Our most recent talk held at Rich Mix proved to be our biggest yet. Over 200 Artists joined our speakers; Sculptor & Prize Judge Briony Marshall, Prize Director & Art Consultant Conrad Carvalho and Artist Agent & Marketing Consultant Caitlin Smyth, to discuss how to grow their art careers. With every talk we do we aim to prioritise giving the majority of time over to the artists who attend to ask questions so their needs can be answered. Below is a summary of the key points from the speakers and the Q&A that came out of this event which we hope can guide your practice.
DOING PLANNING DISCIPLINE
1. Growing your career is as much about growing as an Artist as it is living off your practice. It’s important to work out how to balance this withing your schedule and available time.
2. There are three things that are integral to the longer term goals: Doing, planning and discipline. Doing here is the most important area, it’s easy to get caught up in too much planning which inevitably slows your career growth
3. Things that may be stopping you doing are not knowing what to do, not knowing where to start and not liking what you need to do (AKA staying in your comfort zone instead). Planning and discipline can help move away from these road blocks
4. Try to focus on staying motivated and increasing your courage and confidence. You can do this by:
Networking with your peers – safety in numbers and sharing concerns will alleviate stress!
Share resources like studios, exhibitions, discounts etc – lowering your overheads will give you space to breathe
Pay for support – if your practice is what you want your career to be then give it some investment where possible to alleviate time and commitments
5. Staying motivated also extends to how you mentally approach your work:
Notice when you are finding excuses to not focus - speak openly about deadlines you are giving yourself to peers, make yourself answerable.
Use positive language – try to speak positively always about your practice with others, don’t focus on works you maybe don’t like any more or opportunities that didn’t work, but instead describe and see them as a learning curve, it’s helped you get to where you are now!
Notice your fears – we all worry about failure but unless you put your work out there you won’t develop your practice, exposure or network. Sometimes you need to notice that fear, acknowledge it and do it any way!
START AT THE BEGINNING BUT THINK LONGER TERM:
6. Think outside the box – Not many emerging artists will be picked up by large projects or galleries straight away, look towards other avenues to find opportunities like smaller community projects and spaces, speak to your local council or local businesses that may benefit from creative support.
7. Create your own opportunities – you don’t have to just look at what the art world offers but create a project yourself perhaps with your peers, these projects will add to your CV and give you an opportunity to interact with the wider arts professionals community.
8. Don’t be afraid to approach galleries – there is no harm in sending an invite to a show or project you may be part of. The people you are approaching may not be able to make it but equally they may, or they may look at your practice which in turn may create an opportunity six months down the line. It’s all about creating that breadcrumb trail of CV enhancing things that aid the gallery in ‘discovering’ you.
9. Peers are powerful – there are less opportunities to support your artistic development in the professional world but it is still important to give this focus. Create a peer group that meets up at regular intervals to discuss new work, issues you may be having, new projects etc with the aim of supporting each other.
WHAT YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW:
10. Use freebies well – there are a lot of free ways to increase your exposure and audience reach, look into setting up a social media page or two, a basic website and a mailing list. Also explore websites like Saatchi Online who’s SEO can get you higher up in google searches and take the pain out of processing any sales you make.
11. Social media is a necessary evil – Facebook is great for a two way interaction with your dedicated audience. Twitter can provide a great way for you to engage with larger institutes and galleries as it’s a very public platform. Instagram is currently the fastest growing platform you can engage, correct use of specific hashtags (approx. 5 per post is great any more is excessive) can increase your audience, sharing your work as well as an insight into the artist behind the work can be a powerful tool to engage personally with the viewer.
12. Think before you tag –Galleries and organisations probably don’t want to be tagged in your artwork post – save that idea, it doesn’t look good. You would be better focused on interacting with your peers and emerging level galleries and projects, comment and support each other. Perhaps if you attend an exhibition/ event at a larger gallery, organisation or platform etc you could post about being there, this then directly supports them while still associating you with them online – a safer route!
13. Website and Newsletter – If you’re unsure of what your website should have start with a carefully curated selection of images (not hundreds!) an artist statement and some contact details, if you struggle for time leave dates off of it so it’s not obvious you haven’t updated it. A Newsletter doesn’t have to be monthly, use something like Mailchimp to make it look slick and think about how often you can generate enough content for each mail out, then commit to a realistic yearly schedule – maybe you only send it once or twice a year to start – so what! At least you’re doing it!
14. Collect information everywhere – Try to swap details with arts professionals and peers you meet and connect with, note down when you met them, where and what you spoke about and follow up with them afterwards! Ask if you can keep them up to date with your practice – perhaps add them to that mailing list. If it’s a more ‘important’ contact keep it to personalised updates not a generic newsletter
15. Ask for feedback – Feedback helps develop your practice, gets more people engaging and looking at your work, encourages people to discuss it and respond to you which in turn builds your audience. USE THIS.
