Friday, April 27, 2007

A Friendly Butt-Kicking from Your Favorite Blogging Artist

"Cat with a Pearl Earring" - 2.5 x 3.5" colored pencil on Bristol paper.
Copyright 2007 Maggie Stiefvater.
Click here to bid.

10 Free Life-Lessons on Being a Professional Artist:

1. Paint or draw every day. Even if the result is a horrible grey mess or a cat juxtaposed in an Old Master's painting, you've exercised the creative part of your brain.

2. Sketch everything everywhere. You want to know the definition of embarrassing? Some inlaw asking a professional artist if they can draw their pet, child, face, etc., and the artist replying "I can't draw without gridding/ tracing/ hours of prep work."

3. Keep a huge inventory of all sizes. When someone sighs over your 18 foot long masterwork of horses making a salad, snooker them into buying a notecard or 8 x 10" instead.

4. For Pete's sake, get yourself out there and I don't mean group shows. No, you don't have to sleep with anyone to get what you want, but there are ways and means of getting solo shows and booths in front of people. The only thing stopping you are the excuses you make to yourself.

5. Forget the idea that an artist paints what moves him/ her and paints when he/she is moved. A professional artist is moved deeply by the electric bill. And a professional artist more often than not realizes that if their ultimate vision of painting horses preparing organic meals is not selling like hotcakes, it'll take a back burner to something a bit more popular until an opportunity opens up for the ultimate vision.

6. Professional artists look professional. They don't apologize for what they do, they are as confident putting their product out there as a realtor or fine jeweler, and they don't have crappy business cards printed out on their own computer. Spring for the gorgeous glossy 500 for $30 box done by a professional printer.

7. Oh yeah, and get yourself a website. Every time I hear an artist telling me that they're "getting around to it" or worse, they're "a computer idiot," I want to start spanking them with a keyboard. I sell 85% of my work via some sort of online medium. Don't shoot yourself in the foot.

8. Don't give up during the slow months. And oh yes, my pet, there will be slow months. Don't think of them as that, though. Think of them as "Spaghetti-Os Months" or "Pork & Beans Months." But for every lean month that you stick out, you'll have a fat one down the road.

9. Specialize. I don't care if you can paint houses, mouses, foxes, boxes, boats, stoats, green eggs & ham -- you will get farther in life if you pick only one or two subjects and styles. Get known for something. Chris Rock can sing too -- but who cares? People want to identify you with one thing - Maggie, that Horse Artist.

10. Be Nice. Yeah, you're an introvert. So what, so am I. All artists are, I think. But if you don't get over it and get to where you can talk to people with a big smile and enthusiasm, you'd better hope you have a helluva website. I gradually got over my fear of speaking in public, and yes, after a long workshop with a lot of people, I do go home and curl in a fetal position and sleep for a day to recouperate. But I get out there. I teach. I sell. I make a living doing what I love.

Now get out there and get busy.