A woman from Leicestershire is turning over thousands of pounds a month from an art business that started as a lockdown side hustle.
Former swimmer Danielle Tomlinson, 25, who represented Team GB, tried her hand at painting and selling artwork after COVID-19 lockdown restrictions halted her training sessions.
According to Ms Tomlinson, it took just two months for this venture to earn her “a full salary”, after investing in a marketing course to learn how to promote her products.
Now, the artist runs a “six-figure” business, turning over up to £22,000 a month with her animal paintings sent to collectors worldwide, including the USA, Australia, France, Canada, and various European countries.
Ms Tomlinson began painting in her garden shed, and three years later, she has expanded and is now in her third studio.
Ms Tomlinson told Express.co.uk: “My love for wildlife has always been there but started at home [painting] my own pets. It was such an obvious and natural place to begin. Initially, I started with my friends and family’s pets, then word got out and you get recommended.
“When I graduated, I had more time to paint larger, like when I was at school. My first large-scale piece was a large pheasant which sold almost immediately. Since then, I left the pet portraits as my little uni side hustle and continued with the larger more colourful stuff.
“In the beginning, it was naturally slower than selling smaller portraits, but one sale equated to many pet portraits.”
Ms Tomlinson said she invested all of her savings made from the small pet sketches, which equated to around £1,100, into the online marketing course and only bought supplies when commissions or original sales were made.
Ms Tomlinson said: “I started off with the cheaper supplies and a garden shed for a studio and then slowly grew to the premium product brands and a New York style loft studio in the creative quarter of my city.”
She added: “Being completely self-taught with the marketing course really helped me find my specific audience without the limitations of an artistic education.
“I was completely new to the art world. Knowing ‘why’ you create your work, and then once you sell to a few people, you can start connecting dots with those who enjoy your work.”
Moving on to large-scale artworks is when it “really picked up” for Ms Tomlinson. She said: “I’ve only just turned 25 and I’m able to buy a house through this. It’s just amazing the way things have snowballed.”
Ms Tomlinson paints around three times a week and dedicates the remaining two days to business admin.
She said: “Because I work in layers, I need things to dry so I usually have two to three pieces on at one time. Not too much more though, it hurts my brain!
“To make this a living, you must be aware you have to market yourself like every other business, so those two days off the studio are important to me. But regarding actual sale numbers monthly, sometimes I can sell a lot, sometimes less, that’s the beauty of self-employment.
“I don’t get too worried about that side of things as everything balances out – but last year I sold around 30 large original paintings.”
Ms Tomlinson enjoys painting big cats most, as she believes they “embody the wild”.
She said: “They are the total apex predator in my eyes. I also love the majesty of them, their athletic prowess, intelligence, and the insane colourations they come in. They’re a complete celebration of the natural world.”
Speaking on her goals for the future, Ms Tomlinson said: “I’d love to partner with large wildlife organisations, prominent figures, and charities to make a bigger difference in the wild world.
“Putting on events that no one has seen before in the space to demand attention on our critically endangered species.”