The business of art
Cash rich One Fantastic Workshop’s aim is help you turn your art into a profitable business. Alice Pattillo follows the money trail
Discover how a workshop gives artists the skills to turn their work into a profitable business.
“With freelance rates either stagnating or decreasing across the industry it’s important for artists to be business savvy,” says concept artist Peter Mohrbacher, who along with fantasy painter Sam Flegal has co-founded One Fantastic Workshop (1FW) to address the issue.
Last year marked the first four-day workshop and symposium in Nashville, Tennessee. While most art workshops teach art skills almost exclusively, 1FW illuminates the intersection between art and business, helping students earn from their skills. “We’ve created a unique environment where artists can comfortably talk business and art to better learn from their peers and experts,” Sam reveals.
During the event, students eat, sleep and breathe the business of art. They attend lectures, panel discussions, and one-on-ones with industry professionals, with talks extending to mundane but necessary freelance finance subjects such as tax.
“With the growing audience around our web show, One Fantastic Week ( www.onefantasticweekend.com), Sam and I thought it would be great to bring that
community into a room together,” Peter reveals. The duo learned that there are a lot of resources to help people make better art, but not a lot to help artists make a sustainable living.
“So often we find that artists are trying to make their portfolios fit a certain market, but in the process ignore their own natural talents,” says Sam. “We latch on to those talents and bring them out, giving clear actionable advice on how to proceed, both as an artist and as a salesperson. In the end we’re all in sales just as much as we’re artists.”
Each attendee has the opportunity to present their art and business plan to the workshop faculty, both in groups and oneon-ones. From crowdfunding and social media to more artistic ventures like world building, One Fantastic Workshop covers everything – even the mundane business essentials like how to deal with taxes.
With Sam and Peter’s careers thriving, they realised that they could bring in other successful freelance artists. “Our criteria for getting mentors involved was different than most workshops. It wasn’t good enough to find people who were great artists. We needed people who had carved out a niche of experience that enabled them to operate independently. They’re all great artists, but they’re also great entrepreneurs with mountains of knowledge about how to grow an artistic brand from scratch.”
These mentors include Jasmine Becket Griffith who has has built her own art empire, Vanessa and Ron Lemen, and Sean Andrew Murray – all of whom live, eat and work alongside attendees for the full duration. Illustrator and social media expert Kelly McKernan is returning as a mentor for the second time this year, and she’s adamant that events like this are crucial to building your career. “Everyone who attends One Fantastic Workshop – not just the faculty – brings a wealth of knowledge and varied experiences to the workshop,” she stresses.
Kelly’s lectures on social media strategy at One Fantastic Workshop are interactive and based on her own experiences. “I think it’s incredibly important to surround yourself with others who are eager to learn and share what they know, and this workshop brings that to a new level,” she says. “The faculty shares trade secrets that have meant success for each of us, and we’re there to prove that you can do it, too.”
And it’s not just the students who benefit from the workshop environment – mentors also learn a great deal. “I came away from
It’s incredibly important to surround yourself with others who are eager to learn and share what they know
2015’s workshop with an entirely new direction to take my artwork,” says Kelly, “I had previously been unsure where my work fits in best.”
Reaping the rewards
Holly Morningstar, a fantasy illustrator and one of last year’s attendees, says that she was a little hesitant to attend the event because of the price tag, but she’s glad she did. “I’m conservative when it comes to spending money on things that simply have potential value. But after a successful art festival in June, I decided to purchase the ticket. I couldn’t be happier with that decision.”
Thanks to the workshop, Holly has increased her earnings, netting between 20 and 25 per cent of the gross revenue she earned last year before the end of January. “I went into the workshop with minimal sales knowledge, even though I’ve been stumbling my way through conventions since 2013. I left with the belief that the art of selling is something everyone can learn with persistence, work and experience. I felt like even someone painfully shy like myself can make some magic happen.”
Holly credits Peter and Sam’s workshop with giving her the strength to believe in herself and her work, and to be more engaging at conventions. She says: “The workshop isn’t potentially valuable, it’s actually priceless.”
One Fantastic Workshop takes place on 17-20 November at Scarrit Bennett Centre, Nashville, Tennessee. For more information about the event and to sign up for tickets visit
One Fantastic Workshop is a four-day workshop and symposium focusing on helping artists thrive
as independent creators.
Peter and Sam see 1FW as an investment: artists leave with the skills to make their money back and then some.
Lectures, demos, dorms and food are all provided for four days, under one roof. All mentors are great entrepreneurs with mountains of knowledge about how to grow an artistic brand from scratch. Gavin Gray Valentine attended One Fantastic Workshop last year to help him build his fantasy art career.
2015 attendee Chris Casciano painted this stunning image entitled Blossoming Staff for Game Salute. Each attendee has the opportunity to present their art and business plan together to the faculty for review, in groups or one-on-ones. Salesmanship, crowdfunding, social media, world building and even taxes for artists are covered in talks from the experts, alongside art advice. Aspiring word builder Sasha Jones is pursuing an illustration career, and attended last year’s 1FW to boost his personal development.