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Vicki Sullivan — Stay Persistent and Press On

The BoldBrush Show: Episode #78

Show Notes:

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On this episode we're joined by Australian portrait painter Vicki Sullivan. We discuss how she began her path as an artist thanks to the support of her grandmother, some excellent advice for anyone looking to become a portrait painter who takes on commissions, and she reminds us of the importance of persisting and continuing on your path with determination and spirit. We also talk about why it's important to seek out good business advice from professions outside of the arts, and to remember that even if some people don't like your work, there's always someone who will. Finally, Vicki tells us about her brand new instructional video "Painting Realistic Portraits" on Streamline.

Vicki's FASO Site:

Vicki's instructional video "Painting Realistic Portraits":

Vicki's Instagram:



Vicki Sullivan: 0:00

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not. Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not, the world is full of educated derelicts. persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan press on salt and always will solve the problems of the human race.

Laura Arango Baier: 0:29

Welcome to the BoldBrush show, where we believe that fortune favors the bold brush. My name is Laura Arango Baier. I'm your host. For those of you who are new to the podcast. We are a podcast that covers art marketing techniques, and all sorts of business tips. Specifically to help artists learn to better sell their work. We interview artists at all stages of their careers as well as others who are in careers to add to the art world in order to hear their advice and insights. On this episode, we're joined by Australian portrait painter Vicki Sullivan, we discussed how she began her path as an artist thanks to the support of her grandmother some excellent advice for anyone looking to become a portrait painter who takes on commissions. And she reminds us of the importance of persisting and continuing on your path with determination and spirit. We also talk about why it's important to seek out good business advice from professions outside of the arts. And to remember that even though some people won't like your work, there are others who will. Finally Vicki tells us all about her brand new instructional video painting realistic portraits available now on streamline. Welcome, Vicki to the BoldBrush. Show. How are you today?

Vicki Sullivan: 1:38

I'm very well all the better for seeing you, Laura. Again,

Laura Arango Baier: 1:43

yes, we were just saying it's been it's been seven years, since we last saw each other. So I'm so excited to be able to catch up with you. And ask you things about your career that I think when we first met, I wouldn't I couldn't even know what to ask, you know, how would you even ask someone who's doing amazing in their career, so that I can learn from them right now. Now we can do that, which is so great.

Vicki Sullivan: 2:10

Well, I love listening to your podcast and hearing all the other artists and how they, you know how they proceed? And you learn a lot, don't you from everybody else, and different ways of approaching things.

Laura Arango Baier: 2:25

Yes. And that's also why I'm excited to interview you because you have your own way of approaching things that we were just talking about before we started recording. And I'm so excited. Because the way that you approach things is very much more how I would want to approach things and maybe some of our listeners as well. So that, you know, they know that there are different ways of getting around, you know, the, I guess the typical things that maybe some artists have to do, and you can, you know, basically do whatever fits with you. Right? Um, but before we dive into that, do you mind telling us a bit about who you are and what you do?

Vicki Sullivan: 3:05

Well, I'm an Australian painter. I work in a realistic method. I'm academically trained. I trained at the angel Academy, and I did study here in Australia as well with a couple of different teachers, Brian Armstrong and Fiona Bilborough. And I studied tonal painting here before I went to the angel, the cat Academy in Florence, where I met you. Excuse me. And I mainly paint figurative paintings. I do a lot of portrait commissions, but I also do still live so you can see some of my still life paintings in the background.

Laura Arango Baier: 3:49

Yeah, um, you know, that's one of the things that I've been curious to ask you about is, you know, before the painting, right before you decided, Okay, I'm gonna study at the schools. What were you What were you doing? Did you have like, a different career? And then you decided to jump into painting? Or were you able to just dive into painting right away?

Vicki Sullivan: 4:09

Um, well, when I went to art school, painting, the sort of painting that we do realistic painting was really discouraged. So I went off to art school for a couple of years, and I really did want to learn to paint. But it was very discouraged and I ended up losing my Mojo and becoming a potter. And then I went from there to be to painting on silk and making clothing and scarves and selling them in galleries and at markets. And I did that for years and that basically paid our mortgage for years. But then I decided to follow my painting, you know, and learn and that was when I found out about the McClellan guild of artists, which is about an hour drive and I went and started the process of studying with my teachers here. And then I heard about the Florence Academy. And I because I went, I saved up. My husband and I went overseas and traveled around and I was in Venice. And I saw a figurative painting by Ramiro Sanchez from the Florence Academy. And I said to Michael, I want to learn how to paint like that, like that is, that's what I want to be able to do, you know, I wouldn't be able to do that. And there was nowhere in Australia, except maybe the Julian Ashton. But not it's not the same as the Florence Academy, you know, and I spoke to the woman who owned the gallery, and she said, Oh, yes, that's Ramiro Sanchez, and he studied at the Florence Academy, and I'm writing all this down and checked it out. And I looked at the prices, and I thought, I'll never be able to afford that. And then I thought, but maybe I could just save up and just do a term, you know, at a time. And so I came home, and I saved up for three years. And meanwhile, another artist said, Well, how can you go into the Florence Academy and not the angel Academy, and I said, What angel I've never heard of the angel Academy. And he goes, go check it out, because I really liked the alumni work there. And if I had the choice, I'd go there. And I had a look. And I thought that it was really high standard there as well. And so I decided to go to the angel Academy instead of the Florence Academy. And I think it really suited me because it was a smaller school. And what I didn't realize before I went is that the Florence Academy teachers site size, and I already knew site size, I'd already learned that. But Angel Academy teaches comparative measuring as well, which is very useful to have both of those skills, I was very glad that I had chosen that and plus to my strew. But, you know, he was great. Love, Maestro. So you know, and I just learned so much from going there. And from studying with him and all the teachers really great. And because it was a smaller school, I think it suited my personality better. So that's how I ended up going ending up and meeting you. Yeah,

Laura Arango Baier: 7:21

our paths crossed. Yes. And it's so appropriate to that, that you ended up at Angel Academy too. Because you know, Maestro is, you know, he was at one point, the highest paid portrait painter, I think, in North America. So, you know, it's very appropriate that now you're, you're a portrait painter, you know, you do commissions. And, you know, kind of following those footsteps as well. And I completely agree, you know, having both sight size and comparative measurement, you know, under your belt, super useful, super useful, because site size can only take you so far. And I feel like we heard a measurement, it really, you know, gives you the next side of things that site size can really give you. So it's, yeah, it's a great point. Um, and then I wanted to ask you, did you always want to be an artist? Was this something that you ever since you were a little girl, you're like, I'm going to do this?

