The Benefits of Being an Artist in Today’s Digital Age

Lifestyle image of Artist Elli Milan on her Mac Laptop

Why Choosing to Be an Artist Today is The Best Decision

There is no greater time to be alive as an artist than today. In 1996, when I started my career, most were not using the internet. Most did not have a computer. John and I spent $3600 for a computer from the money we got from our wedding. It was a Compaq Presario that had 8 gigs of RAM. At the time, it was one of the best computers money could buy. Laptops didn’t exist yet. No one knew about digital cameras.

The Challenges of Photographing and Promoting Artwork in the Past

When we wanted to contact a gallery to see if they would represent us, we had to send them slides. We would buy slide film and, with our manual cameras, hope we got the shutter speed and exposure settings correct. We'd shoot our artwork against black velvet that would absorb the light and put two tungsten halogen high-powered lights clamped onto stands on either side. It cost a fortune to take pictures of your own artwork.

Once the pictures were taken, we had to get the filmed developed by someone who specialized in slide film. It usually took about two weeks. Once the slides came back, we would go to the university's light room to use their silver tape and tape our slides on their light box. Then we put the slides into a slide holder and included a self-addressed stamped envelope in the package we sent the gallery.

If a gallery represented you, you could have maybe 5-10 pieces in their gallery for sale. A couple hundred people would see your work — if you were lucky. Then someone would buy the work and maybe a handful of people would see it at the collector's house. This was the lifespan of a piece of artwork. This was the impact and potential it had.

The Difficulties in Reaching a Global Art Market

Artist Elli Milan standing next to her large canvas artwork of Greek structures and statues

Shipping globally was out of the question. FedEx was just getting going. If you shipped internationally, there was extensive paperwork and taxes that had to be paid; no one wanted to ship original artwork. You had to sell your work for more than $10,000 for it to be worth it. We had to rely on dealers to get our work out internationally. If you lived in a smaller country with less resources, forget it — it was nearly impossible to get your work out of your country.

Giclée wasn’t invented yet and the only possible way to have prints was to license with a print company to get lithographs made. Each image had to have a run of 2500 or the company wouldn’t make them for you.

The Limited Access to Art Supplies and Materials 

Art supplies could only be bought in person at a store. If you didn’t have a car, it was very difficult to get canvases to your studio, so we learned to stretch our own canvases. Michael's and Hobby Lobby were not around and we could only buy art supplies from small town boutiques or in big city centers. An art supply trek a few times per year was our method to get supplies.

Artist grade spray paint, inks, and markers were not in the market yet. Acrylics were brand new and not taken very seriously yet. Chinese imports were not happening yet, so supplies were still made and imported from Europe. There were no fluorescents or innovative colors. Water-soluble graphite didn’t exist and Caran D'ache had just come out with their water-soluble crayons.

The Power of Digital Platforms: Expanding Your Reach as an Artist in the Digital Age

Art Social: The Ultimate social media platform for artist and art lovers

Let’s compare just 30 years ago to what happens today. An artist can accumulate a huge following on Instagram and as the last brushstroke is complete, she can post it. Within hours, thousands have seen and been affected worldwide by her new art piece. That same day, she takes a high resolution picture of her work and uploads it to one of many print-on-demand sites and creates, within an hour, several products of her choice.

Next, she connects the product to her store, which is connected to her website through an API. Then she presses the launch button. She wakes up the next morning to multiple notifications that her new products sold in Europe and Australia as she slept. Her phone is dinging with notifications as sales begin in the U.S. The original piece of artwork is still on her easel drying.

If someone told me this reality when I was in art school and just starting out, my head would have spun! Can you even imagine the future five years from now for the artist?! Art is in high demand and hitting critical mass in terms of a worldwide draw on art accounts. To make it, you only need a cause, passion, a little bit of skill, and the willingness to put yourself out there.

Envisioning a Bright Future for Artists

I started speaking from stages and platforms about 15 years ago and built into each of my talks was the idea of a worldwide renaissance of the arts. I told artists that it was just starting. I told artists to get into position. Start learning and perfecting your skills. Get a domain name and build a website. I told them that artists will be the influencers of the future. This was before Shopify or print-on-demand.

I said these things because I could feel it in my gut. My spirit knew. I had doubts, of course, and sometimes I would think, “Elli, you don't even know what you are talking about. You have no proof! What if you are wrong and Duchamp was right that art is dead?” My gut prevailed and spoke louder to me.

