PROfile is a series of interviews with artists and creative souls who have built businesses around their craft and passion. We’ll dig deeper to try and find out everything you could want to know from seasoned pros who have experienced the full gamut of highs and lows that come with running a creative business.
Lesley Grainger is an abstract artist who’s work caught my eye on Instagram with its vibrancy and energy. There's seems to be this great abandon about the way she throws herself into her paintings, and yet absolutely nothing is out of place. I was fascinated to find out more about this exciting artist, I hope you'll enjoy this interview and Lesley's energising work as well!
What was your first ‘proper’ job and how did you land it? Was it what you intended to do as a career?
I was a self-taught graphic designer for a small ad agency in England. I thought it was my career of choice until I realised I wanted more creative freedom.
Has art always been in your blood?
Yes definitely! I told my dad when I was five I wanted to be an artist.
What’s your main creative discipline and how did you get started in it?
My main focus is abstract painting, I started as a children’s book illustrator and along the way found my passion for abstract.
Do you see yourself as introverted or extroverted, and does being either affect the way you work?
I’m both, introvert with my work but I love to chat with people. I like to work alone, it gets me in the creative flow.
What is your favourite kind of commission, and why?
My favourite commission would be no rules, just maybe a hint of a colour.
How did you know you were ready to have your own business?
When I worked I would get frustrated not being able to do what I want, it was always there bubbling up, waiting for me to take the jump.
How did you go about starting your own business?
I began as an illustrator and worked with manufacturers licensing my art on products. I began by creating a portfolio of work, then I designed my own website.
How did you secure your first clients?
I emailed people that I thought would be interested in my work. My first big client was Target.
What is your typical daily routine like?
Each day is different because working for yourself there is so much to do. Some days I paint, others I spend doing paperwork and others I could be shipping all day. It really depends on what I have going on. I’m not a routine person at all, the only thing that is the same is I start with coffee of course, but I do find time to paint almost every day.
What traits do artists have that help with running a business?
Creativity is a big thing, being able to dream up new and better ways of doing things. Such as marketing your business.
How does being an introvert (or an extrovert) help or hinder you when it comes to business?
I think for me it has been about confidence in my work and who I am.
Do you have a favourite medium or technique?
Yes, I paint mostly with acrylics but I like to mix in other mediums for more texture.
What’s been the most beneficial business decision you’ve made?
Opening my online shop, hands down!!
Artists and writers often describe the compulsion to work – do you experience an overwhelming desire to create something new?
Do you ever feel alone in your work?
I use to, but I have made a lot of connections with other artists through local events and social media. I also make an effort to meet with friends bi-weekly.
How do you relax?
I actually like to paint to relax, haha! But I also love a good movie with my hubby. We are survivor fans!
Where do you find inspiration?
Most of my inspiration comes from what is swirling in my head. My work follows on from the previous, so it’s an ongoing process. Sometimes I like to do an inspired ongoing collection, such as my Conversation Series.
What advice would you give to your 21-year-old self?
Keep going you’re on the right track, listen to your voice and love people.
What would you like to be remembered for?
That’s a really hard question and I think it really depends on what I’m thinking about or talking to. Of course, my faith, family and friends. My art. It’s not really work, it’s a lifelong passion that I hope I will always be able to do. I also hope to inspire others to follow their creative path.
What’s been the best moment of your career so far?
That is also a really hard question… because I’ve had a lot of wonderful things happen but maybe I’m waiting for that ‘best moment'.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
When I create a painting and then see a picture of it in someone’s home or office!! It really means so much to me that people support my work and enjoy it in their homes, that is something that is so special.
What have been the biggest challenges or obstacles you’ve faced in your business and how did you overcome them?
Many obstacles, but to offer advice for other artists reading this, I would say the ugly self-doubt monster, always be yourself in your work because you can discover your true self.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I was 21, working in a pub in England, a man came in at 11 am and ordered a pint of bitter (that’s English beer) I love talking with people and finding out things about them. He told me it was his 96th birthday, so I asked him what advice he had for me. He said ‘Variety is the spice of life!'. I try to live by those words and I think of him often.
If you could have dinner with any inspiring person (past or present), who would you choose?
Right now… JOAN MITCHELL.
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