Creating an Artistic Life: Tips for a Vibrant Art Career

by Beth Samek, Online Education Manager at Artist’s Network University

We all wish that we could spend more time at our easels, painting or drawing. More and more time seems to be devoted to working & creating, but how do you know when it’s time to make the leap from enthusiastic amateur to full-time professional?

Making the decision to become an artist full-time can be inspiring but overwhelming, at Artist’s Network University all our instructors are also successful working artists in their own right, and they all have great insight and tips into creating a sustainable art career.

For instructor Sharon Weaver, having a support system allowed her to make the transition, “I am so lucky to have a supportive family and the exposure to wonderful local artists. I found direction and inspiration when I took my first plein air classes,” she said. “The encouragement given me by that teacher helped me take the steps to pursue my art full time and become a professional artist.” Instructor Michael Chesley Johnson also found that support from his family in addition to long-term planning allowed him to take the leap, “I decided to make art my full-time job after my wife and I had squirreled away enough money to live on for a year. We sold our house, put everything in storage, and then moved from Vermont to New Mexico where we worked on a ‘hobby ranch’ with free lodging. We ended up doing that for two years, not just one! During those two years, I had plenty of time to focus on building a career in art.”

For other artists, becoming an artist was a life-long process. Betsy Dillard Stroud stresses that sales aren’t always what makes you a professional, “People started buying my work when I was only fourteen.  And, of course, I was an amateur.  I think it takes quite a few years to become a professional painter, and it has more to do with skills, intention, and content than it does with sales.  Good sales are a by product.  One might be a professional painter and not sell well.  Poor Van Gogh.  My advice is:  Seek out professional artists that you respect and ask their opinion of your work.  Assess what you are saying with your work.  Do you have something to say?  Is your expression of that something different from anyone else’s?  When you are certain you have a style all your own, that’s when the word “professional” comes to mind—for me.” she said.

Lynn Hosegood, instructor of Painting Bright and Clean Watercolors, simply created this must- do checklist for a career painting or drawing:

•    Treat it as a business and tend to those administrative duties
•    Plan short and long term goals
•    Acquire time management skills
•    Learn to find the positive with failures
•    Enter shows
•    Diversify with prints, illustration, teaching, workshops
•    Share and be kind with colleagues
•    Get your name out there and blow your own horn

If you’re interested in starting your own healthy art business, our upcoming course with Paul Dorrell is the perfect place to start. Paul’s course Developing a Viable, Active, and Successful Art Career starts on September 24th and he is also the author of Living the Artist’s Life, the acclaimed career guidebook for artists.  It has been endorsed by the Associated Press, The Artist’s Magazine, Sculpture Magazine, and dozens of university professors. The book is renowned for its humor, candor, sage wisdom, and practical career steps. Learn more about the course and register here!

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