I wonder at times what it means to be a professional artist. I’ve noticed that many artist seem to have a difficult time taking their job as an artist seriously. It probably has something to do with the popular idea that all artist are starving.
Many times someone will ask me what I do for a living and the conversation will go a little like this…
“So what do you do?”
“I’m an Artist.”
“How do you make a living?”
“By selling my art.”
“Yeah, but what do you do for money?”
“Create art and sell it.”
“Yeah but you must have a real job?”
“This is my real job.”
“No, I mean for real, what do you do for money?”
“Can you keep a secret?”
“I sell art.”
I don’t believe the problem is in what people think about artist and whether or not they can make a comfortable living creating and selling their masterpieces, I think it is how the artist feels about themselves in their chosen profession.
The truth is that if you decide to be an artist as a profession you have to be willing to take your profession as serious as any other. The thing I had to get over when I first started creating art as a full time job was the idea that my stuff wasn’t traditional or that no one would like it, so I tried to find things that were popular… Now I know (after much trial and error) that it is better to stay true to yourself than try to stay inside the lines, there is always an audience out there that will appreciate your style. That being said, you have to make it available to them…
I stay away from Ebay, it seems to only attract bargain hunters and in order to sell something I have to drastically under value it. Etsy.com is the place I’ve found where people are looking for handmade goods and not just a bulk bargain. No matter what, it takes a while to build up any online business, in the meantime you’ll need something to keep you going.
The other suggestion I have is to become involved in Art Festivals and the like, start out with smaller, cheaper venues and decide later if you want to spend the bigger bucks on large venues. instead of driving myself crazy looking for festivals online, I visited festivals and talked to the artist about upcoming festivals and went from there. Then call, email, show up, do what ever it takes to get in.
When there isn’t a spot at a festival or local art venue, I vend my art at the gulf breeze flea market, just to keep myself busy and put a face to the name with the locals.
I dedicate at least one day a week to going out and talking to art galleries and consignment shops about carrying my art.
My rule of thumb is to always have at least four places to display and sell my art… online, festivals, flea market and Galleries… this will keep you busy but will keep the cashflow coming in… also, dedicate at least one day to online marketing (facebook etc)
It’s running a business and your product is you. Don’t allow yourself to get discouraged, remember it takes a minimum of 3 years for a business to fully take off, yet in the mean time if you are keeping yourself busy, you’ll see immediate results. Do not by any circumstances allow yourself to get discouraged (That is any creative persons downfall) if you run into a roadblock simply head in a different direction.
Create stuff – I have a personal goal to create $1000 worth of pieces a week… either a bunch of small pieces or a few large ones, either way I have stuff to display, share, donate and sell weekly. Sign everything you create, everything, that way they know it’s you!
Also, remember to stay true to yourself and your style and take yourself seriously. The only time it takes for an artist to be a “Real” artist is as much time as it takes that person to wrap their mind around the idea that they are in fact an professional artist.
The last thing I would suggest is to stop making excuses that you can stand behind and hide. just go out there and take a chance on what you love… it’s worth the wait.