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Old 05-09-2012, 05:38 PM
Ultie Ultie is offline
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Just Starting Out

Hello All

Long time lurker, first time poster. I've learned a lot from these boards, and reading a number of the books that've been suggested. I just graduated with my BFA, and I want to try to make it as an artist. I know I'm still green, my work is still immature, and I still have to get most of it uploaded and posted. There's a lot on my to do list of my business plan, but I'm getting there...


So I ask, if you could give yourself one line of advice when you were just starting out in the art world, what would it be? The best advice I had from professors were the big blunders and embarrassments they had when they were fresh out of university and trying to find their ground as artists.

Last edited by Ultie : 05-09-2012 at 05:40 PM.
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Old 05-09-2012, 06:00 PM
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Greg Long Greg Long is offline
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Re: Just Starting Out

One word will do: WORK
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Old 05-09-2012, 10:22 PM
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Re: Just Starting Out

What I learned in my start-up years:

1. Best foot forward -- always -- and don't be shy about tooting your own horn (especially via press releases).

2. Stay visible in the real world -- posting work on the Internet is never enough! Which leads to -

3. Market, market, market! If you've lurked here any length of time, you've already learned the value of that.

4. Contribute money and/or time to charities . . . not your artwork. Many charities will come calling and it will feel good to 'help' -- but unless you're the luckiest artist in the world, it's unlikely to advance your career.

These are a few things I wish I'd had a better understanding of in my very early days -- and just a few of the many lessons I've learned since.

Thank goodness for WetCanvas and similar sites, which have provided much of my art-as-business education.

Best of luck to you!
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Old 05-10-2012, 05:30 AM
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Re: Just Starting Out

1. Just keep creating work. Create create create.

2. Try everything! If you're putting it online and on Etsy (or other sites) along the way that's great. Also consider local juried shows and things like that, submitting to galleries. Even when you don't get accepted you really do learn a lot from the process. And always go to shows you weren't accepted for - see what the judges did like, how it's presented, and the overall feel. This isn't to necessarily show you your work wasn't good enough - maybe it wasn't and you'll get motivation from that, but you could also realise the judges had a particular taste that your work wouldn't have suited anyway, or the show wasn't quite what you'd want to be in, or things like that. Try small art shows, or even craft shows if you have small things that might work. I've had some awesome sales at non-art events! (and others have bombed) But even better I've had the chance to learn from other craftspeople who are awesome with customers- and I'm not too proud to say I've stolen their one-liners or approaches. Over time you learn to pick and choose but at the beginning don't be hesitant to try anything.

3. Make sure you're supporting yourself. Remember that the key to adulthood is self-sufficiency. Sometimes with art that takes a long while to build up, or some artists actually enjoy mixing up the studio/gallery stuff with something else on the side. (I personally still enjoy doing some graphic design work, and it's great to have during the lean times) Find a job either in an art-related field or anything sales/business oriented. You want to learn as much as you can about business, inventory, pricing, marketing, talking to customers, etc as you can. It all comes in handy later! And if that experience can be in an art gallery (even a tiny local one), a framing shop, a poster shop, a local museum (even taking tickets or directing people around), you'll be surprised later how valuable that experience was. When I first started out I did Sundays in a little local art gallery/craft boutique. WOW the stuff I learned and saw. And yes it made me very critical of other artists from the business side, but it also helped me learn what not to do.

Lastly - congrats on the BFA!!! You sound very motivated so just go for it. Energy and enthusiasm is part of the equation.
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Old 05-10-2012, 01:13 PM
AllisonR AllisonR is offline
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Re: Just Starting Out

10,000 hours.
minimum.
It's not as crazy as it seems.

Point is, it takes time - time to do the work, time to learn, time to mature...

Agree about the charity speil, and all from tina.
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Old 05-10-2012, 03:38 PM
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Re: Just Starting Out

Develop a marketing plan and advertising budget and stick to them! Advertising costs can easily eat you alive if you let them. Having a plan and a budget makes it easier to say "no".

"I'm sorry, I have already done this year's advertising budget. But if you would like to leave me your rate sheet I will be happy to consider you for next year."

50% of the money spent on advertising is wasted. The trick is figuring out which half.

