Ten Things I've Learned as a Professional Artist --Part Two
As a professional artist for the past three decades I've learned a few things. I've made many mistakes but I've also tried some things that worked well. In PART ONE of this series I covered the first five things I've learned. Part Two will cover the rest - plus a bonus tip.
5. Arrogance and Confidence are two different things. Speak confidently about your art and what you're trying to achieve. Your work is YOUR vision. Don't apologize for your creativity or the way you approach your art. Know your subject, know your materials, know your art's purpose and message, but be kind in sharing this information. Remember that your clients and potential customers may not be familiar with all your artsy terminology. It's easy to explain what you do and the materials you use without insulting the intelligence of those with whom you are trying to build a business relationship. Who wants to own a piece of art created by a pompous artist? Yes, there are always artists with flair and attitude but the successful "artsy" artists are usually just quirky and confident, not arrogant.
4. Be generous with the things you've learned, and don't be afraid to share tips with newer artists. In this business your generosity will go a long way. I have heard too many people grumble about sharing tips and tricks with other artists and it makes me sad. You are not creating your competition but rather lending a helping hand, saving someone interested in your approach some time, and making the world a better place. Many generous people have taught me things. It's likely someone has taught you a few things as well. After all, no one will do what you do in the same way, so why not spread the joy? Inspire the next great artist!
3. Have a sense of integrity and a sense of urgency with regard to your business practices. Answer emails in a timely manner. Don't cancel appointments. Your reputation will be very important to your collectors, as well as other artists and gallery owners. We all miss emails from time to time as we rely on technology to communicate. And we are fragile creatures so we are all susceptible to illnesses that may require us to reschedule an appointment. Honest mistakes happen and schedule conflicts occur, but strive to treat potential clients as you would like to be treated. If I had a dollar for every home improvement person who didn't show up when they promised, I'd be...
2. Quality Materials are directly related to the quality of art that you produce. If you're using student grade supplies as a professional to cut corners, please purchase artist's quality materials as soon as you can. Even if it means buying a couple pieces at a time, it will be worth it. I learned this rather late in my career and was astounded at the difference great materials made in my work! I get a little tear in my eye when I think of the years of struggle with paints and pastels that were lacking in quality. Go for the good stuff!
1. There is no substitute for hard work, discipline, and the time spent trying new things. Blah, blah, blah. I know. I've heard it my whole life and read it a thousand times. I tried for years to avoid it. There is NO magic secret to making a living as an artist. Just lots of trial and error, and practice, practice, practice. I frequently meet artists who wonder why they aren't "breaking through" to some recognition or to selling their work-only to discover they paint for four hours a week (if that). Would you go to a doctor who studied medicine for four hours a week? I hope not.
Here's my bonus tip. This one thing completely changed the course of my art career in the best of ways and I don't think I am the only one who avoided doing it. Get over your fear of public speaking. That's right. Don't be afraid to speak to groups. Speaking engagements are great opportunities to share your art, your expertise, and your enthusiasm for what you do! If necessary, work your way up from practicing a talk for your dog, your family, or to smaller groups of people. You won't be sorry if you get comfortable talking. I assure you it is true that it's easy to talk about things you know and understand. Piece of cake! You know YOU and your art better than anyone else. You're an expert!
Confession. I didn't just fear public speaking. I dreaded it. The thought of speaking to a group of over three people used to make me want to vomit. Seriously. If you know me, you may be stunned to read this admission because one on one you can't shut me up. A little over a decade ago an opportunity came along that I could not pass, a speaking opportunity that helped to move my career in a positive direction. It horrified me to say no to the invitation and it horrified me to say yes…until I did say yes and began speaking. I discovered that not only was it less than vomit-producing but it can be fun! People are truly forgiving, thankfully. Many of us can relate to nerves and the fear of hearing yourself through a speaker system (and I do not have a singsongy voice). Just carry a bucket and give it a shot! Okay, I hope you don't need the bucket but you get the point.
So there you are. I hope these tips have been helpful. Now it's your turn. What are some things you've learned as a professional artist? What things would you tell a new artist? Let me know in the comments!
Update: In my original post I neglected to mention Toast Masters, a wonderful organization that helps empower people to be effective speakers. Thank you to a friend who sent me a note to remind me.
Welcome! I'm so glad you are here and I hope you find some of the information I have shared helpful.
Interested in taking a workshop? Click here for a listing of where I am heading and join me for the fun!