View Full Version : When do you know you're ready to go pro????
01-22-2008, 12:39 PM
I've been struggling with this question for a while now, so I thought I'd put this out for the experts. :)
When do you know you are ready to put yourself out there for the public? Do you enter shows first or do you go for a local showing first? How many pieces do need to have on hand?
When you became a full time artist, did you go for broke and quit your day job or did you wait until you'd gathered a large enough following to justify doing your art full time?
What do you think are the best steps to take to better your chances at becoming a full time artist?
As you can see from all my questions (and I have even more) this whole thing is driving me crazy!! :eek: I want nothing more than to paint full time, but I worry that
A: I'm not good enough
B: There won't be a market for my art
C: I don't bring anything unique to the table so to speak
I know I can draw, but I'm concerned my composition skills, technique, etc. come across as amatuerish (is that a word? :o ) - that a skilled eye will see a serious deficiency in my work that I don't see.
I'm probably over thinking this whole thing, but any insight and advice would be greatly appreciated. I value all your opinions so much.
01-22-2008, 06:26 PM
I am not a full time artist, and have barely sold any work, but I would like to address your ABC questions. (Then the experts can take over!)
A. Never worry about this. There are no doubt artists of lesser skill that are a success and artists of greater skill that have never sold a thing.
B. You will never know until you try.
C. If you are talking about really unique - well, how many Van Goghs are there. Virtually every look or style has been done somewhere by someone. On the other hand, we all have our own style. No two folks - even here on WC - have styles that are identical.
Personally, I have now entered two summer art festivals. A year ago, I joined a local art group that has 2 or 3 shows a year. Our first juried show is in 2 weeks - don't know if I will be accepted yet. I am about to send slides to try to enter another regional juried show. I have not yet approached a gallery, but that is another possibility. I would try them all. There is no reason that I know of to try only one at a time.
When you start selling regularly, that is when you should start thinking about whether art will be your full-time job, in my opinion. Don't even think about it now. Your sales will provide the answer.
P.S. I just went and looked at your last couple posts - yes, your work is definitely "good enough"! Nothing amateurish about it!
01-22-2008, 07:28 PM
Don gave some good advise - especially the "don't worry about it" advise.
Having said that, I'd also like to add - Don't give up your day job. Most "pros" I know have to depend upon more than sales to earn a living. They either have a "day job", they teach lots of classes, or they have a very supportive spouse upon whom they can depend for daily living expenses.
I'd suggest "pumping up" your professional resume by entering and getting in to competitions, but that isn't absolutely necessary. If you are fortunate enough to be accepted into a gallery that sells your work very well, then having "peer recognition" by being in shows isn't needed. However, sometimes the peer recognition is what gets the gallery owner to look at your work in the first place. You will learn very quickly if the galleries don't think you are ready for representation. That's when getting in shows helps ones ego and determination to continue seeking representation until you find the right gallery "fit".
Therefore, do both. Visit some galleries to see what type of art they represent. It doesn't do much good to take a portfolio to a gallery that sells mostly abstract art if your work is representational, and vice versa. Do not take your portfolio into the galleries with you. If you think a gallery might be a good fit for you, ask the manager or owner if they are looking for new artists. Based upon that answer, you will know if you should ask to make an appointment to show your portfolio. They might tell you they have time right now if you have your portfolio, and by having it in the car you will be able to immediately respond. Others may ask you to send a dvd or slides of your work to them, and they'll "get back to you." If they do that, make certain you send a self addressed stamped envelope for the return of your dvd/slides. You can pretty much guarantee being turned down if you send dvd/slides "cold call" to a gallery, and you most likely won't get them back with or without an SASE. Some galleries receive dozens of cold call submissions in a year, and they don't have time to deal with all of them so they just figure the artist sent the dvd/slides without them having asked for them so they won't bother sending them back.
