Grimsby artist, Eve Leoni Smith is sat in front of a large canvas surrounded by a gallery of her original watercolour paintings in Grimsby Town Hall. Photo taken by Alex Thompson.

How I Became a Full-Time Artist

Hello, and welcome to my first blog post in 'The Diary of a Dancing Painter'!

I announced that I would start writing a monthly blog back in 2022, but life got so busy and I couldn’t even think about writing a huge wad of information each month so I shoved the idea to one side. Anyway, it’s 2024 now and I’ve decided that it doesn’t have to be a million words long so I might as well give it a go. Besides, I have lots of topics I’d love to share and discuss with you all. (By the way, please tell me if it’s super boring, I am always open to suggestions. At the end of the day, it’s you that’s reading it!)

So, I thought for my very first blog, I would simply introduce myself and let you in on my journey into becoming a full-time artist. I’m no Van Gogh, but I have managed (somehow) to turn my passion for art into a job, and I really do feel so lucky to be my own boss and paint my favourite places each day.


Just before I delve into it, here's a quick introduction:

My name is Eve and I am a 25 year old artist from Grimsby. I grew up being obsessed with the TV show, ‘Art Attack’ and remember the walls in my bedroom being filled with doodles and drawings. Training for a musical theatre degree in London led me to feel very homesick, and so I started to appreciate just how amazing the seaside is. I never had much time to paint any of it, but when lockdown hit I didn’t stop practicing! It’s always really rewarding to look back and see how far I’ve come, so for anyone who says ‘I wish I could draw’, if it’s something you’re passionate about, just keep making and creating. No-one’s judging you, and I bet when you look back, you’ll see how far you’ve come. Just to rewind, I didn’t study art at university… it was always a hobby that I practiced in my spare time. I did choose to study it at school though!

A watercolour painting of Cleethorpes Pier by Grimsby artist, Eve Leoni Smith.

So, have I always dreamed of being a full-time artist since I was little? The simple answer is no. In fact, it was often drilled into us at school that being an artist just wasn't an option if you wanted to make enough money to live. I was very academic too, so any mention of me wanting to perform or paint led to several other suggestions; ‘Why don’t we look into creative writing?’, ‘Maybe we should consider a Psychology degree as a back-up option?’ or simply that ‘You won’t make any money and it’s just not stable’. While I’m not disregarding that’s it’s always good to consider back-up options, I’ve always been someone who knows I can achieve anything if I put my mind to it, and so I decided that a creative career was worth the instability, a smaller salary and all of the rejections that come with it if it meant that I would love my job and be happy. I've always been motivated by the thrill of creating, rather than making lots of money, so it was never as much of a sacrifice to invest in prints and see where that led me. This kind of career is always a bit of a gamble, but nothing great ever happens without taking a few risks. 


So, back to the main question: how did I become a full-time artist?

Obviously there's the willingness to improve and learn the logistics of business, but I'd say that social media has been the biggest influence in the direction of my career. Things today aren’t the same as they were in the 20th century. I can post a photo or a video and it reaches hundreds if not thousands of the people who would actually be interested in my work. It’s amazing really. This means I was able to break the stereotype that ‘you can’t make a living as an artist’, and find a new way to make it work. It wasn’t until I (accidentally) gained followers and commission requests via Facebook, that I realised this could be sustainable for me as a career. So I pounced on the opportunity and can now share my (very condensed, step-by step) journey with you:


1. Firstly, I started by putting the feelers out there on social media. I’d share a drawing or doodle every now and then just to see if was something people were interested in. I think the supportive comments from my mum’s friends (and sometimes strangers) definitely inspired me to keep going. They weren’t professional artists, but it always makes a huge difference to leave kind comments and I’ve never forgotten them. I’d also like to quickly mention my two A-Level art teachers at Tollbar Sixth Form - Mr Davies and Miss Walsh (now Mrs. Middleton, I think!) If you’re reading this, I want to thank you so much for all of your support whilst I was studying.

A watercolour portrait of a golden Labrador with puppy-dog eyes. Painted by local artist, Eve Leoni Smith.

2. I created a small print run of some local landscapes featuring the Grimsby Dock Tower and the rides on Cleethorpes beach. I posted some photos online and mentioned that I would be selling them in my dad’s restaurant at the time. It wasn't long before I started receiving messages with orders for new paintings, and I felt really encouraged to make some more designs.

3. I contacted some local shops to see whether they’d be interested in stocking my work. To my delight, I was able to display my prints in Cleethorpes and gained even more customers through this. Some were day-trippers and some have gone onto be my most supportive and loyal customers. (If you’re reading this… thank you so much!)

4. I created discussions and polls on instagram to see what my audience would like the most. I’d listen to requests, as after all, these are the people that are effectively keeping my business alive! I couldn’t do it without any of you.

5. I looked at trends to see which topics and products were my bestsellers, and I’d create more work that aligns with these. For example, the locals in Grimsby and Cleethorpes just love our town like I do, so I wanted to create more and more work that expressed this and allowed people to display our beautiful scenery in their homes. See some more of the local paintings I've created here

6. I soon learned that shop and website sales can be very inconsistent, so my teachers were right in saying that the creative industry isn’t always stable. As a small business owner, I had to take note of the trends throughout the year and manage my finances accordingly. However, I realised that the one consistent part of my job is taking on commissioned paintings. By taking a designated amount of bookings each month, I’m more in control of my income and work schedule. I absolutely love creating work that is so unique and personal so I'm really grateful I get to do this each week.

Cleethorpes artist, Eve Leoni Smith, holding a framed original watercolour painting of the Buck Beck Beach Bench on Cleethorpes Beach.

I’m a big believer that being pro-active, reaching out to people and asking questions is the best way to succeed in anything. The minute you allow your mind to accept that something is possible, you start noticing opportunities all around you. ‘Eve Leoni Art’ started as a form of therapy for me when I was feeling stressed. It grew into a side-hustle whilst auditioning for shows in the West End, but by making connections and taking risks (because not everything has been plain sailing) I’m able to now say that I do this full-time as I didn’t want to settle for anything else. I think you can make your own luck if you take that first step. When I started illustrating my best-selling series of West End Theatres, I started noticing more opportunities for myself as a performer too… things really do start to align when the time is right.

Just to say, there is absolutely no way on earth I would've been able to get to where I am without the help of my amazing family (especially my mum who is often the wonder woman sorting collections and framing prints) and my partner, Mitch who believed in me before I ever started making prints, and bought me a website for my 20th birthday with the belief that I'd one day use it and make it a success.

Lincolnshire artist, Eve Leoni Smith, painting a ballerina on canvas using acrylic paints.

Just to note: for any fellow creatives who run their small businesses part-time, the fact you're creating is such an amazing thing in a world that's becoming more and more computerised. I think it’s incredible to be making things whether it's a hobby or a career. I just wanted to share my story for anyone who is interested or would like to take the leap from side hustle to full-time business owner. Anything is possible!

If you’ve managed to read all this waffle and not fall asleep, I hope it wasn’t too boring. If I follow my own advice, it’s all trial and error and maybe in a few blogs time I’ll look back and see how much I’ve improved.


Thank you so much for being awesome!


Eve x


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