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    How to make money from your art

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    Graphic designer Leah Bartholomew had a creative vision – to turn her art into a solo exhibition. With a little help from her friends and clients (and some social networking savvy), Leah’s vision came true last month – in optimistic shades of autumn.

    When Leah’s first solo exhibition, ‘Where the dry leaves fall’, hit the Frankie Magazine blog in early November, the budding artist was naturally chuffed.

    Of course, any publicity helps when you put on your first solo show. But no one could have predicted the instant buzz her ‘crimson, nostalgic’ images would create across the local and global art blogosphere.

    “Spotted the work of artist Leah Bartholomew… and I wish I lived in Australia so I could see it in person!” said one New York art blogger.

    Closer to home, the scribes at ‘The Vine’ offered a description of Bartholomew’s images perhaps even more ‘flowery’ than the nature-themed artwork itself:

    “[It] mixes the folky innocent love of wind in the hair with the actual techniques of our childhood. Collage, handmade wooden sculptures and potato prints make for some warm beauty, some nostalgic charm and happy promises of the summer to come!”

    While Bartholomew is surprised at her exhibition’s success, confiding to friends that she would have been pleased to sell only one item of her art (rather than the row of paintings clearly marked with the seller’s red dots now lining the walls of her exhibition), international interest is not new to the Fine Arts student from Tweed Heeds turned graphic artist.

    Since completing her studies at the Queensland College of Arts, and some later training in textiles, Bartholomew has racked up an A-List portfolio of clients including Built By Wendy (New York), Beams (Tokyo), Gorman, Genki, Mambo and Element Skateboards. Since 2007, she has also been the assistant to
    Beci Orpin, the artist and designer behind the cult fashion label Princess Tina and offshoot labels Tiny Mammoth and Blank.

    “Artists live in a time where we are very lucky. There’s a lot of cross-over into the commercial world,” says Bartholomew. “Illustration is so popular in advertising and fashion. There are all sorts of ways to live off your art – graphics on skateboards, shoes, t-shirts. You have to be very lucky to only live off art sales.”

    And, of course, putting on an exhibition is not simply about creating great artwork. It also involves a range of commercial considerations.

    “The gallery will usually take a fee and a commission. The commission can be up to 40-50 percent. You also need to find out what the gallery can do for you. Is the gallery equipped to create publicity? What kind of mailing list does it have?

    “In most cases, the majority of sales will take place on the opening night. Then, it’s up to word-of-mouth. You need to know that the gallery can get people in the door. I was very fortunate to have great support from Gorker [Gallery].”

    Bartholomew’s art, is undeniably optimistic, perhaps highlighting a personality trait required of this calling; a life choice that is rarely all sunbeams and warm, summer breezes.

    “Firstly, it has been expensive. Art supplies are not cheap. Every time I got my pay, it went towards the show.

    “I also had trouble with my wooden sculptures. I’d never been into a wood-workshop before. Fortunately, that was where my partner came in handy.”

    Any final tips for other aspiring artists wanting to ‘show’?

    “You always have a certain, set idea about how you want everything to look. But you also have to allow for things to change to match the gallery space. You need to be flexible.

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