Mahalia Preudhomme’s Advice For Aspiring Full-Time Artists

It’s not just you. Becoming a full-time artist is a daunting transition, and it requires discipline, strategy, and most importantly, a great deal of trust in yourself and your art.

For self-taught painter Mahala Preudhomme, art was once just a hobby, but she’s managed to turn in into a rewarding full-time career.

“I started with drawing about 4 years ago. It was really just a stress reliever and something to do in my free time. I wouldn’t say it took any certain amount of time to become a skilled painter, but more of a discipline and lifestyle choice,” Mahala explained.

“I believe that everyone can be a skilled artist if they paint or draw every day, even if it’s just for 5 minutes. That’s what I did!”

I’ll always be taken aback by painters with Mahala’s level of talent who tell me they’re self-taught. I look at her vibrant, expressive paintings think of corners of my home and work space that they could breathe life into. It’s beautiful work, but Mahala admitted that she gets a little nervous about sharing it now that she’s made a career out of it and is being recognized more formally as a painter.

“I was never scared or insecure about posting my work originally because art was a hobby. Sharing my art later on in my career and up to present day is probably more stressful because I have certain expectations on myself and on my work, now. I still get chills sometimes when I post.”

Mahala also shared the pros and cons of life as a freelance painter.

“The pros are definitely self-discovery. I’ve learned so much about myself, my work ethic, and my self discipline. Being self employed puts you in circumstances where you HAVE to hustle. It will definitely push you to your limits,” Mahala revealed.

“The cons for me personally are 1) the waiting game and 2) the inconsistencies. You will quickly be waiting for your next client, or your next gig, or even your next big break. While you’re waiting or even working towards your goals you’ll realize how inconsistent your sales will be, especially if you miss one day of work.”

“The combination of both can honestly be depressing, so it’s important to have people around you who believe in you. Luckily I’ve been blessed to have those people.”

Having a support system is key, of course, but Mahala’s career success might also have something to do with her simple yet critical business strategy. The two things Mahala focuses on when creating?

“Consistency and catering to my audience. Constantly putting out work, creating content, and making sure my audience is entertained.”

She must be doing something right.

What started out as one social media follower reaching out to her for a custom drawing turned into a flood of commission requests and a roster of celebrities and businesses purchasing her art.

“My proudest accomplishment is any painting I’m painting in the moment. I’ve had some lows as an artist and many artist blocks where I haven’t been able to create, so being alive and happy, and being in a mental place to create makes me as proud as can be.”

What she’s most proud about, though, isn’t any one piece or transaction.

“My proudest accomplishment is any painting I’m painting in the moment. I’ve had some lows as an artist and many artist blocks where I haven’t been able to create, so being alive and happy, and being in a mental place to create makes me as proud as can be,” Mahala explained.

Mahalas work spans subjects, from sex and body positivity to afrocentrism, and I wondered if there was a central theme that drives her paintbrush.

“I say this in every interview and I know it becomes redundant, but the truth is ‘freedom’. I like to explore the theme of being free. Whether that’s in your sexuality or in your thoughts, or even in your hair. My freedom is extremely important to me, so I try to showcase that in my work,” Mahala shared.

Mahala’s art career won’t be limited to commissions. She has plans for brand partnerships, and eventually, a gallery of her own.

“I have a zillion art goals. Number one would be getting a piece into a museum. Number two would be [creating art] for hair companies such as Cantu Beauty, Shea Moisture, or As I am. Lastly, opening an erotic art gallery.”

I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before all your dreams (and more!) are realized, Mahala. Thank you for dedicating to your art and sharing it with us!

About the author

I was born to two Ethiopian immigrants in the great city of Indianapolis, Indiana, and moved to Brooklyn, New York after graduating from Indiana University in 2016. I currently spend my days as an Associate Creative at BuzzFeed, writing posts and directing videos and photo shoots for tech + finance brands and nonprofits.

I identify as a storyteller; someone who helps others find and amplify their voices, works to connect people to one another, and helps make a rapidly shifting media landscape more educational, inclusive, and representative of the world we live in. I’m passionate about sharing Black stories, and I’m so excited to show the world how deeply, dynamically talented we are, in every corner of the diaspora!

In my free time, you can find me reading, people watching in Bed-Stuy cafes, or watching old Vines (RIP).

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