Something to ask a gallery you might not otherwise think to ask:
May I talk to some of the artists you represent? If the answer is yes, then do talk to whomever they send you to. Hopefully more than one person. You want to know from another artist how good this gallery is to work with. Here are some questions to ask those other artists. Do they pay on time? Is the manager/owner easy to work with should they send a commission your way? How long do they want to hang your work, and if you don't supply them with new work on a regular basis for whatever reason you may have to occassionally miss a date are they forgiving? (better to know this answer from another artist's view as well as from the gallery's view) Questions to ask the gallery might be: How long has the gallery been in business? If it is a new gallery, does the owner have prior experience in art sales and business management? (you woudn't believe how may galleries are "play businesses" for the spouse of a more wealthy spouse looking for a tax writeoff!) I'm sure there are other questions other WC members might direct your way so I'll not go on now.
Last but not least, I'm really fearful that the U.S. economy is facing a downturn despite what our "leaders" are trying to tell us. I remember 2001 when this happened, and anyone who tried to enter the art market at that time was greatly disappointed. Even very experienced artists saw a major downturn in sales and students for classes. Those who survived had other avenues for income or created them (i.e. home shows and internet sales), but they were mostly people who already had a very good client base. So once again I advise you - don't give up your day job, but do seek representation and enter competitions so you will be ready when the economy swings back upward.
01-22-2008, 07:40 PM
Hi, Mandy! Years--well--decades ago in my student days, we would discuss pro vs. amateur sometimes along with our mentor---and one of the things that emerged from that was the realization that the word 'amateur' has become so changed in connotation. The original Latin means "lover of..." Now it too often gets used for "not very good" or something similarly negative. Frank Szasz, my very classically trained mentor believed that professional was more of an attitude than a status. Over time, seeing, observing a lot of folks, including the one in the mirror, I realized that that made huge sense to me, as well.
There are so many artists who are still growing (well--we are hopefully alllll growing always!) and who enter shows with their current best works and they are such a very great pleasure to see. And each of those artists learn more as they are sharing their work in an area show and then they grow more and go on to enter more shows, perhaps further afield---and more sharing, more learning, more growing! It is a lovely process! And I think a very natural, wonderful process. And they find galleries, usually in their local area at first. Better to communicate with and watch over with easily till one gets the best 'hang of it!' And then it just develops as you go! Just as well to get out there with your works and begin building and don't fret or question. Just do! Do what you can and enjoy it! We all keep learning! Very, very best wishes! Your work really is lovely! Donna ;-}
01-23-2008, 01:11 AM
Thank you so much for your response. As far as I'm concerned everyone here is an expert in my book! :) I have to admit until I was a member of WC, I was pretty confident in my ability - the more involved in discussions and the more I am exposed to the work of other artists, my confidence begins to wain. So many contributors (I count you among them) are way over my head when it comes to discussing composition, color theory, structured critique, etc. that I get overwhelmed at times. I feel like everyone else got this beautifully illustrated and comprehensive artist's instruction book and I got a book full of blank pages. :) Your insight and advice was very helpful, it was especially helpful to read about what you have done personally.
Your experience is invaluable! Thank you for responding. I promise I won't quit my day job! :) I really appreciate your advice on how to properly approach a gallery! There is a gallery in a nearby community which has an open offer to evaluate artwork by appointment, mail or electronic submission. They handle historic (Ace Powell, CM Russell, etc.) artists as well as contemporary artists. I have looked at the artists represented there and believe my style is similar to other artists there. I did notice however when reading the other artists bios almost everyone (not all) had extensive lists of awards won and how they works are many "private and corporate collections". Which got me on this whole endless merry-go-round in the first place. I would love to submit my art for evaluation but I didn't want to get laughed out of the gallery in some kind of American Idol audition kind of way! :o Your advice has helped me get some perspective on how I might proceed and not make a fool out of myself.
I love the latin root! So much better than what we've come to associate "amateur" with. From now on, even if I become a professional artist - I will always be an amateur and proud of it! :thumbsup: After all my soul searching on this and after reading your post, I have to agree with you and your mentor, Frank regarding attitude. I believe I lack confidence to call myself a professional and that is apparent in my attitude. Prospective customers and the like don't take me seriously because I don't take me seriously. Does that make sense?
Just about the time I would think I was ready to put my art out there, I would see someone I regarded as better than me, and it would stop me. You have made me see that its ok if I don't know everything or every technique. God willing I will have many years to grow and learn as an artist.
