Building upon the discoveries and work that has been done before makes perfect sense in building a foundation in any endeavor. As artists, we typically enroll in a specific university’s program and graduate with those foundational skills which we can then build off of. The reality is that the majority end their careers there and venture off into ‘practical’ employment while the remaining few count the cost and continue their pursuit of the arts. For second career artists we typically find a teacher or take the route of self -discovery but we can also end up wondering what to do next.
The stigma that we adopt is that the arts separates itself from the traditions of business acumen and we begin at a disadvantage in regards to other self- sustaining occupations. I can hear the rumblings of disagreement in calling the process of making art ‘an occupation’ but if we can step back and take a look at exactly what we want from this pursuit, we find it has all of the ingredients of a real occupation.
The challenge for me during the development years was to find a way of preserving the integrity of the art making process yet still allow for the skill of promoting and selling my work. This became the lifeblood of my career. It enabled me to move forward to levels I could have never initially imagined. My ability to be viable created opportunity. This seems obvious but in the arts it is counterintuitive.
Back in my earlier days the artist Tommy Simpson said something to me that has since been ingrained. Tommy said, “when I am making a piece it is all about art. Once the piece is finished it is all about business.” I have found this to be completely true and even more so as time has passed. The ironic thing is that I have seen many artists who in their previous life have had highly successful careers but can’t wrap their heads around how to make art the same.
The prejudices of the idea of being an artist might be at the core of this. Most feel justified in accepting that most likely they will never reach the thing that they envision for themselves. That belief agrees with the prejudices we step into once we make art in any form. I had struggled year after year trying to figure it out until I came to a simple observation. Out of sight out of mind. Make the effort to be seen in ways that take one step closer to what you want for yourself. You have to decide what that is then do it.
The added element in our new age of art commercialism[this is not a profane word!] is that we see and hear about the crazy amounts of money being spent on art at auctions and art fairs and we can’t help but wonder why we are on the outside of this. I hear, “when I see what is being sold it really depresses me and I don’t get it”. I look at it differently. If junk can sell then why not what I have spent hours upon hours mastering. Why not me if that shit can sell?
So what to do? For one, assume that there is a market for ‘all’ decent art. It then becomes just the challenge of finding it. What is your market? What is your price range? Where is your market geographically? Are you limiting yourself to just your area? Who has created a clientele that I fit with? Be practical in taking steps to get you a little closer to something better than where you are. At any age and place on your path, at all levels of proficiency we have the most vibrant market for art since the beginning of time. That is an undeniable fact. Take a small step in the direction you want to go. Be visible. Be good at what you do. Put these all together and who knows, anything is possible.