I recently read a great blog post by artist, curator and teacher Sergio Gomez on the 7 lessons he has learned about the art world. I found myself nodding along as I read through it and decided to add my two cents. Here are 7 lessons I've learned about crafting a creative career.
1. The path to success is determined by you, not the other guy.
As Sergio comments in his post, there is no one path to success. Every artist has a unique combination of skills, circumstances and temperament, so what works for one may or may not work for you. But I ask, what is your measure for success? How do you determine whether you have met a particular goal? Make specific goals as these are easier to build towards achieving than a generic, "I want to sell art."
2. Tune out the naysayers, even if the biggest naysayer is yourself.
If you don't try, how will you possibly succeed? My favorite is when folks ask what I do for a living. The conversation goes something like this:
So what do you do?
I'm an artist.
Oh really! That's cool. So, how do you make money?
ARGH! The assumption is that one can't possibly earn a living as an artist. Tune out the naysayers and get on with your work. There are plenty of people out there judging you, but the worst is when you let their negativity stop you. Go back to that list of goals and work at making them a reality. Don't let the jerks get you down. Now agreeably, we all have our 'off' days, but if you don't believe in yourself, it's likely others won't either. I have a support network that cheers me on when I am down and for who I do the same.
3. Give and you will receive.
I believe in sharing information. Maybe this comes from my training as a teacher but if you have a question, I will answer it to the best of my ability. I have found that by sharing information with other artists, they will do the same with me. If they don't want to share, I respect that it's their prerogative.
4. The next opportunity is just around the corner.
For years I would forget to keep business cards on me. If I am a professional, then I need to act like one. I now keep my purse stacked with cards and always ask another for their own.
Classic Lindsay scenario: The gal sitting next to me on the bus sees me crocheting and sighs, telling me she's always wanted to learn. "Here," I say, "Take my card and give me a call. I give private lessons."
I've gained a number of clients by remaining open to any and all potential opportunities.
5. Network, network, network.
Network online and off. Go to openings. Attend lectures. Get out of the studio and let folks know who you are. A conversation may become the base for something bigger.
6. Think outside the box.
When I went to school, the business classes for artists were non existent. Things haven't changed all that much. The classes now tend to cover how to write a resume, biography and cover letter. They may even teach how to search and write for grants, as well as the basics for writing a press release. But folks, there are many, many, many ways to earn a living as an artist. Galleries aren't the be all and end all. Now there is Etsy, Folksy and the plethora of other online selling forums for the arts. Several years ago I took stock of my skill set and realized that it matched the design requirements for the commercial crafts industry. I'm now having a blast designing projects for magazines, books and blogs. I continue to teach and exhibit at galleries, but I saw an opportunity and grabbed hold of it.
7. Be yourself.
You can't be someone you aren't. If you are having to force an opportunity to happen, then it probably isn't for you. If you work hard, then trust that other opportunities for which you are better suited will come along in time. It's simply impossible to be everything to everyone.