Along the Pacific Trail by Brian Buckrell. Acrylic, 24 x 36 in
Artists weigh in on how their art careers have changed (and how they might change).
As we celebrate our ten year anniversary, we are reflecting on how the art world has changed over the last decade and thinking about how it might change in the upcoming one.
For ten years, we have had the distinct pleasure of working with and talking with artists on a daily basis about how they manage their art careers.
From the impact of social media to the importance of networking and documentation, seven artists let us know what the lessons they have learned in their art career over the last ten years. They also shared their thoughts on what might shape the art world in the next decade.
Here's what they had to say.
What have you learned about having an art career in the last ten years?
A Careful Cleaning by Nancy Tankersley. Oil, 12 x 12 in
You can become self-represented online
Artists can now self-represent because of the internet and many find they don’t need to be in galleries to have a successful career. I have found that I now have many streams of revenue including my galleries, national juried shows, plein air competitions, local charity events and art festivals, and social media. At the same time, being a part of a good gallery that represents nationally known artists is important for most mid-career artists.
For me, the hardest lesson is that galleries like their artists to have a brand and stick with that brand. Having been a gallery owner, I understand that. But I am the type of artist who likes all subjects and has been continually changing my subject and even my style. I painted portraits for a few years and then started improving my work through a year of concentration on still life.
My first gallery took me in because of my traditional still life paintings, then a few years later another because of my figures on the beach paintings. They were followed by bistro scenes and then urban-type landscapes. For that reason, I have shifted my emphasis to teaching so that I can continue to explore without being constantly required to supply my gallery with the same type of painting. I realize that many artists have to brand themselves early in order to produce a decent income, but since I was also a portrait artist and they supplied the income while allowing me to continue to learn and grow.
Studio Study 19-5, steel with dark bronze powder coat, 16 x 16 x 8 in (40.64 x 40.64 x 20.32 cm) by Matt Devine
When to say yes and when to say no
I used to say yes to everything in order to please all my galleries/representatives, but it really can wear on you and take the joy out of the work. Now I am fortunate to go at a pace that keeps a harmonious state of mind. There are still deadlines and commitments, but more isn’t always better. It’s better to stay in a good state of mind and true to the process of how the work unfolds.
Phantasm by Sean Christopher Ward, Acrylic, Glitter and ArtResin on Wood Panel. 24 x 30 x 1.6 in (60.96 x 76.2 x 4.06 cm)
Document your work from the start
Never start a gallery with just one business partner. It's happened far too often when we had a stalemate of progress—from never being able to agree to the same plan of action—and then you have to sacrifice your ideas and your creativity, just to make something you both agree upon happen. If I were to do it again, I would have at least 3-5 business partners, not only to split expenses but to never be stuck in democratic limbo with an odd number of voters.
Also, I regret every single piece that I never properly documented throughout my career. I still have the written information about them, but images were much harder to find in my youth.
Lucid by Catie Radney. Acrylic On Canvas, 48 x 48 in (121.92 x 121.92 cm)
Trust the process
I have more confidence. I can let go of everything in my paintings and I can trust the process. I am getting organized with my work and keeping inventory which is huge for me. I have inventoried over 3,000 pieces.
Sattva 33 by Tracey Adams. Encaustic and ink on Shikoku, 38.5 x 26 in
Pay more attention to your own work than what others are doing
Follow your instincts and don’t pay attention to what others are doing as it concerns your own work. Support other artists and share as much as you are willing. I’ve gone from being very successful selling geometric work to incorporating gestural drawing and collage into my paintings, basically creating looser work. It’s not only fun, but everything is unplanned and refreshing.
Sailing Camp Regatta by Elaine Lisle. Oil on board, 10 x 20 in.
Building your contacts and network is critical
Social media and the internet, in general, have had a huge impact on my career over the last ten years. I am very grateful to have a wonderful gallery to represent me, (the Gross McCleaf Gallery in Philadelphia), but it has been important for me to build my own network and not depend solely on the gallery to promote my art. In the ’90s and early 2000s there was a limit to how many juried shows you could enter—everything was done using slides or hand delivery, now, you can have access to the world through online galleries and social media. Although it has been most important to build my home base of clients, art consultants, and students, it has been wonderful to enter competitions and shows across the country and overseas.
Nothing is forever. Galleries come and go, and there is never a time when making art is easy. You always have to be thinking of what you will do next. If you have a successful show, the work is gone and then you have to make more. You are never done!
