Artist Jordan McDowell at Home with her Gallery Wall of Art Prints

5 Assumptions People Make About Professional Artists

5 Assumptions People Make About Professional Artists

Artist Working in her Studio with her Dog


Here are some assumptions you may make about me as an artist.


1. You're a working artist, you definitely went to art school.

Nope! I actually didn’t paint for nearly eight years after high school. I left high school and moved straight to NYC and worked in a lot of different industries over the years there. I went to college when I was 22 and got my BA in Food Studies at the New School in Manhattan. I never took a single art class while there. I
did take a graphic design class that I nearly failed - Parsons is REAL intense and I was so so bad at graphic design.

I only started painting after I left NYC in 2017. I saw that people on Instagram were making a living off their art and I was like DONE. I’m doing that. I just picked up some supplies at a local art store and I painted as much as I could for a year straight. After about a year of developing a catalog to pull from, I started making prints and then went full time with selling my art.

I have a feeling that if I had gone to art school I would have become super pretentious about art and that’s just not a vibe I want to perpetuate. That being said, everyone handles school and art differently and I think if you have the opportunity to go to art school then jump at it!


2. Artists spend most of their time painting and coming up with new art collections.


Fruit Poster Prints Work in Progress in Artist Studio Jordan McDowell

I wish! I wish so badly that’s all there was to do to make a living as an artist Sadly, that is not the way of the world of creative entrepreneurship. One day, I will be in a position where I can outsource all the tasks that I’m weakest at and focus more of my time on actually painting. Alas, today I wear many hats.

The vast majority of my time is spent turning my artwork into prints. It takes hours and hours of work to convert a traditional piece of art into a digital editable file. Aside from that, most of my week consists of packing orders, website development and editing listings, taking inventory and placing inventory orders, photographing my art, studio, and the process bits, trying to come up with consistent social media posts and answering emails.

It’s far from that trope of the whimsical artist who sits with her paints all day with her head in the clouds. No, it’s much more business-oriented and sadly, less painting. And due to that, I do wish I had done some more business classes in college to prepare myself for this role!


3. To start selling artwork your artwork needs to be amazing.

Well, whose idea of ‘amazing’? Sure, your art needs to be visually appealing but it definitely does not need to be amazing and masterful before you’re able to make a buck from it. I had an unreasonable amount of confidence in my ability to paint and started selling prints of my watercolors just ten months after starting to paint.

Here are a few of my very first watercolor paintings. 

Beets Watercolor Kitchen Art Print by Artist Jordan McDowell Lemons Watercolor Kitchen Art Print by Artist Jordan McDowell  
Avocados Watercolor Kitchen Art Print by Artist Jordan McDowell Red Bell Peppers Watercolor Kitchen Art Print by Artist Jordan McDowell


I’ve sold loads of these prints and still do to this day! These prints are available on my Etsy shop and even after becoming a better painter and offering more variety of work to my collectors, these prints still sell. 

The artist's job is to create and share but it’s really up to the collector to decide what’s worth spending their money on.


4. An artist's favorite paintings always sell the best.

Blue Ridge Mountains Watercolor Landscape Painting Art Print by Artist Jordan McDowell

Boy, I can’t tell you how wrong this is. I think the time and emotional rollercoaster that goes into painting certain pieces bring about a greater sense of value for artists. Some works feel a bit easy to create, they flow out of you, there’s not a lot of need to rework bits, and you just nail the palette and composition from the first go. With others, there’s an idea in your head that you’re trying desperately to translate on paper or canvas and it takes rework after rework to get right. Those pieces, for me at least, usually become my favorite. Because I spent so much time with that piece of art, I invested so much of myself in those bits.

I’ll give you an example. My Blue Ridge Mountains watercolor painting FLOWED out of me in like 30 minutes. It’s not a terribly technical painting but I nailed the color palette and it really brings the viewer a sense of peace and calm. I love this painting, don’t get me wrong, but I never in a million years would have guessed it’d be as successful as it is on Etsy.

Colorful Playful Floral Fine Art Painting by Artist Jordan McDowell

Another example is “Vincent” from my Blomster Collection. I LOVE this painting. The color palette reminds me a bit of Vincent van Gogh’s “Bedroom in Arles,” one of my favorite paintings. I love the red and white stripes against the textured periwinkle backdrop and the gold vase with a solid black base.

I think it’s a great painting perfect for an accent wall or set within a gallery wall. But this original is still available. I’m not terribly upset by that because I don’t mind having it on my wall one bit but it just goes to show that not all of our favorite paintings sell and some of our less challenging paintings become best sellers.


5. Artists are broke.


Sure, there are a lot of broke artists but no, that does not need to be the case. The rise of shopping locally gave way to the rise of shopping independently. Now more than ever, people are interested in spending their money with small businesses rather than the Amazons of the world. And thanks to websites like Squarespace, Shopify, and Etsy, setting up an online shop is easier than ever!

Now, just because you have an online shop and listings doesn't mean the money will flood in. It’s a business just like any other and it takes months and years to establish best practices for marketing and outreach.

I was able to go full-time with my business eleven months after beginning to paint (I don’t totally recommend that - the hustle was INSANE). And over the past two years, I've become better about learning business finances and paying myself. But I still jump with pure joy every time I get a sale even after being in business for three years.



If you’re reading this and you’ve purchased art from me in the past, know, you make my dreams come true and I love you ❤️ .


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