Friday Finds - Artist Jane Moore Houghton

Good morning! Today's interview is with the multi-talented artist Jane Moore Houghton who I met virtually a year or so ago when we both took part in an on line course - Lilla Roger's Make Art That Sells.

© Jane Moore Houghton

When did you start your business and why? Did you plan how you started meticulously or was it almost accidental? 

I began formally selling my art in 2006. I was also running a successful private art school for children in my basement at the time. I taught preschoolers through young teens for eleven years, five days a week. Watching, particularly the preschoolers, make art reminded me of why I had always loved making art. These young artists made art for the sake of it, with little consideration of what their audience might think. Their process was joyful and immediate. In their own way, they encouraged me to start making art.

© Jane Moore Houghton

Did things take off immediately or has it been a slow burn?

I enjoyed success right away. My next solo show, at a public library in an affluent community sold out and provided about three years of commission work that all stemmed from that show. When the economy forced people to conserve their spending my business slowed way down. For the past three years I have tried many avenues to keep my sales coming in. While I continue to get occasional commission work, I have had to learn new skills such as Photoshop and Illustrator in order to get a foot in the door of commercial art I also began making smaller, lower price point pieces.
Where my typical size had been 24” squares, I began making pieces that ranged from 5”squares to 16” squares. Several years ago I did a series of 100 5” squares that sold very well.

Do you do your business part time or full time? 

I am a full time artist. Some weeks it takes second seat to my children’s schedules but I often work late into the night to make up for emergencies that happen when you are raising three children and running a home. 

© Jane Moore Houghton

Do you intend to grow your business into something much bigger or are you happy with it as it is and why? 

I hope to grow my business to the point where I can match my husband’s income. We have a  daughter in college and two more coming up quickly behind her. More than financial goals, however, I have a vision of brining my work to more venues and look forward to seeing where it takes me. Now, more than any other time in my life, I feel ready to take on things that had previously intimidated me. For example, children’s book illustration or designing for the gift market. 

If this is your full time job do you mind talking a little about your earnings?

For the past few years I have to admit that my income has seemed to be more on the “hobby” level. However, I do see this time as a necessary period of growth. I know the income will return. It’s really hard to be patient and to cheer myself on but I do believe in my voice. That said, I have had to pick up odd jobs when I can as well. I help a friend who is a pet sitter for example. The hours work with my flexible schedule. I also teach watercolor to a small group of adults and am using it to develop ideas for an adult art curriculum to help them find their voices creatively. Flexibility and an open attitude is helpful as I keep my focus on my ultimate goals.

Where do you sell your work? 
I sell my work privately through word of mouth. I have an Etsy shop as well as sticking my toe in online venues such as Saatchi. I have relationships with several curators and galleries. I would like to get my work into gift galleries as well as work with a Commercial Art agent.
Which of the selling methods that you use works best for you? Why do you think this is?

Historically, I have sold more work through word of mouth or to people who have seen my work first-hand. I think this is for two reasons: my work does not photograph well because of all the layers and subtlety. I have tried every trick in the book but continue to witness people’s reactions at seeing my work first-hand versus online or in a photograph. 

They often say something like, “Oh! I had no idea there was so much texture and layers…there’s so much to see here!” I strive to bring the viewer in to my compositions and layers slowly, this experience just doesn't happen as strongly through a flattened image. Secondly, if someone can meet the artist and talk to her face to face about her work, it always sells more art. The story sells. This is something I try to remember when listing something online; I always tell a little bit of the story with the piece. And lastly, if I am honest with myself, when I have made art that speaks purely from what I love and I have become lost in, people respond to that and it touches them in a way that moves them to want to live with it. “People buy your joy”, a truth put forth by Lilla Rogers.

© Jane Moore Houghton

Have you had publicity in national magazines? If so how did you approach them?

