Digital Nomad Jobs – Portrait Artist.

(As this job can either be digital or analogue, I’ll vaguely explain both. Maybe try it analogue though, your eyes need a rest and you look like you could do with some sunshine on your bones.*
(I definitely, 100% CANNOT see you and have no way of knowing if you actually need some sunshine.)

Basically, you’re going to need one of these two important skills for this job: you’ll need to be able to draw/paint portraits pretty amazingly well, or you’re going to need to luck out like Picasso certain artists of past. I’m of the belief that if you already have some skill in this area, you should work hard, practice, find your style and audience. Then settle in for a few years of hard graft building a reputation and bringing joy to countless lovers of your work whilst making a nice profit. However if you have lots of time and can’t do it well, do it badly, then wait until an artist notices your work and gives it a clever new spin, pretend that’s what you were going for and make your millions. Easy.

How?

Let’s assume that you have some skill and want to paint/digitally paint things that people will be willing to buy off of you whilst you are alive. You have a decision to make – do you want to become an online ‘digital’ portrait artist, an offline ‘analogue’ portrait artist or a hybrid ‘analtal’ digilogue mashup of the two? Both options are obviously different and have their pros and cons, which are explored a little more below.

You need to pay close attention now, I’m about to go all ‘sliding doors’. Depending on which path you choose you might want to skip alternative paragraphs.

People on the internet like to buy all sorts of obscure things. Everything you can think of, at least one person will buy. More so if they’re a little bit drunk and want a ‘random, completely unscripted, OMG moment’ that they can social media about later on*. Anyway, if you are a digital nomad with an artistic bent why not try to claim a piece of this ‘genuine shopper/desperate attention seeker that craves validation and doesn’t care how pathetic their attempts to get it look to their friends and family’ pie. Become an online portrait artist!
*(We’ve all seen them, ‘OMG, drunk me brought me a present, I love drunk me!’ Personally, when I’m drunk, I sing, I dance and then I sit in the corner and I have a little cry, I don’t buy myself expensive gifts.)

People on holiday like to take souvenirs home with them, magnets, bottle openers, beads, booze, plates (for real), funny hats, unfunny hats, postcards, pictures and more. Basically, everything you can think of that you can cram in a suitcase or wear is purchased, packed, unpacked, admired for a week and then repacked into a drawer or wardrobe. That’s a fact, probably. If you are a digital nomad with an artistic bent why not try to claim a piece of this ‘tourist with disposable income and an overwhelming urge to spend it’ pie. Become a street-based portrait artist!

So you’ve decided to work as an online portrait artist? Great! The first thing you’ll need to do is build up a portfolio of work to show potential clients. Get digitally painting! Try doing portraits of your friends and family, maybe yourself, anyone really! I’m available for sittings on request. A strong portfolio is essential to show off your skill and style to the world. Obviously, to do this you will need somewhere to show it off from. You’re going to need a website, hopefully, you’ll know how to set up a website, if not, this post on blogging has a few tips as has this post on running an online shop.

So you’ve decided to work as an offline portrait artist? Great! The first thing you’ll need to do is build up a portfolio of work to show potential clients. Get painting! Try doing portraits of your friends and family, maybe yourself, anyone really. I’m available for sittings on request, as long as you are willing to travel to me. A strong portfolio is essential to show off your skill and style to the world, obviously to do this you will need somewhere to show it off from. You’re going to need a wooden structure of sorts! Or at least an easel or two. Actually, I suppose you could do the portraits, upload them to a laptop and have a virtual gallery with you on the road? That would probably be easier than smuggling easels up your sleeves onto planes but it’s always good to have physical examples for people to see. You’re much more likely to stop passing trade surrounded by pictures than by sitting at a laptop.

An online portrait artist needs exposure. Use the generic social media platforms for this, but also try to get out into the real world, go to galleries and art shows local to wherever you are in the world. The more people you can meet and connect with that like art, the higher your chances of selling some.

