Professional Decision Notes
I am often asked by beginning and emerging artists when they should make the decision to become a professional? There are many factors in the decision to being a professional artist. Many have little understanding about the perils and responsibility of becoming a professional.
Artists often believe a romanticized version of making a living from art. Recently, a student asked me what I do about days when I don’t feel like painting or I’m not inspired? I answered that it is my job to paint. Professional painters don’t wait for painting moods. It is our job, just like an attorney or office worker. We go to work in our studios. We don’t have the luxury or freedom to paint when the mood strikes us.
My advice is to think long and hard before you make the decision about whether you want to be a professional artist. Half of my day is marketing and selling art and the other is painting, framing, delivering work, being present in my retail studio for visitors. I work seven days a week.
If I don’t succeed, I will go hungry. Professional artists don’t just paint. We have to be pretty good at business, product management, project management, handling tools, organizing studio space, taxes, forecasting and many other skills. We have to be personable, accept rejection and criticism nicely, and endure poor economic times. We have to be very flexible, able to lower or raise our size ranges due to the economy. Small paintings sell during recessions, large during thriving economies. Sometimes we have to predict accurately what will happen next year or even 6 months, making good or bad decisions along the way.
Professional artists have to be very brave and very self confident, assured at all times that they will succeed against sometimes crippling odds. The key word for professional artists is WORK, endless effort to improve skills in front of the easel and in marketing. I never doubt that I will survive as a painter, only whether I will thrive. Some years are quite good, others mean the cupboard is nearly empty. I have learned to be very frugal from April to October, and save money during the good months, October- March. In my part of the world, summer is very difficult for artists. I have a special each summer to attract the few people left in a college town with blistering heat.
There are many more issues for professional artists to understand, but that would be a book, not a blog post. My advice for emerging artists is to find a good niche where you can build a brand for yourself. Get your work on social media as often as possible. Do art that you will have a market for, whether that offends you or not. You must have collectors to be a professional. Have a significant body of work to show. Frame and display your work professionally.
One of the biggest errors I see are pretty good artists who show their work in poor framing, or even worse in sloppily painted shallow gallery wrap. Last year, I participated in a prestigious gallery group show. All of the presentation was professional except for one painter who had hung 3/4 inch deep canvases, painted sloppily in black paint around the edges. It immediately made his paintings look like an art school student. This painter should have known better. It stuck out in a very negative way.
If you are going pro, be a pro. Dress appropriately with clean clothes. Show up on time. Be personable and appropriate in your behavior. Be respectful to other artists. Don’t go to a professional artist and expect free critiques of your work unless they offer. They owe you nothing. I happily help my students away from the classroom, but competitors should not demand my help. Be a business person. If you don’t know what that means, find out. Be prepared to work very hard every day.
Think very hard and make a viable plan before you pull the plug on your day job. Best of luck!
More musings for artists and collectors to come….
Caribbean Broccoli Chicken Salad
3/4 lb Deli fried chicken tenders
1 lime, for juice
1 head Bibb (or iceberg) lettuce
3 tablespoons mango chutney (or sweet and sour sauce)
2 tablespoons peach preserves
3 tablespoons plain low-fat yogurt
2 tablespoons light mayonnaise
1 (12-oz) bag broccoli slaw
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
Cut chicken tenders into thin slices.
Peel and slice mango (1 1/2 cups).
Squeeze lime for juice (1 tablespoon).
Remove lettuce core; separate individual leaves.
Prepare dressing in medium bowl by whisking chutney, preserves, and lime juice until smooth. Stir in yogurt and mayonnaise until blended.
Add slaw, chicken, mango, and raisins; toss to coat.
Arrange lettuce leaves on serving plates and top with salad; sprinkle with sunflower seeds. Serve.