Maria Brophy


  • and make good money doing it!

    ‘Strategies for a Successful Art Business!’
10 Success Principles for Artists / Art Marketing / business of art


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Remember who you are by Hugh MacLeodSome of you deeply-creative types may not agree with this, but you are a brand.

All of the artists, writers and musicians who read this blog:  you are your own personal brand.

Your persona is your brand.  Your story is your brand.  And your brand is what attracts your fans to you.

(And don’t get hung up on the word “brand” – it’s just a word)

Every great brand has a story, from Converse Shoes to Marilyn Monroe to cartoonist Hugh MacLeod.

Sadly, some people don’t know who they are.  If you are one of them, you’d better figure it out.  Don’t despair, though.  You already have the making of your personal brand because it exists within you organically. You just need to determine what that is by thinking about it, writing it down and defining it.


  1. Tell your story.
  2. Describe who you are in a few descriptive words.
  3. Use your story and your descriptive words consistently in everything you do from marketing to interviews to what you print on your business cards.


And there’s a good chance that your story is interesting.  You might not think so, because you’ve lived it so long.  But others will find it fascinating.

Take for example Henri Junttila.  Living in Málaga, Spain, the young Swede has never worked a real job in his life.  Instead, he’s made loads of money as a professional poker player.  Then he went on to nurture his successful blog called The Wake Up Cloud and is now a consultant, helping people to live their dreams.  His story inspires others to follow his path.

My cousin Anne, who has been a stay at home mom most of the past 20 years, is a very talented oil painter in Rumson, New Jersey.  She loves to go fox hunting on highly-bred horses and she paints what she experiences.  Her story inspires people to buy her paintings.

You have a story and you have meaning to your life. Those two elements reflect who you are and what your personal brand is based upon.


There is a dying brand of clothing in the surf industry called MADA.  It is a company that, in my opinion, was created only to make money but clearly has no definition or meaning.  Despite the lack of soul, MADA was always getting a lot of press in surf magazines (which surprised the hell out of me).  They grew strong until the recent economic collapse.

The reason brands die is this:  They lack substance.

Without a story (a true one) and no clear definition of who you are or what you are about, you will never hook real, loyal fans.


My first boss at my first job was a former Playboy Club Bunny named Joyce Kennedy.  She was beautiful, smart and witty.  I wanted to be just like her.

When she was 20, she applied for the elite status of a club bunny at the swanky, upscale Playboy Club back in the 70’s.  Club bunnies were highly paid cocktail servers who catered to wealthy, famous patrons.   To be a Playboy Club Bunny you had to have it all; smarts, beauty, ability and charisma.

There were 50 girls applying for one position.   What landed her that bunny costume was the answer to her last question during the rigorous interview process:

If you can choose one word to describe yourself, Miss Kennedy, what would that be?

“Vivacious!” She said, exuberantly.  She got the job.


My best girlfriend, the beautiful Bridget Flaska, is a successful Realtor in Encinitas, California.  She operates with upmost integrity and has set high standards for herself.  The top of her business card reads:


In two words, you know what her personal brand is.  When you work with Bridget, you’ll benefit from her integrity and you’ll experience her excellence.

Yesterday I got to thinking about the power of describing yourself in a few words, when I was asked to send a biography about my husband, Drew, to Converse.  They are writing about him on their super-cool blog and needed his background.

After attaching his biography, I felt the need to give them a short synopsis of what Drew is about, so that their story would focus in on the most important things about him.  I closed my e-mail to them with:

Really, if you sum Drew Brophy up in 5 words, it’s this:

Surf – Family – Travel – Paint – Inspiration

So, now I have to ask you, who are you in 5 words or less?  (Please, tell me in the comments!)

Thanks for reading my blog – Always Grateful, Maria xxoo

(writer – traveler – dreamer – surfer – happy)

(Photo Credit:  The image “Remember who you are” is a Hugh MacLeod cartoon.  Photo of the lovely Miss B came from


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  2. alex Sanso

    Maria, I can’t believe the timing of your post. I JUST rewrote my “about” page on my website for just. this. reason! I agree that we must put our real face forward with our true story, otherwise we are lost in the crowd. Those who are meant to connect with us as clients, partners or suppliers will find us!
    My five words: joy, play, wellspring, humor, heart.

    Thanks for this great advice!

  3. Archan Mehta


    It seems you have a habit of writing wonderful posts–why, you legend!

    Also: your best girlfriend, Bridget Flaska, looks stunning. Thanks for sharing Bridget’s photo. Bridget looks like a model or an actress: wow, what a beauty! A smile to die for, which drives away the gloom.

    You want me to describe myself in five words or less. Can’t really.
    I am more than five words, but I will still try to describe who I am in words. Here goes it: Outdoorsy, sporty, comedy, humor, laughter, smiles, creative, poet, writer, journalist, imaginative, head-in-the clouds dreamer, bliss, impractical, tactless, flawed, aesthetics, reader, hobbyist, curious, traveler, moody, wacky, eccentric, unconventional, motor skills (athletic?), muscular(?), “blood, sweat and tears” (meaning: I enjoy manual labor/physical work), etc.

    Oh, and did I mention peace-loving, wild,party animal, class clown, life of the party, socialite, and a lover of solitude, privacy and silence?

    Ah, but that’s just my self-analysis. By contrast:

    Here’s how the ladies perceive me, especially PYTs: (mostly I bump into them at bars, discos, night-clubs and at parties hosted by my numerous guy buddies…

    “Why that cheapskate didn’t even offer to buy me a drink. Loser.”

