Thursday, December 29, 2011

4PAM? 4 Processes a Month

Okay, maybe it's the over indulgence of fatty foods, sugary substances, and post Christmas euphoria, but I was struck with an idea I need to declare before I chicken out. Last year I was privileged to witness some fantastic artists participate in a ring or bird a week art challenge. Here's are few of those inspiring artists, click to view their answers to that challenge:
For 2012 the lovely and talented Lora Hart has raised a new "call to art." Her Four a Month(FAM)  encourages artists to create and share four pieces a month that relate to each other through theme or medium. 

The whole idea is to commit to flexing your creative muscles every week on at least one project. Some even sign up to make one project a day, and post photos along the way. As the year comes to a close I can only imagine the  pride of having completed 52 (let alone 365!) pieces. It seems an overwhelming task to undertake, but the gains would be immeasurable. Not only would you have all that fabulous work to show for it, but just the act of making something new every week would contribute to your creative endurance and dedication.

I want to play too!! But to be honest, my attention span is questionable at best, and between orders and keeping up my retail inventory, I don't see it being a feasible commitment. That being said, I could share 4 projects a month. At first I thought I'd go with "Process a Week" but I have to allow a little room for procrastination and flakiness... that and 4PAM (Four Processes a Month) was funnier than PAW. The pieces will be whatever I'm working on in the studio, from easy to difficult. I'll post process photos/videos, step descriptions, and offer to answer any questions that might come up with along the way. It'll be like having mini tutorials, or as I like to call them "Mini Tuts" (pronounced mini-"toot"... I know juvenile, but I can't seem to help myself.) It'll be a virtual studio diary, but it won't just be metal clay. Next year I'll be launching a new line of casted pewter pieces, writing articles, creating lots of new reliquaries (hopefully!) and you'll get a peak four times a month. Maybe this will also help justify my recent purchase of a DSLR camera... It'll certainly get me blogging a little more. Just be prepared for my green zombie finger nails and boney hands because 2012 will feature too much of both. In the meantime here's a peak at what I'm working on for next year. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Want to be a full-time artist?

Eventually an artist may start to wonder "How can I do this full-time, and actually make a living?" It was questions posed in one of my online artist support groups and it got me thinking about where I am and how I got here. We can talk about the financial viability of making the jump, the time and investment it requires, what shows, galleries, and avenues are available. For many of us, there is also a whole mental melodrama that can assault our artistic nature when we make this choice. I've been full-time artist for over 6 years, the ups and downs could sell tickets at Six Flags, but I don't think I could do anything else (actually the sad truth is I may well be unemployable!) That being said, it took almost three years for me to find my niche, and really figure out what I wanted to do. I played around with selling at galleries, and wholesale, but I found the production work a little mind numbing. I did my fair share of great art shows, and even more terrible "art" shows set up next to the embroidered toilet paper cozy lady (she, by the way, sold those things like they were dipped in delicious bavarian cream!) I'm glad I went through it though, and it helped me figure out how I really wanted to spend my creative time. A lot of luck and a whole lot of persistence have made this last year my most successful and fulfilling. Here's my basic break down of what this process is like.

Stage one: Fear of the unknown. This is the hardest and most frightening time, you don't know where your money is going to come from, and everything you have is being invested in the future. You may be applying to a lot of shows, and getting in or not, making sales or not, in general you're trying to find the right market. The hardest thing to do at this stage is not under-pricing yourself. Don't try to compete with Claires' or Target this is unique original work, bide your time. Remember: you can live off a whole lot less than you ever imagined, if this is something you really want to do (unless you have kids or a giant mortgage... if you can pay down your debt first, do that!) The first stage is all about giving up your preconceived notions about what success really is, and dealing with the pitfalls of being a full-time artist. This is where you start building a thicker skin. What got me through this time was the single minded focus that I would be successful, that the only difference between the successful person I wanted to be and who I am, was a little bit of time. Self-delusion helps significantly at this stage... ;) Just kidding, having a clear vision is actually what helps.

Stage two: Finding Your Stride. After doing a ton of things/shows that you know you never want to do again, you may start looking around and realizing there's a whole bunch of people that have been doing this for a long time, and are surviving just fine. There are two kinds of art vets: SUPER generous, caring, creative eccentrics that can become a wonderful resource. And the bitter unfulfilled kind (STAY away from these folks, and don't take anything they say as gospel, especially if they try to tell you you're not an artist!) You may have a few galleries in your pocket by now, and are working on being online. IF you were to choose one of the two to focus on, focus on being online. Sales are not what they used to be at galleries, and after spending a year focused on creating an online presence I'm convinced this is where the market for unique work is. I've tripled my Christmas sales this year because of the internet. Also, SUBMIT SUBMIT SUBMIT your work everywhere you can, don't let rejection letters, or refusals stop you. I'm going to say it again, because it's super important: Don't let the rejection letters and refusals get you down, keep working, keep growing, and above all stay positive. Remember when you dreamt of doing this and how much fun it would be, ENJOY IT!

Stage three: Acceptance of your artistic awesomeness. This is where you realize you are an artist, and totally deserve your work to be cherished and recognized. This is perhaps where you start charging accordingly. I too am looking forward to this stage. I have friends who have hit this stage, they are confident, self-assured, and unconcerned with whether or not they can make a living. They just KNOW they will.

How long you are in each phase is all a little luck and a whole lot of hard work. Don't give into negative thinking, remember, you have to imagine what you want with such clarity that even you believe it! 
I find not taking myself too seriously is also a big help. :)