Stepping Out And Growing an Art Business | Artist Entrepreneur Jennifer Gough | AQ’s Blog & Grill

Stepping Out And Growing an Art Business | Artist Entrepreneur Jennifer Gough | AQ’s Blog & Grill

Recording: AQ’s Blog & Grill. Interviewer: Hi. Welcome to AQ’s Blog & Grill;
this is where we have fast food for thought on branding and entrepreneurship.
Our guest today is Jennifer Gough. Jennifer is
an artist and an entrepreneur; you might say you’re an artrepreneur. Jennifer: I think that would be a good way
to say it. Interviewer: There we go. Let’s go a little
bit into the art field. I know you got started a little late in terms
of dedicating your life to being an artist. How did that all
come about? Jennifer: I had worked in retail for about
12 years at a college, and it just got to a point where I was thinking about,
“Is this what I want to do for the rest of my life?” I had
a good job and I was making good money, but it was just that time
where you start to question where you’re going and what your
future’s going to look like. I had always wanted to be an artist. Interviewer: Really? Jennifer: Yeah, always, since I was a child.
I always felt that was like an unattainable dream. It was like waking
up. It was like all of a sudden I woke up and I went, “Oh, my gosh.
I’m already such- and-such an age and I better start now, because
if I don’t, then I’ll be down the road and you never know what’s
going to happen. This is the best time to just take the bull
by the horns and run with it.” Then once I had in my mind a loose
plan, I quit my job, I got myself a studio, and I started
painting, which I had never done before. I hadn’t been a painter
before. I know it sounds . . . Interviewer: This makes perfect sense. Jennifer: Yeah, I know. It sounds ridiculous
when you think of ‘You quit your job to be a painter, but you never painted.’
It was almost like taking my life and flipping it completely
on its head, which in the end, was the best thing I could
ever do. At the same time, I had to be realistic so I set
myself up with a couple jobs that didn’t really take away from
me emotionally or mentally, and I could focus all my energy
on artwork and still pay my bills and everything. Of course, you
cut everything out that doesn’t have to be there like cable and
all the frilly stuff. Interviewer: You really did combine this passion
for art and what it was going to allow you to grow into with entrepreneurship. Jennifer: I had no idea that I was an entrepreneur.
Honestly, all I wanted to do, I was just like, “I just want
to make art and I want that to be my thing.” I didn’t . . . actually
at that point, I didn’t care if I worked those part-time
jobs for the rest of my life because I was happier doing
what I wanted to do than going to a job 40 to 50 hours a week.
The good thing about retail was I learned a lot of business skills
while I was there. Interviewer: You have the studio, Mind’s Eye
Studio now. How does that feel? Jennifer: It’s incredible. I get to go to
work every day to my studio, I get to paint and create these wonderful pieces
of art, and I get to make a living doing that. I don’t think
I could ask for anything more, really. As far as the whole
sort of starting small and getting bigger, like I said, I really
didn’t have any grandiose plan for what I would become. I
think when you focus on what your passion is and you do that with
100% of your energy, you can’t fail because you’re putting
everything you have into something you love, and it just
. . . it has a momentum all its own. It starts to grow and
it starts to become more than you ever thought it would be. I took every opportunity. If someone offered
me an opportunity, I said yes. You go through . . . you get these
little milestones. Every time you achieve one of
those you’re like, “Geez. Wow. That was really amazing. I can’t
believe I did that.” Then it starts to build your confidence
a little bit, and then you start to be like, “OK. I understand
how this works.” It’s a learning process, for sure. Interviewer: How does Jennifer take care of
the Jennifer Gough Mind’s Eye Studio brand? Jennifer: I don’t do something unless I’m
going to do it 100%. When I’m making art and I’m putting art out into the
world, I’m putting it out there with me behind it. Everything
that I put out, I’m 100% proud of, I’m 100% satisfied with, and
I make sure that my customers are 100% satisfied and proud to
own a Mind’s Eye Studio piece, as well. Interviewer: How do you find that you’re able
to leverage social media for your artistic endeavors as well as your
business end of things? Jennifer: First of all, I didn’t even have
a computer. It started with people asking me for things, and then with
the need, then I would add that to my repertoire. I guess it
maybe it was 5 years ago, a friend of mine was like, “You need
to get on Twitter.” When I was clicking on people to follow, I
was noticing what I was looking for in their profiles in those
3 Tweets; it’s like a first impression. I was always looking for
someone who would Tweet interesting things about art with pictures,
with videos, with information articles, anything like that.
I was looking for people who would communicate back, who’d be
approachable. Then I was looking for people who were positive and
motivational. I thought, “Those are the things I’m looking
for from the people I follow. I think I’m going to make that my
standard. My 3 Tweet rule is always leave my account with those
3 . . .” you can Tweet as much as you want and do your thing,
but once you walk away, I leave it at those 2 Tweets, so that
when someone comes to my profile, they see, ‘She’s an artist,
clearly. A lot of motivational stuff, a lot of stuff about being
positive and moving forward, and then again, answering
people back. If someone Tweets to me, I try to answer as much
as I can right away and keep a conversation going. Twitter
has been instrumental in quite a lot of my dealings
artistically. Interviewer: Have you sold many pieces through
social media? Jennifer: I have. Interviewer: How can that happen? Jennifer: I don’t know how that happens. It’s
a funny thing because you don’t who’s looking at your account. You can
tell . . . you know who follows you, but you don’t know what everyone
is seeing or how often they’re seeing your Tweet. You got
to put it out there to get anything back. It’s like the whole
give-to-receive sort of thing. You know that I spoke at the Art and Technology
Conference that Avonova had in Stratford, and then the Herald;
their local newspaper took a photograph for the article
he was going to write. He took pictures of the physical art
that was there, which was great for me. Of course then when
the article came out, I posted it on Facebook and I posted
it on Twitter, and that’s when you happened to see Steve there.
It’s all a process; saying yes to opportunities, which was that
whole speaking thing. Getting in front of people, getting
it out there, and then you never know who’s going to see your
work. The show that I did this one for was an Apple-themed show
that started from one Tweet. It all started with Carbon Computing; they
