This is the fourth in my new series dedicated to artists and creator marketing. I met Raheem a few years ago when I lived in Connecticut and was the Marketing Director and board member of Arts Alliance of Stratford. He was one of the artists we hired to teach art classes for our members.

Raheem is one of the very few lucky artists to ever be featured on the billboard at One Times Square and was an early adopter of NFTs. He calls himself a business-forward artist and it’s been working well for his brand.

Read on to learn more about how his art was a vehicle to meet his wife and how he continues to use his business mindset to expand his artistic vision.

To give readers a bit of perspective, tell us a little about yourself in a paragraph or two.

My name is Raheem Nelson and I’m an artist born and raised in New Haven, CT. I attended Educational Center for the Arts, then went to the School of Visual Arts and graduated with a BFA in Cartooning. I curated my first art show at The Arts Council of Greater New Haven right out of college.

Currently I create my personal and professional work on an iPad using the Procreate app. I specialize in Graphic Recording, Portraits, and Pop Art. My work has been featured by NFT NYC 2023, Arts and Ideas, The Shops at Yale, New Haven Cultural, The Arts Council, The Tie Bar, and Power to The Patients. I work for The Milford Arts Council as their Marketing and Communications Specialist for my day job.

What has been your most successful marketing or promotion to date?

My most successful marketing to date has been having my artwork featured in One Times Square. I got into the NFT marketplace for digital art scene and applied to be featured in a conference for NFT artists called NFT.NYC. I submitted a portrait painting I created of Solange (which was inspired by a trip to The Louvre.) The context behind the piece is that I created it for a group show and met my now-wife who was hosting the event. This painting has been at the center of our relationship because it helped bring us together. Having it featured in the NFT.NYC branding and also in Times Square for their exhibition was incredible and affirming as an artist.

And, I was recently interviewed on the podcast, Working Towards Our Purpose. Readers can listen to that here:

What has been your least successful?

I would say NFTs were successful for me up until a point. The market took a turn and I realized continuing to promote my work in this space wasn’t bringing me the exposure and monetary value I wanted. It was a learning experience. NFTs have helped me get my artwork seen in Times Square which was great. As for selling NFTs themselves I’m taking some time to reevaluate how I market my work. The platform I was using to share my artwork (Voice) has gone under. If my NFTs aren’t moving I can focus on commissions, artist talks, and other more lucrative outlets.

What do you wish you’d known or done sooner to promote your creative business?

I believe everything happens in due time. If I had to pick though I wish I started traveling internationally sooner. It’s really life changing. My best experiences as an artist have happened in Cuba, France and Spain.

What are a few of your favorite artist marketing/business/promotional resources you can share with us?

I think LinkedIn is an amazing resource. It’s actually how I got hired for my current position at the Milford Arts Council. I shared that I wanted to leave my current job (SPED Paraprofessional) to pursue something in the arts/marketing and I just kept sharing. Eventually it caught on and before I knew it I had a new position. I would also recommend Instagram which has brought me a lot of business. I love editing short form videos and sharing the story of my art and fashion too since I’m into menswear. Coworking spaces (like KNOWN in New Haven) have also helped me be really successful and connect with entrepreneurs. Lastly, I believe in balancing online and offline marketing.

Do you actively participate in the promotion or marketing of your business? If so, how?

Marketing and promotion for me as an artist is essential. I like having that control over my image and how I express my art to the world. Being a business-forward artist who embraces branding has always been a part of me.

Do you/have you ever had a set marketing/promotional budget?

Not really. I do projections based on what I need. For the most part I market using free platforms and I’ll place a paid ad on occasion if necessary.

As a visual artist, do you use watermarks to protect your work when you post online?

I typically don’t take the time to watermark the art I post. I want people to be able to experience it like I intended. I’ll sign the work and in most cases it’s fine. I’ve learned that if someone wants to steal your work they will work very hard to do so. I have faith that people who are really fans of my work will simply buy it or share the work with their friends to support me. Aside from that most of the work I post is not personal work, it’s work for my clients that has already been paid for. I have a lot of personal work that’s just for me. If I choose just to post for me I’ll do it without worrying about it being stolen. It’s my creative expression to create and share my art without fear.

What are some other creative/artistic outlets you enjoy?

I love photography, fashion, video games and watching/analyzing tv shows and movies.

How can readers find and support your work?

Thank you, Raheem.