Interview with Carmen Medlin

Carmen Medlin is a full time artist who has achieved multiple streams of income through licensing (I’m too cool to use the phrase “living the dream,” but if I weren’t, this would be my definition) and is one of the artists featured on our INFP Art Gallery (which you can also be part of by submitting your own work).

I’m quite certain most of us have dreams along the lines of being a full-time, self-employed artist/musician/photographer/sculptor/awesome-maker, so I wanted to find out what things from her life helped her succeed.

Find more from Carmen here.

And now, the interview…..
When did you start drawing?

Like a lot of artists, I started drawing when I was a toddler and never stopped. I come from a very artistic and musical family, so my mom (also an artist) always let my brother and I play with all her art supplies. Not the kid stuff either, but the real stuff! Although we enjoyed things like crayons, too. In fact I still love to color in coloring books with crayons, and I’m in my late 30s!

What were you like as a kid?

I was always daydreaming, especially in class. There were times when we’d have a test in school and I’d have no idea there was going to be a test or even have any clue about the subject matter… I was too busy imagining cartoon dogs and unicorns frolicking around the classroom to pay attention. Somehow I managed to get through elementary school anyway! I did better in middle and high school, where I confined my imaginings in class to doodling on assignments. My imagination was huge. I lived in it all the time. Most other kids thought I was odd so I often played by myself with the dandelions in the schoolyard, giving them names and voices, or a misshapen playground ball I named “Awkward”.

How did you know you were good enough to make money?

I guess I didn’t, really. I started the art business out of desperation because I badly needed money, and I saw other people selling their art at places like eBay. I thought I may as well give it a shot! There were a lot of things that didn’t sell at first, but I made TONS and TONS of art and kept putting it out there. My skills improved rapidly because I was constantly painting. I didn’t get discouraged when things wouldn’t sell… just kept painting more and more and putting it out there. It helps to not go in with huge expectations at first and just let it grow. From that practice I learned to be extremely prolific. I started the art business in 2005 and to date I have painted well over 800 images.
I give myself permission to make bad art. I don’t make a big deal out of trying to be perfect… that will just choke all the enjoyment out of it. It is important to just MAKE ART, and make a lot of it. People will still buy it even if I don’t like it! Art is funny that way.

You basically have multiple streams of income which is awesome and very smart. How did you manage to create that?

A lot of this just happened along the way, either by seeing some new way that people were selling their art, by happenstance, people seeking me out or new opportunities from friends. As far as licensing goes, I was approached by different companies through the years for that. Now I think it is important to actively pursue licensing, as well. One thing that helped me tremendously opportunity-wise was getting to know other artists online. Blogging, social media and art forums have all been great helpers for me to make art friends. Generally I have found that other artists are happy to share what works for them, and you can learn a lot.
Besides networking, another huge thing that helped me to think up new ways to sell art was to take small business classes and webinars. My first class was from IttyBiz / Naomi Dunford online, and it seriously turned things around for me. Before then I really had no clue about running a real business, so I had kind of reached a certain point with my art and stalled there for years. I thought “business” was boring. Turns out, it is not at all!! If you are an artist who wants to make a living from art, what you actually have is a small business, not a nebulous career that is hard to define. I ended up LOVING business. It’s like a shiny toy to play with, tweak, test, etc to see what works. I devour business webinars and blogs, especially art-related ones, and I do a lot of obsessive research.

Do you think your parents had anything to do with your success?

As for my mom, yes. She always told me I could be anything I wanted. She always encouraged our imaginations, creativity, and art-making. I realize she is a rarity among parents that way! Not everyone in my family has been supportive; a few have been very negative and discouraging about it indeed, and still are to this day. But, art is something I want to do so badly that I mulishly plow forward and do it no matter what people say. I have an obsessive drive to succeed with it; I feel I HAVE to. I know my mom would love to also have an art business, so I feel it is encouraging to her to do better and better.

Are you spiritual?

Oh goodness yes. As with many INFPs, spirituality is the center of who I am and I need it to be fully present in the outer world as well as in my inner world. There is no separate box from the rest of life that I put spirituality in. It is life. I am a Christian, and God is not some old bearded guy way up there to be prayed to formally on special occasions. He’s here all the time with me in the trenches. I talk to Him like I talk to anyone, not anything flowery or formal. Just talk. Or listen. Or just be. When I am fully present with God, it is indescribable, transcendent joy. Heart-breaking beauty! So much of my art revolves around nature and innocence — animals and trees and flowers and things, because that is where I feel closest to God; out in nature. He gave me the art skill and the drive to pursue it, and I think of Him as my business partner.

How do you manage the typical INFP problems like lack of focus, exhaustion, laziness and lack of productivity?

Lack of focus is a constant challenge… I am very distractible! I have had to learn to pair certain things with certain activities. If I’m writing a blog post or newsletter or even writing out this interview, it is music with no words to keep me focused. If someone tries to talk to me or if I hear other words, I’m sunk! If I’m drawing, music helps me the best because I get sucked in and the drawing often takes on characteristics of what I’m listening to. Once I get to the painting stage, it helps me best to binge-watch tv programs on Netflix or Hulu. It can’t be movies because they suck me into the cinematography too much. Has to be tv series! Books on tape or radio dramas are also good choices.
I also keep a list of daily/weekly/monthly goals as well as to-do lists via Evernote. I literally have a checklist for the daily one that I have to check off each item (that one is the same list every day). I have found it impossible to make myself keep a planned, rigid daily time schedule (like work from 9-5, lunch at noon, etc), so I find that the checklist works better for me. I have Evernote documents for lots of things in my business, like latest stuff to put in my blog/newsletter, things to write to new customers, idea lists, time logs for certain clients, show schedules, etc. I forget things very easily, so I always write stuff down in these lists and refer back to them.
As for laziness and lack of productivity, it is mostly the need to make my income goals that keep me on task here. There’s no automatic paycheck that shows up, so I have to drive myself to keep on top of deadlines and whatever is “closest to cash.” Bills are a pretty good motivator. 🙂
Exhaustion — still trying to get a handle on that one. A few months ago I made a rule that I don’t work on Saturdays (unless I absolutely must for a deadline or something). Only fun stuff and hobbies allowed. Otherwise, I would work every day of the week until I can’t stand it anymore. And I have done that for extended periods of time, especially when I was also doing part-time work at a nursing home kitchen.
The downside to working from home is that you never really leave work. It’s always there, staring at you! I often work until midnight or later, because I am a night owl and think more clearly later in the day. I like to have slow mornings and try to have Bible study time, journaling and exercise time then if possible. Some mornings I have to start work right away because of deadlines. If that happens I usually forget to have downtime, as I get caught up in everything. I really need to be better about being deliberate with self-care/downtime since otherwise I eventually crash and burn, and my body will make me take time off!


Do you have any questions for Carmen? Post them in the comments section and I’m sure she’d be happy to answer!

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