The Artist’s Struggle: How to Succeed in our Commercial World

By Melody Vitek

Art. It’s a form of expression that covers a wide range of mediums: animation, painting, pottery, drawing, crafting, etc. There is seemingly no end to the number of artworks in this world. However, that surplus can be both a blessing and a curse. While art has enriched our culture and provided viewers with a variety of options, it remains difficult for artists to do their work professionally.

Which begs the question, how can artists stand out and succeed in this over-saturated and fast-paced market?

In order to find an answer to this question, I set out to interview a local artist named Liz Staley.

As a professional artist, she creates a variety of different products. She sells prints, stickers, and accessories. She has also written books and blog posts on art software.

Staley has always enjoyed creative work, but she didn’t hit her stride until she began drawing animals. Growing up, she was obsessed with horses. However, her hometown didn’t provide many opportunities for her to interact with them. Later, a friend of Staley invited her to spend time with her pet horse. This development reignited Staley’s passion and led to her interacting with horses for several years.

Now, she creates art pieces that are inspired by her love of animals. She loves to incorporate what she learns into new pieces and uses them to tell stories. Her atlas map series, for example, combines drawings of animals with maps of their home regions.

The drawing that started it all, Staley’s first horse portrait

Her fellow Foundry Art Market members also praised the creativity of these pieces. Becky Wright, a photographer, said, “I think she puts a lot of nice detail into her work. I love how she repurposed atlas pages and her use of colors. I think her style has a very professional edge to it.”

Trichia Lesky, an acrylics painter who specializes in landscapes, seascapes, and animal paintings, also added her two cents on Staley’s art, “I really like Liz’s style. I think she’s very detailed and illustrative with her renderings. I like how she incorporates the horses that she draws with atlas pages of the region that the horses are from. I think that’s very creative and unique. I just enjoy all her work. I love animals, and I love to see the different variations she comes up with.”

When asked if she had any advice for Wilson College students interested in pursuing art professionally, she said to be prepared to have multiple channels of income. Staley, for example, writes weekly blog posts about art software for an art website. She has also written books about art software and sells her artwork at the Foundry. Having multiple online stores and working at multiple places is one way to live off your art.

One of the struggles of doing art professionally, especially nowadays, is that artists must often wear multiple hats. When you try to make a living off your work, there are many tasks that are not just sitting down and creating art. Modern artists have to be social media managers, update their websites, place products for sale, and pack and ship sold items.

A helpful tip for managing these tasks is to schedule what you can. Try to develop a plan at the start of the month and understand how you work. Staley works well in the morning, so she does the bulk of her tasks during that time.

She also advised students to be open to changing what they create without deviating too far from their interests. In the past, she had created a webcomic that paid homage to 70s giant robot anime. Unfortunately, comic creating didn’t work out for her. She then experimented with drawing animals, which she also greatly enjoyed. Now, she has found success with that line of work.

While her comic days might be behind her, she’s content with the opportunities animal art has given her. She says that it’s nice to hear from people who have bought products they enjoy. Some buyers even commission custom portraits, including grieving customers whose pets have recently passed away. “It’s nice to make something that’s special to someone. That always makes me feel really good.”

Her next project will be a series of 5-6 paintings of horses making funny faces. Due to issues with COVID-19 and her horse passing away, she hasn’t made as much artwork as she would have liked. This year, she would like to create more artwork.

If you’re a budding artist who would also like to improve your craft or don’t know where to start, you can always stop by the Foundry. The Foundry members are always willing to look at fellow creators’ work and give feedback. According to Staley, finding a community that can be honest with you is a great way to develop your skills as an artist.


If you would like to see more of Staley’s artwork, feel free to visit her official website. If you want to learn how to draw in Clip Studio Paint, check out Staley’s blog posts . For more information, you can contact her at

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