Vicki Sullivan: 8:13

Yeah, yeah, I was always drawing and painting and my grandmother painted. And so she always encouraged us. She's her philosophy was if a child is interested in something, foster it. So she always made sure that we had things to draw and paint with. And, you know, my brother was into woodwork and things so and her brother had a factory and used to get these amazing shaped bits of blocks of wood. So she was always bringing down bags of these amazing bought blocks of wood. And both of us kids, but especially Darren would be out there banging away and making these creations with this. These books are 14, he ended up being like a furniture maker. And yeah, and I ended up being a painter. So you know, she was right into fostering what children are interested in, which is a good philosophy if you're going to have children. Absolutely. Don't ever force the child into something they don't want to do make, you know, encourage what they do love. Yeah,

Laura Arango Baier: 9:23

absolutely. Yeah. Because I think a lot of people they seem to misunderstand, like, a lot of people think, Oh, I'm preparing my child by making them do something they don't want to do. But it's like, well, if you let them, you know, learn to do the things they really enjoy. They can use that as, like a motivator and as a refuge away from you know, when when they you know, they can do the things they don't want to do, but then they can recover themselves by doing the thing they enjoy. So it's very much a balance. So that's awesome. Wow, that's so great that your grandmother did that. That's so sweet. I kind of have that with my grandma. Yeah, yeah. I kind of have that with my grandma. Next up there was knitting and, and cooking. Which I still do. I love knitting. It's like my, my side hobby. Um, but yeah, you know, yeah. But yeah, it's, uh, and, you know, that goes to show too, that when someone is really paying attention, right, they see like a child or like, know what this child has the strengths, you know, how can we encourage them, and then, you know, and then it turns out into, oh, there she is, she's making a living doing the thing that she'd always loves doing. Which, you know, that that's really inspiring for people out there as well to hear because, you know, there's that whole false narrative, the of the false narrative of the starving artist, which, as we know, it's not true. Or, I mean, for the majority, or for most of the part, there are ways to make money as an artist, and you just, you also mentioned how to supplement income, you know, you were you were doing your pottery, you were doing the scarves, you were doing everything in your power, to be able to, you know, do the thing you love, and eventually, yeah,

Vicki Sullivan: 11:12

quite a few years to get to the point, like for quite a few years there, everything I earned was going back into materials and lessons and things, it took quite a while for it to turn around and start paying me back. But now it is, it seems to, you know, touch wood. Like that, but at the moment, I can't, I sort of, you know, I do get commissions coming in and enough to keep me going. And, you know, I'm doing the still lives and I've found a gallery in my local area. And they, they're just wonderful. And they really liked my work. And they seem to sell it quite well. And I found another gallery who wanted to try my work up near where my daughter lives up in the country, which means that I can work that in with my lifestyle, I like I like it when my love my artwork and working with my lifestyle. So I can go and visit my daughter, take some paintings up, see my granddaughter, you know, and have that fitting in with my life. You know, work it all in, works nicely.

Laura Arango Baier: 12:20

Yeah, and see, that's the other great point. You know, it's like, people who pick this career, you know, they do it, because one, they absolutely love it. And two, you know, there's something that maybe like, maybe most of us don't, like, you know, working for someone else, we don't like being told, Oh, you have to do this, and this and this, and you have eight hours, and it just feels so limiting when you know, you're you just want to be free and liberated. Of course, that comes with the responsibilities of you know, trying to supplement that income. But at the same time, you know, it's a really great payoff.

Vicki Sullivan: 12:56

Yeah, well, it is. And, you know, I probably work harder for myself than I would if I was just in a in an ordinary job. But the reward is worth is worth that, you know, for me, because I do love what I do. And you know what they say if you work at what you love, you never have to work. So you're working, you're not working, you know, like if I had to go off in, I don't know, clean houses or something, it would be very hard to be motivated. Whereas I can't wait to get up in the morning, get into the studio and start painting. And, you know, it's easy for me to self motivate, because it's exciting for me. Whereas if I had to work for doing a job I didn't like it would be so hard for me. I don't know how I'd motivate myself. Really?

Laura Arango Baier: 13:48

Yeah, yeah. And, you know, that brings up the other point of, you know, whose life are you living? Right? I mean, I understand that some people they do great working for someone else, and that's fine, but I feel like for most people who are artists, we really just and this is gonna sound funny because it's a little bit selfish, but we want to live our lives for ourselves, you know, we want to live our lives you know, in tune with our own nature and with our own cycles and our own you know, way of doing things and and like I was saying earlier you know, live your life for yourself, right? I'm not I don't want to live my life you know, putting in work for someone else's company, when oftentimes that someone else in their company could care less about couldn't care less about me. So I'd rather work for me because I care about me and and again, you know, it gives you that time to spend time with your family with your grandchild you know, it's very

Vicki Sullivan: 14:43

rewarding. Being a painter is a very rewarding thing to do. Isn't that when not always I mean sometimes when you're struggling with the pain might be sort of like ah stay here, but when it's working or when you you achieve Something that you're pleased with and you've made a leap. It's so rewarding, isn't it?

