An interview with… Mary Herbert, Animal Artist

So this week, I interviewed Mary Herbert,
a UK-based artist who does exactly what I hope to do,
create realistic animal portraits for a living.

One of Mary’s commissioned portraits

She had a few great tips for me and others as new artists starting out.

Mary Herbert
Mary is an artist, tutor and photographer who is based in Wales.
She trained as an artist at university and has been a portrait artist for over 20 years.
She specialises in using pastel to create her art – a medium I have yet to succeed with. 

Hi Mary, Thank you for answering some of my questions.
I guess what I really wanted to know was the practicals!

Sorry for the brevity of my replies, I’m afraid it’s a rather frantic time of year for me right now!

How many paintings do you do monthly to get by?

It varies hugely depending on what commissions I have, how complex they are, whether I have exhibitions and what size work I’m doing.

Mary specialises in horse portraits

How else do you generate an income?

Charge a professional fee, be professional, be consistent, work hard, have high standards.

My income comes from selling paintings and prints, tutoring art and occasional article writing.

How do you advertise your painting?

Most of my work comes via word of mouth.  To reach new audiences I enter exhibitions, work with publishers who promote my name, hold stands at events, use websites, youtube and facebook.

How did you make the transition from whatever you did before to being an artist?

I have always worked as an artist, I’ve combined it with various full and part time jobs over the years but have painted full time for the past five.

Any tips of the trade to new artists?

Avoid offering your work very cheap or free, as I’ve seen many new artists do.  Not only does it undermine the whole ‘industry’, a customer base of bargain hunters is never going to support you on a living wage.

The art market is extremely poor at the moment.  Use this time to develop your skills and your portfolio so you’re ready if/when it recovers.  Build a network of useful contacts, find a mentor.  Avoid offering your work very cheap or free, as I’ve seen many new artists do.  Not only does it undermine the whole ‘industry’, a customer base of bargain hunters is never going to support you on a living wage.

When setting your rates remember the (non-painting) marketing and running of your business will take up around a quarter of your time, up to half of it with a new venture.  Charge a professional fee, be professional, be consistent, work hard, have high standards.

The quality is really inspiring me to keep practising.

Thank you!

Find Mary’s website at: http://www.portra.co.uk/

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