Meet the Woman Using Art to Make a Profit While Making a Difference

Serena Saunders shares tips for monetizing your artwork

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Serena Saunders is a remarkable artist whose art collection consists of women who have influenced communities around the world.

From painting portraits of musicians such as Alicia Keys to everyday working women such as Sandra Bland, who faced an untimely death in 2015, Saunders’ bold and colorful yet mysterious portraits are food for the soul.

Yet while many people believe art is just another form of creative expression, it’s much more than that—it’s a business.

Image file: Serena Saunders Image file: Serena Saunders

After Saunders closed her brick and mortar art gallery and boutique in Philadelphia, PA, she turned a room in her home into an art studio so she could enjoy raising her 3-year-old daughter.

“This year marks the 10th year of being a full-time artist,” said Saunders. “My biggest challenge is not giving up on my dreams. Oh yeah, and then there’s…. charging for my work.

How did I overcome that challenge? I am a work in progress still, but I mostly think of the future I want for my children and I’m reminded to get down to the business of it all.”

A challenge for many creatives is figuring out how to make an income from their work. Black Enterprise.com caught up with Saunders, named the 2012 Creative Ambassador of Philadelphia for Visual Arts, for some tips on how she markets and monetizes her artwork.

Diversify your core expertise into multiple service offerings. 

Beyond selling custom portraits on canvasses, Saunders applies her brush to fabrics and paints throw pillows. She also hosts Cocktails and Canvasses, a pop-style party event where people can learn how to paint while sipping cocktails. And, she uses email marketing to reach her audience directly with specials and promos.

Disrupt the status quo. 

When the Sandra Bland mugshot and hashtag spread like wildfire on social media, Saunders flew into action doing what she does best—creating and promoting a standard of beauty that goes far beyond looks. The outcome was a striking portrait of Bland to disrupt the prison photo being shared by people across the country. “As a woman, a visionary, the mug-shot image being circulated in the press was particularly disturbing to me,” said Saunders. I felt as if it was being utilized as a weapon to lessen her beauty, intelligence, and strength.

I knew for those Americans who didn’t choose to look any further on their own, that image would help shape their opinion. So I simply wanted to put another image in the atmosphere. An image that could promote healing, and help bring a new spirit to Sandra Bland’s media profile online, especially on Instagram.

Image file: Serena Saunders Image file: Serena Saunders

Take your audience on a journey.

 A scroll through Saunders Instagram page and you’ll notice she takes her Instagram followers on a journey of her painting process from start to finish. “Art should be an experience,” said Saunders.

If you pour in love, you will attract love. Your opinion is the only one that truly matters. Hold yourself to a standard so high, that you will become your toughest critic.

Then there is not much anyone can say in the form of critique, that you would not have already thought to yourself.

Give and receive on social media.

 “If you’re going to use social media, and you should, be prepared to be accountable,” says Saunders. “Be honest and genuine. The truth is refreshing and respectable, and well, everything else is fake. Also, social media is a give and take relationship.

It is as much or more about who you follow, encourage and support as it is about who follows, ‘likes’ you. I prefer to be a giver.”



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