Art Lessons I Learned Outside of Art School

art by Nan LawsonI don’t have an art degree, but I’ve learned a lot by doing. I’ve gleaned a plethora of valuable lessons from selling art at local markets, working in the creative field, and working with successful artists.

I didn’t have a plan when I got started, but you should! That’s where this post comes in!

This post compiles the best lessons I learned outside of art school. I learned these the hard way, but you won’t have to!

1. Be Organized: Use Schedules, Lists, and Specific Goals

We creative types thrive off chaos, but for your art antics to pay off you must be organized. Set goals, write to-do lists, and schedule tasks. Have a place for every supply you use. It goes against our nature, but preserving your precious sanity makes it worth the effort!

2. Get Out There: Social Media and Networking is King

You have to get yourself out there if you want to make sales and be successful. Make friends with people in your field, use online social media like Facebook, Twitter, and online forums consistently. Join groups. This is the most important step for being an artist. Do this, and the opportunities will just keep rolling in!

3. Be Prolific: Make as Much Art as Possible

Create something every day. The most successful full-time artists I know are constantly churning out new work. Making sales is easier when you have a large body of work and merchandise for customers to choose from.

4. The Walmart Approach: Lots of Merchandise, Low Prices

It’s sounds evil, but this really works. Along with your higher priced items, make sure you have a big selection of low priced merchandise for customers. Think of the most efficient way you can churn out a large volume of your product (like art prints) for the lowest price, and produce!

But of course, don’t sacrifice quality! I know I mentioned The Devil Beast Walmart, but don’t go all the way to the dark side!

5. Brand Yourself: Tell Your Story

Don’t forget to tell your story! Tell it with the work you produce, and include it in your social media, accounts, blogs, website, and marketing materials. Think of how you want people to feel when they view your work. Making this connection is what brings people back and helps you create a following.

Take action now!

Tell Me Your Story: Art degree or not, I want to know the art lessons you’ve learned from the proverbial Art School of Hard Knocks, that is, what you learned by getting out there and selling your work! Let’s chat about it in the comments.

image above Don’t Hold Back by Nan Lawson

Vanessa wrote this post. She is a full time copywriter and webmarketer with a passion for art, creativity, and thrift. She writes about thrifting, creating, and saving money every weekday on her blog, Thrift Core.

10 comments | Click here to reply

Anna: Yep, it helps when you schedule a specific short action step. You move toward your goal without feeling overwhelmed and you stop the procrastination issue.

I meet with friends 1-2 times per week to draw and it helps us all get ahead!

Ana: Excellent points, I love how you’ve interpreted number 4! It isn’t easy, but it’s necessary for making sales, especially now with more people being on a budget.


Tabassm: Excellent point. You can lose a good opportunity by not having your portfolio updated, on you, and ready to go at all times.

Jackie: You’re welcome, and it’s fun to see that we came up with the same conclusions by throwing ourselves out there and learning the hard way!


These are some great topics. Sometimes it’s hard to put them into practice, even though we already know we should, but it surely helps to insist!
I especially agree on the numbers 1 and 3 and I’m constantly working on it! I also agree with the number 4 approach: it’s not about producing less quality goods, not at all, but having a wide range of products and prices in your product line really helps to reach different audiences and that’s very important!
Thank you for sharing such useful tips 🙂

ana pina

Some great advice here. As a creative I know procrasination and feeling overwhelmed as to where to begin sometimes makes me avoid even starting to create. Your first point is great because it would probably help avoid feeling confused and unmotivated.

Anna Pontikis

Dearest sweet Brittni and Vanessa, this is really a great post! These are also some lessons i have learned so far from my creative journey! Thanks so much for sharing and inspiring all of us. Have a lovely merry happy weekend and love to you!


Great post! One lesson that I learned outside of design school was being prepared. In the beginning, our business had a slow start. But as soon as people started taking notice of us and opportunities started rolling in all at once and everyone wanted to see our work, it helps to be prepared. You never know when a good opportunity will come, but at least you can prepare for it. I learned the hard way and missed out on a few good opportunities, but not anymore. I make sure to have my lookbooks updated, a few sample pieces on hand, etc.


“It’s only by creating you feel inspired to create more I think.” Absolutely Josie! Totally agree with you. Thanks for stopping by.


Really good advice! And interesting for me even though I’m not an artist in the strictest sense. I especially think it’s good to create & make as much as you can. It’s only by creating you feel inspired to create more I think.


Glad to hear that you found this post helpful Cathy! Good luck with your Etsy shop and thanks for stopping by.


Great post! I am launching a new etsy shop (catshy crafts) and need all the advice I can get. I’ve had a digi/paper scrapbooking blog posting for several years but now I want to reach a bigger audience (well bigger than 30, LOL)

p.s. I found your site through a podcast on branding. It was very informative!

Cathy Pascual
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