Laura Arango Baier: 15:06

Yeah. And then, I don't know if this happens to you where like, you're done painting for the day. And maybe you're holding like a cup of tea, or like, you're, you're drinking something, and you just walk over to your painting, and you just look at it, and you look at it, and you look at it. And you're like, I like how I did that. Open, I gotta resolve this, you know, there's something also fulfilling, it's like, it's like food for the mind to like, problem solve and to put through

Vicki Sullivan: 15:32

to the soul, I think, yes, it is. Yeah, I make little notes. So I'll come down and have a look. And I'll make I fix that edge. Make that blue. Usually fix that ellipse. I have a lot of trouble with ellipses, and straight lines, you know, fix that straight line. Things like that. So, yeah. And I blue tack it next to the painting, so that the next day, I've already figured out what I need to do, and it's, I just can work through bit by bit, just to be organized.

Laura Arango Baier: 16:15

Yes, I'm of the same mind. I'm the type of person who like, I really love taking notes, also of my paintings, like, okay, these are the colors I used. And then this is what I did, this is the medium. And then breaking it down to like, Okay, today, I'm gonna work on this part. And then tomorrow, this part, and then next day, this part because I feel like I tend to get really lost in, you know, it's like, I tend to jump around too much. So to get myself on track, it's very, very good to have a plan. Like, okay, no, we're not touching any of this. We're just touching this today. Because if we do something else, it might ruin everything. And nothing's gonna get them. And that's also how I used to work at the academy to err like an angel I used to whenever I was planning my casts. Yep, that's, I would just know, today's this. Just see

Vicki Sullivan: 17:00

just that bit. Yeah. And get it right. Exactly. Yeah.

Laura Arango Baier: 17:06

And it's, it's so fulfilling to to see it all slowly come together. So it's a it's wonderful. And speaking of, you know, because you're, you know, you have such lovely paintings. And you truly are an inspiration to me. Your work was sent to the moon. What was

Vicki Sullivan: 17:27

it tried to get there. It got to space. The thing was, it was moon goddess, which I think you can see her behind me, which is up at the top. That's called Moon Goddess. There were a few in the lunar Codex. And, but I really wanted her to get to the moon because I wanted to have the first moon goddess on the moon. But he's, she took off. I watched the launch and it was so exciting. And watch the rocket take off and it took off, but then it developed a fuel leak. So it orbited an orbit it all the way around, and they couldn't get it to the moon because of the fuel leak. So it ended up crashing into the Pacific, but it did orbit the Earth and get to space. So we're among the first Australians and the first women to ever have their art in space. So that that was something so but she didn't quite get to the moon. But Samuel Peralta who's the amazing man behind the the lunar Codex, he is going to put everything that went down into the Pacific on another nano chip and micro nano chip thing, and send it up in November in another launch, so it may get to the moon. But in the meanwhile, they did send another one up the other day, which my friend Jackie grant funds work was on and it got to the moon. So we had a little celebration lunch the other day, we said well, now we're Space Cadets. Oh yeah. And it's all to do with this amazing physicist called Dr. Samuel Peralta. And he got the idea over COVID to make a lunar Codex, which is an input on it poetry and literature and art into a little micro nano fish and pave for it to go up to space and be interred in a time capsule on the moon so that in centuries to come, people could look back and see that humans even though they were going through wars, and plagues and climate emergency, they still took time to make beauty. Yeah, which is pretty interesting, isn't it? You know that? Yeah, yes. Very so Oh, yeah, he's pretty incredible fellow actually. So he must be very pleased that, you know, the second one actually landed. I was very pleased for his sake that you know that it got there. Yeah.

Laura Arango Baier: 20:17

And then hopefully that means that the next one will also land there and your work can join the other work in the moon, it just so cool.

Vicki Sullivan: 20:24

Moon Goddess will finally get her destination. Yes.

Laura Arango Baier: 20:29

Where she's supposed to in terms of, you know, selling your work, right. That's one of the things that most people really want to know, especially people who want to become living artists. What do you find has been the most useful approach that you've taken to sell your work, both online and offline?

Vicki Sullivan: 20:53

Well, I think that the most useful thing is to be persistent. With social media, I must admit, I have sold quite a bit through online sales, whether it's social media, or there's a few different online venues. And I think you really need to be constantly putting your work out there. You know, something every day, something every day, you know, whether it's just something little, or whatever, you have to be persistent. It can't just be once a week or something, maybe a few times a week, but as long as you are persistent in keeping it so that people are seeing it, because you can be the most fantastic painter ever. But if you never put your work out there for people to see, nobody's going to know about your beautiful work, and where to buy it. So the main thing is you've got to get it in front of people's noses so that they can actually see, you know, and I think, had this lovely man who commissioned me to do his portrait A while ago, and he gave me this little saying about persistence. Can I get, I'll just grab it. It's never here, and I'll read it to you. Okay, so refuse to accept failure he sent me this is a lovely man. Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not. Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not the world is full of educated derelicts, persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan, press on solved and always will solve the problems of the human race. And so he was at four when he commissioned me to paint him. And we've stayed friends ever since it must have been about 10 years ago, I think, or more. And he sent me this little thing, which he framed, and I have it in my studio to make me realize, you know, because sometimes when you put your work in shows, and you don't get accepted, and there's a whole lot of what's that syndrome, imposter syndrome, and the whole thing that you've mentally go through, I read this, about persistence, you know, refuse to accept failure. So just press on, and don't give up and be persistent. I think that's the best advice that I've had. And so you know, when it comes to, you have to do the work, but you have to also learn about these new platforms, about social media and putting it out in front of people and entering shows, entering competitions, anywhere that can get your work in front of people. I think that's probably, I think, that would be my best advice. So just keep at it. And, you know, just be persistent about it. Don't just do a whole lot and then forget about it, you have to kind of do a little bit, do a little bit of I've done a little bit today, you know, and, you know, sometimes I listen to podcasts about, well, podcasts like yours, and, you know, try and learn how other people do things. Just try and add to your knowledge about oh, that sounds interesting. Maybe I'll try that or, you know, try different things and, you know, be flexible, I suppose.

