Jan 1, 2011

The Business of Being an Artist

So you want to be an artist?
by Sharon Teal-Coray

If you are an artist you probably want to be good at what you do and be successful, right?

Seeing we have a new year maybe it is time to give some serious thought as to what this will entail.

Being successful will not happen if you sit in your studio waiting to be discovered. It takes a lot of hard work on your part, it would be nice if someone would “discover” you and help you climb the ladder of success, but in my lifetime I have never seen this happen to one artist I know.

So let’s take a look at life as an artist and what we all need to do to get ahead.

Times are rough now; galleries are closing their doors after many years in business. People just don’t buy art like they used to. Art is a luxury. A painting hanging on your wall is not a necessity that is for sure, but it is a luxury that some will pay for. People who do buy are the ones who have money to spare.

To compete in this art world we have to know what is needed so here goes, some of my suggestions that may work for you.

First and foremost we need to know exactly what we want to accomplish. Do you just want the recognition or do you want the extra income? If you just want to be noticed there are ways of doing it, but if you really want to make money with your art you will need to start by creating a consistent body of work. That means you need at least 15 paintings that are in the same style. You cannot paint lose in one painting and tight in another, your style has to be represented in each of the paintings, they cannot look like several artists created them.

So here we have a goal but to get to that goal we need to be in our studio on a regular basis. Spending a few hours here and there painting will not get you where you want to go. For starters you have to have some discipline. If you want this badly enough then you need to find time each day to paint. This is a serious endeavor so you need to take it seriously.

So get in the studio and start creating some new exciting works. Try to paint things that will grab the viewer, stand back and look at your work. Is this a painting that will draw the viewer in? Will he remember it? Is it unique? Most of all is it original, meaning is it your idea not someone else’s?
Visiting many galleries over the years has helped me discover what works and what doesn’t. A painting that is bold and bright always grabs my attention, however some like pastels; both are good but remember it has to be something that will be remembered and it cannot look like another artists work! 
When Thomas Kinkade started getting popular, there were copies of his style in galleries and shops all over the place; it got to be very boring and redundant to see all of the copies!

If you want to get ahead don’t do it on someone else’s coattails. Be original and paint what you paint!

I found that when I first started out I needed a brochure and business card. This is something you can get now a lot cheaper than they used to be and you can even design your own. Remember this may be the first time a person views your work so make sure it is good quality.

Speaking of quality, you must have the best quality photos of your work possible. If you don’t know how to photograph your artwork in low light to eliminate glare, then get them done by a pro. Nothing turns a gallery owner or prospective buyer off faster than handing them a poor quality photograph.

When you have your 15 paintings finished you can start putting a portfolio together. This should contain your artist’s statement, your educational background, any shows or exhibits you have been in, awards you may have won, art societies you belong to and your biography.

Now you may be wondering what an “Artist’s Statement” is…this is your philosophy on art and your artwork, why you paint what you paint, what inspires you and so on. Just write down you thoughts on this and you will have your “statement”. Try to get comfortable taking about your art. I know this is hard, I have been there but it is vital that you be able to do this with ease. You will face times that someone wants to know “why” you did what you did and “how” you did what you did, take time to practice taking about your paintings. I don’t mean to be all bragging and bigheaded, just be able to give an honest reply. You can practice before your family or as I have done contact your local art groups, schools or your assisted living centers for seniors. They love to have you come and show our work and talk about it. One of the most honest replies I ever gave was at the Park City Art Festival in Park City UT, I was sitting at my easel in the gallery where my work was featured and a nice man came up and told me he loved my southwestern paintings and wanted to know how long it took me to paint one of the paintings on the wall. My reply was “About 20 years” he looked at me with an amused look on his face and he got it…. yes I gave him an honest answer, it took me 20 years give or take, of study and practice to “be able to paint it”

watch for more to come on this subject.

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