Interview with Artist Mentor Bonnie Glendinning
Bonnie Glendinning explains her art mentoring services and courses along with offers advice for becoming a professional artist.
Bonnie Glendinning Bio
Bonnie Glendinning is the founder of The Artists’ Mentor, The Thriving Artist and Artmuse®, providing education, programs, platforms and brand mentorship for professional artists. As an artist, designer and entrepreneur herself, her mission is to empower artists to create their artistic legacy.
Please tell us about your work?
I am the founder of The Artists’ Mentor, The Thriving Artist and Artmuse®, providing education, programs, platforms and brand mentorship for professional artists. As an artist, designer and entrepreneur myself, my mission is to empower artists to create their artistic legacy. I have been featured in Professional Artist, Artwork Archive, Artsy Shark, and Apartment Therapy.
Additionally, I am a Creative Director and Product Designer which means I direct, consult, research, design, and build visual context, creative collateral, and customer experience for brands, products, and services.
Art and design are my tools to attempt to quench my relentless curiosity about our world and how to make a positive impact within it. As such, I have no lack of ideas for new endeavors to bring to life.
What is your art background?
I earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Texas at Austin. I covered the “A’s” in college: I started with Anthropology, which led to Archaeology, which led to Art History, and finally led to Art. Once in the Fine Arts, I delved into a wide variety of mediums studying painting, ceramics, drawing, typography, illustration, sculpture, and photography (analog).
Photography was what really captured my creative heart. It was the most fun and experimental for me. I loved trying new techniques, styles, and materials in the darkroom. My experimental photography was selected to be part of group exhibits in both Austin and Houston, Texas.
After college you worked in graphic design
and marketing, was that work related to your
Like many artists, I’ve had to balance my creative dreams and practical needs of simply surviving. It can truly be tormenting to be in this state. But, I am a resourceful kind of person. I have learned to trust my instincts, collaborate to optimize time, and create my own opportunities.
When I graduated I was completely unprepared to actually pursue a career as a fine artist. My education was only in the practice of art-making, not business or career building. Yet, during college I did team up with a friend and started a handmade greeting card business (Bonzai Productions) selling to local gift shops. I was the Creative and she was the Sales. Looking back I see it was the start of my entrepreneurial path.
After graduation, I moved back to my hometown Houston, which is a world-renowned hub in the art world, and at that time (1990) it was the gallery world or nothing for an artist to succeed. To be in the world of photography I worked with commercial photographers — which was not a fit.
I just couldn’t find where I wanted to be in the art world quite yet. Being a successful fine art photographer felt too elusive for me to pursue.
Though I had my own darkroom in my apartment after graduating, Adobe Photoshop was first launched and it piqued my interest. I took to technology with ease and enthusiasm. Ultimately, this took me in the direction of learning desktop publishing and building a 30+ year career in graphic design and the marketing world.
My BFA introduced me to many artists, styles, mediums, and the impact of creating well-designed products, services, and experiences. All of which are relevant and the underpinning of my professional pursuits in design, marketing, art, products, and entrepreneurship.
Initially I felt like I had given up on my art, but working in design/ marketing truly has been an excellent learning lab for my creativity, community, finances, professionalism, business acumen and more. This also has led me to pursue graduate level business classes.
I find building a business to be a highly creative process and really brings people into a unique community. I enjoy mentoring artists on how to do this for their own art business. Artists’ innate talent of creative problem solving is the key skill required in entrepreneurship. So, while art and business might seem like an odd pairing they really go hand-in-hand.
Why did you decide to give up your career to start
The Thriving Artist?
I didn’t decide per se, instead I had some significant life events happen one after the other. The primary ones being both of my parents passed and I was also laid off from my job during the economic free fall in the U.S. These events prompted me to rethink everything, how to be back in the art scene, and build a business to support myself.
I missed being in the arts and long had the idea and domain name for Artmuse.com (online art gallery). I bought the domain back in 1999, but, it was too soon culturally to buy art online and required immense resources to even build a site at that time.
Ten years later the Internet had evolved both technologically and culturally and I had the time and resources to bring my Artmuse to life. In turn, this led me to connect with artists and see many needed help with their art business and brand.
I decided to create The Thriving Artist Summits and reach artists online. I interviewed over 50 art industry leaders and luminaries to share their expertise with artists from around the world. The Summits were wildly popular with over 300K organic social reach, 140K+ downloads, and reaching a collective artist community of over 20,000. It has been quite an exciting path to pursue.
Please give us some details of the classes and
products you sell?
I am a person that loves to experiment, move forward quickly not waiting for perfection, and happy to claim everything as a win by learning from any so-called fails. This being said I respond to what I see missing in a market with a product or service.