Laura Arango Baier: 24:46

Yeah. I really liked that, you know, the quote about persistence, you know, it's, it's so true. You know, we do we truly have persisted, you know, in the standpoint of evolution as well. Um, and you know, today, it is very important to persist, especially, you know, in the face of, gosh, feeling like you're in front of this, you know, juggernaut of something that's pushing against you, right? It's, I feel like it definitely is human nature to really press on. So it's wonderful that, that you try to keep that in mind, especially with your work because it is true. You know, being an artist means facing a lot of rejection, from a lot of directions. Yeah, and it has, most of the time, it has almost nothing to do with painting itself. Right, sometimes, you know, it's not the right time, the right person didn't see it. And that's also why I love what you said about, you know, really putting your work out there all the time, because you never know when those those perfect guys that are gonna want it are looking at that screen. Really,

Vicki Sullivan: 25:53

yeah, and the other the other thing, the other advice that I had was that not everybody's going to like your work. So find where they do like your work and put it in front of them. And so I sort of took that on because being in Australia, realism, I don't think is very appreciated in the establishment much here. Whereas in America and Europe, it's much more appreciated, and there's more scope for it. And so I sort of thought, you know, I'm a bit over this, like, I feel like I'm banging my head on a brick wall here. And I've heard that and I thought, okay, so I started sort of entering my work overseas, and I found that, and also, Australia is a tiny little pond in a way, and it's kind of clicky, and there's a bit of an art scene. And, you know, I'm not really in any arts, you know, I'm sort of not in the scene, I'm not known, I don't live in the city, you know, I'm scared to drive in Melbourne. So I'm sort of a country bumpkin. But if I put my work overseas, that's all taken out of the equation, because nobody knows who I am. And my art is just taken on, on the value of what people might like, over there. And also, so I'm careful about where I do enter it. So I entered in things that appreciate realism, you know, because there is a lot of, you know, you've got the art renewal center, you've got the portrait Society of America, there's the BoldBrush, the plein air competitions, all of those, they really like realism. They really appreciate it. So I figure well, that's where I put my work there put my work in front of those people. And that's actually worked for me. You know, because, here, it just wasn't what is fashionable here, I suppose. Maybe that'll change because I think it has grown in America and Europe a lot. Again, you know, there's a big resurgence in America. So it's quite big. I don't think that's quite happened here yet. I'm hoping it will. I mean, people do the establishment. You know, if you look at the portrait competitions here and everything. There's only really a few realist paintings that make it in. So I figure well, you know, don't try and be a big fish in a little pond be a little fish in a big pond. Sort of.

Laura Arango Baier: 28:43

Yeah, it definitely pushes you past the comfort zone, you know, because, you know, you're faced with more of, I guess, comparison in a way and also, you're faced with, with other people who, you know, paint really, really well, which, of course, there's room for everyone. There's room for everyone. And like you were saying, you know, it's just about sending it to the right place. So the right people see it. And there's always someone, there's always someone it's a and again, back to that persistence. That's why it's so important to be persistent. How BoldBrush We inspire artists to inspire the world because creating art creates magic, and the world is currently in desperate need of magic. BoldBrush provides artists with free art marketing, creativity, and business ideas and information. This show is an example. We also offer written resources, articles and a free monthly art contest open to all visual artists. We believe that fortune favors the bold brush, and if you believe that to sign up completely free a BoldBrush That's BOLDBRUSH The BoldBrush Show is sponsored by FASO. Now more than ever is crucial. have a website when you're an artist, especially if you want to be professional in your career. Thankfully, with our special link forward slash podcast, you can make that come true. And also get over 50% off your first year on your artists website. Yes, that's basically the price of 12 lattes in one year, which I think is a really great deal considering that you get sleek and beautiful website templates that are also mobile friendly, ecommerce print on demand in certain countries, as well as access to our marketing center that has our brand new art marketing calendar. And the art marketing calendar is something that you won't get with our competitor. The art marketing calendar gives you day by day, step by step guides on what you should be doing today, right now, in order to get your artwork out there and seen by the right eyes so that you can make more sales this year. So if you want to change your life, and actually meet your sales goal this year, then start now by going to our special link Forward slash podcast. That's us Yeah. But speaking of you know, your collectors and your clients, you definitely as a portrait painter, you know, someone who is commissioned to paint portraits, you need to have a good relationship with your clients and your collectors. How do you can you describe how you maintain those relationships and build those relationships as well?

Vicki Sullivan: 31:22

Well, usually people contact me through my website. So I have a page on my website about commissioning portraits. And people will usually email me first and then I might email them back. And you know, they'll ask a few questions. And I'll usually send them to the page because most of it's all written out. So I don't have to be answering every single person the same things every time I figure, it's really nice to have a lot of that information right there, where they can read the whole process. And then usually, we make a time for them to come to the studio. And mostly with Commission's because I'm quite a slow painter, and I paint in layers, nobody's got time to come and sit not very often. So normally, I just take a few 100 photos. And then we go through the photos together, that I'm going to work from to find the ones that they like of themselves, because I want them to be happy with the look of, you know, I might choose a painting and they'll think, Ah, I don't like that face, or you know, I don't like my face like that. So I want them to be happy. And then I'll use that particular photo. And I usually get it print, I've got a really good printer, and I get it printed out and just work from that photo. Usually, and then I'll get them back to you know, I've got one over there. I don't think you can see it. I've got one over there that a lady I just came in, invited her to come and see what she thought. And it was interesting, because she said exactly what I said, you know, I think the mouth needs to be a little bit happier. And, you know, just just tiny little incremental changes. And then, so I'll do those, and then that'll be finished. So but I try and work with the client, I don't just sort of go oh, this is how I want to because they're commissioning me, so I want them to be really happy, and maybe go up and tell their friends Hey, I had a great experience, you know, really happy with what this lady did. And you know, and, and that's actually been really good, because quite often it'll be referrals from other people. And yeah, it's that's really nice. I've done a few University chat, Chancellor's. And that's been nice, because I did one university chancellor and then the next chancellor got me to do this, you know, so that was really good. And same with a couple of different school principals as well. So yeah. And there's, you know, some people will come in one lady gets me to paint all her grandchildren every time they turn 12. So every couple of years I've got a new she's got about six grandchildren. So you know, that's that's really nice too, you know? And I just try and make them happy if they're commissioning me to paint their portrait. I want them to go away feeling really happy about what I've done. Yeah, and that's why using a photo is kind of good because they get to help choose which one they like.

