Business and Life Tips

Stay humble and don’t sign anything

8 Business and Life Tips for Artists

We asked eight accomplished artists what advice they have for finding success in the art world. While there are never any hard-and-fast rules when it comes to a creative career, and there are undoubtedly a thousand different ways to “make it,” these artists offer up some guidelines that have helped them along the way.

1. Keep working!

Don’t let anyone’s opinion of your work stop you from doing what you are so driven to do. The work will evolve. I think taking in criticism along the way will definitely shape the direction of your practice. That is inevitable. But don’t ever try to deliberately force your work to fit the desires of the masses.

First and foremost, focus on your practice. Second, make sure you have a strong, cohesive body of work. Third, make your presence known.

2. Stay humble

Stay humble and don’t sign anything until your dad looks at it first.

3. Get out into the world and meet with people.

I work alone in the studio—especially when getting ready for shows—for weeks on end. It can get lonely. By the time the show comes, I’m dying for social interactions. These shows are so important because they get me chatting with people about my art.

4. Consider the endgame.

Look at your art as though you are a potential buyer. One thing that a lot of artists don’t understand is that people usually want to purchase art that is going to live in their homes with them. In areas outside of NYC, LA, and Brussels and the like, if you do a work of high concept art that is a statement about the devolution of man as represented by rubberized foam worms suspended from a ceiling over kiddy pools filled with artificially sweetened coffee, you’re probably not going to find someone to buy it for their home.

My advice is to look at your art as though you are a potential buyer. You can figure out a lot if you do that. Many years ago, I showed in San Francisco and couldn’t sell a thing. I was depressed until I thought about it and did some careful research. I discovered that most of the homes owned by people that could buy my work had walls that were way too small for it.

5. Surround yourself with supportive people.

It is a huge benefit to have a community or network of people who love you and your work and encourage you at every opportunity. It’s also true that you are the one who cares the most about your art. It’s possible to succeed without having a good support system, but it is a lot more painful.

6. Hold tight to your vision.

The first thing I tell them is to stop letting other people steal their dreams. It’s really up to us as to how we filter what we‘re told and we have a responsibility as artists to bring what we have to say to the world. It’s imperative.

Making art is like anything else when creating a business. It’s about creating something first that is powerful, then going about the business of learning to run a business, then putting them together. I know it sounds simple and it’s not, but that is the first step.

7. Compete only with yourself.

Avoid competitions, contests and measuring yourself by how many shows you've gotten into or awards you've won. Seek validation internally, you will never please everyone.

8. Create a solid foundation.

If you want to go higher, you will need an unshakeable base—and that begins with good organization. I, in particular, use Artwork Archive to get organized. I am able to have a general vision of where my works are and what I have to do. That puts my mind at ease and has allowed me to think about other things. I can concentrate on what I like.

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