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

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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.

Start­ing some­thing

“With the grow­ing au­di­ence around our web show, One Fan­tas­tic Week (­fan­tas­ticweek­, 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.

Mo­ti­vat­ing men­tor­ship

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.

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