I was published in the Cloth, Paper, Scissors Magazine in November/December issue last year (2013). I answered a call for artists who were using mixed media in new and interesting ways. I am developing a method of embroidering on layers of tissue paper to use in mixed media works. I wrote a proposal and they contacted me to write an article about my process. I have also been a featured artist on online magazine/ interview venues such as Artsy Shark and just this past spring, The Design Recharge Show with Diane Gibbs. These two examples saw my work online and in the Cloth, Paper, Scissors magazine. 

Who do you think your typical customer is?

My typical customer tends to be 20 - 50 year old, middle to upper income, educated woman. Many of my commissions have been mothers commissioning original art for their children’s rooms. My commercial art portfolio is focused on the children’s market. 

Which aspect of your work do you enjoy most? 

The aspect of my work that I enjoy the most is working with a commission patron to create an original work that speaks to their family and or child/ren in a timeless way that will be cherished for generations. I love the process of discussing what is important to them about their family in order to figure out a way to express that in the piece. The feeling of delivering a commissioned piece that makes a patron over-joyed is so satisfying! 

© Jane Moore Houghton

Is there anything you would have done differently if you were starting your business today?
I’m not sure if I would do anything differently if I had to do it over again. I try to remain true to myself and my vision and know that if I work hard and just keep putting one foot in front of the other income will come.

Are you someone who sets goals regularly or more instinctive? 

I usually set weekly goals that I plan out on a calendar on Sunday nights. When I see my time all laid out with non-business related things, I can plan out more realistically what I can get done that week. I also make notes about longer term goals in a journal. 

Tell us a little about where you work...

I work in a home based studio in my basement. I am alone for much of the day. I have been trying to reach out to local artists to form a community I can gain support and insight from. I have gone back and forth about getting a studio within a studio building where I could be with other artists more often but wonder if I would find this distracting. I would like a studio with natural light and more ambiance. 

Do you have a mentor or people who you are able to discuss your business with? If not how do you find you best make decisions about your business?

As far as mentors go; recently, a woman in my community read on my blog that I was trying to learn Photoshop and Illustrator. She contacted me and offered to teach me Photoshop for free. She said, “Your work needs to be in the world and I want to help you get commercial work”. She is my angel and we have become good friends. I was able to create a painting for her as payment for all her time and patience in teaching me and encouraging me. I also enjoy the support and insight of the other artists in online classes I have taken and am currently taking. In addition, artists from my local arts council have started a support group of sorts. We meet about once a month to talk about the business of being an artist and to give helpful feedback about our work. The artists in this group are varied and very interesting.

© Jane Moore Houghton

What is a typical day for you in your business as it is now? What would be a dream day for you – business or otherwise?

My typical day involves reviewing my to-do lists from the calendar I plan out on Sunday nights. Depending on the day I will either take care of online marketing, sketch and brainstorm, research for current and future pieces. If I have a day that’s wide open time -wise I will paint all day. IT’s harder to get into a grove if I know I only have an hour before needing to dash off to an appointment. It’s always a balance between being strict with my time in the studio and leaving a little room for unplanned events, like a flat tire for example which happened last week. 

Anything else  you want to add… 

I live by the mantra “Truth Floats” . To me, this means that the truth of my work and it’s voice, the way I run my business and the professional relationships I am building will always prevail if I stay true to myself and my vision. This helps on those days when no money is coming in or I hear cricked after posting a blog post. One has to be incredibly patient and stedfast to be an artist!

Where can we find your work?
My web site is: where you can find examples of  my work as well as my blog. 
I sell some work on Etsy:
Instagram: as janemhoughton
flickr: Jane Houghton

Thank you so much Jane - a fascinating read! And it was lovely of you to send me these, really kind.

I particularly love the calendar sheets and I know that clipboard will be very useful.


  1. Excellent and thoughtful interview; thanks for sharing.

    (one of Jane's biggest fans)

  2. Great interview and beautiful work! I love the mantra "truth floats" ---- I'll remember that!


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