By Milan Heger, artist, writer, and the author of “The Art of Freedom”
So you are an artist. Great life…wake up slowly, leisurely coffee, gathering inspiration after the last night Bohemian escapade.
And then the reality kicks in. Rent, utilities, telephone, and the car payment…all due to be paid soon. And you are an artist.
Being an artist is a calling. It is precisely the way our brain was created differently from many other brains. Perfect for a creative profession. Making stuff. Something from nothing. The latest research in neurosciences reveals that we are definitely not created equal, either in terms of how we think or what talent we are endowed with. Left brain, right brain, old news. But here is the rub: artists are on this planet to make a living.
Getting Started with Education
There are several early steps everyone who intends to become an artist will have to make. The obvious one is the right education. Today’s art is infinitely diversified in expression and form, but a solid background in life drawing, representational sketches, and color theory will come handy in any avant-guard work. Art schools are a good idea. Learning the right technique to make anything is worth the money. And the author acknowledges the possibility of another Jean Michel Basquiat saying: “Believe it or not, I can actually draw”.
Art colleges are also not created equal. It is a good idea to research the list of graduates, what art they make and show in the spare time away from the barista job, because that says a lot. Exactly how successful the graduates are is the evidence of the quality of the school and the teachers. Future artists take the risk and get a college degree in art. Artists are all about the risk. Succeeding in art is statistically on the same level with shark attacks or mushroom poisoning. Very rare, to say the least. A college degree can help in many ways.
The second step after education seems to be obvious as well, but not as easy as enrollment in a school. It is deciding what to do as a fresh artist. Which direction to take? Day job, part time job? Where to start. Where?
If an artist is reasonably sure that art is what he or she wants to do in life, the suggestion is to move to a larger metropolitan area. Nowadays it is NY, LA or Miami. In larger cities people still pay attention and buy art. Otherwise, staying regional is already a handicap. Harsh? Yes.
Emerging artists try to show their art wherever they can. Café walls, restaurants, even a local hair salon. The truth is, the sales from spaces like these are minimal in number and pricing levels. So how to get a boost in an artist’s career? Get in a gallery. Here are a few tips:
- Start with a long and serious meditation over what matters to you, and what is it that needs to be expressed. Because, real artists don’t make just pretty pictures, matching the sofa fabric. Great art always says something, and provokes a reaction, feeling or mood.
- Decide what feels right and then prepare a great body of work. Perhaps 20 some works can represent a collection of works. These works have to feel like they were all done by the same artist. It may sound strange, but too often, young artists are “all over the place” when they present work to a gallery. Art dealers want to see a singular vision, a strong angle to the art, and never a derivative work looking “like another artist”.
- Once the desired body of work is finished, take good photographs, with emphasis on “good”. Just get a camera that takes high resolution images.
- Then look at the galleries website and follow their instructions how and when to submit a portfolio. No one likes to be asked to look at random portfolios just because the artist is ready.
- Perhaps it is a good idea to get to know the gallery by attending art openings and events. Show up early and leave late. Find out who is the owner and see if the art focus in that gallery is compatible with yours.
Galleries in the big cities are scouting for young artists and they frequently go to graduate shows to find talent. There are many collectors who buy art from young artists for a lower price, at the beginning of their career. The idea is to discover the next Cecily Brown, before Larry gets her. Larry Gagosian, that is.
Every artist will have to find the right balance in life, create a sustainable model for living without starving. A studio can be small, shared, or it can be an area in someone’s apartment. The results are important. The work speaks for itself.
Young artists often show their works of art online. Saatchi Online, Houzz, Facebook, Pinterest. And very often, when the price is right, the art sells. There are many ways to do it, provided there is a real commitment. Heidegger once said something to this effect: “Thinking begins only when we have come to know that reason is the enemy of thought…” If art is our calling, we can become artists.