Why Now Is an Amazing Time to Be an Artist
When Kristi Kohut‘s accountant told her that attempting to earn a living off her art didn’t make any financial sense and could prove to be a mistake, she knew she needed to get a new accountant.
“I told him, ‘Submit the papers to start my LLC. Thank you very much. I’m hiring someone else,'” she reflects with a laugh. “When you hear people saying it can’t be done, you just have to turn around and prove them wrong.”
In the years since that 2014 appointment, Kohut has certainly proven her accountant wrong. She’s sold more than a million dollars worth of her colorful, vibrant artwork, and since she’s chosen to forge a trajectory separate from that of the traditional gallery-to-art collector model, 97 percent of those sales have come directly from her website. Kohut has opted to prioritize making personal connections with her fans through — you guessed it — social media. She typically posts to Instagram three times daily, and it’s not unusual for followers to send her direct messages claiming pieces they see there before they’re even finished.
“I can expose my work to people all over the world in a moment, so it breaks down a lot of walls to finding someone who’s a good match as a collector, who really responds to my work,” Kohut says of the power of social media for artists. “It makes owning a piece of artwork all the better, because you know the background.”
While the stereotype of the “starving artist” can keep many creatives from making the leap to focus on their art professionally, Kohut feels that our modern world is actually a unique, opportunity-filled one in which to make it happen.
“We are living in such an incredible time,” she tells us. “You can put your work out there and you have nothing to lose. There is a group of people out there that needs your work.”
Opportunity exists even for those who haven’t been classically trained but have always sensed their creative, artistic abilities. Kohut, for one, studied journalism in college, after which she moved to New York City to rise in the ranks at a major advertising firm until she was named art director. When her son was born, she said goodbye to the crazy hours… but it wasn’t long before she was craving artistic expression. Having grown up with a love of art — “I would just spend hours in my room with watercolors,” she says — Kohut started experimenting with painting again. Her husband encouraged her to set up a studio in their home.
“I felt this complete passion and joy that I had never known before,” she remembers of those early years of painting. “I couldn’t stop. I painted and painted and painted.”
After three years of working alone in the studio and filling the walls of her family home with paintings, Kohut started sharing her pieces with loved ones. Another three years later, she established her business — in spite of her accountant’s warnings — and never looked back. In addition to single-handedly growing her collector and follower base online, Kohut’s progressive model has opened the door for collaboration opportunities with brands like Anthropologie and West Elm.
“I don’t just want to create art,” she says. “I want to create a whole world where you can surround yourself with art and color and pattern.”
To today’s aspiring artists and creatives, Kohut stresses the importance of harnessing the power of social media, ignoring the haters, and simply going for it.
“Take that first step,” she advises. “Put up a website. Get on social media. It takes a lot of hard work and hustle. But the world needs it. The world needs creativity. The world needs art. If you’re putting it out there, you’re doing what you’re meant to do, and I think the universe just responds and it will happen.”
What do you think of this awesome artist’s advice for creatives? Tweet us @BritandCo!
(Photos via Kristi Kohut)