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A rollercoaster first year as a full-time working artist

Artist Malti B Lee in front of 2 original paintings. Text: My first year as a full-time working artist

12 months ago I started selling my artwork to the public.

I released my very first collection on my home-made website. As I did this, I was nervous about putting myself out there and how I’d be perceived. What if no one wants my work? What if I don’t sell anything? What if I fail as a professional artist?

Pushing past my ego, I set myself goals and worked hard towards them. I moved out my comfort zone, learned new skills, made connections in the art world, and applied for endless opportunities. As I reflect back on my first 12 months, I couldn’t be prouder!

Coming from a consulting background, numbers speak to me. So here it is, my first year of an art business in numbers.

First 12 months in numbers

  • 12 group exhibitions
  • 8 art fairs, festivals & pop-ups
  • 7 features, publications & podcasts
  • 5 commissions completed
  • 4 collections created
  • 2 executive committee roles in local arts organisations
  • 2 solo exhibitions
  • 60+ original paintings found their forever homes
    (not to mention prints & calendars too)


It’s fair to say that I’ve had a rollercoaster 12 months.

Whilst numbers capture some of the successes (and help me reflect on my own goals), there were so many qualitative achievements from this period too. To name but a few, I’m proud to have

  • Set-up a small, female-owned business
  • Built a website with e-commerce functionality
  • Developed my painting style to land on something that feels my own
  • Learned about marketing, from socials to newsletters
  • Built an incredibly supportive creative network
  • Found my confidence and voice, learning to lean into the unknown

My biggest takeaway from the rollercoaster that has been the last year is to always be brave. There are always a million things that won’t go your way, but you can’t fail not succeed without taking that first step.

A few highlights

My debut solo exhibition at the Lindsay Dirkx Brown Gallery, San Ramon CA! I couldn’t have been prouder to see my 50+ paintings hanging in this beautiful space
Vivid original painting in acrylic of pink and white cherry blossom against abstract background in blue and pink hues and a painted line illustration of Seoul's Gyeongbokgung Palace by California based contemporary artist, Malti B Lee
The first piece that combined architecture and flowers, the gateway to my current artistic style and focus
Original painting in acrylic of bright yellow solar daisies against a teal, blue and yellow-hued rhythmic abstract background by California based contemporary artist, Malti B Lee
My very first sales to a collector that wasn’t someone that I already knew! I was absolutely thrilled to say my goodbyes!
Each and every in-person event, from the festival to artist receptions, the conversations had and connections made have been more than I could have asked for – thank you

Looking forward to the next year of my business, I’m still full of apprehension but bundles of excitement too! I hope to learn and grow as much as I did over the last 12 months, if not more.

Here’s to a great year 2 of the art business!

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