Make Creativity Your Day Job!

Your Dreams are Within Reach: Artist Interview with Matt LeBlanc

matt-leblanc-art
Image courtesy of Matt LeBlanc

One of the artists I was introduced to back in November, when I was interviewing for artist’s insights into how to make creativity your day job was Canadian abstract artist Matt LeBlanc.

Matt LeBlanc

At the time, Matt was extremely busy preparing for a show, but we kept in touch, and when I read on his blog that he had recently quit his job to focus on art full-time, I caught up with him again, and he took some time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions:

You recently retired from your corporate job to work on your art full-time, after working hard for 5 years building your brand. How are you finding life as a full-time artist?

Matt: Simply amazing! For the first time in my life, I don’t feel like I need to rush things. I’ve actually been telling my clients and fans that I’m now retired. For me, my art business is not work. It’s too much fun to be considered work. It’s such an amazing feeling. I get up in the morning to work for myself and I’m actually a great boss!

Some artists might be put off by the thought of working 80-hour weeks to get where you are today. Would you say that’s a necessary amount of work to put in before you can make a living as an artist?

Matt: Certainly not. However, you do have to put in the time. Nothing is giving to oneself without any efforts. Most successful entrepreneurs are workhorses. The first three to five years are the worst but if you really love what you do and you’re highly motivated, those hours don’t matter. I really think that putting in the time and effort was what shaped up my career. I didn’t get where I am today by sitting on the couch all night watching TV.

I’m a strong believer that you have to create your own opportunities. Who else will? I have a vision board with all my goals and ambitions and I constantly think about how I will achieve them. Simple as that.

On your website, you are described as a ‘highly skilled self-promoter’. I think that’s something a lot of artists struggle with. What creative strategies have you used to promote your artwork?

Matt: To me it all comes down to 3 simple things:

1. Branding – First thing you have to do is create a brand for yourself. A brand is essentially a sum of all the activities, messages and elements projected by a person (or company) that defines who they are and what they do. It’s essentially the image that comes to mind when they hear your name.

This is really important and most artists don’t bother. Everything is all over the place. There’s not even consistency from website to website when they list their work.

2. Plan your sales – It’s also crucial to develop a good mix of revenue streams. I’ve seen too many times artists put all their eggs in one basket and get burnt when that revenue stream is cut out by unexpected situations. Make sure you develop a plan for how you are going to bring in sales from various resources.

3. Put in the work – Enough said !

How important has the Internet been in building your brand? How would you advise artists to harness the power of the web to promote their artwork?

Matt: I’m still shocked by the amount of artists who don’t have a permanent website or even by the ones who have one but they shouldn’t because it looks so bad. EVERYONE is on the Internet now. People will Google you so you better try to control what they see. I don’t have the best site but I always get emails from people telling me it’s very professional, clean and really easy to use. That’s what you want.

In terms of selling online, I always advise artists to choose which route they want to take for their career. I strongly believe that it’s very difficult to sell both online and in galleries. The online world is just too competitive to accept the same pricing that you need to sell your art in galleries. Some artists still do it but it’s hard to be very successful in the two worlds. If you want to take the gallery route, you should still have a very professional website because potential buyers will most likely research you before buying your work.

Your branding and your paintings have a very distinctive and recognizable style. How important is it for artists to develop their own signature style?

Matt: I think this is something that takes care of itself. The more we paint, the more we fall in love with a particular style. I always aim at pushing the boundaries and trying new styles but those are considered experiments and are purely done for fun. I like to have fun!

What one piece of advice would you give to an aspiring artist who wants to make a living from their creativity?

Matt: People will tell you it’s not possible but they are full of it. I sold thousands of paintings all over the world and was able to gather a following of over 20,000 people in less than five years. I sell paintings almost every day from the comfort of my own home. Life is awesome!

Go get your dream … it’s possible! (Tweet This)

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Note from Dan: I hope this has inspired you and made you realise that with a bit of hard work it really is possible to make a career out of your art. It’s certainly given me a few things to think about.

See more of Matt’s work on www.mattleblancart.com, or catch up with him on Twitter (@mattleblancart)

If you have any questions for Matt (or me), leave a comment below, and we’ll try our best to answer them.

11 Comments on Your Dreams are Within Reach: Artist Interview with Matt LeBlanc

  1. Chris says:

    This is one of the most encouraging articles I have read in a long time!!! Could you possibly explain branding in a bit more detail? Maybe give an example? I don’t quite understand that concept, but I am new to the art world. Not to doing my art but just actuallly working at the possibility of selling it someday!!!
    Thanks, Chris

  2. Mary says:

    Thanks for the extra kick in the butt. I Have long history in pre-press before it went digital but I am a fine artist at heart, with a BFA in Illustration, and soon to be the proud owner of an AA in Graphic Design with all the debt that goes with it. Branding is exactly what Matt’s description said, and I get it in a different way now, thanks for that! I think for some people it makes them feel pigeon holed. But it can be the most powerful thing a company or a person can do. Branding has not held back Nike,Coca Cola, or Rockstar.

  3. Matt LeBlanc says:

    Thank you so much guys for all the great comments !! Perhaps Dan will ask me to contribute an article on branding soon !! I would love to give you guys some pointers.
    Thanks guys !!
    Matt

  4. Wow! This was like water to a parched soul! Thank you so much for putting this together. I would really love to hear some practical advice on mailing and shipping paintings. I have found it a cumbersome and costly trial . Advice?

    • Matt LeBlanc says:

      Thanks for your comment Eleatta !! Glad you’ve enjoyed the article. In terms of shipping, the best move I made a few years ago was to actually buy custom boxes for my typical size artworks. If you buy in bulk, they can be very cheap (like a few bucks each). It now save me hours and hours of labour because I don’t have to build my boxes anymore. In terms of shipping cost, people should expect to pay it but I always try to be fair too. If it’s a very large piece, I will typically waive the shipping cost.

  5. Jesse Morris says:

    Matt did you ever have to change your style at all to fit in to what people wanted? You mentioned you try other things for fun as an experimental thing. Would you say that is more rewarding?

    • Matt LeBlanc says:

      Hi Jesse,
      Thank you so much for your note. When I first started, I was saying yes to every project even if I didn’t want to do it. I was looking to get my name out there and obviously looking for the sale too. I’m at a point now that I only paint what I love. I’ve been refusing some projects but I always refer another artist. I never changed my style for my clients but I think my style has evolved over the years. I always try new things without stepping too far from my style if that makes any sense … ;-)
      Thanks again !
      Matt

  6. Noel Jones says:

    Matt your skill is very inspiring, I have been creating abstract works for about a year now an it is so much fun. I really look forward to the day I can create and sell art full time. Your interview will make me push even harder to be a successful abstract artist. Thanks

    • Matt LeBlanc says:

      That’s awesome Noel… It’s very possible. When I first started, I told myself the same thing. One day, I’ll make it to a successful full time artist. I say successful because anyone can be a full time artist. It’s definitely possible with hard work, talent and determination. Good luck !
      Matt

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