Artful Self-Promotion—No Torture Needed
Guest Post By Kent Youngstrom
how me. the not so tortured artist. became to be.
i’m just a regular guy, nothing special—i just happen to be an artist. as an artist, i assumed i needed to be in a gallery for people to see my work. yet galleries seemed to shut me out and preferred my bio to be much more impressive. i figured if galleries didn’t want my work, then maybe no one else did either. doors weren’t opening for me, and i wasn’t sure what to do next.
i began to frantically look for new avenues, hidden pathways or mysterious portals to show my work—anything to keep my dream alive.
i sought off on the seemingly impossible journey of self promotion.
i was scared. nervous sweat. the kind that smells different. bad. the kind where you can’t stand to be next to yourself. what if this doesn’t work. what if i’m exposed?
i really don’t think i can find enough people who like what i do to pay my bills on a consistent basis. there are so many real artists out there. they are intimidating.
artists are cool. i’m not that cool. i pretend to be, but i’m really just a dork in what not to wear clothing. i’m really not that much of an artist in the way i was taught to think of one. my figure drawings would fit right in the fifth grade art hallway. no one would know the difference. can i call myself an artist if i can’t even draw a horse properly?
there was no miracle red button to push. i had to try things i was not comfortable with at the time.
that dream was, and still is, the easy part. i started to realize i needed to stop fantasizing about what i wanted and make a conscious decision to use the skills i had to pursue the next stage. i had art—it was time to use it.
i set up a trade with a photographer friend: i gave her some art, and she took some great pictures of my work. i worked with people like susan + a few of her friends to develop fun + snappy email introduction that got attention without screaming, “look at me, i’m awesome.”
the epically awesome alexandra franzen who is a friend of both susan and i got me on the right path with
mine sounds like this. (don’t be lazy – make you own – this is mine.)
i’m kenT and i’m an artist (but not the tortured kind.)
i create one-of-a kind-paintings. you may have seen my work in cb2, on sale sites such as, or popping up in celebrity home photos in people magazine. all from my charlotte, nc studio.
i’m writing today to send an avalanche of appreciation in your direction (warning: gushing praise, straight ahead.) i love what you’re up to, and i’ve been reveling in your inspiring work for quite some time. your inspiring x of perfect pictures prompted me to swing into your inbox with an ever-so-slightly-coward request.
i want to work with you on something. anything.
much like peanut butter + chocolate, gin + tonic (or bacon + anything), i’m inclined to believe “we are better, together.”
i can edit this when appropriate and make it personal as to what i would like to work with them on. it does not always equal a yes to working with me. but more often than not it does get a response.
i set up a consistent presence on my website and social outlets. i started to broadcast a manifesto as much as a body of work.
you can see it
slowly but surely, people started to answer me, promote me, collaborate with me, and buy from me. eventually I heard from a major retailer who had been sent a small photo book.finally, doors were popping open, and folks were starting to know my name.
each time, my portfolio grew and someone else noticed. i started small. small became a little larger each time.
i have taken small into painting editions limited pieces for cb2, running my total to over 2,000 original paintings; brushed, boxed + shipped to their warehouse since 2012. i made new partnerships with vendors like, , bezar, and . i continued to work with great people at gilt, , apartment 2b and .
a few folks have contacted me to let me know they purchased a canvas at marshall’s home goods. others phoned to say they saw a piece on hgtv.
collaborations are a spectacular way to grow your following. each person or company you work with will market your work to their tribe. look to work with people and companies that align themselves with what you do and what you stand for.
bottom line, i learned that no matter your talent, a magic fairy is not going to drop by your home, studio, or secret lair and volunteer to make you a success.
my advice: my two cents to get you kick started: start with great photography of your work or work that your tribe is drawn to. post it. link it. work it. make contacts. keep in touch.
get off the couch.
work your backside off.
show up on time.
soon enough, people will know who you are.
kent youngstrom is an artist, but not the tortured kind. he is on a mission to make the walls or your home, office or secret lair as amazing as you are. . .
find his work at
follow his behind the scene + studio life in Instagram @kentyoungstrom
be something. if you want to make something. releases april 18 onand . . .
is a pop top energy drink spiked with caffeine laden words that are calming to the soul, while at the same time capable of spurring volcanic eruptions of energy and frenzied moments of accomplishment
be something. if you want to make something encourages makers to stay in the moment and allow ingenuity to be the pace car. each short blurb hands over an uncooked account of an artists rocket fuel fast, can’t stop, won’t stop lucky, sometimes mixed martial arts bloodied adventure. it humorously highlights the speed bumps that were approached way too fast and encourages the reader to push past the exit ramps desperately calling for companionship and accelerate toward the reward on the horizon.
be something. if you want to make something runs over the big scary words of the business world like “copyright” and “business plan” and spits out what makes real sense in the life of doing more of what you love for a living.
pull back the tab and sip a bit . . .
Like what you read? Share it!