A Short Talk with Dominic Avant
The Ninth in an Artist Daily Exclusive Series:
The Realities of Fine Art as a Career
|Hesitant by Dominic Avant, oil painting.|
What did you find most surprising about being a full-time painter?
Even if you can just paint, expect a demanding work schedule. Becoming a full time artist takes a lot of work. You must master your skills and educate yourself as a business person. You must learn to market and keep your name out there. You need to establish and maintain relationships with galleries, with potential students for workshops, with magazines and your peers. There are groups to join and contests to win. Just this month, I was wrapping up a semester at the University, doing a demo for Oil Painters of America, hopping a plane the same day to fly to an awards banquet for the Portrait Society of America. I also had an article in International Artist Magazine. I was marketing my workshop and keeping pace with social media. Of course, it’s not always that chaotic. Hopefully this does give you an idea of just how demanding life can be at times.
What did you find most difficult about starting a full-time professional career?
Getting started was the most difficult thing to do. There are already so many talented individuals doing extremely well. I still remember getting all the rejections from galleries and shows and questioning my decision in trying to achieve a difficult career path.
Do you recommend keeping another source of income while launching a professional career?
Unless you are blessed with financial stability, you will have to find other sources of income in the beginning. Just make sure you always find time to do your art. When I worked in the animation industry, I would challenge myself to do a small plein air painting on the way home from work each evening. Even the times I couldn’t, I was still painting mentally as I drove home through long stretches of cow pastures. This kind of dedication and tenacity eventually lead to plein air competitions and gallery representation. At the moment I still teach at college level. Teaching in conjunction with my painting has also allowed me provide for my family.
Do you believe gallery representation is still the best way to go?
Gallery representation provides an arena that allows paintings to be seen in their tangible form. You can see the brushwork, texture and presence. I find collectors prefer to hear the story of a painting from the artist themselves. A gallery close to home has real benefits. I’ve had my local gallery call me to tell me that a collector was planning to come by to view some of my work and would like to meet me in person. In most cases that meeting solidified the sale. Even though galleries are an important venue, they are not the only way. Social media, web sites, and workshops are important for me. I also have my annual studio sale that creates a lot of attention, publicity and income.
What are the hidden pressures of fine art that most of us are not aware of?
Income is inconsistent. One month I can sell extremely well and another month sell next to nothing. It is wise to live efficiently and not beyond ones means even when times are good. I also feel the fine art scene can be difficult to traverse. I have run into large egos, jealousy, and unkindness. I have also found a good networking system and built strong, helpful relationships with artists I show with on the gallery circuit.
How prepared were you for the business side of fine art–record keeping, gallery contacts etc.?
I feel like I’m just getting the business end of things under control. A supportive wife and a great artist friend who help me tremendously have been my main support system. There are mailing lists, preparing and organizing taxes–what and how much to write off–keeping my budget in check as for supplies, entering shows, organizing workshops, demos and searching out the right publications for advertising plus a lot more I have not mentioned.
What do you wish you had known about the art business before you started?
Having a mentor from the beginning would have been great. Without some direction there is just too much trial and error.
|Red Boots by Dominic Avant, oil painting.|
How much of your time is devoted to the business of art?
Administrative work can take up half a week. Business duties can include confirming commissions, setting up photography shoots, packaging paintings, managing workshop communications, fees, space, and locations, email newsletters and marketing. I include prepping, stretching canvases, organizing notes for teaching, building power points for lectures, and managing correspondence. Anything that is not painting is my administrative work.
How would you describe your normal work day?
My normal work days differ by seasons. I am not teaching classes at college in the summer. Instead I am painting plein air work to get prepared for my upcoming workshop on Figures in the Landscape. I produce a lot of my gallery work and commissions in the summer.
With all of the other obligations of a professional, do you feel that you have enough time to paint?
There’s never enough time to paint! I’m always searching for balance–raising a family, teaching full time and being a full time artist has always been a challenge. During the school year, I’m usually painting in the evenings. I have a small group of talented artists that I paint with. Being around other serious painters keeps me on my toes and the camaraderie is extremely beneficial.
Are you able to maintain normal working hours–six to nine hours per day?
Maintaining consistent working hours is a challenge at times. I may have a rhythm going in my own personal work that gets disrupted because of scheduling at school. I was still able to win several national awards last year so it’s feasible.
What is the best advice you could offer an aspiring fine artist?
Stay real and compassionate about your work. Paint subject matter that moves you. Never become too complacent. Being an artist is a life long journey.
Dominic Avant received a BFA from Rhode Island School of Design. He was recruited by Walt Disney Feature Animation and worked on numerous feature films and shorts as an animation artist. The creative community at Disney introduced him to plein air painting. Dominic’s passion for painting has grown to include studio works and portraiture. His work has received numerous national awards and recognition from organizations and publications. Among them are the Eastern Regional Oil Painter’s of America, the Portrait Society of America, the Raymar Fine Art competition, the Artist’s magazine and International Artist magazine.
Today, Dominic is represented by several galleries, teaches at Ringling College of Art & Design and teaches his own workshops. He resides in Bradenton Florida with his wife and two sons. For more information, visit Dominic’s website.