wears many hats: gallerist, art consultant, author, and coach. Her extensive background makes her a go-to resource for established artists who are keen to evolve—and to monetize their artmaking. “I don’t do the work for
the artist,” she said. “I ask them questions; get their wheels spinning.” Artists generally sign on to work with her for a period of 90 days, with check-in calls every 10 days. These intense, fast-paced conversations generate “a whole checklist of things that they need to do,” she said.
Mayer cited one former client who, nearly bankrupt, was able to swiftly turn things around, selling over $20,000 of his work within three weeks. She helped another artist, who was already showing with a Georgia-based gallery, launch a sideline career leading lucrative watercolor workshops. “Most wealthy people have between 10 and 15 sources of income and revenue,” Mayer noted. “Most artists have one, maybe two at the most.”
Mayer, and coaches like her, would make a good match for professionals who have the art chops and training—but might lack the killer business instinct to actually make a living. She doesn’t have much patience for MFA programs that fail to prepare students for the actual market, or for popular clichés that assume artists are doomed to struggle. “I’m really interested in undoing the ‘starving artist’ paradigm,” she said.
Many artists have anxiety and shame around money, Mayer added. “Some feel it’s not even authentic to talk about making money, that it’s anti-art,” she said. Her approach might also be energizing for anyone with big career ambitions who has been rebuffed after attempting to break into the insular market of a city like New York. “There are so many talented artists,” Mayer said, “and they’re looking at one model: the New York, major gallery, blue-chip, well-known-artist model…that world isn’t for everyone.” Her coaching is intended to inspire clients to “create [their] own art world” beyond that bubble—one in which they can achieve both personal and financial satisfaction.
Cory Huff, founder of The Abundant Artist
, takes a similarly no-nonsense approach to coaching. “Most artists I’ve met have been deeply uncomfortable with talking about money, sales, or both,” he said. However, the artists he knows who didn’t go to art school “rarely have that baggage.” When artists are coming from another career where they were fairly compensated, he said, they’re more likely to expect that from their art career, as well. “We all need to eat and put a roof over our heads,” Huff said. “The idea that we should ignore that is silly fantasy.”
However, one-on-one coaching with The Abundant Artist isn’t for everyone. Huff said that his clients who sign up for six-month stints are already pulling in around $100,000 a year from art sales. “Typically, our work together involves assisting with hiring studio assistants, scaling up production, and creating new revenue streams for the business,” he said.
Art coaching with a side of psychotherapy
New York–based Dr. Chloe Carmichael
is another type of art coach entirely. She’s a licensed psychologist whose practice focuses on anger management, couples therapy, and anxiety issues, in addition to coaching creatives. While she might help a client improve their business acumen and confidence, Carmichael wields a more holistic, big-picture lens—helping artists work through emotional management, for instance, or “rejection sensitivity.” The distinction between art coaching in this sense and actual psychotherapy can be minor—but important. Psychotherapy, Carmichael explained, would likely include a clinical diagnosis, whereas coaching would not. The distinction there might also affect whether or not insurance will help pick up the bill.
Roleplaying is one key part of Carmichael’s toolkit. Sometimes, she will play the gallerist and the artists will play themselves. “And sometimes we might flip it: The artist might want to watch me model responses to some of the difficult questions a gallerist or agent might give them,” she said.
By utilizing cognitive-behavioral techniques, Carmichael can also help artists move beyond self-destructive patterns. And unlike passive, Freudian-style analysts, therapists like Carmichael are actively guiding their clients and offering specific advice. She mentioned the example of a hypothetical artist who, before an important event, would “go through some really negative self-talk…because they think it protects them from being surprised by disappointment.” In this case, she’d introduce “thought replacements,” she said—“things that the person would want to be mentally rehearsing and saying to themselves on their way to such a meeting…different types of mental scripts.”
This type of artist coaching would be ideal for someone who wants to address both their creative practice and everything else that comes with it. It’s more of a whole-person approach, but one that can introduce its own unanticipated anxieties. “Artists tend to have a love-hate relationship with whatever it is about themselves that they’re seeking help with,” Carmichael said. An extremely sensitive artist, she noted, might lack the wherewithal to promote herself—and yet find herself “almost superstitiously attached to that sensitivity or vulnerability. They feel that it’s the source of the raw material that gets expressed through their art.” The same can be true for an artist consumed by anger or sadness, emotional states so intertwined with the concept of the so-called “tortured artist” that, as clients, they are “almost afraid of fixing” their problems, Carmichael said. Part of the coaching journey here might simply be accepting that your problems don’t define you; that it’s possible to become a better artist, and a better human, all at the same time.