    “I swear that guy, Archan, can’t dance for nuts. It’s like he was born with two left feet. Cindy, would you believe it, he actually stepped on my toes and it hurts. What a klutz. I am never dating Archan again!”

    “Emotionally distant. Doesn’t have a clue about a lady’s feelings!”

    “Why that self-absorbed shmuck. Didn’t pay any attention to me. Too busy yapping about the latest sports scores with his buddies.”

    “I tried to take him window-shopping, and the loser ran away!”

    “Forgetful beast. Forgot my birthday last year and sent flowers to the wrong address when he found out after I kicked him hard in the nuts.”

    “Spends way too much time entertaining toddlers and babies. Looks like he will remain a baby-sitter for the rest of his life too. Too bad for him, I prefer moneyed doctors and rich businessmen anyway. Loser.”

    Ah, as a poet once wrote, “House of Hades/Man devouring/Will thy maw/Never be full?” Have a jolly good day and cheers to you, folks!

    1. Loretta

      What a hoot! Love this character… if I wasn’t married, I’d propose… er, well, maybe not for marriage… 😀

  4. Leyla Torres

    These days I have been working on defining what my personal brand is, and your post is sending me straight to my keyboard to type some ideas… Here are the five words that come to mind so far: imaginative, reliable, playful, transparency, spirit.
    Thank you Maria.

  5. Megan Duncanson

    WoW!! Thank you for such an inspirational and important insight! I’m working diligently on my brand and this is great! I’m making some Moo cards for Surtex and I think I will put this on them :)

    (Fun! – Family – Ambition – Dreams – Happy)


  6. deni

    great tips maria, thank you!
    visionary yummy expressive paranoid complicated

    the last 2 are like the garbage song 😀

  7. Heather

    What I learned from Maria Brophy:

    Be true to yourself and you will brand yourself without having to tell others (especially job opportunities) that you are…they won’t know what hit them!

    My 5 words: dreamer, color, inspired, salty, and happiness

  8. Philip

    Some really great insights Maria. It’s interesting to think about how the quality (or lack thereof) of someone’s art isn’t the only thing that stands between them and success. Marketing strategy uses such a different part of the brain than creating art, so I can see how this can really be a stretch for a lot of artists, including me. But, for most of us who don’t have the luxury of a marketing department (or savvy spouse) and need to both create and strategize the promotion of our work, both sides of the brain have to be turned on, which is a good thing! I can see how using both hemispheres is really valuable for being both creative and successful.

    It seems like there’s a few different ways to go with working on branding even while trying to present oneself genuinely. What I’m wondering is, should we start by considering who we feel our art most appeals to, and then present/customize our story in a way that will keep those people’s attention? As we develop our brand, do there need to be some boundaries or context for our story that includes consideration of our audience? Along with doing the exercise for ourselves, maybe we need to sum up in five words who we think the primary audience is for our art. I’m pretty sure my audience is a fairly narrow slice of the world of art buyers (coastal prosperous recycler eclectic hip) so I’m thinking there’s got to be a point where sharing some information about my life becomes not only superfluous, but might reduce my audience even more than it already is. A lot to think about… and I’ve definitely got my work cut out for me!

    Thanks, Philip (surfer environmentalist imaginative unconventional resourceful)

  9. Maria Brophy

    Thanks, everyone, for the feedback and for sharing Who YOU are! Philip, you’ve got me thinking about your question: Should you find out who your customer is, and THEN present a story? My instinct tells me no, your customer is going to be drawn to you because of who you are. And it’s easier to be who you are, because it’s real and it comes naturally to you. Trust me, who you are is interesting enough to draw in customers!

  10. Beverly Smith

    I’m at the beginning of my art career. Your article helped me focus on how who I am relates to my art and the direction it will take. I thought of 5 random words and strung them into a phrase – Mutable Introspective Dreamer Exploring Color.

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  13. Tej Thompson

    Thanks to Jessica at RuYoga for the introduction. Happy to know you!

    co-creator ~ conscious ~ love ~ positive ~ me (was going to say original for the last one, but aren’t we all?)

  14. sanyia

    really really inspirational…..i can’t define myself in five words…..!
    i am………???
    self lover,imaginative, reliable,peace loving,learner, selfish, boring nature,positivity,always thankful, original……!

  15. Dana Smith-Campbell

    ‘Providence’ and the patron Saint of Google must have led me to your site. I have been an artist with a day job for wayyyy too long. I now have a 10 mo old daughter and an almost primal urge to create, paint, knit, sew, etc. I may have an opportunity to do a mural for a coffee shop and that is how I found you. Much thanks for your honest and dead-on assessment of the perils and rewards of art making.

  16. MelissaH

    I just found your site a few days ago and I’m so glad. You are amazing and helping in ways I really need to start a creative arts business. I love love love this site! Thank you for being so willing to share.
    Creative, enthusiastic wife, mom, writer and artist

  17. Francesca

    Enjoying going through your blog. I’m just starting a mural business of my own. After staying home with my second child, and not returning back to work after the 12 week leave.. I decided I don’t want to be another expendable drone in a office. I wanted to do something, I love, something that makes me happy, something that would give me flexibility, something I can show to my kids and have them “get it” and be proud of what Mommy does. Gives me a sense of purpose and gratification. I’m so excited for this new adventure and hope I’m able to succeed. My Youngest is now almost 3 yrs old, and it’s time to make things happen.

    Creative- Mother- Muse- Adventure- Determined

  18. stephey baker

    Wonderful Post! Very clear and succinct—this has been my focus the last few. . .xyz months. I’ve been re-writing About pages galore!
    5 Words: Witty. Tenacious. Inspiration. Deep. Intuitive.

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