Liz Chaderton creates paintings which help people see the natural world in a fresh light. Her paintings are full of vitality and joie de vivre, capturing the beauty and energy of the flora and fauna we often take for granted. She creates special paintings which bring a sense of wonder into your life.
Liz lives and works in a small village in Berkshire, UK working mainly in watercolour and ink. A selection of her paintings are published in the UK, US and worldwide. She has written three practical art books all published by The Crowood Press, and a fourth is coming out in July 2022.
How did you get started as an artist?
My joyful watercolours reconnect you to nature, leaving space for your imagination to wander. I aim for them to bring a smile and a moment to pause no matter busy your life gets. They often depict everyday animals and flora.
I didn’t go to art college, I studied psychology and then moved into an industry where my career took me all over the place. I painted and created for leisure and started with watercolours when my children were small. I fell in love with this unpredictable medium.
After several years of juggling my art alongside my then freelance work, I had an ‘aha’ moment. In 2017 there was a total eclipse of the sun in North America and I heard the phrase ‘path of totality’ for the first time. It’s the area where the sun is totally obscured. I realised I needed to follow the path of totality. I knew I would regret not committing 100% to be a full-time artist and life is too short for regrets!
I had been trying to balance things, but the reality was that nothing was getting my full attention and I wasn’t doing anything to the best of my ability. So overnight I told my clients I could no longer work for them and put all my energy into my art business.
Please tell us about your art business?
My aim is to bring the natural world back into busy lives through joyful watercolour paintings. So, as far as my business goes, I am a painter who loves to teach rather than a teacher who happens to paint. And yes, I do see my art as a business. I apply all the skills and experiences I learned from working in industry as well as freelancing. I am an artist entrepreneur; an artpreneur.
About 40% of my income is from painting sales, 40% from both workshops and online courses and the remaining 20% from books, writing, licensing and other activities. I thoroughly enjoy having the variety of income streams, but I recognise that sometimes these can be a distraction from my first love, which is painting.
I am developing more passive income such as pre-recorded courses and merchandise, so that I can continue to grow creatively.
Is it difficult for artists to earn enough money from selling their art alone?
There isn’t a magic answer. It is challenging, but not impossible to earn enough from selling art. Partly that might depend on your definition of ‘enough’. It is rare that someone will knock on your door to demand a painting, so you need to work hard at marketing your work and treat your art as a business.
I sell my work directly, through my newsletter and social media, through galleries and events. I like the mix. Galleries and events help you reach a new audience. In the case of galleries, of course, there is the 40%-50% commissions to be considered and buyers are the gallery’s clients, not yours.
Events are a great way to get feedback on your work directly from clients, but there is the time and cost involved. And if you are introverted, events such as art trails, open studios and exhibitions will push you out of your comfort zone.
Direct marketing may be low cost, but it is intensely time-consuming to build an online following and community.
I pursue all three routes to give a balance and I actively choose to teach, as I find it very rewarding.
You offer several art books for sale on Amazon, are there good opportunities for artists with traditional publishing?
I have always wanted to write a book and decided that the traditional publishing route was the one I would pursue if at all possible. If all the publishers told me to push off, I would have self-published, but luckily they didn’t.
Traditional publishing means they take on the editing, design and distribution side. The writer’s income is restricted as the royalty percentage is low. Few authors make much money, unless you are J K Rowling or write cookery books! You should not see the book as a particular money earner, however, it brings other benefits. For me, it was more an itch I needed to scratch. I believe it is a great way to build awareness and reputation, which will spill over into other areas of my business. However, it is a long and intense process. Each book might be 30,000 words and at least 150 pictures. It is not a commitment to be undertaken lightly.
I carefully researched art publishers and tailored a detailed proposal explaining what the book would be about, who it would interest and why I was the person to write it. I was extremely fortunate to be accepted by the second publisher I approached. The publisher is investing a lot in you and your book, you need to convince them that this is a wise investment. Sadly, traditional publishers and booksellers are under threat from the internet and the likes of Amazon, so there will also be more people wanting to write a book, than publishers willing to publish.
Conversely, digital printing or ebooks make it easier than ever to go down a self-publishing route. It is no longer ‘vanity publishing’ and success lies entirely within your hands.
My first book was specialized ‘Painting Watercolours on Canvas’, the second was broader ‘Painting Animals in Watercolour’. The third was all about pen and wash ‘Line and Wash Painting’. A fourth is due out in July 2022 ‘Painting Birds in Watercolour’. Will there be a fifth? Probably!
