I guess the best place to start is with a little history. No one ever wanted me to be an artist (they starve, you know). Since I couldn’t imagine doing anything else (I started painting when I was five), I spent almost 20 years as self-taught graphic designer owning a graphic design studio and small greeting card company in Wichita, Kansas. The business was successful but not very fulfilling. Moving to Arizona in 1988, I focused on building a career as a muralist and fine artist. The murals took over most of my time until June of 2006 when I became a full-time caregiver for my mother and part-time caregiver for my father. I now live a double life – as a caregiver and as an artist. One would think they would have little intersection, but the opposite is true. My work is a direct reflection of my life as a caregiver. The wide-open spaces found in most of my current paintings are a response to the almost sequestered existence I have found taking care of my elderly parents. Breaking up the picture plane by use of a sometimes indistinguishable grid affords organization of elements. Boxes and color bars accentuate the skyscapes, bringing them forward and making them less of a window-to-the-world. As such, the skyscapes become more about the painting and less about the scene.
Everyone goes about trying to build his or her art careers differently. Due to my double life and the inability for me to network in person (which I would highly recommend), I have chosen to enter competitions around the country and exhibit in juried shows regionally and locally. To date, my reputation is beginning to grow slowly. I am winning awards and selling a piece now and then. Everyone asks me why I am not in a gallery. There are a number of reasons, but in particular, galleries do not make their income from walk-in traffic. Galleries survive by promoting an artist’s work to collectors. I have not found a gallery as of yet that believes in my work enough to promote it to their collectors – but it is just a matter of time.
I also use the internet to do networking, even though I am still not very adept at it. Belonging to a number of artists’ sites has allowed me the opportunity to talk with other artists about their work and careers, as well as establishing friendships in places around the world I will never have the chance to see. I find it fascinating how a change of terrain and customs influences an artist’s work and yet how little the “art world” alters from place to place.
If I was going to advice artists at any stage of their careers, I would recommend the following:
- Network as much as possible not only with other artists but with the business community
- Get involved with a business group or charity where you can build relationships – one must not forget art is a business (that is if you plan on eating)
- Read and research on the business of art so you won’t have to learn the hard way
- Research exhibitions and competitions before entering so as to not waste your time and money
- We were all born with a sixth sense – it is called intuition or common sense. Use it.
- When we are young, we think we know a lot. As we grow older, we realize how little we really do know. Ask questions. No question is ever stupid.
- Some will tell you to paint what sells. I would suggest following your heart first and then (and only then) do popular images but never stray from your own style
- Keep good records so you can take every available tax deduction and build a contact/mailing list
- Write a good Artist Statement and keep your resume & CV as current as possible
- If you can, volunteer to talk about your art and do demonstrations for local area groups
- Organize your time to allow for “creating” everyday and put limits on how much time you spend on the internet or computer
- DO THE WORK – paint, sketch, sculpt, carve – you can’t build a career without the work
- Be good to yourself and try to always see the positive
- Make a trip to your local museum(s) at least once a month
I could probably go on, but that seems like enough for now.
I actually have several Artist Statements for use in different situations. One has a brief bio included, which some jurors find interesting. My current short version is below.
“Many artists debate social issues, prejudices and injustice – a quandary of multi-faceted personalities battling within the expanse of time and place. My work is more a constant personal struggle to understand (many things) and a learning journey whereby the work mirrors life processes – the flux between too much and too little – an internal argument between control and letting go. I believe art is a vocabulary of poetic reflections – “music for the eyes”, if you will. Ultimately, I strive to build expressions of contemplation and awareness – to paint the melodies inside of me with the hope someone may want to listen.”