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“Everything Your Mother Should Have Told You About Being An Artist”

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From http://www.artadvice.com/advice/article30.php

“No matter how original you think your work is, it has been done before.

Originality does not define quality, quality defines quality. Regardless of whether or not your work is original, what makes art exceptional is the context in which it was made from an art historical point of view. Study art history, know your influences, and understand that originality and/or technique is only one of many considerations in the determination of what makes art great.”

YES! I really loved this quote from the article, as it says so much about what I feel about our dance world. So many dancers are struggling and pushing to be “uber-original”–everyone seems to want to lay claim to being “first” at whatever new trend might hit the scene. But this grasping does not create authentic, organic work, and it does not guarantee any quality of the end product.

I always say I would rather see three of the “same old” moves executed amazingly well than 15 “new things” done sloppily. Hey, I love to see new work–it can inspire! But more invigorating to me is seeing a performer with real chops doing something from a deep source of understanding and love of the material than someone who is trying to throw 15 tricks into 15 seconds.

While this article addresses painters/sculpters/etc, it is an interesting read for anyone who has the dream of being An Artist. Read on…


Face the Facts

Everything Your Mother Should Have Told You About Being An Artist

It’s important to note that the title of this article specifically refers to facts related to being successful in business, rather than being successful as an artist. Success is a term that is defined differently by each us. Think about it…what are the things you think you need to accomplish before you consider yourself successful? Believe it or not, there are some artists that couldn’t care less about selling their work. Their primary definition of success is to be able to push the limits of their own creativity, leaving their studio with the sense of satisfaction, accomplishment and the enthusiasm to return to another day of work. Others consider success the ability to gain recognition from their peers and eventually be seen as having made a positive contribution, from an art historical point of view. Still other artists, are less interested in this long term historical vision, and find their definition of success is equal to the amount of income they can generate from the sale of their work. Regardless of your definition of success for your work, these are the facts you must face if you want to be successful in the business world and understand how the art market works. As always, it is important to note that there are exceptions to every rule, and I genuinely hope that you will be that 1 in a million exception… but if you are not, you need to be prepared. So, artists brace yourself, here is my cold water splash in your face:

1. You will not get “discovered.”

Marketing your art is hard work. There are thousands of artists making extraordinary efforts to promote their work each and every day. Waiting for an angel benefactor or hoping for a patron, is just a way of procrastinating. You need to stop making excuses and put a plan into action to deal with the reality of the hard work it takes to get recognized. A minimum of 3 hours of week set aside to do business is essential.

2. You will not find a gallery that “understands your work” and feels as passionately about it as you do.

Although many gallerists are passionate about the artists they represent, educated in art history and articulate, the majority are primarily interested in selling art. This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if sales is one of your primary goals. But, artists have to stop dreaming about finding the one person out there who can be their “art soul mate” and realize that galleries are in business to sell art, and that is exactly what you are hiring them to do for you. They do not need to understand your work on every level, nor do they have to be emotionally moved by it…what they do have to do, is be convinced that they have the contacts and collectors that will like your work.

3. No matter how original you think your work is, it has been done before.

Originality does not define quality, quality defines quality. Regardless of whether or not your work is original, what makes art exceptional is the context in which it was made from an art historical point of view. Study art history, know your influences, and understand that originality and/or technique is only one of many considerations in the determination of what makes art great.

4. Just because your work looks just like Jackson Pollack, (or, fill in the blank) doesn’t mean it’s as good, or that you can price it the same.

The price of your art has very little to do with what it looks like, what it is made out of, or how big it is…it has everything to do with what the market will bear, supply and demand, and your exhibition and sales history. In evaluating how to price your work, you should be looking at other artists in your same career range, and the prices people are willing to pay for YOUR work. That is how you establish a market value. For more on pricing your work, refer to Pricing Your Art.

5. You will not be able to make a living off the sale of your work.

Sales are great and every artist needs and wants the positive feedback that comes from collectors buying your work. But, assuming that you want to live above the poverty level in the United States, to make a decent living you would need to sell over $150,000 worth of your art to net $75,000 before taxes. That would make your net approximately $50,000 before you deducted any expenses for studio space, art supplies, framing, advertising or promotion. Of course, it is possible. But, if you keep waiting for it to happen without accepting the reality of the odds, you are doing yourself and your work a disservice. If you do the math, being an artist will most likely cost you money no matter how much art you are able to sell! But, do not despair…remember that being an artist is one of the greatest gifts a person can have. You have found something in your life that you are passionate about and something you love to do. You are leaving a legacy and giving of yourself each time you complete a piece of art. Sit back and relish in the joy that your art making gives you and accept the fact that succeeding in the business world has no part in defining your success as an artist.

Shay
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Shay Moore is the director and primary instructor at Deep Roots Dance in Seattle, WA. She loves writing, movies, costuming, knitting, cooking, and bellydance to the moon and back again; and loves her amazing husband and doggies even more than that.

Shay
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One Response

  1. Heather Sara
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    Oh my gosh, thank you for posting this. I’m trying to dip my toe the business-y, practical side of the art pond these days, and things like this are utterly invaluable. Thank you!

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