HOW TO BECOME AN ARTIST

At my "A Vivid Paradox" show in August 2013.

 New artists often ask me for advice on how to make art a successful career. If you define "success" as becoming an overnight sensation and selling so much art that you have enough income to afford three new cars and a 2500 square foot house, I'm not the person to ask. But, if you define success as waking up every single day to do what you love, and what you were born to do... read on! Here are my tips that I've discovered along my journey. I will add to this list as time goes on.


1. Fight to become a ridiculously positive person.

Do you think this sounds like a forgettable froofy feel-good graphic on the "quotes" section of Pinterest? It really isn't. I've found that it's the #1 most important thing to an artist's well-being, no matter the stage of your career.

Negative thoughts, emotions, and low expectations are some kind of poison that seeps into your art. They permeate your person. They make a hugely glowing bad aura around you. Then, before you realize it, no-one will want to be around you, much less have anything to do with your art. Even pieces listed online will become saturated with this darkness, and no-one in cyberspace will touch them, even people that you think have no way of detecting your negative thoughts.

How do I know? I know because this has happened to me before. You have to fight to be positive.

On the other hand, I know artists that are happy, dream ridiculously big, are upbeat, friendly to their peers, and always excitedly in love with art. They create a wonderful vibe around them. Their entire community is delighted to see what they create, and they make amazing collaborations with national and international artists! If something bad happens, they laugh it off. Surround yourself with these types of positive buddies that build each other up and dream together. That's what I've done to combat my naturally pessimistic personality, and it's worked wonders in both my life and career. Since art is created from the soul, it's essential that your soul is energized, and passionate about creating!

Work-in-progress shot of "Beauty or Beast"

2. Perfect your craft, whatever it may be.

If you love drawing flowers, become the best flower-drawer there is. If you can't resist creating sculptures out of wire, become a wire-obsessed maniac who knows everything about the topic. If you love the human figure, burn through those oversize newsprint pads with drawings upon drawings!

Don't think that you can make up for your lack of skill with brilliant sales & marketing techniques. That type of art may draw hype for awhile, but after it's had its glory day in the hot sun, it'll melt away into boring nothingness and you'll be left with only a shell of a worthless thing.

NO! Become an absolute Jedi master of what you love. If you are mind-blowingly good, people will always take note.  Plus, you'll feel super fulfilled and will be crazy about your craft itself, which is more important than being crazy about sales. Throw a giant capital P onto that practice, practice, practice! (I need to remind myself of this daily, because I am admittedly sometimes very lazy.)

Wrangling a day job to work up to being a full-time artist. It can definitely be done.

3. Be a brilliant military strategist when it comes to your  day job.

Behold, the common enemy: "I can't be an artist because I have to have a day job because I need money to survive." You can defeat this common foe. You just have to plan your attack strategically.

The first part of your master plan, for now, could be to choose a day job that will in some way prepare you for your goal of becoming a full-time artist. It could be an art gallery job (you'll learn about shows, proper presentation, and keeping up with collectors), a graphic design job (you'll learn how to work with clients, meet deadlines, and be continually creative), a  marketing job (you'll learn how to do  your own promotion and gain invaluable sales skills), or an easy job (one that allows flexibility and free time for you to work on your dream machine.)

For example, I worked for several years as a receptionist at an office full of supportive, kind people who would let me create artwork between my other duties. Though sometimes I felt embarrassed that I had a job that a junior high school student could do, I used the precious time to build up my inventory of artworks, establish a website and branding, and start some marketing. I even had a space to keep all my art stuff and a place where I could pack and ship sales. Last fall, I finally became so busy with my art ventures that I couldn't keep up with both it and my day job. I truly knew that if I went full-time with my art, I could replace my weekly income I was making at the receptionist job.

It's at this point that I knew my plan was complete; it was time to go full-time with art. So I did!

It was a very smooth transition, and at no point did I run out of money. It's sort of a balancing act, like a seesaw, but at the end the heavy end will be your art career. After all, you're the only person who can decide your own job. It's not going to walk up to you and ask you to take it. So stop dreaming and start planning! *Jack Bauer voice* DO IT NOW!

4. Copy that, copycat.

You might think, "WHAAAAT, copy?! Oh nooooo" but listen for a second. I don't mean ripping off someone's work or turning yourself into a superfan clone of someone else. However, you can learn so many good things by observing methods used by other artists who have gone before you.

My tip is to find an artist whom you aspire to be like, and do a bit of investigation. Where do they show? What magazines have they been in? What sites? What blogs? Is their website set up in a particular way that promotes their art well? Do they have a newsletter or some other way of marketing? Write down the things they have achieved that you would like to achieve, and then take cues from the trails they have already blazed to reach those goals. It's almost like a tutorial.

In a career that can sometimes seen overwhelming, confusing, and without any concrete plan of action, this method helps a lot to figure out where you're going. List those goals and confidently walk along in your journey!