Laura Arango Baier: 34:58

Yeah, and then also Yeah. Do you keep in touch with with all of your past? I guess portrait commissioned ease?

Vicki Sullivan: 35:08

Not all of them. A lot of them? I probably do. I guess I yeah, I guess I do. Try to think I do keep in touch with quite a few of them. Yeah, I do keep in touch with quite a few of them actually. Yeah, but not all of them. Some of them? I do. And others I not so much, you know, depends on the report, and if they want to keep connecting, and sometimes, some people aren't on social media, it's kind of easy when people are on social media to kind of keep in touch a little bit more.

Laura Arango Baier: 35:48

Yeah. Yeah, that's a good point. And then do you find that they are usually like repeat collectors, or

Vicki Sullivan: 35:58

with Commission's? Not so much, except for the lady with older grandchildren. And the lady that came the other day, she commissioned me to paint her husband for his 70 year. And then he's commissioned me to paint her for her 70s. So I guess there is a bit of repeat business happening there. Yeah. Which is really nice. And with the still life, I don't really know about some, if I'm selling it online, yes, there has been people that have bought several paintings. But when it's in the gallery, I actually don't get to know who bought it. Which is kind of sad. Because I'd like to, I'd like to keep in touch. But so yeah, I don't really know who they are, although I might hear are they were locals, or they were from Sydney, or they were from Canada, or, you know, I might hear something like that. But I don't really know who they are to keep in touch with. Although sometimes people will email me and say, Oh, I bought one of your paintings. And I want advice on the frame or I don't know, will usually be framed or I want to, I don't know what they'll ask me, but they will just get in touch. And yeah, yeah.

Laura Arango Baier: 37:19

That's, that's one of the downsides of working with a gallery is that they they're not, for some reason, they they're very secretive about who buys the work, which is kind of sad, because, you know, I would also want to know, who bought this painting, you know, for when it's like, I hope it went to a good home. And second, you know, I'd like to know where my paintings are, right? Especially if you know, in the future, if you want to do like, like some sort of exhibition of your past works, and you need to, you know, get these works back, it's good to know where they went. So you can contact a collector be like, Hey, do you mind if we borrow this for an exhibition?

Vicki Sullivan: 37:56

Yeah, well, I guess if you're working with a gallery, you just have to accept that, that it's the usual thing that you don't, you know, you're not selling it directly, when you're selling it directly, you know, where they've gone. But if otherwise, you just don't know. So you just, it's just part of working with the gallery. I mean, I'm really grateful to be working with the gallery that I'm with this so fantastic to work with. Really nice people, and they love my work. And I think that that's why if you've got a gallery that loves your work, that's so much more likely to sell.

Laura Arango Baier: 38:31

Yeah, because they're, they're invested in it, not just you know, as a Oh, I'm just selling this, they're invested in it, as in we are active supporters of this painter, this artists and we want them to thrive. And we believe in their work, which is really important. Yeah.

Vicki Sullivan: 38:46

And that's nice that they, you know, it's an you know, I've had my work in galleries before, and they'll have so many artists and you know, you'll go in there and your paintings will be shoved in the back room or something. And these guys aren't like that they everything is they've got a few racks, they'll have a few pieces out and a few pieces on racks. But if people come in and mention it, they'll be pulling the racks out and showing and everything's just really organized. And they only have a few artists. So they only have, I don't know, a dozen artists maybe, which is really nice. So everything's really curated and it's not all crowded in and you know that you so you're getting special attention, which is very nice.

Laura Arango Baier: 39:36

Yes. Yeah. There's also that you know, like finding a gallery that really fits with your work as well. You know, it's it's, I think these days, it's really common to see galleries that have I want to say like 50 artists, and they might be representing them well, right. You also have to like reach out to people. Like if you can reach out to like, you know, artists who are represented by A gallery and ask them hey, is this gallery you know, worth in? Are they taking care of you? Then it's okay. Right. But if it's a gallery that has like 50 to 100 artists and they're not selling or they're not really doing anything, and I don't know if that's a good gallery to work with, you know.

Vicki Sullivan: 40:17

And also they've got to be looking after the work because one friend of mine who's a sculptor, she had her work in a gallery, and they lost several pieces for about six months. I think they had a couple of galleries and they weren't quite sure where they'd gone and that would be not a good situation.

Laura Arango Baier: 40:35

That's really scary. Yeah, heard of galleries. Yep. It's really, I mean, I've heard of galleries who sell work behind the artists back and then they don't tell them and then they like, run away. Which has happened. I think, in the past, I think in the past five years that happened to join Jeremy man is still on the hunt for two of his missing paintings. Yeah, The Gallerist. She, she sold a bunch of stuff and then ran off with the bunny. And I think Interpol is after her for not sure if they caught her. But yeah, you know, it's, that's the other really scary part of you know, having maybe an overseas gallery, right. It's, it's also very good to visit the gallery in person and then talk with the galleries. Yeah, because it can, it's a big risk. It's big risk. Yeah.

Vicki Sullivan: 41:26

And also, as you said, to talk to other artists, about their experience, and I was recommended by my neighbor. Actually, he put me in touch with these guys. And they are it's called curator and design. It's in Sorento in Australia, which is my hometown, where I grew up. So it's really nice for me to have a really good, you know, Gallery in the town where I grew up, I just live down the road from that town.

