Running art workshops

 21 January 2013

Brenda Burgess is an artist and sculptor who runs art workshops for children at Leeds Castle and various schools in Kent. She spoke about her career journey and shared advice for earning an income from art.

Brenda's work with children takes her into schools, heritage sites and museums.
Brenda's work with children takes her into schools, heritage sites and museums.

Earning a living from art

"My job is split into two areas. One is creating and making. I work as an artist and portrait sculptor, often to commission. My other role is as a schools arts workshop leader and educational specialist. I have a resident role at Leeds Castle in Kent which has allowed me to expand and explore whilst still retaining the freedoms of being self-employed.

"It can be anything from travelsick children to peacocks wandering in."

"Before the birth of my eldest son, who's now an adult, I was a social worker. In my role with schools, it's amazing how useful that has been.

"Working as an artist has taken a lot of hard work, commitment and careful planning. Other forms of work often would have been easier. 

If I were to start again, I wouldn't have worked in a bank when I first left school. I did it for 18 months, on my parents’ advice. I think I should have taken my education further at that point, instead of doing it later. But it made me realise what I didn’t want."

Leading an art workshop

"A day as a workshop leader can be exhausting and exhilarating in equal parts. I do this two to three days per week, depending on bookings.

"If I'm at Leeds Castle, no day is ever the same – no two sets of children are! A usual day would involve working with up to 140 children split into four one-hour groups. It's non-stop.

"I have designed the workshops with the key stage of the children and their core curriculum in mind, so they get an in-depth art experience whilst with me.

"In this job, you can expect to deal with anything, from travelsick children to peacocks wandering into the classroom and refusing – very noisily! – to leave.

"Leeds Castle has been awarded a prestigious Sandford Award for its education programme. I also work with other organisations such as Kent County Council, museums, charities, and schools (public and private).

Occasionally I work in a consultancy capacity. Other days I work on my portrait commissions. I find that one side of my work balances the other very well."

Building creative business skills

"I think that this is an industry where the work really talks to the soul, and that's why it's so difficult to get into. 

"Take a business course as soon as you can. If this is going to be your life, you have to make it work as a business."

"The crucial piece of advice I'd give anyone wanting to get into it would be to take a business course as soon as you can. If this is going to be your life, you have to make it work as a business."

"I hope to keep expanding the education programme at Leeds Castle, along with expanding my consultancy work and increasing my profile as a portrait artist.

"It would help me if I could learn how to do without sleep, but as I can’t, time management becomes an important skill.

"Training, skills, contacts, networks, and professional development are all important throughout your career – and luck!"

To find out more about Brenda's work, visit her website


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