Artist Spotlight: 20 Questions with Susan Nethercote

I'm excited to introduce my first guest, Susan Nethercote, for a new feature called 20 Questions!

Side note: Suse is Australian and I actually met her in person for the first time at an art retreat in Costa Rica. Talk about the magic of social media right??! She's clearly about her business but this lady is loads of fun..I'm talking counter top dancing kinda fun! Oh the memories..

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1) What is the best part about being an artist?

Being creative every day is by far the best part.  Knowing that the core of my business relies on me sinking into deep, heartfelt creative expression makes me very happy on a fundamental level.  


2) What is the most difficult part?

Wearing all the hats necessary for making it work as a business.  I'm also a wife and a Mum of two, so it can be really hard having to make the art, photograph the art, sell the art, maintain the website, do the banking, plan the social media, respond to all the emails, cook the dinner and pick up the kids from school, take them to swimming. Phew, it's tiring just talking about it!

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3) Have you ever seriously considered giving up?

I've never considered giving up being an artist per-se, because making art is in my soul, but I constantly consider if a particular avenue I have pursued in my business is for me.  For example, I have produced cards  in my art business, but this does not really excite me, or make that much money for me, so it is an avenue that I may not continue in the future. So I might give that up.  But giving up all together, no, I just love the art making too much.  

Also, I have recently put together an Art Retreat on the French Riviera which will be amazing, but has been ENORMOUSLY stressful.  I had insomnia over it for 5 months, which was really really hard.  I considered giving it up, but I didn't. I've been a business person for a long time and one thing I know is that when you consider giving up something that really matters to you up, then you know you are on a personal edge, that you have pushed yourself toward some serious growth.  Those are the moments when you wonder if it's all worth it and sometimes actually feel like its going to kill you! Just on the other side of that is where dreams come true.  But in my experience, more often than not, you have to pass through some sort of fire to reach it. I've experienced this time and again in all my creative businesses.

4) Whose work do you most admire?  

Gosh, that's a hard one.  I can only reflect back to you who I am loving at the moment: Emily Jeffords, Heather Day, Sarah Golden, Clair Bremner are a few.

5) Have you ever been accused of copying or vs/vs?

No, I have never been accused of that.

6) If you've ever received negative feedback on your work how did you handle it?

I haven't received much negative feedback in person, but I have on Instagram and it was really confronting.  I read an article a while ago on how to handle Trolls.  It recommended not engaging AT ALL with that person, though it might be tempting to open a dialogue with that person to defend myself.  But I don't. I just delete the comment, because usually there is not much of worth there to take in. It's just hurtful and the person writing it is most likely a sociopath!  Also, I have an academic art background, so I am quite aware of how bitchy the art industry can be and how some inflated egos in the art world feel like it is their responsibility to give their opinion on if something is 'good' or 'bad'.  Personally, I think this kind of an assessment is bullshit and not appropriate for my work.  I do not paint to make some sort of socio-political comment about the state of the world. I paint to help people to feel something, to celebrate beauty. This many not be enough for an art critic, but it is enough for me and my clients. My jam is making people feel through color.  This was something that Matisse did back in his day, and the critics didn't think much of his work either.  I try to remember the experience of these revolutionary artists that painted their truth.  Criticism did not stop them and it won't stop me either.  But hearing it is always painful and you have to find ways to heal that pain and continue on. 

7) How do you really feel about social media?

Social media has been really good to me.  It has allowed me to build a local, worldwide following for my work and also to have direct feedback from my market.  I operated a clothing label for many years without social media and marketing took a whole lot more physical effort. I had to get out there to the people, have a shop and build a very local clientele.  Social media has changed all that, and I love the choices that it gives me such as being able to live and travel wherever I want and run a business from my home.  

8) What is the one question you wish people would stop asking you?

Probably all the question about the tools and material over and over again. That and which program I use for my interior mock-ups with my art.  It's Photoshop people! But I totally get that people need that kind of information :-)

9) What is the one thing you wish people would ask?

What the intention of my art is. That's a great conversation opener. 

10) How many followers do you have on Instagram?

I just got to 30K

11) Does this matter or make a difference to you?

I would be lying if a said it didn't. Building my Instagram following has been a very conscious marketing exercise for me.  My previous businesses have taught me that selling anything (including art) is essentially a numbers game.  Getting your work in front of the right eyes is so important.  You will only ever sell to a small percentage of your market, so having it in front of more eyes really helps to sell more work. Living in a smaller country like Australia with a small domestic market means that it is very important for the survival of my art business to have access to a global market.   It also gives me access to a much larger audience for selling really niche and expensive things such as Retreats.  We have people coming to that from all over the world.  This is pretty much thanks to Instagram.

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12) Do you have an assistant/team to help you make all the magic happen?

I do have a studio assistant that comes in and helps when I need it. She helps with shipping, photographing and photo editing. She also has graphic design skills which is great.  She sometimes stretches canvasses. I'm always asking her to help with something new. I also have web-people that help when I need it to. 

13) What advice can you share with new artist just starting out?

Don't expect it all to happen at once.  It takes years to build the foundations for a successful business and you learn as you go, so take your time.  

14) What new and exciting projects do you have on the horizon?

Right now, I'm organising the finer details of the France Retreat and doing lots of research around the artist's we will be seeing while we are there and preparing my painting lessons.  That feels pretty exciting. 

15) How do you really feel about commissions?

I do a lot of commission work and have really loved it.  It has pushed me into some really great creative growth. It has never been easy, but I have been blessed to have some great clients that have given me loads of freedom.  But I have done a lot of back-to-back commissions over the past 8 months, many of them very large,  and have decided to take a break for about 4 months as I am really feeling like I need to make some personal work for a while.  My body also needs a break from doing giant paintings. I feel like honoring this need is super-important to me being able to continue to love doing commissions in the future.  

16) If you could only choose one area of your business to focus on what would it be and why? 

If I could only choose one, it would be the art making, because painting color is basically soul-work and self-care for me.  But in reality, I would never just focus on one thing, because then it would cease to be cherished, ya know!?

17) What are three adjectives that describe your style/vibe?

Colourful, Joyful, Botanical Inspired (even though technically that's four!:-)

18) What art hacks have you discovered to save on costs?

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Painting on Paper is my favourite hack.  Most of my work sells overseas, so having a way to ship them in a cost-effective way is really important, since Australia is one of the most expensive places to post to and from.  So using high quality, heavy-weight cotton rag to paint on has changed everything for me.  It's also a really easy way to work when travelling. 

19) What do you use to photograph your work?

I do my high res shots with a Nikon DSLR.  I had a photographer come and show me how to shoot work in my studio with a light kit that I already had from my fashion label.  

But I use my iPhone 7Pluse heaps and it has a really excellent camera for getting social media shots.  It's amazing the quality of photos I can get from the camera in that phone when I take the work outside on an overcast day. 

20) Finally, what do you wish more people would feel, know, and do? 

I wish more people realized that artists are really painting from the heart and soul and aiming to bring more love into the world that way.  They are committed to the very brave and often underrated act of bringing more beauty to the planet.  The world needs more beauty. I wish more people in my country valued that and understood that making art is a very healing and beautiful act. 

Thank you Susan, you continue to be a powerhouse and source of great inspiration. Keep Blooming!

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