01-23-2008, 01:46 AM
Hi, again, Mandy! Glad the original root of 'amateur' is finding a place in your heart, as well! :-) Guess Peggy's wonderful post came a sliver a moments before mine, so missed it earlier. Soooo much fabulous information! And Don, as well! And when I say "don't ask..." I certainly was referring to your questioning yourself as to 'ranking' etc. But YES do ask those excellent questions from Peggy. In fact, I think I'm going to ask her permission to use some of her suggestions (several of which I've NEVER heard anyone else suggest!) if they could be used in the MAPS newsletter. Like to keep good info out there for our members. Maybe I'll just see if I can talk her into doing a little article. :-) Now that we don't have alll the next members juried show info as in the last two newsletters. There will be room for some great new ideas! Isn't this just a great forum! :-) Hope you are forming all kinds of great new ideas to go with your new bright and shiney 'attitude!!!" :-) Yea! Take good care! Donna ;-}
Amanda - a wonderful thread. I am fortunate to live near Jackson Hole with its wonderful galleries and wildlife painting museum and can look at some marvelous works from well known artists. And I also look at their credentials - graduated from this school, won this and that and studied with so and so. It is a mixed blessing because I sometimes walk away and doubt that I have any ability as an artist. If I listened to myself all my drawings would end up in a drawer. But then I also see other works and believe I can do as good or better. And some times the real difference is not in ability to paint, but the ability to market yourself. You must find a market for your own work because it is unlikely that someone will "discover" you. I recently read the book "Taking the Leap - Building a Career as a Visual Artist" by Cay Lang. It has some great insites (some of which have been mentioned by members in this thread). What I found interesting is it deals with artists just embarking on a professional career and illustrates how you can still create a respectable resume or portfolio without having all shows, awards, degrees, etc. It may be worth a look.
01-23-2008, 10:14 AM
A: I'm not good enough
Yes you are. You are good enough, from what I've seen of your work. However, the market may go down again, as others mentioned. People like different artists, so some are bound to like your work and be willing to pay for it. Some people will pay for the work of some other artist you consider not as good as you. Luckily, there is an artist for every cusomer, and a customer for every artist.
B: There won't be a market for my art
Is that a fear or a fact, Mandy dear? Take your helicopters, the average woman would probably not go bananas over them, but I can see lots of males being willing to buy them, happy to see paintings of 'real' stuff instead of blue kittens in a teacup, with pink flowers.
C: I don't bring anything unique to the table so to speak.
Yes you do, you bring *you*, your skills, your interpretations. There is only one *you* in the whole of history. Besides, you don't have to be 'unique', you just have to find customers and collectors. Art critics love to 'discover' "uniqueness", and normal people like to have normal understandable and beautiful pictures on their livingroom walls. Normal people pay, art critics talk.
"Amateurish", now. There will always be snide remarks from self-appointed critics and artists with inflated egos. They think they feel better about themselves if they can put others down. Simply disregard them. At any time, you are, is my guess, painting the best you can (and it *is* good). You will also grow and develop, as every artist who is willing to learn and experiment does. You should see the earliest paintings by Rembrandt... those who never make it into the books about him.
Dilettante is another word for amateur. Comes from Latin 'delectare', to enjoy. Italian, and French: dilettante. It is known from the end of the 1700s. At that time both 'amateur' and 'dilettante' came to mean a person who learned an art or academic field from shere pure love and enjoyment, without enrolling in formal (university) schooling. And formal schooling for artists in the times before the academies were to study for masters as apprentices. Much like taking classes today. :-) With the Academies came the need to make them important, and to sneer at those not elevated and elect enough. So these words lost their original meaning. Let's take them back! I'm an amateur and a dilettante, and I'm proud of it!
The enjoyment is in the process to paint, to a large degree. And we're lucky that some people enjoy the results so much that they buy them from us.
You go girl, put them out there for people to see and buy. You'll find out sooner or later if you can live on painting. Half time would not be bad, either, eh?
