Detour working on a commission in Denver, Colorado. Photo credit: Fidi Naj

Thomas “Detour” Evans is an interdisciplinary artist creating large-scale public art, interactive visuals, portraiture, immersive spaces, and specializing in creative directing inside and outside of gallery spaces. His new book, "Be the Artist," offers readers affirmation, guidance, and practical advice to not just choose an artist's identity but the tools, resources, and the perspective to authentically thrive in an art career.

Detour defies categories to embody an artist's identity and attitude that is uniquely his own. He is neither strictly a fine art artist, nor a mural or street artist. He focuses on expanding traditional ideas of creativity and thrives on multi-layered collaboration and viewer participation. True to his process and identity, he is focused on creating an artist community and systems of support. Detour commits to supporting artists. Whether through "Art Tip Tuesdays" for artists on his Instagram channel or with his new book, "Be the Artist: The Interactive Guide to a Lasting Art Career," Detour cements himself as an artistic force and a valued member of a larger creative community.

Artwork Archive co-founder Justin Anthony recently had the opportunity to sit down with Detour for an "Art Tip Tuesday" session and discuss his book.

During their conversation, which you can find on Detour's Instagram channel, Detour told us about some unconventional methods that he had been using while promoting the book. 

Before his book was ultimately stocked in Barnes & Noble stores across the nation, he walked into his local store and inconspicuously tucked the book into the art section. He then challenged his fans on Instagram to locate the book on shelves, who quickly went out to hunt down the hidden treasure. “You don’t always have to ask permission," he told Artwork Archive, "because sometimes they’ll just give you a 'No.'”

His lesson in publicity also applies to his art practice. "You have to do the things others aren’t willing to do to get to where you want to be," he explained. "Because the mass majority of people—it’s like that bell curve—the mass majority of the people are going to be doing something that everyone else is doing. There’s going to be a few that will do something that no one else is doing."

 

In "Be the Artist," readers can expect practical advice on how to successfully pursue and shape a visual art career. The book is part how-to guide, part workbook, part journal prompts, part research list, and part collected wisdom from contemporary creatives. Blank pages and interactives are built-in features to engage the reader. Readers are encouraged to follow along, circle words and phrases, sketch out ideas, google quoted artists, and take the thought exercises to heart. You can read the book front to back as a pleasure read that organically builds on ideas from past chapters or use the table of contents and resources list to seek out specific information. 

A successful street and visual artist, Detour approaches the artist "how-to" part of being an artist with an empathetic and experienced approach. 

When asked about what he has done beyond traditional gallery representation to get attention in the art world, his answer is specific, yet can be applied universally. "When we are focused on galleries, well, that’s one specific square footage on one specific block in one specific area of town.”

Detour said that it’s this street art that allowed him to reach more people. It wasn’t just the people that were seeking his work out in galleries anymore, it was everyone that just passed by his large colorful portraits on the street. 

And even though you may not be a painter and you might not be a street artist, the principle behind it still stands. Put yourself out there. Engage with your community. Share your work and don't ask for permission to be seen. 

 

What can you expect when reading "Be the Artist"?

You can expect to learn about everything from honing a studio practice, making art a full-time career and working with galleries, marketing with a human face, public art commissions, copyright law, and even more in between. 

The book is intended to be a living document. Instead of set-in-stone resources, Detour lays out phrases to google and artists to research in each section of the book. The reader is encouraged to take what they can and want from the book and to build their version of success and their version of an art career. The idea being, that as a working artist you will constantly be growing your knowledge as you change yourself within a changing world. 

“It really whittles down to asking, what is your definition of success?" Detour told Artwork Archive. "Success isn’t always monetary for me. Every year, at the end of it, I’m like, “OK, did I do things this year that were different than the previous year? Did I go to new countries that I haven’t been to before? Am I doing more residencies? Do people have positive things to say about me? Because for me, I want my artist community to respect me and my work."

"Be the Artist" starts by asking the reader to reflect on similar questions for themselves. He asks in large print on the first pages how we are working to “be.” 

To be the artist you want to be. 

To be the artist you want to meet. 

To be the artist you admire. 

To be the artist you want to die as. 

To be the artist people respect.

To be the artist who makes an impact. 

To be the artist who changes the world.

To be the artist who inspires. 

It’s not just about the methodical and practical art guidance but this “how” of being the artist.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

You’ve probably heard that making it in the art world—whether winning a residency or landing your first large-scale mural—is basically a numbers game: the more you apply, the more likely you’ll win. Today, I chat with @artworkarchive's Justin Anthony on how that’s not always the case and what it takes for artists and their work to really stand out. Shout out to @ladiesfancyworksociety who always manage to stand out! . . . . #Art #acrylic #artist #artwork #artstudio #painting #portrait #paint #wip #urbanart #blackart #abstractart #abstractpainting #artstudents #artistoninstagram #artoninstagram #artstudent #artschool #artinstitute #artcareer #arttiptuesday #artistofig #newbook #bookrelease #bookreleaseparty #artistbook #betheartistbook #artistinresidence #artistresidency #artistopportunity

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What differs from the average “how-to” book is that Detour focuses on the relationships and integrity that make up being an artist, rather than quick fixes and sales schemes. He reframes practical career needs into interpersonal building blocks. 

"Be the Artist" helps readers rethink how to go about doing “necessary career evils” in ways that feel genuine. Detour gives soft skill directives and then backs up this advice with concrete details and directions. A sampling of directives that you can find in the book includes, "be human and be social by learning to engage genuinely through social media," "Genuine engagement builds relationships and makes communication a two-way street," and the timeless, "Be easy to work with."

What makes this book different is its human and introspective framing. "Be the Artist" comes through in its promise to educate up-and-coming creatives on important but rarely-discussed strategies. Detour doesn’t beat around the bush when he explains to his readers how to decide when to make the leap to a fulltime art career. He breaks down myths about what being a full-time artist is like and tells his readers “the shit they should have told [him].” For example, how even when working as a career-artist, it's important to continue to diversify income streams. 

The strength of "Be the Artist" is its focus on people and relationships. Breaking down categories into relationship types helps artists and creatives be authentic in their careers. Collectors are supporters or investors. Galleries and curators are partners. Marketing is connecting. 

 

Detour sprinkles in deep truths in ways that are relatable, with original language and ideas. Some truths are simple and seem obvious, but when you say them out loud or put them into writing they take shape. Detour emphasizes creativity as a natural state of being and that continuing to create is a choice that we need to make after childhood. "Be the Artist" challenges readers to embrace that natural state and to thoughtfully build-out and embrace their life as a creative. 

While Detour’s book is directed toward visual artists, any type of creative and any reader looking to more intentionally and introspectively look at their career path will benefit from this book. 

You can find and purchase Detour’s book, Be the Artist: The Interactive Guide to a Lasting Art Career here.