Starting at a very young age, Vera Smith loved using art as a way to express herself. Having an education in art along with a passion for painting, Smith began giving her paintings away to her friends as presents. In 2003, Smith decided to turn her passion into a business.
Smiths painting ranged from landscapes, modern religious icons, both historic and modern buildings, pet portraits, and prehistoric rock art inspired pieces, most of them in watercolors. In 2013, she added a new subject: oil portraits on canvas from photographs. "When my first client entrusted me with a black and white photo of his family, the only one with him, his parents and siblings all together, I felt goosebumps on my arms." The process took several weeks and Smith checked in regularly with the client on his satisfaction with the likenesses of the family members. The resulting painting is now cherished by its owner and resulted in more portrait commissions because of his reference. As this new branch of her business grew, Smith also added pencil (graphite) portraits and fast sketches done from life.
To see Smith's oil portraits visit www.verasart.blogspot.com
Smith attributes the help of her mentor Gordon Sanford and attending SCORE workshops as two of the reasons why she was able to have successful commissions in 2013. SCORE workshops provided the artist with useful business tips and tools that allowed her to manage and improve different aspects of her business.
"Mr. Sanford helped my business to become more grounded, to help me become aware of the need for marketing and better bookkeeping, as well as planning and the use of a cash flow projection."
With no background in business or sales, Smith knew she would need some guidance. The artist says, "It can be very lonely and scary having a small business by yourself." When Smith met her mentor Gordon Sanford, she knew her business could use the help.
The help and advice the artist received from her mentor was invaluable. "I learned to face my business wish honesty, seeing the strengths, and weaknesses. I learned how to plan, evaluate, and come up with strategies for the future."
Smith also credits success to her attendance at a local SCORE workshops, where she learned about the improtance of having a brand, new ideas about Google ads, and SEO for her website and online referrals. "The SCORE workshop that helped me the most had two local, non-score presenters in it. The first one was from Constant Contact and I signed up and am using Constant Contact for my newsletter. The second one was Stephanie Scheller, a local business coach, and I became her client and have been working with her ever since."
Time management has been and still is a challenge. As a mother, wife, and owner of three cats and one dog, Smith always has many demands on her time. "I am very busy creating art, learning to be a better artist, doing the marketing and administration, learning about business and myself and keeping up with social media."
Smith has worked with mentor Gordon Sanford on finances (ledger, pricing), marketing, and the getting used to wearing different hats. "Get all the help you can get and SCORE is a great resource. [I've learned to] relax, take the advice seriously, and act on it."
Left: Family portrait referenced above
Middle: 'Rosalie's Mother' (2017)
Right: Vera Smith