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To be an Artist

Posted on 31 January 2014

Finally, you have completed the rigorous training and study of BA Fine Arts degree. You have suffered through the numerous hours of perfecting your work for dragon-like lecturers. You are now free to create anything you please in order to become the next William Kentridge. But in reality you are Vincent van Gogh. No one knows who you are and are not interested in your work. Every artist wants to make a difference to the society in which they live but essentially you want to make a living by selling your work. We have compiled a comprehensive list of tips to consider when launching your art career so you can reap the rewards of your work and not be the one-hit-wonder like Van Gogh in his lifetime.

  • I paint therefore I am

    First and foremost you need to consider who you are as an artist. You need to see yourself as a brand, an image that will be viewed by potential galleries and clients. Create an artist statement of a few brief sentences about who you are, and what your art is about and why you do it as well as a comprehensive Artist CV so you are ready when it is required from you.

  • Work for the sake of the work

    Create. Create works that are ready to be exhibited before you even find the client who is going to buy it. Have a portfolio ready for potential clients and gallery owners who want to see your work. Leave them waiting and they will forget about you.

  • Procrastination is the thief of time

    The common phrase: I will do it tomorrow. How simple it sounds but it could be damaging to your career in the long run. Working as an independent artist has many perks: you do not have to answer to a boss, your own hours and no suits and ties. But this leaves the door open to other pesky habits to inhibit your work progress: procrastination, laziness, lack of inspiration, etc. As an artist, you need to create short, medium and long-term goals that will keep you on track and working. Create a calendar schedule and map out task with dates that you would want to achieve them. The best piece of advice is to do something every single day. Even it is a small step towards your goal, keep the momentum going and soon you will obtain your goals.

  • The name is Bond, James Bond

    Or rather currently an unknown name to anyone outside your close circle of friends and family. The key to becoming noticed in the art circles is your name. See it as your brand, something people will remember when they see your work. In order for you to develop your brand, you need to circulate your name on as many exhibition invites as possible. Galleries will often only take on new artists who have already made a name for themselves within the art circle. Do research on calls for group exhibitions that you can participate in and submit work to as many as possible. Art competitions also offer excellent opportunities to get your name out there even if you dont win the first prize. The more you exhibit, the more people see your name, the more exposure you get as an artist. A simple equation. Also, attend exhibition openings happening in your area as often as possible. This provides excellent networking possibilities with gallery owners, other artists and future buyers. All this forms part of developing your brand as an artist.

  • Location, Location, Location

    Many students and budding artists believe that quantity is better than quality. They approach every gallery that will let them through the door. Research the galleries you think will exhibit your work before you make contact with them. Find out if they philosophies and target market are similar to what you are offering.

  • Through the eye of the lens

    An artist should always document their work digitally in order to keep a record of your progress and style for interested buyers. Not everyone can have a professional photographer on hand, but use the best quality camera you have. Cellphone cameras are not always best. Select the highest image size in your settings and ensure you have sufficient light. When photographing the work, rather frame it in your shot with some of the background in the picture so you can edit it accurately rather than cut some of the work out of the image. Remember to include the details of each work (title, date, medium and dimensions) in your documentation.

  • The ABCs of Online marketing and Social Media

    Yes, I am taking about that screen that looks like a TV with the rectangle board and marked buttons. Or rather nowadays, the flat tablet with its touch screen and apps. Online marketing has become one of the best tools to market your work. Social media is crawling with potential interested buyers. Use Facebook to your advantage. You can use it to keep your friends and followers up to date on your new works, let the know about your upcoming exhibitions and let them into the deep recesses of your mind. People are always more likely to but from an artist they know more personally. You can also use social media such as Twitter to keep informed about things happening in the art world such as opportunities to exhibit, competitions and calls for commissions. You can also see what other artists are doing and learn from their ideas.

    Though there isnt a guarantee that you will become a successful artist and many do fail but often it is from lack of trying. Coupled with the technical skills and expertise you have been taught at university or college (we would hope), there is no reason why you should not make it. Be realistic in the targets you set with regards to prices and sales. It is a tough market to break but not impossible.

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