How did you get started and then develop your career?
Kim Casebeer: I got a BFA degree, then went to work as a graphic designer. I really thought this would be my dream job. Growing up on a farm, I was happiest spending all day outside, so I don’t know why I thought I would like a desk job!
While in college, I became fascinated by an instructor’s pastel landscapes and gave landscape painting a try. I was hooked! So a year out of college and unhappy with my career path, I decided to pursue landscape painting as my new career. I started showing and selling at art fairs, then local galleries. By networking with other artists from our local art guild, I learned which galleries and shows were worth pursuing.
Juried art competitions have also been an important part of my career. My first national gallery representation was a direct result of acceptance and an award in an American Women Artists exhibit. Graphic Design remained my day job for another 8 years while I worked to make a name for myself as a fine artist. In 2001, I had two solo shows that almost sold out. I made more money in those two shows than I did the entire year as a graphic designer. I quit my day job and have never looked back.
To artists starting out, I would say work like there isn’t a Plan B! I’ve reinvented how my career works with different chapters of my life, but I’ve never considered another career choice.
How do you describe success?
At the beginning of my career, I thought I made it when my work was represented by a certain gallery, or I got into certain shows. Early in my career, success was also measured by being able to make a living with my art. Over time, my definition of success has changed. I’ve come to realize that success is measured by how much of myself I put into my work. If my work inspires others, I’m successful.
Jack Olsen (who passed October 2020), owner of American Legacy Gallery for over 40 years, would always tell me to never live above your means. Artists can’t live that way because then they are painting for money, and painting for money doesn’t work. You have to paint your passion first. Collectors are buying your passion for painting. If the passion is there, the money will come. Jack was a very wise man.
How do you find inspiration?
I think it’s very important for artists to remember that you first have to show up for inspiration to find you. Above all else, that’s my mantra — to show up. More often than not, I show up to my easel and start working. As I put down brush marks, I become more inspired to work. The work fuels inspiration. That is often how it happens. Of course, I’m also inspired by going outside to paint, seeing how light and shadow affect the land, the fresh air, sunshine, taking a drive, or going for a walk. Getting outside for a walk almost always inspires me.
What is the best thing about being an artist?
You are in control of your own career! You can work as hard or as little as you want from day to day. You get to design your life. Of course, some things aren’t in your control, like a recession or COVID. But you are still in control of how you react to these bumps in the road. When COVID hit, I reprinted a self-published book, quickly learned how to teach via Zoom, and restarted my mentor program. I absolutely see these options as a positive. I don’t have a company telling me how to navigate unknown territory. I get to do that all on my own! This past year has taught me A LOT about myself, mostly that I need to take control of my career.
To see more of Kim’s work, visit: www.kimcasebeer.com