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The Brisbane based artist & AI researcher on knowing your buyers, working with interior designers and her new online course…

Back when I went to art school the business side of selling your art was the subject that dare not speak its name. Sarah Daly’s new course aims to redress that balance. A full time artist and diligent researcher, Sarah is uniquely qualified to help artists unravel the mystery of making a reliable living from their work.

Sarah Daly Artist

Can you tell us a little about your background and what led you to create the Full-Time Artist Formula course?

I had been a “struggling artist” since art school back in the 90s. Back then there was absolutely no training on how to have an art career. Even though I showed in galleries and won some prizes, I didn’t have the confidence in myself to be able to pay the rent or actually save any money to have an adult life. So I went off and had a career outside of the arts and kept studying and painting as a hobby. I did an MBA. I was a founder in a couple of companies. Then about seven or eight years ago I just thought ‘Right, I think it’s time to really put my mind to figuring out how to actually be an artist,’ because it’s one of those things that keep burning as part of your soul, it’s deep, and I think every artist whether they are professional or not has this deep need to create. I had to try.

I had an epiphany in the back of an entrepreneurship class that I was in, over in Europe, in the Netherlands. We were talking about why it is so important for businesses to focus on their customer. I realised that as an artist I didn’t know who on earth was buying my artwork, or would even be interested in what I was making. That was a huge ‘ah-ha’ moment for me. Once I shifted my mental perspective around, not just making art for the sake of making art, but making art that had a customer and had someone who really wanted to have it in their world. Well then that changed how I thought about designing a career. I started growing my part time career. And that went really well working through interior designers. But about two years ago now I thought okay, I’m ready, I want to do this thing full time. I want to give up my other job, my other sources of income and just be an artist.

Dreaming of Peaches - Sarah Daly

Sarah Daly – Dreaming of Peaches

Oil, bronze paste and wax medium on canvas. 170 x 130 x 5.5cm.

And I thought okay, I don’t have a way to get that reliable income. I’m selling, yes, but I still can’t predict my sales. And I think a lot of others are in that place where they know their work is is great. They’re already selling but they can’t predict their sales and they don’t feel like it’s reliable enough to give up the other income that they may have. So I’m a PhD researcher as well (I clearly love learning, right?). I did a massive global research project because I thought, ‘I know other people have figured this out’. I needed to know how they figured it out. So I looked for artists who were successful, earning a living from their art, and I got in touch with them. I spoke with them and found out what the common factors are in how to be successful. Then I surveyed a whole lot more.

I applied what I learned on my own career and it was fabulous. But what I realized is that very few other people had my skills to figure it out, and I already had done the research, so I thought right, I think I can change the lives of SO many other artists so they can feel confident in their careers too. So I put it into a course, and now that course is available. It’s called The Full Time Artist Formula.

Full Time Artist Formula

The Full Time Artist Formula

New online course providing the knowledge artists need to go full time. Based on a research project of over 300 global artists. Normally priced at $997.

Who would be the ideal candidate for the course and what kind of time commitment should students be prepared to invest?

I created the course for artists who were in my position – they have already been selling just not regularly enough. It’s not about whether the art is right or not, it’s about how to sell what they are making reliably. It isn’t really made for beginners because I ask artists to reflect back on previous sales. I assume artists taking the course already have a website, Instagram set up, and have probably already sold through online market places or galleries. I also assume students have got their art practice at a mature enough stage to be able to sell professionally. The problem we are solving is creating reliable income, we aren’t starting from nothing.

I made the course so it can be done at your own pace online. You don’t have to get dressed and turn up somewhere. It includes videos, checklists, templates, essentially as much stuff you need to help get you back into the studio making art. I designed the course so that if you want to get it done in about eight weeks, it’s about three hours per week time investment. You can absolutely do more, but if you’re doing three hours a week for eight weeks, the goal is you’re going to start to get results. Essentially, if you can carve out three hours per week for the next eight weeks, and do the work, there’s a high chance you’re going to create a shift for your art career. It’s not a magic solution and an art career doesn’t happen overnight for most of us. The course outlines very clear proven approaches and actions that have worked for artists globally. It’s up to the artist to apply them and to keep at it over their career.

Sarah Daly Studio

  Work in progress at Sarah’s Barcelona studio.

The process outlined in the course is actually something that I redo every single year in my own practice, because my art audience has changed over 7 years, and my vision for my career has changed. I think there are probably insights and new ways of thinking for artists at any level. It’s a course you can regularly go back to and rethink and really hone the messaging of who you are, and get connected with who you want to work with and why you want to do that. So that you’re able to tell that story better. And then connect in with the people who want to buy your art. It helps you establish and keep connecting in with the type of art career you want to design for yourself.

What makes the Full-Time Artist Formula different from other art courses?

I found so many other art courses are based on one person’s experience or one artist’s experience. That artist has gotten their practice to a place that’s really great for them, but it may not extrapolate across to other people. I find one person’s experience a useful data point, but I’m never going to totally trust that to guide my art career, and I don’t think any one else should either.