01-23-2008, 01:12 PM
There is a gallery in a nearby community which has an open offer to evaluate artwork by appointment, mail or electronic submission. They handle historic (Ace Powell, CM Russell, etc.) artists as well as contemporary artists. I have looked at the artists represented there and believe my style is similar to other artists there. I did notice however when reading the other artists bios almost everyone (not all) had extensive lists of awards won and how they works are many "private and corporate collections". Which got me on this whole endless merry-go-round in the first place. I would love to submit my art for evaluation but I didn't want to get laughed out of the gallery in some kind of American Idol audition kind of way! :o
Mandy, just to address this concern, let me say that if you don't ever ask the question the answer is automatically 'no', so asking is a way of increasing the odds of a yes!
There are ways that artist have of 'padding' resumes, which I don't encourage of course, but keep in mind that "private and corporate collections", when not specifically named, can mean Aunt Jane owns one and she has a lot of paintings, and Great-Uncle Owen has one hanging in his office, which is a corporation! Okay, having said that (and thus showing my cynicism once again :rolleyes: ), that isn't to say that the other artists showing there don't have excellent credentials. However, every single one of them started out without credentials at one time, and occasionally reputable galleries like to invest in a young (at art) artist, so don't jump to any conclusions...
One other bit of advice--if a reputable gallery is willing to review your work for possible submission, why not look at it as a chance to glean some valuable information from them, even if you run the risk that they'll reject your work? Could you not benefit from asking them where they would sugggest you submit work? Might you ask them how your presentation could be improved? Every step of the way is an event that teaches us things, of course, so just being willing to call and find out when and how to submit artwork to this gallery for consideration could start you in a direction you want to go.
No reputable gallery will laugh you out of the place, but your feelings are at risk, of course. None of us likes to be rejected, but some are willing to fail from fear of being rejected instead of being willing to take that risk and benefit from it. It's our choice!
Your artwork is not amateurish (in the modern sense :wink2:) and you'll find a place to represent your work, I'm sure. It's a process, though.
01-23-2008, 01:26 PM
Wow, what great responses from everyone!
Hello again to you too! Yes, Peggy is awesome! Her first-hand experience with the workings of galleries is invaluable. It would be great to have an article written by her on the subject! Climbing this huge mountain doesn't seem so impossible as is did before. Before I started this thread I so perplexed in how to proceed. It's not so mysterious as it seemed to be.
Don is great. The little I know of him is he's not one to mince words. His straight talk is always refreshing.
I am fortunate to live near Jackson Hole with its wonderful galleries and wildlife painting museum and can look at some marvelous works from well known artists. And I also look at their credentials - graduated from this school, won this and that and studied with so and so. It is a mixed blessing because I sometimes walk away and doubt that I have any ability as an artist. If I listened to myself all my drawings would end up in a drawer.
You said exactly what I had such a hard time expressing! I am fortunate (or unfortunate depending on how you look at it :) ) to personally know a couple of very successful local artists, one sells his wildlife art for 10s of thousands of dollars and the other makes a very nice six figure income having scraped out a niche for herself. Both are wonderful artists and wonderful individuals. As great as it is to associate with these fine artists, it can be intimidating at times. :)
My cousin's wife owns the local bookstore here - I'll have to have her order me a copy of Taking the Leap, it sounds great.
Thank you for the words of encouragement! You are too kind. I know at a certain level my feelings are irrational, but its hard to fight back those feelings of inadequacy at times.
Dilettante - I'll be sure to add this to my vocabulary!
The enjoyment is in the process to paint, to a large degree. And we're lucky that some people enjoy the results so much that they buy them from us. AMEN to that!!!
Even though the future of the economy may not be ideal for art sales, since I haven't sold anything yet, I only have to sell one painting to be ahead of last year's sales. :lol:
I'm so grateful for the wonderful response to this thread, it has helped calm my fears immensely.
Here's to amatuers!!! :clap:
01-23-2008, 02:05 PM
let me say that if you don't ever ask the question the answer is automatically 'no', so asking is a way of increasing the odds of a yes!
