The notion of the starving artist has for a long time been the status quo in the art world. A notion that in the 20th century coined the term “art for art’s sake” implying that an artist must be an artist only for the sake of creating art regardless of his/her status or quality of life. This is no longer the case. Artists must thrive in a commercial setting and know how to grow, market, and sell their personal brand. Here are 9 ways young artists can stay on top of their game:
👉 Look at your art as your business
Understanding that you are your own boss, marketing team, business development associate, and product designer is the first step to realizing that your future is in your own hands. You are in fact creating a product, a very high valued and unique one — yes, but at the end of the day one that will be part of a transactional process. Ask yourself the same questions an entrepreneur would ask. Do you have a registered company? Will you have to pay taxes? How many pieces can you create in a month? If your strategy is to be exclusive then is it better to only create a certain amount of work a month? Where are you going to sell your works? If you already asked yourself all these questions, congratulations! You are on the right track. Now sit down and write a to-do list.
👉 Commercializing your work
In the past artists had patrons that would pay for their living expenses in exchange for producing amazing work for a specific family. Nowadays we live in a world of connectivity; your work can one day be in Shanghai and the next day in Buenos Aires with one click. You have an array of options to choose from. If you want to go the gallery route, good for you, create a great presentation to submit, and send it to any gallerist that will take your call. At the same time, give yourself the exposure you need. Social media has become the largest retail mall and exhibitor in the world. Build an audience, create a community of people that follow your work, and support you. Nowadays the power of influence is as powerful as having your work exhibited at a renowned gallery.
I am sure that your final work is wonderful and a true masterpiece. However, one of the most amazing opportunities we have with technology is the ability to give your audience insight into your process. Film your process, take pictures every step of the way. Even more, let us, your followers, into your world. Who are you? What do you like? Where do you eat? Build a personal brand that will allow people and art lovers that like similar things to connect with you as a person in addition to liking your art.
👉 Find ways for people to write about you
This is probably one of the hardest things to do. I find that if you tell your story it will show great passion. Yet, if someone else does it, especially someone else with influence, then that gifts you a whole other level of credibility and exposure. Look at your series, pieces, and cultural projects as opportunities to build a story and share your process. If you are creating a new series of prints, ask yourself why and what is the mission behind it, what are you looking to achieve? Write a press release or article with your story, make it newsworthy, and submit it to a magazine, media platform, or blog.
👉 BUILD YOUR NETWORK
No, the “all caps” subtitle is not a typo. It is me yelling this out and loud. Build a network, go to every gallery and exhibition opening you can. Apply for residencies not only to grow as an artist but to create meaningful connections. Furthermore, get out of your comfort zone and go to other networking events outside of the art world, a business event — great, an architecture workshop — amazing. Go to everything and meet anyone you can! Chances are they know someone that knows someone. Are you shy? No problem, start small with courses, workshops, and work your way up to networking events. I can not stress enough how important this element is. Do not sit in your studio waiting, thinking someone will call.
👉 Look for collaborations
Don’t close yourself to commercial collaborations because you think these will devalue your art. There is, of course, a fine line between a product designer and an artist. Product designers create functional objects that are not necessarily connected with anything other than creating a functional solution to a challenge. As opposed to artists who build a personal statement that is depicted in their work. Oftentimes this work is based on their perspective of an idea, emotion, or moment. Collaborate with brands that mean something to you. Companies that are well-positioned and that hopefully have great credibility and branding. This is a great way of getting exposure and having people talk about you.
👉 Request for proposals
Learn about your country’s public art funds and art laws. Chances are they have incentives and grants for companies and cities to include art in their offices, parks, and buildings. Check websites like CAFE.org, your local art in public places / public art fund, or your city’s website. Find projects that excite you and take the time to apply. Not only are these big-budget projects most of the time, even if you don’t end up getting the project the selection committee will now know your name, your skills, and art.
The business of art is a very lucrative one. In recent years, however, the business of selling editioned pieces has boomed! Many companies such as 1XRun, Case Studyo, Kromya, just to name a few have based their business model only on selling editioned works that are accessible to a young audience. Get yourself acquainted with their practices and selection process. Reach out to not only these companies, but also art publishing houses, galleries, and nonprofits to do a one-off editioned project.
Last but not least, make sure that you create a record for every significant exhibition, project, or installation you have. Books or booklets are a great tool to achieve this. If you do an exhibition at a local museum or gallery ask if they would be willing to publish it for you. Otherwise, I would recommend also looking into self-publishing. Even if you have to invest some money to print a few copies, publications of your art are a great tool to hand out to possible collectors, partners, and collaborators. It is an extremely impressive and elegant way to advertise yourself. In addition, you will be creating an archive of your trajectory for years to come.
I really hope these tips help. I have met with dozens of young artists who don’t know where or how to start. It can be overwhelming, but don’t let the fear of the future ruin your growth. Create a base for your success. It will take a while, but once you have the basics everything will be more simple. Never stop creating work, however, once you are done with a project learn how to promote and sell it, then move to the next one. Find your strategy and if you are successful with it everything else will fall into place. Work hard and create amazing art, but be smart about it. Do not think that one day someone will come knocking on your door, be proactive.