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  • Writer's pictureAmy


Highlights and snippets of this guide to being a business smart artist

A business guide for artists.
The Complete Smartist Guide

The Complete Smartist Guide by Ekaterina Popova & Alicia Puig

This book is perfect for emerging artists. Whether you’re literally just starting out or you’ve been down this road a few years, this book is for you. I am a few years down the road, so some parts were redundant for me but the book is a great resource. It’s organized well so that if you want to skip around you can totally do that. I read through it all because even if I’ve heard something before, sometimes there are bits that jump out or are said in a more helpful way.

Popova and Puig are artists but they also have experience in many different fields of the art world such as working for a gallery or starting a magazine. For that reason I felt like they had a comprehensive and helpful look into the art world. They’ve accepted submissions from artists so they can tell us the do’s and don’ts. Where they lack expertise, they interview other established artists for more information.

So, without further ado. Here are some of the highlights I gleaned from The Complete Smartist Guide:


  • Create 2 folders in your email. One titled “keep” and one titled “pick me up”. In the keep folder you can add all the emails you may need to reference in the future. In the pick me up folder you can put all the encouraging emails you may need to read when you feel discouraged.

  • “It’s your job to communicate how the viewer can connect to your work and convince them why it’s important for them to own it.” pg 68 This is in regards to storytelling as a form of marketing

  • On page 64 there is a really helpful checklist for whether you are ready to sell art

  • When submitting to things it’s good to email a week or two after application to make sure they received it pg 159

  • Sometimes an artist has to submit up to five times before being selected” pg 162

  • “Every business deal has the opportunity to be more creative or less creative than the next. There is no such thing as a standard contract or business deal.” -Ashley Longshore, pg 94

  • Our biggest tip is to remember not to sell yourself short. You don’t have to be an expert to start making money from a skill you have. If you are simply better at something than most people, you can likely find someone who will pay for the convenience of having you do it better and more efficiently than they can!” pg 90

  • Major companies like Target or Anthropology usually work through print companies.So if you sign a contract with a print company (such as Artfully Walls) then your work may be featured at that large brand company. Pg 304

  • “Condition yourself to respond to your environment and find positive triggers that help you settle into your creative mode.” Put things in your studio that make you feel creative: beautiful things, flowers, candles, whatever pg 279

  • Submissions to magazines don’t have to be just art magazines. Lots of different magazines have art in them pg 217

  • If you are accepted into a small gallery, show up like a pro, treat them like they are just as important as a high flying NY gallery. Pg 219

  • You have to invest in yourself in order to succeed” pg 223

  • Applying to small local opportunities are a great way to build your resume and artist portfolio pg 216

  • Even the smallest opportunities will give you a reason to celebrate and inspire potential collectors to invest in your work.” pg 215

  • “When you are honest and upfront about your transgressions the more likely it is that you will quickly be forgiven.” pg 208

  • “Despite common conventions, you don’t have to put in eight hours a day in order to be productive.Sometimes spending four solid hours in the studio or varying your hours on different days is more effective.” pg 193


  • Take charge of your career, no one is going to save you

  • “Like any relationship you are looking for a good fit… If you didn’t end up selling a piece, that’s okay. Sometimes a work of art gets scooped up right away, but more often than not it takes a few years to build your reputation and trust with collectors. You’ll start to see steadier sales once you reach this point in your career, so work hard to get there.” pg 73

  • “Don’t feel pressured to make your entire income from art sales alone.” pg 80

  • “You and your work are not less important than anyone else’s” pg 83

  • “You also have to fully be comfortable and okay in knowing it will take time; you have to always create more work and you have to be willing to make mistakes” interview with Kestin Cornwall, pg 317

  • “You are your project. You are working to be just a bit better, grow just a bit more than yesterday. You have to be willing to be wrong.” -Kestin Cornwall pg 318

  • “Them being great will not make you small.” -Kestin Cornwall, pg 319

  • “If you feel called to create then you are an artist” pg 280

  • “Trust in yourself and believe in the power of supportive family and friends who will continue to encourage you to meet your goals. It’s never too late to start or start over again.” pg 282

  • “Pay attention to the work you are making and see if it’s still exciting for you.” pg 282

  • Remember: Community over competition.” pg 312

  • “You’re not a creative machine.” you should rest. pg 273

  • “Whatever opportunities didn’t work out were simply not meant to be, put in the work.” pg 274

  • Ask yourself: “why do I continue to make art, even when no one is paying attention?” pg 277

  • “What often holds us back is not lack of time, credentials, money, or materials, but our feelings of unworthiness.” pg 268

  • “There is more than enough room for all of us creatives to find success and our place in this industry.” pg 268

  • “Your life and career will have high and low seasons.” pg 272

  • “Even if the circumstances surrounding a particular moment of success were serendipitous, YOU played an active role in making it happen for yourself.” pg 239

  • “Your artist community really wants to celebrate your successes with you.” pg 241

  • “When we take care of ourselves and temporarily stop making art, no one is severely affected… We are not saving lives --- it’s just lipstick.” pg 264

  • “You won’t achieve goals that you don’t believe in. Fully embrace what you’re working toward and start believing that it’s not only possible, but will happen.” pg 233

  • “Our possibilities are not limited by what others think artists are capable of, or by how artists have achieved success in the past.” pg 236

  • “Jealousy will only distract you.” pg 237

  • “Nobody doing more than you will criticize you, only someone doing less.” pg 237

  • If you aren’t chosen for an opportunity it isn’t necessarily a reflection upon the quality of the work. You might not have been the right fit for the opportunity or not in the judge’s subjective taste pg 215


  • “Don’t just sell art, make it an experience.” pg 74

  • Smart sales strategies- instead of thinking that you sell “abstract painting” rephrase it for your customer--you are selling “chic modern decor” pg 113

  • Their favorite times for email marketing: Tuesday-Thursday in the morning, midmorning or afternoon. pg136

  • When you need to network with people but you hate networking, use what motivates you. Think of a bare minimum of people you need to engage with and create a personal prize system and stick to it pg 144

  • “We’re often so concerned with how others are judging us, but in reality many people barely notice our mistakes, if at all. Even if you’re nervous, it always helps to smile. :)”

pg 145

  • “Plant the seeds and trust the process of meaningful, sustainable relationships in your community.” pg 145

  • “People are skeptical of being asked for favors, sales, or exhibitions, so the best approach is to offer a sincere compliment, then briefly share who you are and what you have to offer.” pg 145

  • “One of the best tips we can give you for cold emailing is to be very specific with why you are reaching out.” pg 146

  • “People generally don’t like being told what to do.. Shifting how you approach telling people about what you are doing and are ultimately looking for can yield more positive results.” pg 148

  • “There are many art lovers who have never set foot inside a gallery” pg 182

  • “The more specific you can get on the reasons why your clients choose to purchase your work, the higher chance you have of finding other people like them.” pg 183

  • If a client is thinking about a piece but hasn’t closed yet. It can be helpful to make a mockup of what the piece would look like in their home. *ask for a photo of their room and edit the painting image onto the wall pg 185

  • Follow up with your collectors if you’ve finished a piece you think they may like or would go well with something they previously bought from you pg 190


That was a lot. But still shorter than a 350 page book. I hope you can use this post as a reference if you need some practical, motivational or marketing advice. I recommend you read the book though because these are just the things that jumped out to me. There is so much more.


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