Expert Q&A: Paige Poppe, Artist and Creative Entrepreneur
With more than 200 products in retailers across the country, artist Paige Poppe is turning her creative endeavors into a thriving business – and she’s sharing advice on how you can, too.
Arizona-based watercolor painter and designer Paige Poppe is known for her vibrant and colorful prints and murals inspired by the Sonoran Desert. With a deep appreciation for the state’s natural landscape, she’s developed her modern artwork into a collection of products that includes everything from commissioned murals to wedding stationary, greeting cards, and giftable goods like pins and patches.
If you’re a creative looking to spin your natural abilities into a successful business, you’ll definitely want to read Paige’s interview from start to finish.
Paige, to kick things off, I’d love to dive into the business side of things. I’m curious: As a working artist, how do you spend most of your time?
I spend just as much time running my business as I do creating art! In an ideal world, I could be just creating art, I suppose, but I do enjoy the other aspects of what I do as well. I would estimate that I spend about 40 percent of my time creating, and the other 60 percent of my time on behind-the-scenes tasks. Of course some of these tasks are creative, like designing graphics for my website and social media, but the other tasks include ordering inventory, email, setting up invoices and contracts, or educating myself about business.
That’s a really helpful perspective. Thanks for sharing it. We have a lot of creatives in the RUBY community – people who are either already creative entrepreneurs, or who are looking for ways to turn their art into business. What is your best advice for them?
Number one, put yourself out there! The only way you will be able to get your art out into the world is to put it there. Of course, it is important to develop your style and feel confident in your artwork first, but don’t let the pursuit of perfection hold you back. Sharing your art will eventually become second nature if you start doing so now.
Second, I recommend you pursue both online and in-person opportunities. In the world of online business and shopping, it would be simple to never get out from behind my computer or phone. While social media and building an online presence is valuable, I’ve also made invaluable connections in person. These include building relationships with shop owners that carry my product in their stores and participating in art markets, so that my customers have a chance to shop in-person and I can talk with them face-to-face. I also have become much better at speaking about my art and business this way, and it has made me very comfortable speaking with clients and potential clients, so it’s a great skill to build as a working artist or creative entrepreneur!
Lastly, I recommend investing in a good camera to document your work! I photograph and document each piece of art that I create. You never know when you’ll want to turn a past artwork into a print, and having the digital file already available makes that so simple to do.
You’ve created an impressive resume for yourself – prominent murals in the Phoenix area, an illustrated children’s book, and products in West Elm, among other retailers. But what do you wish you had known at the beginning of your journey as an artist and designer?
I wish I had the foresight to realize how much art I would be making, because I would have been more organized! I am much better at cataloging my work now, but I still spend time sorting my digital files into categories so that I have a record of all the artwork I create. I am doing my best now to have photos and info on every piece I’ve created and where it “lives” currently, but it’s always a work in progress. If I could do it all over again, I would create a system in the very beginning!
Very practical advice, I dig it. Thanks for that! Would you say this the career you’ve always dreamed of having, or is your current place in life more of a happy surprise?
I feel so grateful for the life my art career has created for me! It is totally a happy surprise. I did dream of being a full-time artist, but it has been more fun and rewarding than I ever imagined. I think I have my clients to thank for so much of that, because they come up with creative projects for me to take on, which I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to create otherwise! For example, early last year the Arizona Girl Scouts approached me to create a series of murals for their sleeping and activity cabins in their newly renovated camp. The designs we came up with together were not only my signature desert artworks, but also tributes to strong women, STEM tools, and even a large-scale periodic table of the elements. Their ideas push me to determine how I will bring my unique style to a new subject matter.
Finally, one last question: What is your advice for ways that up-and-coming artists and designers work smarter, not harder?
Creating art prints and products from my art has been a wonderful way to expand my business. I know there are some artists that are against prints, and only want to create original work. I do admire them for that, but it can be difficult to scale. By having printed pieces, I enjoy that I can offer a lower price point for younger collectors, and then they can pursue collecting an original piece when they are ready in the future! I want my art to feel accessible and fun, and offering different types of products has allowed me to do that, while also adding additional revenue streams to my business.
Katarina Kovacevic is founder and editor of RUBY. Follow her on Instagram @Little_K_Kata.