Unknown: 41:56

But it's really close to my heart. So

Laura Arango Baier: 42:00

I loved those so cute. Like little Vicki has been there. And then of course, now it's Vicky, who's the artist is there too. And I love that that's so full circle, you know, like your life? Yes. But in this one? No, no,

Vicki Sullivan: 42:17

I think the galleries are great if you get the right Gallery and the right people to work with. And I'm lucky that I found these guys. So yeah.

Laura Arango Baier: 42:28

Oh, that's wonderful. Um, and then I wanted to ask you, you know, for for our listeners who maybe are considering becoming portrait painters, right, who take on conditions for portraiture, what do you recommend? Because, you know, some of the things that maybe some artists might wonder is, how do I price my work, especially if you're just starting out? And then what other factors do you personally consider when you are starting a portrait or you you want to start a portrait commission?

Vicki Sullivan: 43:03

Well, one of the things that I I would recommend, if you're painting portraits, to get yourself known, is to enter portrait competitions, I think that's a really good thing to do. And that's kind of how I started just doing portraits was to start entering in into portrait competitions. And when when I started portrait, all basically I start with the photo session. So I get them to bring several outfits to wear and try some different poses, and then go through and see which ones they like. And, you know, and then sometimes I'll get the right look on their face. And I'll get the repose but there might be something like a foreshortened hand, you know, or something, and I'll go, oh, let's do that photo again, with like, that way. And I had to do that recently with one because I realized that it's just, it just wasn't going to really look so great with a foreshortened hand coming straight at you. And yeah, it's huge. Yeah, and so I try and look through everything about that photo, because it's much easier to take the photo again than it is to try and get a hand from a different photo and Frankenstein it on there. I think, you know, it's much easier to work with one good photo that hits and I use an 85 mil lens on my camera so that it doesn't distort and I get far enough back. So I've got an eight meter studio, it's eight meters by eight meters so I can get far enough back to get the full person in with that 85 mil lens because that's the thing it doesn't go in and out with an 85 it just stays flat but you don't get distortion. So you're gonna get, you know, being heads and small bodies or anything like that with them. So I use that. take lots of photos so that you can, if you need to, then you can refer if something's not quite right in the photo that you've got, then you can refer or if you really need to get them back to have another photo session, if there's something not quite right, but you haven't got the information and you feel like you really need it, get them back for another photo, I've had to do that a few times. If they've got time, it's really nice to do a life study, you know, a sketch just to get the color, I think, but I do have a really good printer now. So he's, he's really great at doing the color. So I'm pretty happy about his photography, with the color at the moment. And then the other thing, I guess, is the pose and I always try and you know, have, say the body going one way in the head going and other. Usually, just as remember my strategy is to say about the gracefulness of the of the pose. Try and get an S curve in there if you can, in the pose, or a curve, so that you're not just like, straight, boring, straight pose, try and think about the flow of the gesture of the pose, when you're posing them. Crack a few jokes, because quite often people aren't used to doing a photo session and they'll, they'll freeze up. And you know, sometimes it's hard to get them to relax. But I've kind of figured out what I try and do is sort of get them to think of something really happy and laugh and smile. And then as they relaxed the smile, take the photo, so they're not looking really grim. I've got all these little tricks and with children. So I've done quite a few children. I've got a little camel that I had when I was a a wooden camel, not a real but I had when I was a child and I will get the camel and get the child to sit on the camel. So they think they're sitting on a having a camel ride. And then they look at the camera and because you know, trying to get the right photo of a child is not that easy. So you distract them with the camera and then snap the photo. And when I started doing portraits, the first thing I started doing was pet portraits. So I was painting dogs, or dogs and horses. And one of the things with the dogs, I had all these different things to make noises like a whistle and a bell. And, uh, I don't know, Michael had his saxophone. And so because the dog would kind of have to live in the lookup of the dog by making some sort of funny noise. So, you know, I guess he just find little tricks and ways to get around things. Yeah, but that was a good way to start off in a way doing animal portraits, you know, as as a portrait painter, just to start sort of, and you're working with the owner of the dog as well. So that's sort of start getting used to dealing with people and, you know, all of that as a way of feeding in you know. So, yeah,

Laura Arango Baier: 48:27

and then, um, and then what about pricing? You know, if someone's just starting out, what do you recommend? Well,

Vicki Sullivan: 48:35

I do it by square centimeter. So but how I figured out my pricing was, I looked at other artists who had really similar work, and looked at their pricing. And then I kind of worked my pricing out, you know, in between this one and this one that I thought had similar work. And we're at a similar level, so I kind of compared with other artists, and worked off them and then figured out what that was per square centimeter. And then I've, you know, written that down somewhere, and for still life, I've got a different price per centimeter per square centimeter, because I tend to spend a lot more time on portrait commissions, you know, months, whereas last a weeks, so there's sort of different pricing for each thing. Yeah. I'm not sure if everybody does that, but that's sort of how I've sort of worked it out. I don't know if that's right. But it seems to be working so

Laura Arango Baier: 49:41

well. Yeah, I think definitely, you know, comparing it to similar works, especially, you know, if you're starting out, you know, definitely looking at what other people at your level are doing, right, because if you're just starting out, you can't really charge the same amount as Vicki, of course, because I mean You know, you've been painting for a very long time. And of course, you know, as the year goes on, you know, you start increasing prices, you know, based on how much you've sold and with time, and inflation, of course. So of course, someone who's starting out definitely should be looking at other people in their, in their brains, you

Vicki Sullivan: 50:20

remember at Angel Academy? Yeah. And remember, when we're at Angel Academy, that Maestro gave us sort of a bit of a talk about that and charging for your work and how you had to allow for tax and materials? And, you know, you have to allow I think he's did he say about a third for materials and, and the third vertex? And then you've got to charge enough to live on as well? Yeah.