16. Approach galleries softly – Instead of casting the net wide and sending some generic email or copied and pasted text to everyone be selective research who would suit you and contact them in a personalised way, ask for their opinion or feedback. If they don’t get back to you don’t worry about it, people are busy so don’t take it personally but instead perhaps next time it’s relevant drop them that line again and try again.
17. A quick phone call saves everyone’s time – don’t be afraid to follow up with people you email, it’s often way less time consuming and won’t get lost in an inbox. It can also make more of an impact – no one calls anymore!
Now we’ve hit the first full working week of 2017 it’s time to refresh your plan and goals for this year. Below Art Prize Consultant Caitlin Smyth has put her top Artist Resolutions to help inspire your 2017 push!
1. I’ll do it tomorrow: What is the saying, don’t do tomorrow what can be started day? Spend a bit of time pulling together a list of opportunities, their deadlines and their submission requirements that you can track and possibly enter this year. Even if you don’t enter it’s helpful to see who and what gets submitted and of course who the winners are to help support your knowledge of the industry. You can do the same kind of thing with art fairs and exhibitions if you’re feeling very organised!
2. Lose the art speak: Anyone else sick of fundamentally juxtaposed, yet simultaneously obvious ideas permeating work yet? Nope I’ve got no idea what you’re getting at either! Lose the overly complex language and elongated sentences this year. The simpler the text the larger the number of people that can relate to it and the more likely they are to engage with your work. Simple language suggests confidence in your ideas. The same goes with the structure of your writing, focus on one idea at a time, you don’t need to come up with 100 reasons to justify making your art, commit some time to working out that one resounding theme at least a couple of times a year.
3. Look at old work: It may make you cringe but it can also be very affirming to how far you have come and help you assess how your practice; the work itself and the ideas behind pieces, has evolved. Knowing where you have been can help you understand where you are going.
4. Power in your Peers: It’s time we understood the power of peers. Connect through platforms, support each other, offer feedback, go to artist run events and exhibitions. The more people you know the more chance you have of making valuable connections that will in turn support your own development.
5. Don’t Work for Free: Now this doesn’t mean only work for money but there has to be a real benefit to you that may come in the form of exposure, connections, payment etc etc. Set your own acceptable parameters based on what you want to achieve this year – if you want to make money focus on paid opportunities, want to widen your network, maybe look at open calls etc. And don’t be afraid to say no if it isn’t right! Keep the connection and down the line it may be useful.
6. If you don’t ask, well then, you don’t get: Despite how much you want to pretend you had nothing to do with being unsuccessful at getting that group show or being selected for that residency, I’ve got news for you, you do have a degree of control – over your own actions. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, follow up, ask for feedback, ask questions and connect on a human level with the people you want to gain something from. Relationships can take time to build but all it takes is one person to remember you to result in a potential opportunity.
7. Small fish, big pond: However, following from the above, try not to over analyse if people don’t get back to you straight away. It’s easy to start slamming this Director or that Consultant because they missed you email or follow up call but people are busy! Back it off until a more appropriate moment and don’t burn any bridges by acting the diva, it will get you nowhere! Keep them in the back of your mind.
8. Trash Talk is Exactly That: Put your work out there and encourage feedback but also put on that thicker skin and let anything that isn’t constructive wash off. Chances are someone who comments that they’re 20-year-old, one eyed Labrador could have made that was never interested in what you’re doing in the first place, and never will be. Don’t let it waste your time but instead think about how you can make your work even more accessible by explaining it in a different way.
9. Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery: Well, it’s not if you’re an artist Oscar! Plagiarism is a real thing but what are you going to do – hide your art in a box and let no one see it just in case? We think not. In a modern age which is increasingly globalised there are going to be artists working in a similar manner to you, equally if you put it out there someone may take ‘inspiration’ too far, but I always find that an idea plagiarised shows through immediately as lacking authenticity and in depth understanding, of course, you don’t have to take my word for it, but you could take it and get your work out there anyway. Be confident in your work and that it is the most authentic out there.
10. Go and be part of it: It’s easy to get stuck in your art world but don’t ever think that what happens in the auction houses or is exhibited at big art fairs won’t permeate different levels of the industry, go and see, pay attention, look, understand and be a part of the industry you throw yourself into.
Follow Caitlin Smyth on:
Oaktree & Tiger Team
Art experts giving advice to emerging artists to build their careers and find success. Organisers of the Ashurst Emerging Artist Prize 2020, artist agent and art consultants.