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Customer Spotlight: Artist Clara Nilles

by Abbey Fitzgerald | June 23, 2012

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About Clara Nilles

Fun, vibrant, and imaginative are three words that describe the style of artist Clara Nilles. She specializes in acrylic paint because it can be layered and produce vivid colors on canvas. Painting primarily animals, her work shows a timeless appeal for both children and adults. By capturing the spirit of the animal, each painting has its own voice and personality. The joy she feels while painting is certainly reflected on the canvas!

Painted Ponies on Terra Cotta and Glowing Owl on Icy Blue

Painted Ponies on Terra Cotta and Glowing Owl on Icy Blue

Background Information

How did you get into the business of being an artist?
Being a full-time artist has been a life-long dream. After a long career in finance, I finally left the corporate world to pursue my calling in life. I love what I do now and have never looked back.

What do you like best?
I love being creative. Painting is truly a passion of mine. When I paint, time just passes. My paintings are bright, colorful, and happy…maybe its because when I paint, I’m full of joy, and it reflects on my canvas.

What do you like least?
The ups and downs of selling art, which can be highly seasonal, depend on the economy and fickle market trends. It is not an easy business and like any other self-business, there are good days and bad days. Rejection is a constant part of the business.

Barn Owl on Lipstick, Pink Penguin Plunge on Bluegrass, and Margarita Otters on Fresh Melon

Barn Owl on Lipstick, Pink Penguin Plunge on Bluegrass, and Margarita Otters on Fresh Melon

The Business Side

What is your best source of new clients?
My best source of new clients seems to come from a combination of approaches. Art shows, art festivals, galleries, wholesale accounts, online shops, and social networking are all important, but word of mouth seems to be most effective. Many of my best buyers are either repeat collectors or have heard of me from someone else. Folks either see, read, or hear about my art, go online to check out my website, blog, or shop, and then usually contact me directly.

What is your business’ greatest strength? What is your greatest business challenge?
I think my business’ greatest strength is the appeal of the artwork itself. I create a distinct brand through paintings that are unique, have personalities and a happy mood, and gorgeous stunning colors that catch the eye and heart. I provide a product that people like and want to check out. I create happy fun art that inspires the imagination, creates positive energy, and a smile. My art has broad market appeal for many demographic sectors. It is also functional and has many applications. For example, I can license my art onto merchandise and home furnishings, textiles, paper goods, as well as maintain traditional means of selling art, such as originals and prints. It is about creating a diverse business model.

Another strength is my business background. Artists must know the business side of art, and be able to apply business skills to that field. Good skills to have are accounting and finance, marketing, writing skills, technology skills, and good old fashioned “people skills”. Know your customer, know what they want, and provide it. It sounds like a cliché, but knowing how to market your work, providing reliable consistent customer service, and knowing your target market is key to making sales and being successful.

My business’ greatest challenge is also its greatest asset, and that is getting the word out, creating a brand, and gaining brand recognition. As a relatively new artist, it is a slow steady process in getting your work out there and gaining name recognition. From what I can tell, it takes lots of patience and many years of hard work.

Who is your market?
My target market is predominantly women between the ages of 35-65. This is a demographic group who is not only one of the biggest, most willing consumers, but also have the disposable income to consume. They represent about 83% of all consumer purchases, particularly in home furnishings, home décor, children’s market, and gifts. You must have a good understanding of your target market before committing to this market.

If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about your business overnight, what would it be?
My Magic Wand Wish would probably be what every aspiring artist wishes for; to be well regarded and represented in galleries, shops, and boutiques across the country. I certainly hope to have ongoing licensing deals with large retailers, manufacturers, publishers, and design houses, in the future. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to become a household name in the art world?

Jeweled Octopus on Tangerine

Jeweled Octopus on Tangerine

Do you prefer flat fee or hourly projects?
My artwork is usually a set flat price. I do accept commissioned work and also charge a flat fee, which varies depending on size and complexity of the work.

How does social media play into your daily routine? Is there an average amount of time you spend on it daily?
Social media is critical for gaining website traffic, encouraging readership, and spreading the word about my art. I actively maintain an artist website, artist blog, and Etsy online shop. I am also active on Facebook, Google Plus, Flickr, Pinterest, and maintain blogger memberships with other artists and art blogs. Reciprocal linking is another way to gain interest from relevant audiences and improve SEO. I try to limit social networking to just a few hours at night.

