It’s easy to see art in purely idealistic or aesthetic terms. Art as beauty, as truth, as a purveyor of a crucial message, as a fundamental mirror of society are all familiar ideas, popular throughout the centuries and still able to find a home in today’s world.
There is some truth in this perception, and it remains a fact that people talk about ‘art for art’s sake’ in a way that they would never do, for example, if they were talking about law or accountancy. There is something ‘special’, perhaps even something slightly revered, about art, which makes it different to other careers.
In some respects this is a good thing. It contributes towards the respect with which art is regarded, and it helps artists to themselves appreciate the value of what they are doing. Perhaps it even plays a role in ensuring that artists enjoy the act of creation and take an appropriate pride in their work.
Despite all this, however, there is a potential hazard in perceiving art in this way to the exclusion of other ideas. For many people, after all, art is not just a hobby; it is a career. And for professional artists, failing to come to terms with the fact that art is, in some sense, a business, can spell disaster. How are you going to make a living at something if you refuse to take it seriously as a living? It is essential to be realistic and put your mind to the business aspects of being an artist, as well as the creative side.
That means that you can’t afford to spend absolutely all of your time in the studio or out hunting materials. If you do that, you soon won’t be able to afford the materials you want. Instead, set time aside when you are planning your week to devote to the more practical necessities of life as an artist.
Your work might be wonderful, but if no one has seen it, it won’t sell. Get your name out there, advertise in local shops and areas, participate in group exhibitions, show your work in online galleries like Art-Mine. Keep an eye open for potentially interesting competitions or other opportunities that might help build up your profile – spend time looking online and in newspapers or magazines to see what’s available this month.
Getting involved with local artist organizations can be useful, as you build contacts in your field and are more likely to hear of opportunities that may come up. Similarly, maintain a relationship with past buyers – get their address or their email and send season greetings cards, ask them for recommendations and references, give them your card to pass on to friends.
None of this is to say that business considerations should overwhelm your creative energies or take over time intended for making art. But it should be an established part of your routine, and must be recognized as a legitimate way of spending time.
To be a professional artist, you must take your career seriously, as well as your art.
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