An offline portrait artist needs exposure. Use the generic social media platforms, create accounts and regularly update them with your location, post on other accounts that are relevant to your location offering your services. If you are staying in one place for a while consider advertising in coffee shops or similar, visit the local galleries and art shows, join the meet-ups and get your name and skill set out into the art world.

The online portrait artist is then more or less ready to go. Hopefully, the hard work you have put in networking has come off and you’ll soon be flooded with people desperate for you to paint them.

The offline portrait artist is then more or less ready to go, book your tickets, pack your paints and prepare to perfectly paint portraits of people.

What do I need skill wise?

The main skill required for all portrait artists is obviously a degree of skill in art, but if you’re a little bit rusty or not top-notch at portraits, don’t despair. There’s no need to go lopping off an ear just yet. You can brush up on your portrait skills by taking an online course at websites such as Udemy, or watching the tutorial videos littering the internet. You’ll need an eye for detail, composition skills and, depending on your style, the ability to draw realistically.

Digital artists will need to understand all the software they are using, be able to effectively advertise themselves and develop an online presence. They will need to produce high-quality work to stand out from a fairly saturated market.

Analogue artists will need to be able to keep themselves stocked with the equipment they use – paint, brushes etc. They will need to advertise themselves effectively offline and (to a lesser extent) online. They will need to be accurate and time efficient. Unless you are charging several hundred £/$/€’s a painting you can’t take hours over each one. Versatility is a useful trait for street portrait artists, if you can offer different styles of portrait you can vary your prices depending on how long each takes you and hopefully have an option that suits everyone.

What do I need hardware wise?

Digital, you will need a laptop, probably a graphics tablet, and an internet connection.

Analogue, you will need a canvas, some paints, some brushes, an easel, a bag to carry your portfolio in and any permits or street trading licences you might need, always check!

Where do I find work?

Online portrait artists can find it a little bit tough to find work, you can trawl through the freelance sites looking for work which will almost certainly be underpaid or you can try to promote yourself to such an extent that the work comes to you. Focus on your social media campaigns and make sure your portfolio is up to scratch. You should have a website set up and from there it is an easy step to opening up your own online shop. Keep going with the promoting!

Offline portraits will be relying on passing trade a fair bit, so make sure it’s obvious what you are doing. Set yourself up somewhere noticeable and ensure that people can easily see what it is you are doing and what the cost is. Obviously, it will always pay to have an online presence so make sure you keep that updated and use it to join groups local to the area you are in offering your services, or stating a time and place you will be should anyone wish to commission you for a portrait.

How much can I earn?

That depends on how successful you have been promoting yourself. The harder you work at this the more reward you are likely to see. I’ll be honest, you probably won’t get rich as an online portrait artist but if it’s something you enjoy, why not give it a go? If you can run it alongside another digital nomad job, maybe graphic design or something else ‘arty’ you can probably make enough to see the world whilst doing something that you love.

Offline portrait artists can probably (provided you have the relevant permits, always check) make a fair living providing they have a prime location in a popular tourist area. It won’t be incredibly easy but if you can show off high quality work that you do for a fair price I imagine there would be quite a few takers. If possible you might want to think about setting aside a time slot once a week for a special offer e.g. Portraits $10 between 1 and 3. Obviously, for this to make you any money they will have to be quick caricatures or sketches. Always have examples with you so people will know what they are getting.

How well does it suit the digital nomad lifestyle?

For the digital portrait artists, it can either be fantastic or not, it really depends on how much money you can make. If you have another profession and are doing portraits as a way to supplement that it could be great. Doing something I’d assume you enjoy for some extra spending money is brilliant. If you’re desperately trying to keep yourself in a dorm at a hostel and this is all you have, maybe not so great. I wouldn’t bank on digital portraits solely getting you around the world.

For the analogue portrait artists, it can either be fantastic or not, it really depends on how much money you can make. If you can set up shop in a fantastic location and attract a large number of clients, it’s brilliant, what could be better than doing something you love, getting paid and seeing the world? However, if you set up without the necessary permits (always check) and get fined or even arrested it’s probably not so brilliant.

Basically, it’s amazing, unless it’s not.

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