So how do you become an artist?
Time and time again I hear artists that are just starting out ask the same exact question.
It’s one that will haunt you even after making your first sale, your tenth sale, and even your hundredth sale. It will always linger in the back of your mind until finally, you decide there’s no way to measure whether or not you’ve actually become an artist.
But today, I wanted to bust some myths and give you some practical advice to help sell your work and by definition, become an artist… Or make your first sale (whichever comes first).
So to start, let’s re-phrase that question.
As artists, we are often told to take every opportunity that comes our way.
You never know who could be in attendance at that next gallery opening, what connections you will find at that event, or what could lead to future opportunities.
Give up comparisons
Here’s the thing about comparisons: you are always going to be better at some things than other people, and worse at other things. Dwelling on either isn’t going to get you anywhere.
It can stifle your creativity as an emerging artist to compare yourself to someone who is twenty years into their career, and it can stunt your growth to compare your work to someone who is just starting out.
Instead of focusing on how you stack up next to someone else, invest that energy into comparing your recent work with the work you made six months ago, a year ago and five years ago. Have you grown? And where do you want to see yourself six months, a year, and five years in the future?
Only compare yourself to yourself.
How committed are you to making your art succeed?
I really don’t doubt your artistic abilities. From what I’ve learned in this industry, people can sell anything. And I mean anything.
I’m a firm believer that becoming a successful artist (or an artist who leaves a legacy) is driven by two factors. One, the artist ran into a very lucky situation. Or two, the artist ran into that lucky situation due to an eagerness to get their work seen.
So what makes a successful artist?
Successful artists are willing to do whatever it takes to get their art out there. They take their creativity to the next level and promote their art wherever they can.
Give up working all the time
Sure, you have to show up to the studio even when you don’t want to do the work. But, you also have to know when to leave and when to take the time to take care of your body, your health, and your emotional and social well-being.
You can’t make your best work if you aren’t investing in your body and mind as well.
We have seen artists sacrifice both of these in the name of their craft. But, you need your body on the most basic of levels to create your work. Successful artists know that their success is a marathon and not a sprint, so you need to maintain your health to stay in the game.
Do I need to go to art school to become an artist?
Art school is, by definition, a place that will help make your art better.
While most art schools can teach proper techniques on how to hold a brush, they won’t teach you techniques that will actually help you sell your work. After four excruciating years of group critiques, and extreme competition, you’ll be kicked to the curb with a grueling amount of debt and little to no direction.
I would recommend going to art school if you are not confident your art is good enough yet to sell to someone else. But, if you think you’re a skilled enough artist to continue and you already have attention and awareness among friends and family, it might make sense to learn about business and how to market your artwork instead.
Give up your need for praise
You might want everyone to like your work, but that’s not going to happen. And, in fact, it’s better that not everyone does like your work.
“It’s really scary putting yourself out there, especially when your work is so personal and then allowing the world to view it and judge it and critique it,” says artist Seren Moran.
Self-doubt definitely plays a role, but it can be empowering to know that not everyone is going to love your technique or subject, and that is ok. It means you are getting at something interesting and something different.
As an artist, it isn’t your job to sell the most mass-produced canvases at Target. Your job is to say something and to reach someone.
Honesty connects people
Don’t become something you’re not in order to succeed in art.
Art is not only a reflection of the artist, but also of the people who enjoy it. Be yourself, and others will be drawn to you.
Develop your social and presentation skills
You are your own best salesman. You can’t hide away in your studio. You have to be able to write about your art and talk about your art. You must be able to explain your art in 20 seconds. You must conquer any innate shyness or lack of experience. People who buy art want to know about you as well as your art and you need to be able to tell them about it
How do I develop a brand as an artist and build a reputation?
Building an artist brand can be a daunting task. Especially when most of it involves publicly promoting yourself and everything that you do.
But good brands begin with a great story. Once you have your story, you need to find a way to convey that story to your audience. Whether it’s through a newspaper article, or on social media, you’ll have to start somewhere. Oh, and it’s okay if you don’t have a big audience already.
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