Interview with artist Catherine Ingleby

Catherine Ingleby is a renowned wildlife, sporting and equine artist based in Berkshire. She is represented by several major galleries, both throughout the UK, and abroad. She exhibits widely, and is regularly selected for national art competitions. This is her story.

What’s your career background?

I have really have only ever been or wanted to be an artist, although part time I have been a whisky guide, restaurant critic, caterer amongst others to help meet the rent!

How did your career change after having children?

In all honesty, it completely stalled for a few years. Initially I really fought against it, but finally accepted I simply didn’t have the creative space in my baby fogged brain, and was benefiting no one. I took two years off after my second, and then came back to it with renewed energy.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

The development for my online print business came from the awareness of the incredible growth in online sales, and the realisation that many of my traditional retail outlets were not adapting to that change.

How did you move from idea to actual business?

The misconception of artist is that we slave away in our studios all day whereas the reality is that I spend a large proportion of time actually selling my ‘product’ and working with a lot of people alongside me. I have great support from my design and print teams, and from the various galleries I work with.

What’s your USP?

My USP would be my artistic style, which took a while to find and develop, but now is definitive of my work.

Who’s your target audience?

My audience varies enormously, as I sell small prints for under £50 up to the biggest original oils which are priced around £10000. I cannot say that I have any typical client, although black Labradors do seem to hog more than their fair of commissions!

How do you spread the word about what you do?

I use a great company called Social Media Training and Management who have really put me on the map in regards to social media. I find that over half of our print sales now come through these channels.

What’s been your most successful marketing strategy?

I read somewhere a quote, of “sometimes, you need to stop shouting and whisper” in regards to self-promotion. It struck a chord, and I find that adding that quiet, personal touch often really pays dividends.

In practical examples; handwritten envelopes, personalised discount codes, individual notes accompanying catalogues. They do take time, but have a high return.

What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?

It sounds flippant, but the cold. My Berkshire studio is fairly ramshackle, in previous years I would go abroad for the winter, but am now tied by school age children, and I find the cold studio a real struggle.

And your proudest moment so far?

I think it’s a toss-up between painting the Queens Fell ponies for the Jubilee, and being guest artist at Wildlife Artist of the Year in the Mall Galleries. Equally every time I give a client a finished commission and they genuinely love it (I can always tell) I am proud to have brought that pleasure to their lives.

Why is work so important to you?

I simply can’t not paint. In my self-imposed period of maternity leave I was still fiddling around, constantly sketching and developing ideas. I find if I don’t paint for an extended period I get very twitchy and irritable, then I walk back into the studio and my shoulders just drop.

Who inspires you?

So many artists inspire me, it would be impossible to name a few, but also my mother; she took up a career in local government in later life, after myself, and my three siblings, had left home and has gone from strength to strength. It reminds me that I will do what I do for the rest of my life, and it is not a race to get to the end!

How do you balance your business with your family?

Sometimes it feels as though I have the best of both worlds, and sometimes it feels as though I am neither parenting nor painting well. In other words, sometimes it is balanced, and sometimes the plates are in pieces on the floor!

What are your three top pieces of advice for someone wanting to do something similar?

  1. Grow a thick skin, and don’t take criticism personally. Putting your creative work out there every day is tough.
  2. Learn to live on less, the likelihood is it will take a long time to turn a profit.
  3. Be generous – always try to help others in your world, it will always be to your benefit in the long run.

For more details, visit Catherine’s website.