Friday, May 15, 2015

10 Needs of Working Artists

Terns - Salmon Cove beach

To be an artist you have to have many qualities. Like an iceberg many qualities are hidden from view but still present to make the whole. Here are 10 qualities of working artists that I have found to be true. 

Which of the qualities can you identify with?

10 Needs of Working Artists

You need to be entrepreneurial.  
You call the shots on what you produce, how long your working hours are, how you communicate with others about your work and how you judge forward movement.

You need to be determined.
You need to want to do this more than anything else.  You need to really want to make it work.  You need to eat, sleep and live art.

You need to be thick skinned.
For every piece of art you produce there will be someone who loves it.  And someone who hates it. Whether rejection comes in the form of not getting into a juried competition, being turned down by a gallery or someone in person making a harsh statement about your art, you need to rise above it and take it as input to improve.

You need to have some money.
It is expensive to get a piece from concept to showing to the public.  There are fees all along the way an artist must pay before work ever reaches the public eye.  Materials, supports, framing, entry fees, shipping, insurance, gallery fees, promotion...  It adds up, which is part of why art is expensive at the consumer end. 

Whether you have a nest egg in the bank, a credit card or line of credit or a supporting partner, you need money, plain and simple, to carry out the business of being an artist.

You need to be an extrovert.
This is always the opposite of most people's thinking behind what an artist is and in reality its true.  Artists do usually shy from the limelight and are limited in their ability to be comfortably immersed in crowds for periods of time.

However, at openings, artist talks, and in media interaction, the artist needs to be an extrovert.  At least on the surface.  Its a skill that is learned over time and can be turned on and off as required.

You need to be an introvert.
Artists spend a lot of their time alone.  That alone time is a requirement to produce good work.  It can't be done in a crowd or not easily.  And many artists prefer that solitary existence or become used to it as it provides a time for creativity and analysis.  If you are a social butterfly and need constant interaction with others, being an artist may never quite fit.

You need to know the rules.
You need to have conversations at many levels as an artist.You need to know the art world and its players and know how to play the game. You need to know the protocol of dealing with galleries, granting organizations, framing shops, print houses, museums and collectors and how to present yourself as a professional.

You need to have financial and business skills.
Art is a business.  It is no different than a restaurant or dress shop, you simply produce and sell a different product.You need to create business and financial plans, use a wide range of computer programs and accurately track and maintain the business side of art.

You need the tools of the trade, such as business cards, a biography and artist statement for each body of work as well as an up to date art resume.

You need to have excellent communication skills both written and oral.
Communication is crucial to getting thoughts across. A newsletter, website, a blog, social media, email, grant applications, reports, media releases - there is a lot of writing as well as painting.  Attention to detail and ensuring that what is produced is seen as professional and well written is important.   Often a written word is the first introduction made to the world and you will be judged on it.

You need to have marketing skills.
And lots of them.  Art doesn't exist if it is not seen.  To be seen, people need to know about the art.  Approximately 50% of a working artist's life is marketing and 50% in producing art. Marketing takes many forms from the now nearly obsolete posters to electronic and social media which includes newsletters and e-blasts.  Unless you can afford to pay a graphic designer and social media firm to promote your work, you will need to learn how to do this yourself.


Paula Pertile said...

Excellent! Thanks for this. Personally, I struggle with the extrovert part. OK, and social media. People have no idea how much goes into being a professional artist - a successful one, that is.

Jeanette Jobson said...

It really is hard work isn't it Paula? Hard work that we enjoy, but that others think is more like play.

Jennifer Rose Phillip said...

Great list :) I can admit i am horrible at marketing, but I am determined to try harder at it.

I am more of an introvert, but get me started on art and animals and I could talk for days on the subjects :p

Anamaria do Val said...

I'm struggling to become a professional artist at the moment and this post was very interesting and useful. Thanks so much!

Jeanette Jobson said...

Jen, I don't think marketing comes easy to anyone unless you've trained in that field. But its a necessary part of art business.

And all artists that I know are introverts. They tolerate short bursts of extrovert behaviour when required.

Anamaria, I'd so glad the post was useful. Its an uphill struggle being a professional artist and takes a lot of dedication and hard work, but if you want it badly enough, you'll make it work for you.

RH Carpenter said...

I think it's important to have a sense of one's own worth (but not overly so to the point of not recognizing faults), and some of that comes from childhood comments while making art. I find a lot of artists are too attached to their work, treating it like a child and not wanting to let it go. Maybe there is something in me that tells me I will always get better next year and the why hold on to what I'm doing today? ha ha Have a wonderful week.

Jeanette Jobson said...

Rhonda, I agree that one must be confident in one's own work, but not over confident so that you think you can't learn anything new.

I don't recall comments from childhood art, either negative or positive that influenced what direction I travelled.

No work should be so precious that it cannot be parted with or painted over. Sharing art with others is part of what we do, so no holding on. Of course we all have some pieces that are personal and of no interest to others or waifs and strays that just haven't found the right home yet.

Sue Pownall said...

Great list. The extrovert/introvert dichotomy is so true.