I've been talking with artists all over the world for years. As a result of visiting art galleries, meeting and chatting with artists and others, certain troubling themes tend to keep popping up. Consequently, I've written this piece - from the perspective of a contemporary art writer, artist interviewer, art promoter and collector - which I hope will help artists make their dreams come true. Okay, here we go ...
1. THEY DON'T COMMUNICATE: This is HUGE. The days of thinking that your art "will speak for you" are LONG over. If you want to be noticed, open your mouth and speak, take to your computer keyboard and start sending out those email! By the way, its good to start an email with a salutation like, "Hello Jane" or "Hi Bob" and continue with your message. Don't just send an email with a link to your website and no message. No message means no response.
2. THEY SPEND TOO MUCH TIME ALONE: Trust me, I get it. I'm a writer and I spend lots of time alone too. I'm alone right now (actually, I'm here with you). It's necessary to create. However, I've learned to turn the extrovert and introvert sides of myself on and off like a light switch. There's a time to create and a time to get out there and promote what you've created. This is a reality of living in the 21st century. The sky is blue people!
3. THEY DON'T HAVE WEBSITES: There simply is no way around this. You must have a website or at least a blog. You MUST have a nicely arranged and organized website. You can start them these days for as little as $10 a month. No, I am not talking about a social media page or your own page on a gallery website. In addition to those, I'm talking about your own personal website that you control.
4. THEY USE CREATIVITY AS AN EXCUSE NOT TO PROMOTE: Artists sometimes tell me that they're too busy or they cannot be bothered with trying to market their work. They say that "true artists" focus on creating their work rather than on selling it. Well, how's that working for you? It's a lame excuse and everyone knows this. YOU are the BEST salesperson for your work. No one knows your work like YOU do. Even the most successful artists and entrepreneurs split their time creating and then marketing their product. You CAN do both. It's necessary.
5. THEY DON'T HAVE AN OUTSIDE JOB: Unless you're a full-time artist and you can support yourself and your family as a full-time artist, having a job doing something else is a MUST. How else will you pay for food and living expenses? How else will you pay for art supplies so that you can actually create art? Are you a trust fund baby? I didn't think so.
6. THEY DON'T PRICE THEIR WORK: This is another HUGE issue. The entire world has been trained to see the price of an item ON the item so that they can decide whether or not they can afford it and want to buy it. Artists are the last holdouts on this. Many are suffering as a result. People NEED to know the price of things. Period. At the very least, why not price it a little high, but then add the word, "Negotiable"? If you feel that your work is too precious or conceptual to price, then don't price it. You'll actually pay the price of not pricing it which is ... you won't be selling anything.
7. UNPROFESSIONALISM: Oh my God. I once did an interview with an artist who insisted on being rude and ONLY wanted to talk about doing drugs. I couldn't believe it. Why be a stereotype? What's sad is that this artist is unbelievably gifted and I would still love to interview this person. However, this artist was SO rude and disrespectful. Needless to say, I ended the interview. Unprofessionalism will get you nowhere fast. It's possible to have fun AND be professional at the same time.
8. JEALOUSY: Being jealous of other artists who are "doing it right" is silly and a complete waste of time. Rather than criticizing others who are making headway, why not just seek their advice? Jealous people swim in the mud. Get out of the mud. Progress is the flip side of jealousy. Don't worry about what others are doing. Do YOU!
9. THEY STEAL FROM OTHERS: As an art writer, I have literally seen others in the art community literally steal my ideas and concepts. It's downright thievery. I have seen this happen in prominent art publications, galleries, etc. I kid you not. This is why trademarks and copyrights exist. Stealing from others is the opposite of creativity. If you're an artist who has stolen the ideas of others and - let's say - you become a multi-millionaire in the process ... you're STILL a failure because you stole and you're not being authentic. Period.
10. THEY HAVE NO BRANDING: I know quite a few contemporary artists who have created work that is so unique that it actually requires branding. I believe that a couple of these artists could really hit it big if they woke up and developed an actual business model. You can lead an artist to success, but you can't make him or her drink.
Finally, as a bonus ...
11. THEY HAVE NO BUSINESS MODEL: Serious, professional artists are small business people. They just are. The sooner you realize this, the better off you'll be. If you're an artist, you MUST have a business model. I'm talking about a comprehensive plan that will help guide you to financial and creative success. This actually includes all of the previous tips. Why not seek out the advice of an art-loving financial advisor or accountant in drafting up a business model? You could barter a painting or two, No?