Moraine Lake Morning by Brian Buckrell. Acrylic, 12 x 16 in
Acceptance of your work allows you to enjoy the journey
I was just beginning to paint "commercially " a decade ago and since then have had growing success as measured by gallery interest, sales and requests for giving workshops. I now paint full time and continue to work with exceptional artists in Canada and the USA.
To be me. To paint what I like and in the way I enjoy—and accept that it is good enough.
... and now for what these artists predict for the next ten years.
How do you see being a full-time artist changing or shifting over the next ten years? What do you predict for artists in the next decade?
La Brecha by Matt Devine. #3corten steel, 83 x 42 x 38 in (210.82 x 106.68 x 96.52 cm).
The good art dealers will stand the test of time
I think galleries will always be the main channel for artistic representation but in this industry, reputation is big as the art world is very small. The good dealers will stand the test of time and it is those programs and relationships that are worth cultivating. Of course, with the internet and social media, it is not unusual now to have collectors all over the world and it is exciting to see how American artists are received in those regions.
Podgin' For Oysters by Nancy Tankersley. Oil On Canvas, 48 x 36 in
Social media will grow in importance
I think the internet and social media marketing will continue to grow in importance, and that the number of galleries will continue to decline. Those that remain will have their pick of many fine artists. Therefore artists will need to become more creative in the ways they reach their customers. What do we predict for artists in the next decade? It’s as hard to predict as the stock market!
Indirect by Catie Radney. Acrylic on panel, 36 x 36 in (91.44 x 91.44 cm).
Social media continues to open opportunities
Social media has brought a platform and exposure for artists, which opens up so many opportunities. The downside, it feels as if we can’t be painters we have to sell the whole package. I don’t think I am competitive but I am jealous of the artist who appears to have their art and life balanced. The ‘pretty package’ is too hard.
Phantasmagoria by Sean Christopher Ward. Acrylic, Glitter and ArtResin on Wood Panel, 48 x 48 x 2 in (121.92 x 121.92 x 5.08 cm)
Virtual reality may play a part in buying art online
In my opinion, I see more and more people shifting to the digital age of sharing their works, especially as flexible LED panels and holograms become a reality for the masses. Right now, there is still a slight uncertainty from collectors about the exact nature of a work they find online. Are the colors correct? Can I see real detail? Can I get the same experience from going to a gallery, as I can online? All of these questions are becoming less influential as technology progresses and it is taking away from the brick and mortar experiences as people will be able to congregate together without leaving their homes. Already, last year, I participated in a virtual reality gallery exhibition, where users only needed to log in online and no headwear or special hardware was required to view the show.
0218.7 by Tracey Adams. Encaustic on Shikoku, 19 x 12.5 in
Interactive experiential installations could enhance studio work
I’m not entirely sure, but whatever shifts occur will involve computers and digital imagery plus perhaps more interactive experiential installations. While installations aren’t as viable in terms of direct sales, it certainly enhances one’s studio work by creating a new dialogue.
Sledding with a View by Elaine Lisle. 24 x 36 in.
Brick and mortar galleries may have to change their model
I believe it will be harder and harder for brick and mortar galleries to make it and there will be more and more art sold online. For painting specifically, I worry that our culture is putting less and less value on original art. Millennials seem content to decorate their walls with giclee prints. I also feel that with social media, the artist is confronted with the fact that there are many brilliant talented artists out in the world, and it is easy to feel discouraged about how to differentiate yourself from the crowd.
My goal is to spend the rest of my life just making good paintings. I no longer want to enter a ton of plein air competitions—I want to keep making art, hopefully, have a place to exhibit and show that work, and hopefully not leave a ton of artwork behind for my kids to have to figure out how to deal with it!
Early Light Moraine Lake by Brian Buckrell. Acrylic, 30 x 40 in.
Competition will reward the resilient
At 84 years old, I still hope I am painting a decade from now. For others, the competition is growing. But the best, the most resilient, and most adaptable, will survive and prosper.
I love to paint and I am grateful I found it as a second career in my senior years. It gives me identity, a sense of accomplishment, mental and physical (plein air) stimulation. I have been honored recently being invited to be a speaker and presenter at the International Plein Air Convention in Denver and am the only Canadian to be asked to participate in the prestigious Door County Plein Air Competition in July. These honors and others are the greatest rewards. I am hoping there will be more.