So what I did that is different is I used a PhD level research approach, which I do trust. Instead of relying on one case, you find out what information is already out there (essentially read everything published), then interview between 20-30 people to get the most important insights. Then you do a survey of 200-300 artists to check with more people and get a wider perspective. This means what I discovered is far more reliable and more likely to work for more artists.

Sarah Daly - Rose In The Hills

Sarah Daly – Rose in the hills

Oil and wax medium on canvas in Tasmanian Oak box frame. 122.5 x 91.5 x 3.5cm.

Also, unlike most other artists or academics creating courses, I have a background in business. I am a founder and have a Master of Business Administration, so I deeply understand what it takes to succeed in business. I’ve brought that knowledge into how the course is structured and have translated some very stuffy business concepts into language that resonates for artists. Because I know how artists think, and it is different to other professions.

Also the course is very much centered on designing a career that’s right for you. A lot of people will talk about how you should design your career, but actually, they’re telling you how to design a career that’s right for them. And they’re not actually considering that you’re different. So I wanted to make sure that when I’m presenting information that it’s able to be brought into your world and to resonate for you, because art is a very particular kind of career and it needs to feel authentic. So everything in the course is tailored so that you’re doing things that really feel right for you to do. I am constantly asking students to question Does this resonate for you? Are you designing something that you actually want to be doing? Is this really the career that you want to be designing for yourself? Because you’re designing your career, you get to design the one that you want, and that’s really important.

Sarah Daly - On the edge of the moment

Sarah Daly – On the edge of the moment

Oil and wax medium on Belgian linen. 150 x 100 x 3.5cm.

What are some of the biggest stumbling blocks you see artists come up against on the path to becoming a full time artist?

One of the one of the biggest things that I see is artists not really thinking about who is going to buy their art. It is less of a stumbling block and more of a blind spot. It’s absolutely reasonable for artists to have this blind spot. When we study art, whether it’s self taught or at art school, we aren’t pointed in the direction of thinking, ‘Okay, I’m making this artwork. Who was it for? Where’s it ending up?’ We are taught to be wonderfully self reflective, to see the world in new ways and interpret it, but we are never taught to think about the person or institution who will buy our art, and what their motivations might be. In my research, it was the artists who realised ‘Oh, there’s someone out there who has a budget and will want to buy this and I really need to communicate with them in a way that helps my art resonate even more for them. Once artists think more deeply about the people that are purchasing their art, it changes their career.

Sarah Daly - Painting

  A piece Sarah was working on while in Spain.

What have you learned from your students that’s surprised you?

You know what surprised me the most? When I did the first launch of the online course (this is a fairly new course, it only started in March this year) we ran through with an amazing group of students. At the end of it, they were starting to get more sales and were feeling really confident, and when I asked how that felt, I discovered they had a fear of success! They finally discovered exactly how to sell their work. They knew exactly what they need to do and what being a full time artist would entail for them, and there was an, “Oh my gosh, this is actually going to work” moment. I think as artists we are in this uncomfortable confining mental space for so long because we struggle to make ends meet, then when we know what to do there is this new kind of freedom, like being let out of a psychological cage. There’s this whole new world out there, when students realise “I can actually do this”, it feels scary. This new feeling of knowing that a full time art career is possible, and then being overwhelmed by the fact that it can be your reality. So that was the most surprising thing for me. I didn’t see that one coming.

Sarah Daly Studio

  A painting commission in progress.

Do you have any tips for approaching and working with interior designers as an artist?

Yes, I have so many. I love working with interior designers. They are amazing, professional, creative people. Get to know designers work on Instagram and if you believe your art would work in the spaces they are curating, reach out to them directly. Don’t be shy – they are people too!

I think the number one tip I would suggest when working with interior designers is to develop a relationship with them with the utmost respect for their professional capabilities, knowing that they are very good at their job, and they will respect you for being very good at your job too. One of the things that I found designers appreciated was when I was trusted to go with them into client meetings and I would make sure we felt like a team. And that meant always supporting them, especially in front of their clients.

Sarah Daly Commission

  Commission art: Sarah Daly, Interior Design: Marina Hirst, Photography: Gabrielle Reinhardt

Clients would sometimes ask me (with the designer right there!) for my opinion of their design work: “What do you think of this, will this work?” I always make it clear – I’m the artist, I’m not the interior designer. So I would always support the designer’s vision and never undermine the amazing creative work they’ve already done. I know my expertise is on making the artwork, that’s what I’m great at. Be very clear with clients why their interior designer (who had kindly brought you in) is so amazing and how you are there to support them. So my number 1 tip is really making sure that that relationship you have with interior design is professional and respectful.

Le Corbusier, Mural at Le Cabanon, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, 1951

  ‘When art and architecture come together’ – Le Corbusier, Mural at Le Cabanon, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, 1951.

