Patricia Watwood is a skilled oil painter and incredibly
deserving of a lot of praise for the art career she has built for herself.
She's also quite willing to share her approach to building a network for her
art, as she attests below. Enjoy!
|The Honorable Clarence Harmon, Mayor of St. Louis
by Patricia Watwood, oil on canvas, 24 x 18, 2002.
Collection of St. Louis City Hall.
recently asked me what I did to get recognized and become part of the art scene
in my hometown of St. Louis, but the truth is that when I lived in St. Louis I
wasn't part of the art community. In fact, I was not involved in fine art oil
painting at all during that time of my life.
I left St.
Louis right after high school and have been based in New York for the past 15
years. It was only about five years ago that I started to realize that St.
Louis could be a wonderful "second base" to balance out my New York
art community. (Plus it would allow me to combine work trips with visits to
Grandma's house with my kids!)
started with a few portrait painting commissions. My mother worked with the
former mayor on education policy and when the time came for his official oil
painting portrait, she said, "I know a talented portrait artist you could
consider--and she's a native of St. Louis!" (Thanks, Mom!) I
submitted a portfolio and subsequently won the commission.
that success, I did two commissions for Saint Louis University. This experience
with portraiture taught me that business is built on two priceless intangibles:
word of mouth and personal relationships. So, being in the right place at the
right time and developing one-on-one connections whenever I went back to St.
Louis or corresponded with interested individuals over the phone or email was
the key. It's a slow process, but I found that this kind of networking is the
most common way to receive new painting commissions.
||Dr. Kenneth R. Smith, Jr. by Patricia Watwood,
2010, oil on canvas, 40 x 40.
Collection of Saint Louis University.
ago, I decided to have a showcase in St. Louis and do an event to draw people
in and get the word out about my paintings. I sent invitations to my family's
extended network of friends and anyone else we knew in the community with an
interest in art. I then converted my mom's living room into an art gallery,
bribed my mom to bake a bunch of delicious cakes, and we hosted a party. I put
together a slideshow presentation about the process of commissioning a
portrait, and set that up to play on loop in a corner of the
"gallery." I also gave a short talk about my art background, the New
York art community I'm involved with, and the importance of portraiture.
event, I made a good contact with a museum director in the community. The
executive assistant to the President of Saint Louis University also came to see
the showcase, and she recommended my work to the director at the Saint Louis
University Museum of Art. Happily, they eventually invited me to have an
exhibit at the museum in order to bring the world of contemporary realist
painting to the St. Louis audience.
So work to
develop key relationships in your circle of art, and over time this can lead to
new opportunities. And remember that friends and family can be your greatest
allies in spreading the word about your work. And if your mom's an awesome
baker--put her to work!
Patricia's story so inspiring because it seems like the road she took was quite
natural and made sense with who she is and wants to be as an artist. To hear
how other artists have made their careers come together their way, and for tips
and instruction in painting that will assure you have the means to match any
commission you come across, the entire year of American Artist issues from 2010
is available now on CD. It can give you the know-how to jumpstart your career right
away wherever you are!
are your experiences building your own artistic network? What strategies have
you used? Leave a comment and let us know.