Laura Arango Baier: 50:46

Yeah. And then And then also, you know, asking for deposits? You know, there are a lot of little things.

Vicki Sullivan: 50:55

Yes, yes. So I did get a 50% deposit. And I get the 50%. So I take the photos, and then I do a little contract, and then I get the 50% deposit before I start painting. And the contrast is that the remaining 50% will be paid upon completion of the portrait. So you always get that remaining 50% before you let the portrait walk out the door. But that's, that's quite important to get that deposit, you don't want to be working on a portrait, and then someone changes their mind. And if you've got that 50% deposit, they're going to come through with the rest of it. And then if somebody for instance, it's never happened to me, but if someone does pull out, at least you've got something to cover your time. Because you're spending months on these things, to get them right. So you don't want to be spending months and then not get paid.

Laura Arango Baier: 51:49

Yes, it's very important. Because, you know, especially you know, if the person decides, you know, what I'm gonna pull out, you know, you have your 50%. And that covered your materials and some of the time because, you know, like, you were saying, stick these

Vicki Sullivan: 52:03

non fungible, it's not the first 50% is non refundable. That's right. Yeah.

Laura Arango Baier: 52:09

That's very important. Yes. Because then, you know, imagine, like, someone hires you, and then you didn't ask for deposit, and then they disappear. And now you're stuck with a painting that you can't really sell, because no one's gonna buy a painting of a stranger. And also, you know, you spent months on it, and it's kind of painful, and it's a painful lesson. So maybe save yourself a lesson and charge a deposit. Yeah,

Vicki Sullivan: 52:32

and have a contract. You know, simple contract binds very simple, you know, it's just a few words, but it just says, you know, 50% deposit and remaining 50% Upon completion of the portrait, and you get them to sign it and send it back to you. And, yeah, he's very back even these days. Yeah, it's very important. Because this is our living, we have to be able to eat and pay bills. So yeah, that's just protecting yourself. Yeah, because some people, some people might, you know, people can be fickle. But if they put a deposit on, they're definitely going to come through. They're definitely serious. Yeah,

Laura Arango Baier: 53:18

yes. Yeah. That's the that's the other part. You know, the person who really wants it will have absolutely no problem, you know, following your rules and saying, okay, yes, I will pay the fine. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Vicki Sullivan: 53:29

Yeah. It's basically respecting yourself, isn't it? You know, it is?

Laura Arango Baier: 53:34

Yeah. Yeah. There's that, you know, because, especially when you're doing a portrait commission, you, you want to please the person that you're painting, but at the same time, you know, you can't forget about yourself, because they're hiring you. And, you know, it's very easy to to allow yourself to become a quote unquote, people pleaser and forget that you exist. And then you know, when things don't turn out, unfortunately, you have no one to blame but yourself, which is kind of depressing.

Vicki Sullivan: 54:04

Yeah, so it's best to cover yourself so that those situations don't arise, I guess, you know, and that's just about part of being a professional, isn't it? Yes. And you learn from other people's mistakes, like that hasn't happened to me, but because I always do the whole contract thing and everything. So, yeah. And as long as I keep doing that, it won't happen, because I won't start work until I get that first. 30%. Exactly. Ah,

Laura Arango Baier: 54:38

that's very important to have that boundary. And then also, do you have any, any more advice for someone who's looking to become a full time artist?

Vicki Sullivan: 54:52

Well, I would say don't dive in the deep end without a safety net. So maybe transition into it. So I would have like a part time job or something as well, at first, so that you've got money to pay bills, you don't want to end up in debt or hungry or homeless. So you want to be able to keep the wolf from the door somehow, you know, have a bit of a part time job. And then as the sales grow, and you know, you'll, you can ease out of that and more into painting, but don't just go right, I'm going to become a full time painter and jump straight in because it can take a while to get known and build up your clientele and find your galleries or find new ways of selling. So you need to have a safety net, and also put a certain amount away, at least, I would say 30%, save, save, as well, for the lean times. Because there, you know, there's probably going to be times when you're not getting commissions where you're not having any sales, you still got to get by. So you need to put money away as savings as well. So you have to be quite financially savvy, I suppose. Yeah. And if you can work at home, you know, like, I don't know, for me. I know people who rent studios, I would never rent a studio for me renting is just dead money. So I used to paint in my dining room, and then I did save up and get a room build. But if you can work at home or find a spare room where you can work, so that you're not double the rent, you know, especially if you're just beginning don't don't go into debt. Because interest is just dead money, rents just dead money. Try and find ways to be frugal, I suppose with your Monday because it's not paintings, not a regular income. You know, it's a hit, it's a it's either pouring or it's a drought kind of, say, Nick prepared for both. So when you when it's pouring, make sure you put that side so that when the drought comes, you've got to rely on to keep you going. I think I think that's, you know, it's kind of important to understand that and not just free to everything away. Be quite careful about how you pay about it, I suppose. Yeah. So it's not just painting, it's about being a business person. And you have to learn about it as well, don't we, you know, that's been quite difficult for me, wasn't really in my nature to be a business person. But I tried to learn as much as I can about that side of things. And also, I think having mentors is great. So, you know, I've got a really good friend that I work with. And she's been a great business advisor, and she runs a dolphin boat where they go out and see, take people Swimming with wild dolphins. But she's got so many good business ideas. And she's just given me really good sound advice along the way. And, you know, and I was talking to Tina Garrett came and visited me a couple of months ago. And she was telling us about her business, one of her clients who's helped her with advice about business and you know, he owns a funeral parlor, and florist, and venue for functions, you know, and he's given her advice now. So your mentors don't have to be other painters giving you business advice, they can be business people giving you business advice, because you are running a business, even though we're artists and, you know, we're really creative, to be living off our work. We are running a business. So, you know, learn about that as well and find people seek out other business people that can give you advice about that side of things. I think they don't have to be painters.