The Limitless Potential and Possibilities for Artists Today

The Milan Art Institute: Group of Artist standing proudly with their collection of artworks

I see so much more now and know that the future is bright for artists. In fact, artists are the way of the future and what will ensure our freedom.

What do you see in the future? If your gut is telling you grand epic things for your art business, LISTEN! That is the truth. Let your faith prevail. Allow your heart to leap at the possibilities. If you envision yourself standing in beautiful spaces with your art and many people around in beautiful clothes admiring and being affected deeply, then that is your future.

If you see your bank account full and your dream art studio with all the windows, then this is your future. Travel, influence, lives changed, culture shifted, and leaving your mark on the world is all at hand. It is all contained just at the tip of your brush.

What does a bright future for artist look like to you? What do you hope to achieve as an artist?

Share your vision in the comments below!


  • Karen eski

    Hi Milan, I hear you loud and clear. I attempted getting an art education in 1976 78 through a "traditional college(parents directions!) Academics was never my forte, even in grade schooli was only good at art and typing. Well typing was my saving grace back then as a secretary/receptionist until the computer revolution hit the corporate world. Suddenly in the 1990s I was sidelined.
    Anyways doeading up to present decade again sideline from "normal life) due to a very chronic incurable disease (2016 Pulmonary Sarcoidosis) and clinical depression. In 2017 I was able to get back online to a very different world that was fascinating! Being on permanent disability, yet full retirement next year opens up the many possibilities fory ability to sell online. Transportation is now limited to the city bus, walking or begging for rides.
    My dreams are not only to sell my traditional and modern (DIY recycling) I am also an avid bible student and wish to combine these two areas of my life and meld them into a non licensed form of transforming those who are walking the road less traveled into a empowered non verbal voice. Thus bringing awareness to the for front of society of the neglected and overlooked resources that our seniors are lacking.

    Elli Milan Art replied:
    Sounds like you have some very exciting and fulfilling plans ahead!! Bravo for your heart to help people! 🙌🏽

  • Anabela Sobrinho

    Hi dear Elli,
    I read all of your emails, watch your and your Family workshops and podcasts as well as I’m doing The Mastery Program. And I LOVE IT ALL!⭐
    I should have started my Arts Education when I was 17, but was denied it. Always unsupported to take my path, until 2015-2016, when I restarted and finished my Visual Arts studies. Never will I stop. Now, you are my BIG INCENTIVE, my values are your values. There is convergence, a sense of comfort and a full dedication to Art. I am moving at the pace I can, only in Week 7 yet. My IG friends and my son have already noticed the quality difference in my work!🌸
    So, I believe in myself and all the artists who, despite adversity, keep going. Art is needed around us, healthy, positive, beautiful, uplifting; even it’s finally taken seriously as a therapeutic process.
    Wishing you all serious souls the desire and action to advance!🙏💐
    I know I will go beyond my previous exhibitions in Berlin and New York. I know I will KEEP HELPING LOTS of LIKE-SUFFERED SOULS.
    I am 71 years young now.

    Anabela Sobrinho
    Elli Milan Art replied:
    HI Anabela, It’s amazing! You said you wished you had started your art journey at 17 and now you are 71! I believe your beautiful full life has prepared you for a huge leap forward in pursuing your passion for art. I love what you said about it being comforting to make the commitment to go full force into art. Thats all it takes. One decision and then time painting. I look forward to seeing your work touch people in the galleries you dream of! Thank you for reaching out.

  • Pat Burns

    I’ve bought the Mastery Program & set up my studio with supplies. I’m learning gobs, even though I have painted & sculpted for years. Right now I’m getting 3 commissions knocked out to more than pay for my course & supplies & am eager to “free up”… as I am a recovering representational artist 😬
    I joined up because of your inspirational words & ideas. Keep it up💕
    Elli Milan Art replied:
    Wow! That’s amazing Pat! Way to go!!

  • Liliya Muglia

    I’m very grateful for your inspirational messages and writings. I’m a full supporter of your cause. Listening to you reminds me every day why am I an artist and why do I create. It is a very solitary job and we need to uphold each other on this journey to influence society around us to become a safer better place to develop and thrive
    Thank you 🙏 again
    Elli Milan Art replied:
    Hi Liliya, yes you are right it can feel solitary at times but we are a part of an art family that spans generations, and we can connect on such a deep level. Thank you for your thoughts and support!

  • Taylor H.

    There’s so many possibilities and opportunities available to artists today for us to thrive and flourish! You are paving the way and guiding us into a new era of love and light!
    Elli Milan Art replied:
    Thanks Taylor!

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