Q&A Friday with Lilla: On life as an artist

Lilla loves questions, and she was asked a great deal of them in Make Art That Sells, so we thought we’d share a few with you. Over the past couple of Fridays we have been posting a few real questions from students, along with Lilla’s responses. We hope these are helpful as you develop your own work. This week we are focusing on life as an artist.


Q) What happens when an artist is facing a difficult situation, things like sickness, or loss, or financial issues? How we can keep creating with joy in difficult times?

A) This is a very real question. When I’ve gone through difficult times, my studio was a place of refuge. Commissions and work can be a healthy way to escape. The demands of assignments can be a good focus. All of my employees are mothers, so we all go through the ups and downs of children (several are teens!), and we have all commented on how the Studio is a place to put worry out of our minds for the time being. Another idea is to paint and draw your emotions; good, bad, ugly and weird. There’s a lot of relief and clarity that comes from that. Joy doesn’t need to mean all rainbows and smiles in your art. It just means you’re making art that comes from a joyful experience.


Q) How do you deal with envy?

A: It’s absolutely normal and common to feel envy at another artist’s success or amazing work. Artists don’t talk much about their personal feelings of envy. I don’t know why. Maybe we’re uncomfortable admitting to petty negative feelings?

To really be spiritual though, is to step back and remember that there is room for everybody. Art is actually not a competition. The more great art that’s out there, the more people buy more great art!

My best advice for dealing with envy is this: Rather than focusing on others, just keep focusing on your relationship with your work. Do what you do best and have fun with it. (Take it out for a nice dinner and a movie… LOL).

No-one can ever compete with your own unique vision.


Q) I am my own harshest critic. How do I stop this taking over?

Creative people have a fine mind and heightened sensitivity. You’re able to create something new and original, beautiful and unique.

This is the good part.

However, the difficult part is that this same intensity can be turned inward and can produce a sense of inadequacy. You may feel that your work isn’t good enough, you’re not doing enough for your career, or someone else got a great project and you didn’t.

I would like to suggest that you ask yourself “Am I feeling inadequate?”

Take a read on how you’re feeling. Then say to yourself, “Adequate, not inadequate. That’s good enough for now.”

Try this throughout the day.


Q) In the beginning when you are struggling to make ends meet from your art, it is easy to feel pulled in many directions – the need to make art, the pressure to sell it, the importance of promotion, the demands of admin, etc. How do you manage your time in a way that allows you to move forward?

A: What is the secret of life for the brilliantly creative person? Time management. I hear you groan, but you, as a creative whizz, need to make time management your friend and do it in a lovely way so that it fits your personality. Break things down into tiny chunks so that you chip, chip, chip away in little bits toward your goals.

Even before you begin managing your time, it’s vital to think about – and write down – your values and your goals. You might list just two or three things. Next, list all the activities involved to achieve those goals. Finally, clump them into similar activities and place them on a calendar so that you have a timeframe for achieving them. I write extensively about my Clump System in Part A of Make Art That Sells – this can really help you juggle everything.

Remember, too, that facts are your friend. If necessary remove some of your financial pressures so you are more happily making art. To do so, you need to be realistic about how long it takes to build a brand and a career. You may need another source of income for some time. Give yourself time. Build that into the calculation. But work hard and put in lots of hours in your career. What you spend time on is what you value!

Additionally, support is your secret weapon in the fight to do all the various tasks that are required of the independent artist. Delegate anything and everything you can. Invest in hiring others at any level you can afford.

There is no denying that the journey you are on requires a ton of work. But it’s so worth it. You have such freedom in your life, and you are your own boss. You can create a life that is full of adventure. There will be lots of surprises along the way, and opportunities that you never knew existed will come to you. I, for one, wouldn’t have it any other way.


Q) Don’t you think that making art that sells is selling out?

That is a fabulous question. 1)It’s only selling out if you are selling out to yourself and your own vision. 2) When you look at the fabulous products of companies like Land of Nod, Blue Q, and Paperchase (just to name a few), and scads of many amazing picturebooks, for example, do you think those artists have sold out to get that work in the world (and enjoyed by so many)? I don’t.

Let’s define selling out. In my mind, it’s dumbing down your work so that you make money. My whole career has been about doing the opposite, in my own work, my agency, and my e-courses.

Any time you sell a piece of art, whether it’s through a gallery or to a manufacturer, you are involved in the conversation of commerce and aware of your market and who is buying. Only when you do a piece strictly for you own self are you potentially free of that. So the question is, how can you make art that sells while being the most true to yourself? For me, the answer is to understand the market, and then elevate it with your art. It’s a dance that takes time. I believe my artists have mastered that very well.

Finally, we live in a time when, unless you are a farmer, you need money to eat. And so you accept the fact that there is some kind of compromise involved. Look at it from another perspective – how totally amazing is it that you can pay the rent with your art-making? This is a relatively new phenomenon in the modern world. For most of civilized history, only a few painters could make livings by painting portraits of royalty or biblical scenes for the Church (the main two big clients). So, from that perspective, it’s a pretty amazing time we live in. I say to my kids, “How cool is it that I bought my first car from making pictures?”

The question becomes, how can you get that gig while doing your very best work?


If you want the chance to ask Lilla your own burning questions, sign up for Make Art That Sells (starting online THIS MONDAY October 7). This is an industry first – a real opportunity to learn how to make great art that sells in the top ten hottest markets. Don’t miss it!



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This is a rare, incredible opportunity to tap into three decades’ of experience from someone at the forefront of the art licensing industry. Lilla Rogers Studio has sold art for products worth over $100 million. Lilla knows what is hot, what is on the horizon and where your work fits in. Find out more here!

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