top of page

How I made a living as a Painter

Updated: Mar 4, 2022

Martin Kinnear form Norfolk Painting School Live on the real benefits of painting commercial work
Good work always sells : this sold as a licensed print off the easel.

Why be commercial ?

Artists are often very quick to dismiss the idea of painting pictures to sell them , because this is routinely equated with 'selling out'. Quite what they are 'selling out' of or from has always been a bit of a mystery to me - after all whatever the genre, whatever the subject, whatever the date, whatever the venue: Good Work Always Sells and sadly the reverse of course is true.

Now of course there are lots of paintings I've done for the sheer love of painting, for my love of a person, a time or a place, which I would never sell and absolutely didn't paint to sell - but that's not really the point, is it ?

So it seems to me that the real question isn't ' should I sell my work?' , but 'is it good enough to sell?', and if not, 'what can I do about that?'

All of this is to say that even if you have no desire to sell any piece of work you ever paint, it really can't hurt to make them so brilliant that a complete stranger would just love to have possession of what you create. What separates leisure artists from successful commercial artists isn't a love of painting, but a clear vision about the need to get better at it.

When I decided to follow my dream to become an artist in 2000, I had two big questions. The first of course - was how to paint , the second ,which by the way, is a lot tricker to answer - was 'is my work any good?'

The acid test

My next show Landscapes of The North starts 12 October at Tennants of Leyburn

Now, I'm all for self critique and self confidence, however there's nothing quite as encouraging as a complete stranger - with absolutely no desire to bolster my ego or gently encourage me - parting with their money for one of my works. That's the acid test to the question 'is my work compelling enough?'

This is a tough ask, and if your work is the one that 'sticks' at mixed shows a demoralising one; but it doesn't have to be like that. Strong works whatever their subject share certain characteristics such as a great value plan , striking composition, compelling colour or are of enduringly popular subjects.

A really effective way to get ahead on this - and start being more successful is to master a useful style which is why in 2004 I decided to concentrate my efforts into becoming the best classical landscape painter I could be.

By teaching myself how to paint that way I became better at many of the skills I needed to create works in other styles - and gained the confidence and financial success I needed to fund my growth as an artist.

And, as you develop those core skills will always be there, so even though I now paint in a contemporary style, I can still create those classical landscapes which I love for commercial venues. Why not come to my next show Landscapes of The North and see?

My Growth Rule

The key to launching my career and pursing my dream to be a full time painter was to paint in one style and then re-invest every sale into funding my future development.

I can still remember ploughing my first competition prize money into decent tubes of blue paint and artist quality white. Having struggled with 'student' paints that investment made a huge difference to the vibrancy of my work - which led to more sales and the real as they say is history.

Learn Your Style

My Focus On Courses are written to teach you how to paint in one of three successful styles. Not because I think you should sell your work but because I want you to be accomplished enough to be able to.

Each of the courses is stand alone or you can take a selection of them to cover stye in depth. My next one Nocturnes is the reason I'm writing this blog because of all the styles I teach this is the most accessible way in to creating compelling works; making it a great place to start.

Three styles, 12 stand alone courses. Nocturnes is this week
Focus On are designed to teach you how to be the best painter you can be in one of three commercial styles

Can't Hold A Brush ?

If you've got an itch to see if you can be a painter, or are absolutely new to it then just take advantage of our 14 day free trial on my StudioTalk program of inspirational weekly art club style demonstrations.

Over two weeks you'll get an ample chance to see and take part in our lively painting community and see if it's for you at no obligation. All you need is a device to watch my demonstrations on and some basic materials to take part.

1,166 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page