posted a tweet that said, “Does anyone want to make art with computer
parts?” I said, “Me, please.” When it came to Steve
Jobs, I thought when I was looking at his portrait, I’m like, “There’s
so much going on in his head; the way that he’s running his
business. the way he’s dealing with his people, the way he’s
taking these leaps. How do I portray that through painting?” I
really, of course, liked that ‘Here’s to the Crazy One’ speech,
so I decided to print out the speech, tear it all up into
little pieces, and then put it into him, like, build it right
into his person. I like how it’s in behind his eye, and it’s
just very subtle but it has a lot of power. Interviewer: Now you’re on a radio show. Where
do you have the time, Miss Jennifer Gough, to be on the radio with
a show called Culture Suits? Jennifer: CKWR 98.5 Interviewer: 98.5 [inaudible: 08:50]. Jennifer: Canada’s first community radio station. Interviewer: Very good. Jennifer: Actually, that came from a Tweet,
as well. Nick Herrin, you know Nick Herrin. Interviewer: Yes, I know Nick. Jennifer: He Tweeted out that they were looking
for people, because he had been interviewed on the show as well.
I said, “Me, please.” I went on the show and Randy and I hit it
off, and then at the end of the show he said, “You need to be my
co-host,” and I said, “OK.” I’m always like, “Yes, OK.” Interviewer: I want all the entrepreneurs
in our audience, the young entrepreneurs particularly, to notice what
Jennifer does. She puts up her hand, and really, there’s so many
opportunities that the normal folk do not take advantage of because
‘I don’t know if I should put up my hand or not.’ How many
bad things have happened when you . . . Jennifer: None. Interviewer: None. Jennifer: I have never had a bad thing happen
when I volunteered for something. I think that’s part of the reason
that sets entrepreneurs apart from others who don’t
choose to go that route. Yes, me, please; always taking advantage
of opportunities, and I like to give opportunities
back as well, especially with having the space that I have.
It’s nice for me to be able to . . . at least once a year;
I do a multi-artist show, a group show at the studio. Interviewer: You mentioned Brush Off. Tell
me a little bit about what the Brush Off project was. Jennifer: That was an evening that the museum
put on downtown. It was 22 artists, and they had 2 opening rounds, so
11 artists in each round. You could vote. All the patrons would
go around and watch all the artists making their work. They had
half an hour to create a piece. Again, so the brand. We come
back to the brand. Because if you’re creating in half an hour,
how does the brand . . . does the brand suffer because of that?
What I did was, all the people who bought my paintings, I contacted
the museum and I said, “All those people I want to offer a
free service that they can come to the gallery and I will finish,
put a hanging wire, I will varnish those pieces so that when they
go out into the world, they are Mind’s Eye Studio, Jennifer
Gough representations.” Interviewer: Perfect. Jennifer: Three of the 4 people took me up
on it; one which became a client. Again, giving at that point, giving
to my clients, making sure that they’re happy with the piece
that they bought came back to me in a positive way, as well. Interviewer: You’re very involved in the community
and you don’t have a lot of extra time. What’s your motivation
there? Jennifer: I think that when everyone contributes
whatever they can, it just puts us all forward as a whole. The thing
is if you’re involved in the community, it makes your life
richer. You think at first that you’re like, “I have to give
my time. I have to give this.” Really, you really get back more
than you give. Then you meet so many great people and then there’s
more opportunities. I just can’t even tell you.
It’s like a roundabout, it’s like the more you do, the
more it comes back. Interviewer: There you go. Jennifer: Then we’re all successful. Interviewer: What does success look like for
Jennifer Gough in the next couple of years? Where are you going to go? Jennifer: Just getting bigger, just expanding
my reach. Creating is what makes me happy. In finding and becoming an
artist, and following my passion, I’ve also found my purpose. That
is really I like to encourage and motivate other people, I like
to inspire people. I have been doing that through my art up until
now, but I would like to do more public speaking. I did my
night talk which was wildly popular. I really would like to speak
to people about follow your dream. If you have a passion,
make it happen. There’s lots of ways you can do it. My way,
your way; it’s always going to be different because people
are different, but there’s a few commonalities that you can setup
to help make yourself successful. Interviewer: We’re going to close, and as
we do, I just want to ask you if you had 3 things that you wanted to pass
onto young artists thinking about ‘I’m not getting a lot of good
encouragement perhaps from my family or my friends, but
I know this is me.’ What 3 things would you say, “Guys, please
think about these 3 things”? Jennifer: I think that it’s scary for artists
when they first start out, because first of all, you’re putting a piece
of yourself out there, but you’re starting on a journey where
people are going to go, “Are you crazy? Artists don’t make
any money. How are you going to live?” They’re going to ask you those
questions. You have to be strong in your resolution and say,
“If this is what I want, I’ll do anything that I need to do to
get there.” That’s the important part. Then you have to take
steps, you have to take action, and the community’s a great place
to start. Get involved in the Button Factory; they have
always got programs or something going on. Get involved with charities;
they love donations, and then usually they’ll promote
you as well, and then you get to go to the event and talk to
people about your work while it’s there, so you’re making connections.
Take action is the first one. The second one I think would
be get online. Interviewer: Get online. Jennifer: Get a presence so that even when
you’re not out in the community, your community can still see what
you’re doing. Interviewer: Exactly, 24/7. Jennifer: Get online, get a website, a blog,
start on Facebook, or get Twitter. Do all of those things simultaneously.
Get yourself a presence, and then make great work. Work,
because you have to have a product to sell. As you’re taking action
towards your dream and you’re getting out there with the
community and getting connected, then you’ve got a product
to sell; all those things will line you up for . . . start you
on your successful path. Interviewer: Today’s session of AQ’s Blog
& Grill was with artist, entrepreneur, Jennifer Gough. Jennifer’s website
and some of her other connections, social media connections,
will be published on the blog. You can ask Jennifer questions,
and we will forward them to Jennifer, and then hopefully she’ll
respond. I know she will. Jennifer: Absolutely. Interviewer: It’s been great having Jennifer
join us today. Thanks for dropping by. Recording: AQ’s Blog & Grill.