What is a tool that you wish you had, but don’t?
I would LOVE to be able to afford an Espon wide-format 8-color plotter for all my printing needs but since I can’t, I consistently rely on Smartpress.com to handle my printing needs.

Insight Into the Art of Clara Nilles

What is your philosophy/mission?
Artists must be absolutely professional, consistent, tenacious, and have good business sense. Follow through every lead, inquiry, and request. Do what you say you will do, be reliable, and flush your ego down the drain!

Bison and Poppies on Lavender and Candy Sprinkle Spotted Seals on Glacier

Bison and Poppies on Lavender and Candy Sprinkle Spotted Seals on Glacier

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I’m constantly thinking about new ideas for paintings, it’s just part of my routine. I keep a notepad next to my bed and jot down ideas. Since color is such a big part of my paintings, I spend a lot of time noting colors and unique color combinations I see anywhere.

I’m drawn to vibrant colors, high contrast, unusual color trends, and anything that glows. Some of my paintings have so much contrast that they almost seem to glow in the dark or “pop” off the canvas.

What books have you recently read? Which blogs do you read regularly?
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, by Elisabeth Tova Bailey, is a fascinating book about living with nature, self-discovery, and inspiration through the smaller things in life. I highly recommend this healing book.

I am a regular fan of several artists/art blogs, including The Creative Artists Blog, Art Biz Blog, and Artsy Shark.

Rainbow Roosters on Sangria and Wasabi Walruses on Walnut

Rainbow Roosters on Sangria and Wasabi Walruses on Walnut

What type(s) of art do you do? What mediums do you use?
My work is contemporary, expressive, and meant to evoke an emotional response. As you can see from my samples I paint in dazzling stunning Technicolors. These colors are achieved with many layers of acrylic paint.

My medium of choice has consistently been acrylics because of their versatility, intense vivid colors, and layering capabilities. Their fast drying ability is also convenient; I can correct mistakes quickly and start over. They are also water soluble so that I can create a “painterly effect”.

Do you have any thoughts or predictions about the industry that will become more popular or significant in 2013?
New technology in internet marketing will be at the forefront of all art related industries in 2013 and going forward. Publication of all forms of visual art and digital media will continue to be pushed onto the web. In order to stay ahead, artists need to develop their web skills continually. Making the most of the web as a marketing and publicity tool is critical for an artist. I believe social networking will continue to dominate as the digital business model for marketing and running an art business, given that small, individual artists can now publicize their products or services as effectively as larger organizations.

How would you describe your style and what would you say your strengths are?
My work is unique and different. My painting style is frequently imaginative, whimsical, and fun. In my paintings, I strive to capture the unique characteristics, an engaging look, or the lively spirit of the animal. I make a conscious effort to create paintings with their own voice and personality. I want people to laugh, love, and smile when viewing my works.

Mardi Gras Octopus on Seagrass

Mardi Gras Octopus on Seagrass

Do you do any form of marketing for yourself? If so what type(s)?

Offline marketing consists of shows, galleries, festivals, and word of mouth.

My artwork is available at the following locations:
Fulton Chiropractic, Maple Lawn, MD
Local Home & Gifts, Media, PA
American Vision Contemporary Crafts, St Louis, MO
Olney Farmer’s and Artist’s Market, Olney, MD
Patuxtent Wildlife Refuge, Laurel, MD
The Clayations Gallery, Ellicott City, MD
Prairie Edge Gallery, Rapid City, SD

I have an active online presence. Below are my website, artist blog, Etsy Shop, Facebook Page, and Pinterest.
Clara’s Website: www.claranilles.com
Blog: http://claranilles.blogspot.com
Etsy: http://www.etsy.com/shop/AcrylicsbyClare
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ClaraNilles
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/claranilles/colors-of-fun

Each month Smartpress.com features a talented artist, illustrator, photographer or designer in our Customer Spotlight. If you are an interested in being featured in the Customer Spotlight, please email us at spotlight@smartpress.com to be considered.

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