Turning My Passion for Art Into a Succesful Profession

Artist Elli Milan in her art studio

My art journey began when I was fifteen years old. My Greek father had been pressuring me to choose an Ivy League college in hopes I’d meet a doctor, lawyer, or engineer and receive my M-R-S degree. But I knew there was greatness inside me and I felt guided by my mother’s words that I could be anything I desired. I asked the heavens for a talent. I wanted to be great at one thing instead of pretty good at many.

A few weeks later, Betty Edwards—author of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain—came as a guest under a recent large endowment for the arts my school received. I had no idea what a legend she was and enjoyed her 3-day workshop with the rest of the kids in my high school. By day two, something inside me was lit. My right brain fired on and I was never the same. Suddenly, from what once looked like hieroglyphic stick figures, my new drawings emerged lifelike and three-dimensional. I quickly picked up value shifts and could render form. When I showed my mother my drawings, she didn’t believe that I actually did them. This was the beginning of my passion for art that has never left my heart 35 years later.

How My Art Career Started

I received a portfolio scholarship from Savannah College of Art and Design where I attended for two years, and later transferred to the University of Georgia where I received my BFA in Painting. My first job post-graduation was at SunTrust Bank as a drive-thru teller. I spent the year painting in off hours and showing my work in local cafés, restaurants, and boutiques in Athens, Georgia. Last Resort Grill, still a popular local foodie eatery, was where I got my start.

The owner of Creative Fine Arts in Atlanta, Georgia came up to Athens for a visit, was eating at Last Resort, and saw my paintings on the wall. She contacted me and invited me for an interview. I quit the bank and started commuting seventy-six miles (one way) to Atlanta to paint full-time in a studio for the decorative art market. I received a small salary in exchange for forty hours of painting with a small group of other artists. I was thrilled because it was like being paid to go to school. I learned a lot that year about what people buy—and don't buy—to adorn their walls. But the commute was getting to me and my ambition lead me to be on my own.

Turning My Passion Into a Profession 

Milan Art Institute - Art education

I started my own art business in my home studio and worked with art reps and dealers who sold my work. My artist husband, John, and I became self-employed full-time artists and began our family of four children. We lived off and on in Greece and Arizona and enjoyed many years of exceptional art success selling our work through dealers, galleries, designers, and consultants all over the world. Many artists would ask us for help and mentorship. We saw a huge problem with artists not knowing how to monetize their passion so they could do what they loved full-time. It seemed like every artist we met had given up, felt hopeless, and had resigned themselves to another career path. We wanted to disrupt this and create a school that would empower artists to live out their destiny.

In 2010, Milan Art Institute was born. We became known within the Phoenix area to be a place that offered exceptional instruction in art skills, exposure to contemporary mixed media techniques and, most importantly, a place that believed in artists and inspired them to build a business in art. In 2014, I created The Mastery Program, a one-year program that teaches artists everything they need to know to have a profitable art business. They are taught traditional Old Masters skills, mixed media, how to find their voice, to paint in their own style, to create a portfolio of 25+ paintings, to build a personal brand, marketing strategies, and how to promote and sell their work. Artists from all over the world began relocating to Arizona to take the course.

Milan Art Institute: A Revolutionary Online Program for Artists 

Our now-grown children and their spouses became part owners in Milan Art and we expanded. This is when we brought The Mastery Program online and offered it to artists anywhere in the world to take at their own pace. Currently we are creating a revolutionary platform for artists that includes social media, art patronage, social learning, and edutainment with Art Social. We believe the early stages of a worldwide movement is forming within this community of artists that will change the world.

I am passionate about empowering artists. My hope is that my art is powerful and inspires artists around the world to step into their true potential. Our programs and mentorship have changed the lives of thousands of artists, helped them lift their voices, and turn their passion for art into a profession. I want to be a leading voice of the current Art Renaissance. I have dedicated my life to transforming our world into a prosperous atmosphere for artists everywhere by creating a platform that equips artists to succeed.

Artists Change the World

My art continues to evolve as I embrace new creative challenges with consistent hours behind the brush. I believe artists change everything with their prophetic brush by painting the world they want to live in and the vision that is yet to come.


  • Victoria

    Thank you so much for sharing your gift and knowledge with us! I’m just waiting for some funds to join the program. I hope it will still be possible to register in 2-3 months. I’m so in love with your and the style of your daughters and can’t wait to learn from you all. Your story and your writings are very inspiring. Keep posting!

  • Robin

    Your program sounds wonderful and I’m inspired by your story. I’ll be dreaming of joining you some day.

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