Thriving Artist Summit Masters & Mentors Interviews is your lifetime access to over 50 interviews with key artists, experts, and mentors sharing their insights to be a successful artist. The evergreen topics include: Branding, Marketing, Social Media, Creative Practice, Sales, Finances, Legal, Licensing, Galleries, Leadership, Public Relations, Pricing, Fundraising, Retail, Wholesale, Mindset, Success Tactics, and more.
From the Summit a large community formed and I wanted to provide further resources. I developed The Artists’ Mentor to educate artists on the business and creative side of being a practicing artist.
I was inspired to create my Art Biz Refresh + Refocus Retreat to give you a place to reconnect with yourself away from the busy-ness of your business. This 5-day online retreat will help you gain clarity and confidence in you, your art, and art biz.
My newest offering is Your Signature Artist Brand Mentorship. It is a deep dive discovery of “you” to understand your unique and relatable essence to connect with your audience.
What is your most popular product or service?
The Thriving Artist Summit has been my most popular selling and much loved product.
I also have my newest offering: Your Signature Artist Brand Mentorship which teaches how to discover and implement your brand that genuinely reflects your art, heart, and values — which makes everything easier and
Learn the 3 Myths You Have Been Told About Branding As An Artist to understand the importance of developing your brand first in your art business.
What are some of the typical problems that
creatives have with making a career from their art?
Initially, the overwhelm of the business side and feeling like they don’t get to spend enough time in the studio are challenges for an artist. Then while juggling all the plates to make a business successful they can simply get burned out. And, just winging it and not setting up support systems creatively, financially, socially, and professionally make it hard to stay in the game.
How I help an artist is to guide them to align their studio and business with their personal values, creative mastery, and financial goals. If you dive into a business without these 3 in sync then it will be excruciatingly difficult to get through any inevitable growing pains and might cause you to just give up.
When they are in sync, then you have allowed for you, your art, and your finances to evolve and grow in a way that supports you. Additionally, this will make it more enjoyable and help you stand out from the crowd with confidence.
Specifically, I steer artists to build a business to include income diversification, use systems strategically, and implement a brand for near, short, and long term.
Are you still active with your own photography and
Honestly, I have put all my creative efforts in to my design projects and entrepreneurial ventures. I definitely miss creating my own art and my plan is to work in my studio again.
Is it difficult for artists to earn enough money from
selling their art alone?
This will depend on the brand, target market, and pricing. It is not uncommon for artists to significantly underprice their art. I generally recommend an artist at least double, if not quadruple, their prices especially if they plan to do both wholesale and retail. And, prices are not required to be democratic. Be okay with charging differently for varying circumstances.
It is important to diversify revenue streams. This creates a stronger financial base year round and avoids the feast or famine of seasonal sales. There are many ways to diversify income depending on your art and goals.
Teaching courses is an excellent way to expand your income. You can choose online, offline, or both. Online allows you to set up once and sell it repeatedly. Offline can be small or large events and provides a wholly different in-person experience than online. Both require significant marketing efforts, but, that is achievable with planning and strategy.
What advice do you have for someone interested in
becoming a professional artist?
Firstly, if you are not interested in making money keep your art as your personal hobby. That is perfectly acceptable.
However, if you do want to make money then being a professional artist is a worthwhile personal, professional, and creative journey. Set yourself up for success from the beginning. Never stop professional learning to master your art, business, marketing, and relationship building skills.
Do it at your own pace: full time, part time, on the side, 15 minutes here and there, during lunch hours or on weekends. You don’t have to do it all at once. Even small steps in the right direction will add up and make a difference. Build a go-to network of friends, family, colleagues that get what you are aiming for. Avoid people that are negative and tear you down.
Learn everything you can about who will buy your art and how you will stand out from the crowd. Really understand how you will relate to them and convert them from being strangers to repeat customers.
Do not base your prices on your own wallet. Price for real profit to have a sustainable business that will support you and your business growth.
Be a CEO and, as soon as you can, delegate what you dislike or are not skilled at to those that can bring your vision to life. Give yourself raises and protect your non-work time. Create systems and calendars to help your business be scalable.
Do not wait for perfection (it doesn’t exist). Be kind to yourself. Have fun. Stretch out of your comfort zone. Go for it — it’s worth it!
Find a mentor for your professional growth and be a mentor to other artists.
My top 7 lessons I have learned being a creative business owner:
1. Say “no” to projects that do not excite you.
2. Be brave and say “yes” to what scares you.
3. Move much, much faster than feels comfortable.
4. Recognize when you need to get support (and, get it).
5. Regrets, failures, and flops are good for your soul.
6. Evolve and constantly up your game.
7. Regularly raise prices and choose to profit.