Using Data and Metrics to Build a Painting Career: An Interview with Justin Vining

Do you know where most of your customers live, or how much your market is willing to spend on your art? If you think those questions don’t matter to being a successful artist, think again.

Using Data and Metrics to Build a Painting Career: An Interview with Justin Vining

Justin Vining is a painter based in Indianapolis, Indiana who has gone from bare bones living to having a comfortable and healthy income from his art.

And he’s done it in an unconventional way: rather than setting an arbitrary price for his art, Justin chooses the price point based on where his market consistently buys. He also tracks his data so he knows how to reach his goals for opening nights, and he networks to become a big player in the local community.

Justin has done all of this by learning as he goes. After graduating from Purdue University, he worked as an elementary education art teacher. In his third year of teaching he left to go to law school. While earning his law degree, Justin began selling his art to classmates in order to make some money. He also built a Facebook following on a hunch. It was the beginning of his painting career.

He went on to become a lawyer (even keeping his license active today), but about 6 years ago Justin made the leap into a full-time painting career. He is a fourth generation farmer who was raised with a strong work ethic so when he dove into painting he worked day and night to get sales and make it happen.

Today, we talk about how Justin finds balance between working late into the night and still spending quality time with his loved ones, why he’s living proof that artists don’t have to starve, and how he landed his biggest commission to date. You’re going to love hearing Justin’s straightforward advice on those topics and more on this episode of The Portfolio Life!

Listen to the podcast

To listen to the show, click the player below (If you’re reading this via email, please click here).

Show highlights

In this episode, Justin and I discuss:

  • What role does metrics play in the selling and marketing of his art?
  • Why is he willing to make less money per piece?
  • How do you find a balance of working hard without burning out?
  • Why is he getting push back from his painting peers?
  • How did the invention of paint tubes change the way painting is done?

If you want something you have to go get it.

Justin Vining

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Justin on work ethic and growing his business

  • How did growing up on a farm influence Justin’s work ethic?
  • In his first five years, how many paintings did he create per year?
  • What was his strategy for generating followers for his Facebook page?
  • Did he have a long-term strategy when he began painting during law school?
  • How has he approached his business differently than other artists?

I price on where the market buys the work consistently.

Justin Vining

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Using metrics, goals and data as an artist

  • What happened in September 2012 that taught him a big lesson?
  • Why did he choose to focus on Indianapolis as his target market?
  • How have both his customer base and his subject matter evolved in the last year?
  • How did tracking his sales data help him sell 72 paintings during one opening night?
  • What does he do leading up to a show to create momentum and build demand?


What metrics do you track right now, and which will you start tracking after listening to Justin’s episode? Share in the comments.