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About the Author: Oren Garnes


  1. Thank you so much for sharing this! Nothing more motivating than hearing tips from somebody who is making it work!

  2. It's a great video. really motivating, like this video that helps Artists

  3. Wow! Thank you all for watching and for your kind words. I'm happy you're finding it helpful! May inspiration find you always.

  4. I think the "watch out" for those of us who say "yes" is that we need to be careful not to say yes to everything….We need to pick and choose those that we are really passionate about…I'm at a point where I'm saying "no" to 90% of offers…Great video!!!!

  5. I've been trying to live off of my artwork for a few years now, I think my resting bitch face keeps me from being successful.

  6. As artists, how do you use social media to enhance your brand? (Big thanks to Jennifer Gough for joining us in this episode.)

  7. Love it!!! Makes me really excited to start my career. I'm right at the beginning and have made some really good investments.

  8. Thank you for the excellent interview. For me personally it couldn't have been more timely. Very motivating, interesting, insightful, with practical guidance. So many things ring the bell in me starting late, always knowing that I am an artist, not really painted before. Great!!

  9. Very inspirational, wonderful interview for aspiring artists. I especially love your point about ALWAYS accepting an offer, just doing everything you can and then getting involved in the community. Thank you for this wonderful information

  10. The artist's work, starting in mid-life without prior training or even an attempt is astoundingly mediocre. That she is able to market it and sell it is astounding period. So bravo to you, Jennifer. If you sense bitterness then your senses are spot on. I came up the hard way since age three and at age 62 I finished a painting two days ago. I've had a modicum of success over the decades and I've sold some of my work on my Facebook wall (not a dedicated fb page or website.). I was hoping I'd find your artwork as compelling as your entrepreneurship; sadly not the case. But what does one old fart's opinion matter to you or your audience ?
    Nothing. So again, my hat's off to you and continued success.

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