Saturday, September 26, 2020

Should I Choose an Art Career?

Davis asks: "What would you say to someone who’s wondering whether to choose art as a career?"

First off, do you really love making art? Because you'll need to love it so much that you enjoy doing it day in and day out. You'll have to do high quality work even when you're bored or don't want to show up. 

People tell you to work hard, but what does that mean? Art doesn’t even seem like work if you really love doing it. I think what they mean is that you have to totally dedicate yourself to it, commit to it, follow the step-by-step process that results in your best stuff. If want an art career, you’ll need to be determined, patient, resourceful, and flexible. You'll need to be able to deliver a quality job every time. There will be time for wild experiments and crazy gambles, but first get your baseline working.

Creating a career in art means figuring out the intersection between: 1) What you like to make, 2) What you're really good at, and 3) What people want to buy.

If you're shifting from a spare-time artist to a full-time professional artist, you'll obviously have to develop your foundational drawing and painting skills. Commit totally to becoming the best artist you can be.  You can't do that only by reading books or watching videos. 

And you have to figure out how to do a lot of different things. You'll have to do more than just draw and paint, including videography, framing, graphic design, bookkeeping, web design, and photography. 

Self employed artists need to be part business person. Doing business means negotiating contracts, selling merch, writing invoices, advertising your work, and updating your website. In the age of computers, all that has changed, and really, it's gotten a lot easier. Keep in mind that in the age of social media, business can be creative, too. And there's no clear dividing line between doing art and doing business.       

Now I have to switch to my Dad Voice. Keep in mind that no one is going to hand you a career. However, you might get handed an opportunity. When that happens, pounce! Do the best you can with it. If you work for a client or a boss or a patron, be sure to deliver on time and on budget, communicate clearly, and be pleasant to work with. Don't bother looking for job security because there's no secure job in the art business. Things will change for all of us, whatever careers we choose. You'll have to reinvent your career a few times throughout your working life.

Society keeps telling us that people don't need art as much as they need food and shelter, but I think people do on a very deep level. If you can make a successful career in art, it's probably because the world is hungry for your unique vision, and I wish you the best if you choose to take that path. 


sfox said...

I've been in one art-related field or another for over 40 years...sign painter, graphic designer, illustrator, now a fine artist. The one thing they all have in common is that one never knows when an opportunity will come along and who will offer it or tell you about it. So it's really important to never, ever pre-judge the people you meet. Be polite and nice to everyone, be helpful. And pay it forward when you can. All the best!

Michaelangelo Reina said...

"Things will change for all of us, whatever careers we choose. You'll have to reinvent your career a few times throughout your working life."

I found this to be absolutely true in he last 12 years of my art career, sometimes that also means rethinking industry we do art for.

This all fantastic guidance James, thanks for sharing that.

A Colonel of Truth said...

Does the world need another artist? No. But the world surely wants another great artist.

Sergei.A. Kritzien said...

Thanks James for this really encouraging advice. It is really hard nowadays to pick the exact path in the artistic career. I am constantly torn between drawing traditional comics and then switching to making game models and levels in Unreal Engine. As the result I don't get the progress I want in either of these.

Nudge said...

My father retired from General Motors (GM) after 35 years. That type of job security for our current generations suddenly evaporated when GM recently decided to close its doors.

If anyone wants a career in the arts, go for it and give it your best. If you fail, it would be on your terms not some corporation.

mikeantoni said...

Thanks James, I sometimes don't know if I should go through the foundational stuff as I've been doing some art for a long time and don't want to feel like I'm back tracking. But having said that I do see I need to improve and as you say. I have passion for art need to decide to dedicate myself more but it can be a struggle.I don't want to fall in love with the struggle in a romantic sense so having patience but with art sometimes haveve to with a longer term vision, meaning the business side of things which has to be part of it and being deterermined to see it through.

Thanks again a good wake up call and thanks for your consistent quality.

mikeantoni said...

Thanks James like a good wake up call.
I've been doing part time art for quite a while and am nearly at middle age, I don't quite like the idea of doing fine art studies to improve it feels like back tracking a bit. To move on though its good to read all that's really needed, the business side too ,asI would eventually like to feel more independent with my art life so thanks for the advice. I don't mind business and if that is settled then we're more free to create.
I enjoy being part of a community even if it's online thing from the outside, it's good to have some connection and inspiration etc.
Thank you ,again.

Marieke said...

I enjoyed reading your blog post. I agree that taking your art seriously is not only about improving your art skills. Learning how to run a creative business well really helps your art to be found in this noisy world and to better understand your income vs. expenses.