Since I did my first presentation on ‘the art of business’ at an art symposium hosted by the Federation of Canadian Artists in Kelowna a few years ago, the requests to do more of them have continued to come in. I am scheduled to do 4 of them this year, in Nanaimo, Calgary, Winnipeg, and Edmonton (events calendar). In it I discuss some of the principles of achieving financial success in the art market, and also spend some time clearing up some of the myths on the topic that are so prevalent in our trade. Here’s a teaser for one of the big ones – its not about the art!
I knew I wanted to be an artist since I was very young. After high school I enrolled in a visual arts program at college, then went on to complete a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the University of Ottawa. I was hoping to develop two main skills sets to help me in my career: how to be a better painter, and; how to make a living as an artist – I learned neither. Since most of the instructors in those programs have little or no experience in the art market, they were not in a position to provide value in that area.
For centuries artists learned their craft in the guild and Master/Apprentice studio settings. Here, you would learn the craft of painting as a young apprentice and you would also be immersed in the commercial aspects of the trade as it was an everyday part of the experience and learning process.
But, like most successful artists these days, I am self-taught. I learned my painting skills thru my own efforts and studies, and I figured out how to make a living in the trade the same way.
There are many different ways to sell your art, and more avenues and opportunities have become available with the internet. Choosing a business model that works for you is an important consideration.
Being good at the business/marketing side of things is an entirely different skill set, its not complicated or difficult, but somehow very challenging for many artists to get a grip on. The principles of the exchange of goods and services are easy to understand and have been in place since cave men were swapping wooden clubs and fur garments. But it seems that it is often the psychological, emotional, philosophical hindrances that a lot of artists adhere to that are the stumbling blocks of many who fail to achieve their goals.
The picture on the right is from my early days starting out as a full-time artist – its a newspaper photo with me standing in front of a city scene that I had painted for my first solo exhibition in Kamloops. Notice the tall tree in the foreground, the homemade frame, and the lack of white hair,…
My advice is if you want to develop your painting skills and learn to sell your art, take workshops and get some mentoring from artists that you admire and respect.
Below is a picture of myself with 3 of my ‘colleagues’ in the biz: That’s Rod Charlesworth on the left, who gave me some very good advice on the business stuff when I was starting out, Cameron Bird, and Mike Svob. We were doing a painting demo in the alpine meadows of Whistler mountain earlier in the day. This was a Q&A presentation in the afternoon, the event was sponsored by the Adele-Campbell gallery.