Making a living as an artist isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible. Especially in this town.

Richmond has a thriving arts scene, thanks to many established and up-and-coming artists making it work — either by painting murals, taking commissions from corporate clients or selling their artwork through social media.

We chatted with four Richmond artists about their work, how to find a home for it and how they make a living. Here's one:

Shaylen Broughton: going with the flow

You could say Broughton’s paintings make a splash, but it’s more accurate to describe her art as fluid.

She mixes acrylic paint with mediums that thin the paint, which improves flow and slows drying. She then pours it directly on the canvas, which is positioned on a table or sawhorses.

"I use an air gun to move the paint around, as well as my hands, and a small torch, which pops any air bubbles in the paint," Broughton said. "Once the poured layer of the painting is dry, I add several layers of brushwork to accentuate the composition."

Her pieces are abstract explorations of colors, shapes and textures — evocative of the waves, beaches and rivers that inspire her.

“I do add a little bit of ocean water or river water to my work,” Broughton said of her paint-mixing process. “It’s more about the concept than anything else.”

The 33-year-old, who was born and raised in Richmond, shows her work at galleries and fairs such as Arts in the Park and the MOCA Boardwalk Art Show in Virginia Beach. She also collaborated on a mural at Pharrell Williams' inaugural Something in the Water music festival in Virginia Beach.

But social media is also a major way for her to share — and sell — her work.

“I think I’ve struck the right balance for myself between social media and galleries,” Broughton said.

She often posts paintings for sale on social media, but now she directs potential buyers to BOJUart, a gallery that represents her in Virginia Beach, to complete the sale.

Her pieces are priced from $100 to $4,000 depending on size.

Broughton built on her interest in watercolor and has been doing fluid art since 2014.

"There’s a trick and a science to it," she said of using air guns, blow torches and spinning the canvas to manipulate the composition. "I started doing more research" and refining the craft.

This style of painting has become a popular trend.

"It's really blown up over the last two years," Broughton said. "It's actually something that people are starting to teach and offer workshops."

As a full-time artist, “I’m not getting rich by any means," she noted. "But I sacrifice where I need to in order to make it work. It really is my dream job.”

Many of her clients send her photos of her work on their walls, which she shares on social media. She said she aims for “good energy, calming vibes — something that evokes positive emotions and brings life to their space.”

Broughton also gives a portion of her profits from all sales to The Ocean Conservancy.

"I feel it is important as an artist to use the voice I was given to make a difference. The ocean is an important place for me — it's where I feel most inspired and connected to my intuition," she said. "The ocean quite literally gives us life. We need to take care of it.

"I have learned that I cannot save the entire world, but I can do my part and hope to set an example for others to do the same."

(Shaylen Broughton: sabartstudio.com)

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Colleen Curran covers arts and entertainment for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. She writes the weekly column Top Five Weekend Events.

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