Saturday, October 21, 2006

So you're an artist, now what?

I owe so much to my university professors. They gave me all the tools I needed to know how to make art, look at art, and think about art. The one thing my education was lacking were the tools and information to make a go of being an artist in today's market. The advice I got was to go to grad school, but after four years earning my BA in Art (Painting), I couldn't even stay the extra year to get my BFA. I wanted OUT.

There was one path laid out for me and that was to get a BFA, then an MFA, then get a teaching position at a University and/or have a career showing in prestigious galleries. Oh, it's a wonderful life, don't get me wrong. But there was so much about who I was, and was becoming, that longed for more freedom in how I lived - the outsider wanting to remain in the running, but still outside. The meandering path vs. the straight highway.

I chose to take my chances doing it "my way" (thanks, Frankie!). At first I was the typical confused post grad, working the MOST random jobs (that's a funny list for another time) and living with friends in the same position. I painted in my bedroom and started to really explore the abstract direction I was drawn to (UNH had a realism focused art dept). I didn't show very much in the first few years, except for the Newburyport Art Association where I taught a kid's summer art program.

Fast forward today and I'm doing something I thought was impossible - living where I want (outside of an art center) and selling the work I want to create. I learned the tricks of the trade (and oh yes, am still learning, will always be) from trial and error, research and the helpful advice from fellow artists I relate to.

If I could offer a suggestion to any place of study that offers art courses, it would be to have a practical course on the business of art. So many art grads (and non-grads who are talented, self taught artists) are in the dark as to how to begin getting their art "out there". If I could create the curriculum of this course, it would include some of the following subjects of discussion...

Finding your "voice" and finding it's niche
Writing an Artist Statement
Writing an Artist Bio
What galleries are looking for and how to apply
The variety of venues to exhibit, sell, show art, and how to get into them
The variety of applications of art in the business world (ie design, corporate art, publishing companies)
Pricing your work
Business finances, tax information
The world of online marketing - what to do, what to avoid
How to look for and apply to shows
Art buyers aren't just in galleries - how to find the ones that want your art
Learning to write and speak confidently about your art
The current artmarket - what's selling and why?

Oh, there are just so many things to add to that list... Lately I've been trying to get my own business plan in order and I've been doing a lot of research on pricing. I will post another about this issue with some good links I've found.

There is so much opportunity out there for people with creative talent and they may underestimate the possibilities because of outdated modes of thinking about "making it" as an artist.

The way I see it, there is room for all of us, and the direction that our heart is calling us to go in is where we are needed in the world.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I totally agree on the importance of "business of art" classes! I study at a combined media / artschool and there are not too many business courses for the artists. In theory all our producers' courses are open to them, but too few of them actually take those. Only few are active enough to actually sell themselves, which really seems to be the necessity in excisting as a full-time artist.