”Follow your heart.” “Trust your gut.” “Find your voice.” “Stay true to your vision.”
It’s not that there isn’t merit to these oft-touted nuggets of wisdom for aspiring artists, it’s just that, sometimes, following your heart won’t help you pay rent on time.
If you’re looking for the kind of advice that, while it may not look as great on an inspirational postcard, will help you actually sustain yourself as a working artist, we highly suggest Alix Sloan‘s Launching Your Art Career: A Practical Guide for Artists.
Sloan, a curator and consultant, enlists the help of 40 artists and dealers to compile a bullshit-free guide to making art, making connections, making sales and making money. We’ve compiled some of our favorite parts below, to give you a taste.
Behold, 12 pieces of actually practical advice for a struggling, emerging or really any sort of artist.
1. Take the job. “Don’t be one of those cliché art school kids who considers himself above the idea of art as commodity. Take the commercial work. Take the design work. Do the band’s poster for $ 20 and a six-pack. Do whatever it takes to be able to call yourself a working artist. It’s a noble title, regardless of the particulars.” –Noah Antieau, art dealer
2. Make nice! “Your best connections are your peers. Stay in contact with them. Be curious. Visit other artist’s studios and add like-minded people to your mailing list.” -Cara Enteles, artist
3. Do you. “Aim to have people recognize your work in a crowded room … to know immediately that it’s undeniably yours.” -Lori Field, artist
4. Get some perspective. “Gaining perspective by observing your practice amongst a field of others, and the culture and time in which it is done, is a career goal that follows a wide arc … It is not the sole responsibility of your art dealer, for example, to place your work in cultural context, nor should you allow this without your input.” -Martin Kruck, artist
5. It’s just another job. “When I’m talking with younger artists I stress that making, exhibiting and selling art in a commercial gallery is just like any other job one hopes to be successful at. It means working hard, honoring deadlines and trusting your co-workers to do their jobs well too.” -William Baczek, art dealer
6. Don’t go crazy with the zeros. “Don’t raise your prices too fast because once they are up, you should not lower them.” -Jayme McLellan, art dealer
7. More, more, more! “Feed your output with as much input (books, lectures, films, leisure, rest) as you can handle, and in some cases, more than you can manage.” -Didier William, artist
8. Keep your friends close and your inspiration closer. “Now there are endless images at your fingertips, but you need to find the ones that awaken your creativity and keep them near to you. Sometimes it can be something blurry and vague … I have this one little scrap of paper with a very low-res image of a kitten’s face on it, and something about it makes me come back to it again and again, trying to capture something elusive about it. When you find an image like that, hold onto it like it was gold.” -Marion Peck, artist
9. Get that domain name stat. “You don’t need business cards. You do need a website.” -Zach Feuer, art dealer
10. Don’t get comfortable. “You may have to work at a real job while you are making this happen. DO NOT get a creative job. Get a job you won’t get comfortable in. Save all your creative juices for your own art practice!” -Martha Rich, artist
11. Embrace the tribe. “It’s good to remember (not when you are making new work as it might be better to forget) that there are armies of manically mono-focused people (I almost said monsters) out there who want something close to what you want. They are your tribe, not your enemy.” -David Humphrey, artist
12. Go outside. “Stay deeply connected to what’s going on in your own art world. Under no circumstances isolate yourself in the studio with a solitary practice, thinking you’re some kind of lone wolf or Van Gogh.” -Mark Wolfe, art dealer
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