What’s your business called?
Kirstin Wood / artist
Can you describe it in one sentence?
I create beautiful landscape paintings and contemporary pet portraits from my studio in Merstham, Surrey
When did you start it and what inspired you?
Last September my lovely mum Ann and my good friend Lynne both persuaded, cajoled and nagged me to pick up a paintbrush and start painting for myself for the first time in ages. I had been working as a commercial artist for years but hadn’t painted for pleasure since I was pregnant 10 years ago. They were convinced that if I put in a bit of effort to develop my own style then I could become a successful artist – and luckily it seems they were right!
How did you find your start up?
I decided I needed to set myself a deadline so I planned an exhibition for 6 months after I started to paint. I had the self imposed challenge to paint one painting a week until the date of my exhibition. It worked really well for me and I painted every spare moment of the day. I developed my style and ended up with a really strong body of work. I was working full time at a school for the first 9 months of starting my business and that eased the transition – although It was bloody hard work. I was doing 35 hours a week at school and then working every evening and weekend to get my artwork ready for the exhibition.
How do you manage working around your children?
I try to only work during school hours. The plan is to do a couple of hours in the office each morning before I start to paint, and to leave all internet based distractions in the house when I go out to my studio. It doesn’t always work out that way, but it’s good to have a plan!!
Can you describe a typical day?
I don’t really have a typical day as each job is so different. I paint signage for a couple of local attractions, so sometimes I work on-site with them, or I’ll be in my studio working on paintings for clients or myself. There is also a huge amount of work to be done promoting and advertising my business which I find can sometimes consume ridiculous amounts of time.
What have you found hardest?
My tendency to procrastinate. I can procrastinate by reading up on procrastination. I like to write long, long lists and kid myself that It’s a good use of my time. I always press my clients to give me a firm deadline otherwise work gets bumped down my list again and again! Also I’m really bad with money. Like, really bad. And sometimes I get lonely, but I try hard to get out for a cuppa with a friend without letting guilt get in the way!
What’s the best thing about being self employed?
The best thing about being freelance is the freedom. I can plan my time, pick the jobs that interest me most, make my work fit in to my life rather than the other way round. I can listen to whatever music I like, wear what I like and no-one nicks my stuff. Except for my daughter…
What are your plans for the future?
I would love to have a bigger studio (I currently work in a converted garden shed) and be a part of a local artists collective. I’d like to gain confidence in my work and become a better salesperson. And I’d really like to be able to be in a position to employ someone to take on the ‘business’ side of business to allow me more time to be creative.
What advice would you give for someone just starting out?
Don’t be scared. As Richard Branson says – ‘screw it, let’s do it!’ If you worry too much about paying the bills and doing what is expected then you will never be happy. Life is meant to be an adventure, so what are you waiting for?? Also, ask questions. All the time.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?
I’m going to be 45 next week and I wish I had done this years ago… All the work I’ve done has lead me to this point – but I’m almost certain I could have by-passed a lot of pointless angst if I had just been brave enough to call myself an artist 20 years earlier!