Think Big and Take Action/Interview with Lesley Riley

by Carolyn Edlund

What’s the secret to an artist’s success? The right mindset and a lot of hard work.


Artist Lesley Riley working with cyanotype prints in her studio

Artist Lesley Riley  in her studio


Lesley Riley is an internationally known artist, teacher and author with a passion for spreading the magic of art. While she likes to make things, she now devotes her time to making things happen for other artists. Lesley provides resources, creativity management, coaching and mentoring to artists, enabling them to achieve their vision of success.

AS: Lesley, you oftentimes work with client on their mindset and thinking about the bigger picture of what they can achieve. What does that mean?

LR: Any artist can have the kind of success they dream of, but so many believe that it is an impossibility or out of their reach. That’s called thinking small and is a result of self-limiting beliefs.  What holds many artists back is acting small. Taking the actions that propel you towards your dreams are often difficult and scary and the process seems overwhelming. There are so many things that hold your back – confidence, courage, know-how, commitment and self-worth. I help artists see what’s possible and then we work to break it down into doable steps.

AS: What do you find that artists struggle with most in stretching themselves to grow their businesses?

LR: Discipline.  If you don’t treat making your art as a job, then it becomes your hobby. You cannot expect to make a living or grow your business with a hobby mindset.

Having a successful career as an artist is no different than working 9-5 at McDonalds or a desk job. You show up and work in order to keep your job so you will get paid.  Being disciplined sounds counter-intuitive to creativity, imagination and artistic endeavors, but it really is the key to creating the success you desire. Show up in the studio on a regular and consistent basis.

To make success happen, you need a plan, a marketing plan. And then you need to take consistent action on that plan. Lack of time is not an excuse. Small blocks of time add up to success. I know. I built my art career with 5 children at home and an almost full-time job.

AS: Galleries are closing and the market is getting tougher out there. What recommendations do you have for artists who want to increase their income?

LR: My recommendations:

  • Sell smaller works on Etsy
  • Teach an online class or one 1-day workshops
  • Barter for services
  • Create affordable table art: paint or mount work on 5 x 5 or 8 x 8 gallery wrap canvases
  • Sell a small ‘artwork of the month’ subscription series of your work
  • Add a Pinterest link to the art on your site so others can publicize it for you
  • Figure out your unique factor and build your brand around it. Then market it.


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  1. Great interview. Thanks to you both!

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