The Art of Getting Started
So, you’ve graduated with a fine arts degree and are ready to get a job as an artist? Grand ambition! Who do you send your resume to? How do you arrange a job interview? Where do you find the painting shop that will hire you? Obviously, landing a job as an artist doesn’t work like this. So then, what is the path toward working as a full time artist?
My first suggestion concerns your education: Do NOT just get training in art, because most artists need a second career that can pay the bills while they build up a portfolio and find their niche. It’s at this point I often hear aspiring artists complain, “but I just want to paint!” And that’s all very good. Keep your eye on that goal at all times. And get trained in a related field if possible. When I first started painting, I was a sign designer. Granted, I was probably one of the most overtrained sign designers in the industry but it was easy for me. And it paid the bills. That’s exactly what I needed at that point. I know other artists who started their careers as art teachers. It’s not so important what your initial career is. What is important is that you don’t hate it. You don’t have to love it, but if you’re an artist, you are probably not someone who wake up every morning going to a job you loathe. Find something enjoyable, if not a great career. You don’t need a second career—you just need a day job.
Once you have a job and are painting evenings and weekends, enter as many art shows as possible. You want your work seen by as many people as possible. Track the shows you are a part of and obviously, track of any awards you win. You are building your resume, getting exposure, and hopefully making some connections. You’ll also want to develop an “artist statement” to go along with the resume you use for these shows. Just google “artist statement” to get some ideas. During this time (or shortly thereafter) you can begin approaching art galleries to carry your work. To paint full time, you will probably need 8 to 10 art galleries that are selling your work. I will address art gallery etiquette in a separate blog because it’s important that you approach them correctly. Hint: don’t just show up on their doorstep with a bunch of photos for them to look at. Once you are entering art shows and are in a few galleries you should probably cut down to half time at your other job, and you can think about participating in outdoor art festivals around the country (start local!). You will need to invest in a canopy of some kind and some sort of display system. Be aware that art festivals charge entrance fees and many of them will want to take a look at photos of your work (as well as your artist statement and resume) before they allow you to participate.
But what if...
If you don’t want to go that route, there are other options. You can concentrate on galleries, getting your work into as many as possible, or you can relocate to an ‘art destination' where customers seeking art can naturally find you. I moved to Asheville, North Carolina and as a result, I sell 90% of my paintings right here in my studio. If you have any questions, feel free to shoot them my way and I’ll do my best to answer them, either directly or in a future post.