Amber Honour describes herself as “a work in progress, constantly learning and striving to become a better artist.” Previous artists in this series, Gareth Jones and Catherine Martzloff, are artists who use their WordPress.com sites to promote and sell their work. For Amber, her Jetpack-powered site, Burnt Umber Arts, is about accountability. By starting a weekly blog she gave herself a reason to create and an audience to connect with. Here, she talks about the difference her site has made to her art.
When did you realize your love of art?
My love of art started right at the beginning. My mother is an artist and was always creating. Some of my fondest early memories are of playing on her giant pottery wheel while she “worked.”
My own journey in art started slowly. I certainly wasn’t a prodigy. I always dabbled in everything my mom was working on, but I didn’t decide I was an artist until middle school — when I started really trying.
What is your personal style?
My particular style of art is based on realism. I enjoy challenging myself to capture what I see while adding my own artistic flair. I can’t help but add drama through strong lighting, saturated colors, and lots of contrast. They always seem to sneak into my art!
Outside of painting, I dabble in photography and a whole slew of crafts. However, painting takes up most of my free time these days.
I find myself returning to still lifes over and over. There is so much to learn from the humble still life, and I doubt I’ll ever stop painting them. This year I took a deep dive into animal portraiture and I’m pleased to find how much I’m enjoying it. It’s also somewhat more profitable than still lifes. People love their pets!
When did you first start Burnt Umber Arts?
After college, I didn’t do much art for about 10 years. One day my niece asked me how to paint clouds. It dawned on me that I had no idea and that my self-identity as an artist was a lie. I couldn’t remember the last time I had sat down and created anything. A little rattled, I decided that I needed to either become the artist I always imagined myself as, or figure out my identity without art.
I set up some goals for myself and started painting. After a year, I hadn’t made nearly as much progress as I had anticipated. This is where the idea of the blog started. I needed someone or something to hold me accountable to my goals. So in February 2016, I started Burnt Umber Arts. I used it to announce my objectives and set deadlines.
Right from the start, I decided I would post once a week. In order to do that, I needed to finish one painting a week. This proved to be the best decision I could make in terms of improving as an artist. Even though there was almost no one reading my blog in the beginning, the weekly deadline really lit a fire in me.
Painting and posting turned into a virtuous cycle. Without the deadline of a weekly blog post driving me to create, I wouldn’t be the artist I am today.
Do you interact with your readers?
My readers have really lifted me up when I’ve doubted myself and given me helpful advice and pointers along the way. There is a whole community of art bloggers out there ready and willing to hold each other up. It’s a wonderful thing to be a part of.
How did you find setting up your blog with WordPress?
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Getting started with WordPress was simple which is why I chose it. My favorite part is the fully customizable themes that allow me to make my blog look exactly how I want it. I also enjoy the simple, straight-forward approach of Jetpack. It’s easy to see my daily stats and keep track of which posts are doing well.
When did you start using a WordPress.com Business plan?
Since the blog started off as a way to stay accountable, it took me a while to move it over to a Business plan. The blog is still mainly what it originally started as, but with so much art being generated, I needed to sell some in order to cover my expenses and I decided to start a WooCommerce store.
I sold the occasional artwork before starting the blog, but the positive effect the blog has had on my art has increased my sales, although I still predominantly sell to friends and family.
Etsy was my first attempt at selling art online. I wasn’t satisfied with the site though. It is choked with sellers and my art was buried under thousands of other listings. I didn’t stick with it for very long.
Is there any advice you would give people setting up an online store?
I think my biggest advice is to manage expectations and don’t give up too soon. Starting an online business isn’t a get rich quick scheme. Starting any business takes time, and far more work than any typical day job. Every single success is the direct result of hours of work behind the scenes.
What are your future goals?
I plan on continuing to use Burnt Umber Arts as a platform to show and sell my work. In the future, I would like to create more tutorials and reviews. I’m considering dabbling in video content as well since I’ve found that sometimes showing something is easier than telling.