Laura Arango Baier: 59:29

Yeah, yeah. That's a great point. Yeah. Because, you know, as artists, we definitely have to wear a lot of hats. You know, the painter hat, the marketer hat, the business hat, the, I guess the the hat of a person who manages the money, and that's a lot of things have to do. And in a lot of different I guess you could call them like, careers. Are you really? Yeah, that's

Vicki Sullivan: 59:57

right. Yeah. So

Laura Arango Baier: 59:58

it's good to talk to me. People who are in those careers to see what you can, you know, gain from, from that knowledge that they're giving you. Like, I personally, I read a lot of books, actually on marketing, and I read a lot of books on, basically on all of those, you know, business side things, because it's very hard. You know, oftentimes you go to these art schools, and they don't really teach you the business side.

Vicki Sullivan: 1:00:24

They're not there to teach us that, or they, they're there to take this game. So the academic ones are there to teach us the skills. And then we have to learn. Yeah, we have to learn. And also, we all do it differently, don't we? Yeah, we have different business models, like, a lot of people, their business model will be taking work trips, you know, traveling and doing workshops around the place. That's not my business model. But it works really, really well for a lot of people.

Laura Arango Baier: 1:01:00

Yeah. Yeah. And you know, that that really brings it back to, you know, working around, you know, yourself in a way, right. It's like, I prefer to spend my time at home. Therefore, I will make sure that I supplement my income in a way that allows me the time to work at home. Right. So that could be like, like you're doing Commission's, or that could be, you know, working with a local gallery that could be you know, whatever might, you know, work for you in that way. It could even be like online zoom classes, if you want to teach online zoom classes, like there are a lot that's run, teach

Vicki Sullivan: 1:01:36

on lines. That's right. And in fact, I just did my made a video with streamline a portrait video,

Laura Arango Baier: 1:01:45

I wanted that. Yeah.

Vicki Sullivan: 1:01:48

Because people often say do you teach do you teach? And I say, and now I can say, well, actually, I've just made a portrait instruction video. And it does set up my whole method. And, and it's over a five day period. So you know, going right through the green side to the, you know, the underpainting, to the desire to the first color layer, second color layer that takes that goes right through the whole thing. And so that, to me, is almost better than a workshop because usually workshops don't go for five days. And yeah, and also you can rewind and watch it again, and practice along and stuff like that. So, you know, in a way that I'm not doing workshops everywhere, but now I've got the video that can kind of take that spot, which is nice.

Laura Arango Baier: 1:02:47

Yeah, yeah. And another benefit is, you know, oftentimes, when you go to a workshop, everyone crowds around, you know, the teacher, and not everyone can really see what's what's, you know, the teachers doing right. So it's really great. And a video that you can actually see every single part without, you know, having to clamor over other people to try to what is he doing, you know, or what is she doing? Which is really, it's really great. And also, yeah, I do like the rewinding aspect, because when capsa are like, Oh, I have to what color did they get? Okay, great. And even if you

Vicki Sullivan: 1:03:23

down the track, you want to go back and rewatch, you know, certain sections. Again, to refresh your memory, I find videos actually, I've learned a lot from videos. I've had, you know, watched quite a lot of them. And so I think it is it's a good way to learn, especially when you're in Australia and everywhere so far, all the teachers that I wanted to learn from so far away, you know,

Laura Arango Baier: 1:03:50

I was gonna say that, you know, for you, it's definitely a lot harder to just, you know, go to Europe every every I don't know, summer to teach a workshop because, you know, it takes a lot of first money and time, you know, to get there and then you have to adjust to the time change, which is a whole 10 hours. Yeah, it's it can be a lot compared to seven year old who's maybe going from the states to Europe, which is not not so crazy. A lot less expensive.

Vicki Sullivan: 1:04:21

Yeah, so And after the flight is just, you know, pretty hard. It is. Yeah, it's a long way even the flight to America is a very long way for me.

Laura Arango Baier: 1:04:33

It is yeah. Oh my god. Yeah. I mean, you would probably enter through like California but still it's, it's still quite a long way to

Vicki Sullivan: 1:04:44

go. I flew when went to make video went to Austin, but I went to Dallas. And then I had another one hour flight to Austin. But I had to wait five hours for that flight and then the flight was delayed and then I was delayed and delayed and delayed, and then they loaded all our luggage on it. And then they canceled it. No. And then, like, Oh, no. And then they made us run to all the gates. And so I ended up Eric Rhodes is house two in the morning. And I was sort of delirious by then. And I just thought I probably should get a hotel, but my brain was just like fried from just being awake for so long. And I just couldn't even think about how to get a hotel. I just had the address, and I thought I'll just get a taxi and get there. But that was really lovely, because they left the lights on and everything was cool. And the aircon was on and it was really comfortable. But yeah, that was it was a really long last to Austin.

Laura Arango Baier: 1:05:53

Oh, yeah, that's not a see right there. That's insane. So yes, I can see why you would prefer to, you know, teach from home and not have too much because it really takes it out of you. So, yeah, um, and then where can people find your painting realistic portraits video? Well, I've got a page

Vicki Sullivan: 1:06:16

on my website, which is FASO website, which I really am happy with. So I made a special page just for the instruction video where they can read a little bit and click straight through to the page to buy videos. So yeah, it's all there. And my all my social media links are on the video on the website. And my website is just www dot Viki pheic kr Wonderful.

Laura Arango Baier: 1:06:46

Well, thank you so much, Vicki for, you know, being a guest on the show and providing so much wonderful advice.

Vicki Sullivan: 1:06:55

Oh, thank you for having me, Laura. It's such an honor to be asked and so lovely to catch up with you again. And hopefully I made some some ideas of, you know, things that they can try, and hopefully it'll work for them and happy painting everybody.

Laura Arango Baier: 1:07:11

That's awesome. Thank you.

The BoldBrush Show. Interviews with today's finest artists and creatives. Watch here or listen on all major podcast services.