Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Education of an Artist - Part 2

Apples - for my first college drawing course-1985.

  Q: What separates a good artist from a truly successful, great artist?
I think it has to be a combination of dedicated hard work, truthful expression and luck. Sometimes it's not enough to be talented or to work hard, you have to be in the right place at the right time in order to take advantage of opportunity. I think in some regards you need to be lucky, but you can make your own luck by working hard and being in a place where you can embrace possibilities when they are presented. Nobody is a success without hard work though.
Q: What resources have helped you to become a professional artist?  How important are mentors, critique groups, art groups, additional workshops or training, to becoming successful?
Have a strong network of professional friends- people who can help you, motivate you when you are struggling and celebrate with you when you have success. You can't create in a vacuum and having like minded friends is a great resource. Getting a graduate degree allowed me to meet a number of artists who I respect and are now among my best friends. I try to attend at least one workshop a year with an artist that I respect and want to learn from. I also like to get out and paint with other artists as often as possible. Any time you can be around really great artists, you learn and are pushed to improve.  All these things keep the creative juices going.
Q: How important are learning the business aspects of art, such as  marketing, negotiations, contracts, taxes, etc.?  Where did you learn  the business side to art? Do you do this yourself, or do you hire someone to do these things for you?
It is critical to know how to run a business because, like it or not, artists are in business to make money. If you don't make a living, you are just a hobbyist. If you don't want to do certain aspects of business for yourself, then pay someone to do it for you, but know every facet of the business regardless of whether or not you do them yourself. I had a business class in my undergrad studies but learned more by doing than I did in class. As good as they are, classes are just theory until you do it.  I don't have an agent at the moment so I do most aspects of the business myself but pay others to do accounting and taxes and some promotional aspects like web and graphic design.
 Q: What are the best ways for an artist to market themselves and get their name out there?
So many ways, so many price ranges. The common denominator is that it takes money to make money. Be willing to invest in yourself and get your work out there. Websites and blogs are a given and a good place to start. Postcards and ad pages still work to grab attention. Pick the top 100 clients you would like to work for and court them with great images every 2-3 months. It only takes a few really great clients to launch a career.
Q: What advice would you give to students and future artists on what they need to do to become a successful artist?
Draw, paint, repeat. Do it every day and don't stop. Artists that survive and thrive are the ones that never, ever give up.
Q: What advice would you give to art educators on how to help prepare students to become successful professional artists?
Teach them how to draw, how to think and help them learn how to be authentic. If they can pull artistic expression from their soul, they will find a unique voice that will set them apart from the artistic masses. A strong work ethic and solid craftsmanship is a must also.
Q:  There are a large number of students graduating with art degrees with only a small percentage able to successfully transition from being a student to making it as a full time professional artist Many continue to create art part time while working another job unrelated to the arts. Only a few actually succeed at making a career out of it. Why do you think so few artists are making that transition?
As I mentioned in a few of the earlier questions, There are multiple factors including luck, talent (or lack thereof ) and motivation that may contribute. One thing is certain though,  artists who HAVE to make art are far outnumbered by those those who merely like to make art or who find it interesting but have no real passion for it. A career in art is wrought with stress and sacrifice and I think few really have the stomach to do it full time or long term. The uncertainty of finances I think is a huge factor. That and the fact that many artists simply do not know how to sell their art or can't sell enough of their art to be viable. There are many factors, but I think those are the critical ones.
 Q:  Do you feel that art programs are doing enough to prepare students to enter the workforce  If not, what should be added to the curriculum to better prepare students to make a living as a professional artist?  What areas do you think should be improved in art education?
I Think most schools are trying to do a good job, but the intangibles of  being a successful artist probably can't be taught effectively on a mass scale. It is just very hard to teach things like passion, curiosity,  tenacity and hard work in an institutional setting. Some things just have to be learned by doing.

That concludes the interview. I would love to hear your thoughts. Please share your comments, thoughts and ideas on this subject in the comment section below!


Donna Jeanne Koepp said...

Great interview. So many words of wisdom and experience here. I think I'll print it out and put it in the front of my sketchbook to catch my eye and review. While I'm working a "day job", every morning I'm in my studio at 4am. Most days I get 1 hour on weekends maybe 2-3 hours. It is amazing how much I can get done this way. I admire the "dedication" theme to your message. Thank you!

Beth said...

I agree with Donna. As an art student this was just what I needed to read. Thank you!