Emerging as an Artist

Digital collage (c) 2012 Liz RuestOn a lovely Sunday afternoon, my critique group was comparing notes on how our art was progressing. While we’re all emerging artists, from a professional point of view, we are at very different points on the spectrum, and have lived through other careers and life events. Our lives are redefined, evolving as our art emerges.

What came up in our discussion were some common threads on where to focus, as we reinvent ourselves as artists and develop or respark a fledgling career:

  • Create a body of work. This detail gets buried under all the other advice sometimes. For me, Kesha Bruce said it best: Make art, make more art, make even more art!
  • From the body of work, work toward a style or point of view. For me, this veers a bit each year, but a look does emerge over time. If you don’t see a convergence yet, now is the time to try new things.
  • Find a community. We all met at artEAST Art Center in Issaquah, where the Art Critique Group is held as a recurring workshop, facilitated by Susan Walker. It’s easy to lose track of the artist community when you work away in solitude, but there are lots of artists to compare notes with in the virtual and real world. Facebook and Twitter, local art shows and classes, all bring us out of our studio mindsets, ready to share.
  • Take classes. Having some sort of basic training is important, especially if you don’t have the traditional BFA. There are several excellent choices near me, from artEAST to Kirkland Arts Center, Pratt Fine Arts Center, and more. If you’re not close to classes, look around online.
  • Document your work. This could include simple inventory records, but eventually should include a website as your body of work grows.
  • Build your resume. The excellent website Practical Art World has a great article on all the sections of an artist’s CV, with ideas on what you can add. I like to think of other artists’ CVs as possible to-do items for me.
  • Show your work. Find venues for shows — so you have something to put on the resume! Your local arts center, other art centers nearby, and local businesses all have opportunities for displaying your art. A show completes the conversation that you start when you create the piece.
  • Keep the business of art in mind. Your particular focus may vary, but there are many ways to move your art from beyond a hobby level. Learn what you can about running and marketing your own small business, or get help with the parts you’re struggling with. There’s lots of advice online, and great blogs from people like Alyson Stanfield.

Finally, as Molly Crabapple says, in her Tumblr post full of advice for young artists, you’d better LOVE making art!

Well, what do you think? I’m thinking the order doesn’t matter — do you agree? Did I miss any important steps? How DO we rebuild a second (or third…) career, a creative one? How are you going about it?

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Liz Ruest says:

    On the same topic, some great questions to ask yourself, at the bottom of this post: http://filiokondylis.wordpress.com/2012/07/26/what-you-need-to-know-to-keep-maturing-as-an-artist/.

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