The Most Important Artist's Lesson
These days an artist can be forgiven for not being able focus on what is truly important. There are hundreds of methods put forward as solutions to an artist’s immediate need to kick off a career. Websites, social media, art lessons in different formats, tons of blogs by marketing experts, galleries whether analog or digital and of course, for some, a formal degree or diploma for added respectability.
While some of these do have value to the artist they all miss the point. Take the internet for example. You are reading this online and that is nice. I appreciate it. If the article works then you decide to finish reading it, but if not it is a quick click to escape. The same applies to the artist’s gallery of photos. If you are well experienced in buying art online then you may be able to spot a good painting online and compare it to something already on your wall. Work out the measurements and decide that it is a good deal. You may then negotiate a bit before buying. All good. For most though buying online seems very risky. There are exceptions where some artists have persisted and sell fairly regularly, but seldom making a real breakthrough.
The vast array of online experts giving advice to artists promise to have the perfect ten-point plan to financial success. It makes you wonder how pre-internet artists actually survived. Maybe they did not survive and there is a mysterious artist's burial ground like that of the elephants. Who knows? Once again though all of these promises of success if-you-do-it-this-way are suggestions at best. Most of these writers are not artists or they gave it up for something that paid them back. Avoid them and look for artists that have walked the walk for real advice instead. If you can find an artist to mentor you then you have something very special indeed!
Social media is touted as the magic bullet to success too. Yes there are anecdotes of a few artists who have made sales this way. In truth social media is not so much about sales as about interacting now and then with other like minded people. Sadly the idea persists that if you have thousands of followers you will have financial success too. The truth is that people are not stupid. Nobody throws money away on a whim. If you know of someone like that please send them my website address. It is crazy to think that the most obscure follower on the other side of the world will be your next painting purchaser. This means that the vast amount of time wasted online is simply that – a waste. Have some online presence of course, but think quality not quantity.
So what is the most important lesson for an artist? I intend to stick my neck out a bit and give my view on what really counts. Here goes: the largest proportion of the day must be spent on making excellent art and finishing the project in a professional manner. This means proper framing if you paint or a proper base for a sculpture and so on. Get the paperwork straight too so that there is a good record of your work.
Once the creative work is done the next part is getting the art in front of people. This may mean a gallery, a weekend market, art fair, expo, interior designers rooms, restaurants, offices and whatever creative way you can devise to get the physical object out there. Preferably follow all these options for multiple exposure. This route is critical. Online is not enough.
Paint litres of paint, miles of canvas and scuplt tons of material then get the art in front of a collector. This is the truth.
Malcolm Dewey: Artist. Country: South Africa