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.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Artist block

 Bed Thief - charcoal in sketchbook

I am finally coming out of the fog that is lack of inspiration.  I know it happens to all artists and its happened to me before, but never for this long.

I keep sketching and browsing through art sites and galleries, but when I come into the studio - nothing encouraged me to pick up the paint or pencil and get at it. 

Life drawing
But in the last week or so, inspiration is creeping back and I've been painting a bit, as well as continuing to attend life drawing sessions and ideas are flowing again.  The well is filling.  Its a horrible feeling being almost paralyzing, wanting to paint, but your brain not letting you paint.   But the good news is that eventually it does come back.  Sometimes it takes awhile.

Tips for overcoming blocks

1. Don't force it.  There is absolutely nothing you can do to make inspiration come to you.
2. Play around with other mediums, sketch, draw, move things around, anything that keeps you in the studio and makes you receptive to inspiration.
3. Visit museums and art galleries.  Look at art that you wouldn't normally look at.  Try modern or abstract if you usually like representational.
4. Do something entirely different.  Knit, sew, embroidery, reading, walking and let that take over your concentration for awhile.
5. Eat chocolate.  Okay, that may not be true, but it helps.  So does wine.