how do you even get to 10k?! (I’ve got a blog for that!)

The more followers you have, the more successful a giveaway will be.

5. Make it easy for people to enter the giveaway. 

People are kind of lazy. Even when it involves free stuff. Don’t have a list of 8 different tasks that have to be completed in order to enter. Keep it simple and focus on your initial intention for the giveaway. You can have people enter on a specific Instagram post by including tasks like:

  • Follow my account. (If you want more followers.)
  • Tag ‘x’ friends in the comments below. (If you want to be exposed to a new audience.)
  • Include something specific to start a conversation like: Tell me why you love art in the comments below. (Having more comment engagement on the post might boost it in the discover feed of other accounts.)
  • Share this post on your account (You gain access to their followers and friends.)
  • Sign up for my newsletter. (This will attract more genuine people who want to hear from you regularly.)

Or you can have people enter through a google form or website: I like this because I can collect more information about people and pick winners more easily. Asking people to leave Instagram might decrease the amount of entries, but you’ll know they are at least more motivated.

6. Have a schedule. 

When are your followers most active? I usually post sales, giveaways, and anything I want to get a lot of attention Tuesday through Thursday between 9am and 12pm Pacific time. This works for me, but look at your current posts to see which have been most popular and take notes on when you posted. Historically, I get the most interest on a giveaway post during the first 24 hours of posting and I usually run them for 4 days or less.

7. Don’t be annoying.
Once you post, give gentle reminders in your Instagram stories and in the captions of following posts, but don’t let that be the only thing you talk about for a few days.

8. Picking a winner. 
I always choose my winners at random. I copy and paste all of my entries into a spreadsheet and then use Google random number generator to decide the winner, but you can choose a winner however you want. Just make it easy on yourself to keep track of entries when planning your giveaway. I usually announce winners on Instagram a day or two after the giveaway ends.

9. Have realistic expectations.

How many new followers do you want to gain? How much interest are you hoping for? The larger your account, the more engagement you’ll get on your giveaway (again, this is why I say wait until your following grows.) Unless you work some kind of internet magic, don’t expect to gain thousands of new followers while trying to giveaway an 8″x10″ print or canvas.

10. Have fun with it!

This is a great chance to build a community around you as an artist. Don’t fixate on what a giveaway will do for your account, but focus on what you can do for your audience. I know it’s easy to obsess over the numbers (says the girl who has a spreadsheet to track her Instagram account growth…), but cultivating a dedicated following matters much more than the number itself.


In conclusion, if you are only hoping to help grow your Instagram following, I wouldn’t use a giveaway to do it. Instead, grow your following for free by putting in the daily work of posting and using niche tags (read this and this). If you just want to reward your current followers and have some fun, then by all means, host that giveaway!

I hope this was helpful! If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below or reach out to me directly. I’m always happy to help out another artist and even offer my coaching and consulting services.


Visit the Messy Ever After store. 

P.S. If you enjoy my blogs and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep doing what I do. Plus, you get extra little perks like phone wallpapers and the ability to pick my brain whenever you want through the artist Q&A perk.

Further Reading:

Are You Forcing Yourself into an Art Business Before You’re Ready?

How I Promote My Artwork on the Internet