Have a Commercial Head
Interview of Kelly Stevens by Miriam Schulman, @schulmanArt
|One of Stevens popular Fox prints available from her etsy shop
SchulmanArt: How do you think your childhood has influenced you as an artist?
Kelly Stevens: I’m originally from London and as a child I was brought up with various pets, and so animals have always been an important part of the family. When I left home I remember that I couldn’t wait to move into a home big enough for me to get a dog, but of course that ended up as three! I think that living with pets all of my life has given me a very clear view of the different personalities that different animals have and so I find that my art is all about bringing animals personalities to the fore, and sometimes I express that by having them in unusual situations, or humanising them in some way.
SchulmanArt: When did you decide to be a professional artist?
Kelly Stevens: My actual ‘career’ as an artist is very, very recent. I’ve made things all of my life, and painted on anything that stood still long enough, for as long as I can remember, but the idea that I could make a living doing anything like that always seemed a total dream, and so I never pursued it professionally in any way.
|artist Kelly Stevens
I started my first business when I was 24 and then spent 20 years running a number of businesses, selling them when they were established and then setting up another. My art was completely shelved, but I was on holiday in late 2012 when I saw a bird box that I loved, and a voice in the back of my head said “I could make that.” So when I got home, I did and then I made another and then another and then over the next few weekends I made 30. Then I started painting on them, and the next thing I knew I had started drawing and painting again and I realised how much I had missed it.
So in October 2012, I opened a shop on Etsy, originally to get rid of the 30 bird boxes which were cluttering up my spare room (did I mention that they are each about 24inches tall!), but on 26th December 2012 I realised that I could be using my Etsy shop to sell prints of the 70+ paintings I had done since October. So that was what I did.
Incredibly within 90 days I sold just over 1000 prints on Etsy and on another online store and so I made the decision to close my main business and actually have a go at making a career as a full time artist.
|Visit her website for wholesale information
SchulmanArt: That is incredible! Did you even study art?
Kelly Stevens: I did art at school like everyone did and I got a fair grade, but it never even occurred to me for a second to pursue any further art education or training. At age 45 I finally found myself in a position to do something that I wanted to do 20 years ago, but if I hadn’t have done what Ive been doing for the last 20 years, I wouldn’t have arrived at this point, and I wouldn’t have been able to make a success of it.
SchulmanArt: What is your favorite medium to work in and why?
KS: Acrylic paint or just plain old emulsion left over from decorating were all I had ever painted with until my husband arrived home one day in November 2012 with a Wacom.[interactive pen display & digital drawing tablet] At that point I started creating art digitally and I love it!
SchulmanArt: What is your most popular print?
KS: My most popular items have to be my foxes. Foxes are very in vogue at the moment luckily for me, but they are lovely animals. We actually feed the local foxes every night and now we have about four that sit outside our front door every evening waiting for their dinners. I have a feeling that when the weather starts to get a bit ‘crispy’ again I might start putting some of my animals in appropriate clothing.
|Stevens has a second shop on etsy too
SchulmanArt: How do you get inspired and stay focused?
KS: I don’t paint every day. I find that if I see something or hear something that sparks an idea and then I will sit down and paint it. And then another idea will occur in the middle of doing that one, so I do another picture straight afterwards, and then another. When I create one picture I always seem to end up doing five or six, and then stop for a couple of weeks before the cycle comes around again.
SchulmanArt: Describe a typical day for you.
KS: Nothing’s typical when you have an Etsy shop. That’s what I love about it. You can have a few days with not much happening and just a few orders rolling in, and then you get a request for 40 prints to be shipped to South America, and 30 to Australia within five minutes of each other.
|You don’t need a fancy studio to sell art!
SchulmanArt: What is your studio space like?
KS: I have a home office but I hate to work there. I also can rarely get to the desk anyway as the office chair seems to have been adopted by one of our dogs. If I had an unlimited budget I could build the most beautiful custom studio, but I know that I would end up working back where I always love to work, and that is on the kitchen table. That is where I always do any artwork, whether it be digital or acrylic painting. Yes, it causes a bit of disruption sometimes but it is the heart of my home, and I like to work with noise and things going on around me.
SchulmanArt: What final advice would you give other artists who want to make a living selling their art?
KS: Creating art is one thing, selling it to make a living is another skill set altogether. You have a choice to either learn the business side and operate that yourself, or find someone else to do it for you (agent etc). But if you decide to do it yourself, really really take the time to learn as much as you can about running a business and marketing. Having a ‘commercial head’ will pay in the long run