And my second tip: Sometimes clients of the interior designers come directly to artists to see if they can get some kind of a discounted price or to cut the designer out of the process. But I always ask new clients, how did you find out about me? Because if I find out that they’re already a client of an interior designer that I’m working with, especially when the designer has put my art in their vision boards, every single time I will send that person back to the interior designer to make sure that that relationship stays with the designer. Because I’m not interested in taking a relationship, or a commission, away from an interior designer I’m working with – because for me a great business relationship lasts years, not just one transaction. Interior designers spend so much time and effort building their client base, so I will always respect that relationship. I’m in it for the long term.

Can you share with us a student of your course who is thriving in their art career?

Robyn Markey has recently given a wonderful testimonial:

“I recently had the pleasure of taking Sarah Daly’s course, ‘The Full-Time Artist Formula: 7 Steps to Quitting Your Day Job and Pursuing Your Passion,’ and I cannot recommend it highly enough. As someone who had hit a wall in my arts practice and was feeling discouraged, this course came at just the right time.

Sarah’s approach is thoughtful, well-researched, and highly effective. She helped me to identify my ideal buyer and showed me how to attract and retain loyal customers. Her advice on marketing and sales is invaluable, and I have already seen a major improvement in engagement and commitment to my art practice.

Forbidden Fruit - Robyn Markey

Robyn Markey – Forbidden Fruit

Oil on Canvas, White painted oak float frame. 53.5 x 94 x 5.5cm

What sets Sarah apart is her generosity in sharing her knowledge and her wonderful sense of humour. She made the course fun and enjoyable, and her positivity and enthusiasm are infectious. But perhaps the most significant benefit of this course has been the renewal of my artistic energy and creativity. I now have a clear plan for moving my practice forward, and the anxiety and stress that were holding me back are gone. I am excited to get back into the studio and create beautiful art that I know will find a home with my ideal buyers.

In short, if you’re an artist looking to turn your passion into a full-time career, Sarah Daly’s course is an absolute must. Thank you, Sarah, for sharing your knowledge and inspiring me to take my art practice to the next level!”

I’m intrigued by your PhD studies on how people collaborate with artificial intelligence – how has working with the AI tool Deep Style impacted your art?

I’ve been working with AI Artificial Intelligence as part of my creative process since about 2018. In 2019, I also started a PhD looking at artificial intelligence and how humans collaborate with AI. I started using it because I think that this level of technology allows us a different view on the world. It sees data in different ways to how humans see it. And I was fascinated by data visualisation. I’m fascinated by maps. I’m fascinated by how people move through the world and how that data is captured by these huge systems. I’m fascinated by its predictive capabilities. I wanted to include some of that conversation in the work that I was doing because my art talks to how we are all connected as people -and that is something that technology enables for us.

We saw along the quay by Sarah Daly

Sarah Daly – We saw, along the quay…

2023. Oil on canvas.

For example, your readers are probably reading this on the internet, which connects us all. It’s quite wonderful. So connections are a theme that I talk to in my art and I wanted to investigate that theme more deeply with artificial intelligence. For artists wanting to dive into this too, the tool is called Deep Dream Generator and Deep Style is just one of the ways I work with it. It helps me get new ideas. I’ll put my own images in and just get it to help me shift my perspective on what that could look like. It’s very fun.

Should artists be more or less worried about AI’s involvement in the art world?

I’m embracing artificial intelligence because it helps my practice, and it’s appropriate for me to use it as a tool. But it won’t be for everyone. And it is taking work from some artists. For example, illustrators are finding themselves not getting as much work because people are using AI tools like DALLE2 instead of hiring artists. This means those artists need to rethink their practice and get even better at defining who will buy their art. I also believe there will be a shift back to wanting more original art, because the AI generated stuff is becoming very same-same in my opinion and human creativity is valued.

There are definitely issues around the text to image technology like DALLE2. There’s a whole lot of art used in those apps that’s scraped off the web. We don’t really know where the data are coming from and there are a whole lot of copyright issues around use that haven’t been solved, because this is all so new.

Sarah Daly - We saw, along the quay…

  Sarah Daly – ‘We saw, along the quay…’ in the client’s home.

If thinking about whether we as artists should be worried, I compare it with when photography came out. It’s a new medium. There are definitely problems to solve and we will need to rethink our art practices as challenges come up, but I feel AI has an interesting and quickly evolving place in the art world. Given that, I still don’t think that more classic traditional art is going to lose an audience, because it’s a beautiful, authentic way of expressing human emotions. I think that AI art and collaborations will evolve very quickly. It will be fascinating to watch. I think being curious about it and testing it and playing with it. Being open to AI and raising problems when we find them. I think that’s a useful way to move forward.

Sarah Daly Branding

Thanks again to Sarah for being so generous with her time and for sharing her work and experience with our readers, really appreciate it!

Sign up for Sarah’s Full Time Artist Formula. I’ve signed MoMa up as an affiliate so we’ll receive a commission if you buy the course – the amount you pay stays the same. I’ve not yet completed the course but after dipping my toes in I’m happy to recommend it after seeing the work and wisdom Sarah’s put into it.

Visit Sarah’s website for more insight on her process & interests and follow along with her work on Instagram.

If you enjoyed this then check out our other Artist Interviews.