When you decide to call yourself an artist things begin to change. A shift begins from the idea of being an artist to actually living the life of an artist. You start to question what you do and what you think you should do. If you are not careful you will find yourself questioning everything. This can unsettle you, but it is also necessary. Here are a few examples:
There are the mental questions:
1) Are you good enough? Does your work justify calling yourself an artist or are you a pretender? This one causes damage, but you will have to confront it and banish it. Expect it to crop up again.
2) What is good enough anyway? Who gets to decide? Is it you, your friends, strangers? You will confront issues like the depth of your talent. Is it all innate or can can you get better? How to measure talent? Is it through critical acclaim or prizes or art sales?
3) Is your education sound? Do you need a degree or can you be self taught? Sometimes the absence of formal education can undermine an artist’s self esteem. You will need to put this aside to overcome self doubt. The answer? What you learn through experience is the most important.
4) Do you make art your career or moonlight on the side? Do you transition from formal job to full time artist? These strategic decisions are critical. It starts with deciding what you want from your life. The answer should follow, but it could take years to unravel.
5) What is your vision? Your lifestyle, your work and your rewards all stem from your vision. Take time to work this out and write it down. Make it your own.
There are Practical questions:
1) What genre should you focus on? This can have financial implications for artists going professional. At the same time you have to be honest with your creative spirit. The idea of compromise is unattractive to artists, but often it is a means to an end.
2) What medium to use? Materials to source and quality impacts the bottom line. What are you comfortable with and where do you need to challenge your comfort zone.
3) Finances. What is your budget for materials and running a studio? Can you put a price on wastage and figure out what is costing you money? If you cannot measure it you cannot fix it.
4) Time management. Do you spend enough time doing what is important. Nothing is more important than time actually creating. Without this there will not be mastery of your art. Your art will improve with committed and focused work.
5) Marketing. Learn this through trial and error. Where and who is your market? If you do not have a real plan then you will waste more time and money than necessary.
6) How much to spend on marketing? Less than you may think, but test returns on time and money.
7) Galleries or self marketing? Most artists will have to make their own waves. Best to learn this this from the get go and keep your freedom. But do not burn bridges either.
8) Do you know yourself? For example how much do you need to live on? This comes down to knowing what you need. Plus what is going out your wallet and what comes in.
9) Income. Can some of it be passive income? What intellectual property can work for you when you are sleeping? Multiple streams of income is the new model to consider.
10) Teaching? Pass on your knowledge generously and it will pay you back in the long run.
11) Do you need help? Seek a mentor. Take courses and read books. Never stop learning, because you do not know it all.
12) Stay relevant by making yourself relevant. Harsh but true. You decide. That is the good part.
There are many other questions. If you are asking questions then you are also finding answers. This makes life fulfilling and you are not a passenger. In the end I know that I will never know everything. I hope I leave this world still curious and hungry for more to discover.
To carry on in the spirit of Spring and the joys of painting I am launching a new giveaway with a beautiful framed oil painting as the grand prize*. Framed and delivered to your door. There are several ways to enter below with bonus entries for subscribers and for sharing too!
The event runs until 01 October 2015 and the winner will be contacted by e-mail.
*Due to delivery limits this giveaway is for South African entries only.
It can be hard to accept, but being a passionate artist is not enough if want to make a living from it. This applies to anything I guess, but let me stay with art for this article. There are many quotes, books and articles about following your passion. Everybody hates their day job. It is such a drag. Would it not be better to follow your passion. You know what I mean? So quit your job and follow your passion. This is misleading advice!
Let me be honest and admit that I have accepted this challenge for a long time. I do want to make a living doing what I am passionate about. My friends and family would love me to be happy doing what I am passionate about. That is fine. Plenty of moral support. But let me not forget. Making art is not enough.
The reality check is that art must be good and it must be in demand. The economics must be there. Supply and demand applies to art too. Awful I know, but exciting when it works out.
So what does an artist do. It has nothing to do with fine art degrees for a start. I will hone this down to painters for the sake or argument. Art has many directions and some are more commercial than others. Designers of products may find commercial success easier than portrait artists for example.
So our painter paints paintings. With passion. He or she loves painting and wants to paint every day. Everybody would agree that this artist has a passion for painting. Yet nobody purchases the paintings. Pretty soon our artist must make some tough decisions. Carry on painting ?Get a day job? Give up painting except for a hobby? Study for a conventional career?
Now I am a sucker for a good ending. I love rags-to-riches stories. I am fascinated by artists who have done well for themselves. But I get it. Passion is not enough. I have experienced this first hand. The cold hard truth is that no matter what I try I had better be good at it if I want to make a living from it. I must also have people willing to buy my work.
This does not only mean painting well. This is a given. I know you may point at some artists and question why their work is highly paid. This is beside the point.
The point is simple. One needs to be good at every part of the equation. Good art. Good business skills. Persistent attention to detail. Never give up. If you can keep on this path then you have passion. But you also have the attitude to see through the long haul. One day your "good"will become great.
At first I did not take this advice with good humour. I did want passion to be enough. Now after years of working in this field I can say that my passion for art has not dimmed. I have grown up though. I will not be too proud to earn from other sources if required. We all have to do what is necessary at the time and move on.