I prepared myself by writing a blog and articles for art magazines. If you can show a track record in writing and meeting deadlines, you will be a step ahead in the eyes of publishers. If your art process is unique, then you might be lucky enough to be approached by a publisher. I do know a couple of artists who have been.
How do in-person workshops compare to teaching online courses?
The joy of in-person workshops for the student is that you have interaction, individual attention and the chance to ask burning questions. For the tutor, there is the reward of seeing the lightbulb come on in someone’s eyes.
Online courses offer the student greater flexibility. You can work at your own pace, at a time to suit, repeat modules and have access to artists you admire in far-flung countries.
For the teacher, once the intense effort of putting the course together is over, this is an evergreen income stream. However, I miss the feedback. In a class, you can see if people are confused, online you have to make sure you are ultra-clear and concise.
I feel both types of teaching work well together. You can try out new ideas in person and then make them available to a wider audience. It is up to you whether you wish to build the community and interaction side of things with webinars or FaceBook groups, for example.
I tested out the water and started to build an audience by making YouTube films. This helped me learn filming and editing skills, as well as how to clearly explain processes to the camera. If you are considering recording your own online courses, this is a great proving ground.
How do you attract students for your in-person workshops?
Students should look for a workshop from an artist they admire, using a medium they enjoy. It’s worth considering the size of group and the teaching style. Some tutors will guide you very specifically and this may result in a pleasing painting at the end of the day. But potentially, you won’t have developed your own decision-making skills. Others encourage experimentation and skill-building, which might not result in a great painting but will serve you better long term (in my opinion). Personally, I much prefer the latter approach, but each student needs to identify what they are after.
I use a wide range of ways to communicate my workshops, from word of mouth to repeat bookings. I use specialist course websites such as CraftCourses.com in the UK, social media, newsletter, local art societies, events and pretty much anything else I can think on. Writing regular articles for leisure art magazines is another great way of getting your work known and you can always let slip that you are doing workshops…
What percentage of your business comes from teaching online classes?
This is only my second year of offering online courses and already the income is greater than for in-person workshops. The potential is virtually limitless. It was growing quickly and the pandemic has only accelerated the acceptance of online classes.
Working with Bundles for Good, was a super way of getting my classes in front of a new audience of interested painters. Many students end up taking a number of my online classes, so I hope that this new audience will become firm friends.
As I mentioned, I started a YouTube channel to polish my editing and teaching skills, before diving into the world of online classes. This has created a great community of artists and subscribers (nearly 6,000 at the moment). Though I do free weekly watercolour tips, many subscribers have started to take online courses for more in-depth training.
Giveaways and live-streamed masterclasses are another way of attracting people, giving a taster of your teaching and painting style. But there is a danger of giving everything away for free. I may well use paid Facebook advertising in the future.
I wish I had started my online workshops ages ago!
Do you have any advice for someone interested in teaching art classes or workshops?
Only do so if you have a passion for teaching. It is not fair to see enthusiastic students simply as an income source. Some artists say they do not wish to share their secrets. I am not convinced there are such things as secrets in art, but you shouldn’t be teaching if you aren’t prepared to share and give value. I think it is also best to underpromise and over-deliver so that students go away delighted.
If you were starting today, what would you focus on?
My top tip would be to start building a mailing list and an audience now. Don’t wait until you are ready and don’t rely on social media. If a platform goes down, changes its algorithm or mistakenly kicks you off, you will be stuck. Effectively you are putting the success of your business in someone else’s hands…
Then I would urge you to dream and to plan. If you don’t know where you want to go, it is very hard to find the path.
Ask yourself what you want to get out of your art business. Dream a little, dream a lot, say it out loud – where do you want to be in five or ten years’ time? What does success look like? For some, making a living doing what they love is more than enough. Others want to be recognised by the art world. Knowing where you want to get to, lets you set specific objectives and plan to get there.
If you want your own art programme on TV, perhaps you need to start making reels on Instagram and teaching on YouTube…. If you want to have a solo exhibition at a certain gallery, you need to start building relationships, making your work the best it can be, submitting to juried shows etc.
Planning and clear objectives put you in control of all the variants in your business.
Finally, find a community of like-minded artists. People with a bit of entrepreneurial flair, who are on the same path as you. You are not in competition. It can be lonely working for yourself and you may suffer from imposter syndrome. At these times being able to give and receive ideas and support will keep you going.
Liz Chaderton Artist Links
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