Take advantage of as many business development and marketing resources as you can. Especially the free ones. The art is only half of an art business. The other half is all business.
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Old 05-11-2012, 12:35 AM
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Re: Just Starting Out

Don't quit your day job.
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Old 05-11-2012, 12:50 AM
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Re: Just Starting Out

Mostly from the mistakes that I have seen others (but not your's truly, of course ) make ...

Quote:
Originally Posted by AllisonR
10,000 hours.
minimum.
It's not as crazy as it seems.

Here's where that advice has been coming from.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Use Her Name
Don't quit your day job.

This is important in case things "head south."
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Old 05-11-2012, 07:58 AM
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Re: Just Starting Out

Before you quit you day job, make a plan for exactly how you will financially survive during the period when your new business venture is losing money. All new businesses go through a period when expenses vastly exceed income.

The recommendation is to have a fund sufficiently large as to provide for BOTH all of the needs of the business (assume it has zero revenue) AND all of your living expenses (assume zero other income) for a considerable period, usually at least one year.

Yes, this is a lot of money. Loans can help, but they usually need to be paid back starting immediately, be sure to budget for those payments as an expense.

Write a solid business plan. Get a good accountant.

Make some basic financial calculations about the cost of being in business. Add up every single of penny of expenses, get a calendar and plot when each expense is due. Then figure a plan to meet those expense as they come due. You will have a basic cost for each day just to turn the lights on. Your daily, weekly and monthly break even points are very important to know. Track your income vs these break even points. Budget how you spend with an eye to time. If you have a big seasonal surge, that money may have to be saved to pay the bills in the slow times.

A surprising lot of business management is financial management. A good accountant can save you lots here.

There is a lot less stress and more security in working for somebody else than here is in working for yourself. Not everyone really wants to be the boss, manager, janitor, personel supervisor, advertising and marketing director, plumber, transportation coordinator, mail room clerk, secretary, file clerk, and coffee drone all at once.

Most of the artists I know work a day job, often unrelated to their art, and pursue their art as well. Yes, it means working two or more jobs at once, but it also means not having all the eggs in one basket.

I still remember my friend throwing himself a "Tim is now making minimum wage!" party, several years after he opened his business. I have sometimes griped that my part-time weekend sales girl gets paid more than I do. She does. I hire her through a local temp agency, so I write a payroll check every week for her. I get paid if and when there is enough profit to take a draw.

Business is hard work.
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Old 05-11-2012, 04:19 PM
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Re: Just Starting Out

Quote:
Originally Posted by Horsa
I still remember my friend throwing himself a "Tim is now making minimum wage!" party

That's awesome! I might have one of those! One day, after the recession is over. (My overall income is fine but from far more than a typical 40 hour week. )
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Old 05-11-2012, 05:55 PM
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RobinZ RobinZ is offline
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Re: Just Starting Out

Get out there, go to openings, visit galleries, join groups, take advantage of small opportunities.

Try to make art every day, even if it's just an hour.
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Old 05-11-2012, 05:59 PM
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Re: Just Starting Out

Oh, I just saw on your blog you are going to list on etsy.

List often, keep a full shop, learn SEO and how to title and tag to get the maximum internal AND external traffic. Use facebook to show your work, tweet & pin.
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Old 05-13-2012, 10:05 AM
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Re: Just Starting Out

Welcome to wet canvas. You are off to a great start as you have a BFA, willing to research and ask questions of others on the art journey, you have a plan, and you have a good blog that is interesting. But, most of all, I sense your passion for creating art is going to be your life. Balance yourself well during the journey. I wish you great success and look forward to seeing more posts on wc to see how you are doing.
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Old 05-13-2012, 09:27 PM
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Re: Just Starting Out

Okay... market, market, market, advertize, promote. Also spend many hours a day painting your very best.

It reminds me of the single Dad who is supposed to work an 80 hr. a week job, and also spend all day at home raising the kids.
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Old 05-14-2012, 07:03 AM
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Diane Cutter Diane Cutter is offline
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Re: Just Starting Out

While all the marketing advice is great, you need to have something marketable... so spend the time in the studio getting good at your craft. Don't get sidetracked.

Diane
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