Of course you are right, and deep down I know this. I have a bit of shy streak in me - I'm all for pushing my artist friends into this kind of thing but fail miserably when it comes to self promotion. I must say WC has been a Godsend for this. It has allowed me to get my feet wet when it comes to presenting my work. I am certainly more mentally prepared as evidenced by my considering approaching a gallery! :)
Your advice to use this a learning experience and pick their brains so to speak, is wonderful. It may also have an added benefit of helping to put myself more at ease if I take on a bit of the role of interviewer instead of interviewee.
I have often wondered if there were people out there who padded their resumes. I guess whatever floats one's boat, but I completely agree with you on this. It is this very reason I've been concerned about presenting to a gallery. Sure I list as long as my arm of donations and gifts I've given over the years, but nothing to speak of in terms of sales and awards, as a result my resume is pretty sad. That said, if I use this as a learning experience, this issue becomes moot.
Thank you again,
01-23-2008, 06:00 PM
But YES do ask those excellent questions from Peggy. In fact, I think I'm going to ask her permission to use some of her suggestions (several of which I've NEVER heard anyone else suggest!) if they could be used in the MAPS newsletter. Like to keep good info out there for our members. Maybe I'll just see if I can talk her into doing a little article. :-) Now that we don't have alll the next members juried show info as in the last two newsletters. There will be room for some great new ideas! Isn't this just a great forum! :-) Donna ;-}
Oh Donna what are you trying to get me into now? :eek: Jeez Louise, I join your society this month, and already you are asking me to actually participate! One would think you know me well enough to know I don't believe in joining groups just to belong, but that I actually help when I can... :lol: OK, I'll think about it and get back to you in regular email. :D
PS I can see your "Happy Dance" all the way from here. :heart:
I am fortunate (or unfortunate depending on how you look at it :) ) to personally know a couple of very successful local artists, one sells his wildlife art for 10s of thousands of dollars and the other makes a very nice six figure income having scraped out a niche for herself.
Mandy, they say one of the best ways to get into a gallery is through an introduction by an artist that is already represented in that gallery or is at least well known. Perhaps your friends can help.
01-24-2008, 02:10 AM
Mandy, keep in mind that "going professional" isn't an all or nothing adventure. You can tippy toe into the waters one inch at a time. Start by looking and acting professional, that is have business cards, resume, brochure and presentation portfolio. Cards go to everyone. Simply letting folk know your work is for sale, setting marketable prices and putting your work where it can be purchased gets you started. I haven't met a single artist that didn't have doubts about their own work. If we compare our work to the top drawer people we can feel overwhelmed but do try to take note of where on the ladder your work stands. I started with a new gallery last year and I believe that though my work held its own it also was at the bottom of the ladder in that gallery. As the gallery has grown so too has the quality of its artists but now my work fits into the middle range (Because the overall quality of art at that gallery has gone up I imagine if I had been producing at the beginning what I do now it would have been at the top of the range in the beginning days). I go on the net or some of the artists here on WC and the quality blows me away, but I have to say I'm just not there YET, but I can be pleased with where I am. I hope this is making sense. Comparison can be a dangerous thing to our self esteem. Our work doesn't have to be at the top of the ladder to be marketable, and successful. However, input from those qualified to give feedback is very helpful and you have gotten that here. your work is far from unacceptable. So it's just taking heart and courage and putting your chin up and stepping out a bit into the waters. You can always adjust what you are doing too, according to the feedback the world of experience provides you.
So get going, enjoy, and lots of luck.
01-24-2008, 03:21 AM
Calling in a few markers might not be a bad idea at that! :thumbsup:
I think I've been tippy toeing so much I stepping backwards. :lol: Seriously though, you are so right, but I know how easily I can talk myself out of something that makes me uncomfortable, so mentally at least, I need to jump in with both feet.
Business cards, resume, brochure, portfolio...uhm will you believe this never even crossed my mind??? :o I mean like, duh now! :eek: I worry about myself sometimes. I got so caught up in everything else, it didn't even enter my brain that it might be useful to have this kind of stuff together first!
It's nice to know that other artists have doubts about their work. One can get so absorbed in self-doubt that they forget there are others out there struggling with the same issues.
And Yes, you are making perfect sense! Thanks for you help and advice, it is more valuable than you may ever know. I hope the advice from everyone who has been so encouraging and helpful to me, will help others also.
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