Turning Art into a Career

Artists Square’s CEO, Racquel Cruz, asked fellow artist and member, Jimmy McKinnon the following:

“As an experienced artist, what goals would you advise a new artist deciding to make a career of their artwork?”

The ever changing art world can be intimidating to the up and coming artist. When I first started as an artist, my goals were few. We didn’t have high speed internet as we know it today so getting work out for public view was not a matter of placing things on the web. You loaded your artwork into your car and brought it to a show or gallery.

Career tip #1: Setting long and short terms goals will give you focus.

The first goal that I set for myself was to have the supplies on hand to do the project with as little interruption as possible. I kept my tools ready. Knowing supplies were expensive, I made sure to clean and preserve them so they would last as long as possible. In fact, I still have some of my first tools and even kept the old worn out brushes as they tended to give the best effects when looking for new textures.

The no waste goal became essential when figuring material usage and profit margin. Additionally I recommend keeping receipts for all supply purchases; having receipts available can help when pricing a finished piece.

Building a body of work is a challenge for an artist just starting out. Think about it, you have several pieces you want to sell, you want to do shows, and eventually present your work to a gallery as well as build your ever-expanding and always impressive portfolio. With a solid portfolio in stock, you will be ready to pick and choose from your stock and tailor your presentation to say themed shows or galleries.

Another key to artistic success comes in the form of time management. No matter what’s going on in your life, always setting aside time to paint or work on your creative pieces, even when life gets in the way. Work, doctor appointments, food, sleep (which is what I gave up most just to get some painting in) will pull you away, don’t let it. Whether I worked on any one piece for a year or more or did two finished pieces a day, time does get lost when the creative thoughts are flowing.

Career tip #2: Time management is both a long and short term goal no matter how you look at it.

Other than great artwork, nothing impresses a potential client more than a well presented portfolio.  This goal came later in my career only because I didn’t think I needed one. I was wrong. The fact is: everyone wants to see your portfolio and it’s more or less expected. A well-organized portfolio could be the difference between show and sell or no thank you.

Organization is the key: Titles, dimensions, media, and sometimes location are important to document as you’ll need this information to decide pricing, selection for shows or galleries and generally just keep track of your growing career.

Thoughts to consider: Finding the right people to work with is imperative. Will your rights be protected? Are the royalties fair? Is the presentation worth it? Will the quality of the reproductions do justice to your work? These are important considerations when either approached by or searching out a possible publisher.

Networking and a good support system is a very important goal. A click of the mouse can bring your artwork to millions of possible opportunities.  Artist’s Square is a great site to work with. It is secure, has a wonderful host, and is easy to post. I enjoy the input and feedback I get from everyone.

My friends and family are also very important to my continued success.  I value them all greatly as I continue to reach for new goals.

As I found success, the next generation is finding the same tools and goals useful for their success. My daughter, Rhiannon, at seventeen, is already an accomplished writer, poet, artist, and photographer. Early on, she set most of these same goals. She has published poetry, awarded artwork in local shows, and publishers are interested in her short stories. Her portfolio grows everyday as she is tireless in her creativity. Setting goals and having a plan has worked well for her and will for you also.

Thank you Racquel for your question and special thanks goes out to Jimmy. For those wishing to reach out directly to Jimmy and/or view his work, he is an active Artists-Square member, http://artists-square.com/m/photos/browse/album/McKinnon-s-photos/owner/McKinnon. For those not part of Artist’s Square, join and let me know your thoughts.

Danny Huffman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
Got Twitter? Follow me @DannyatECS

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