There’s A LOT of advice out there for artists. The problem? It’s not always practical.
Some make grand promises of quick fixes, and some is so generic that you wouldn’t even begin to know how to act on it.
We scroll through dozens of articles online or sit through art school lectures, hoping for the guidance we need to move our careers forward. But, if nothing feels straightforward and realistic, then nothing is going to get accomplished.
Tired with the lack of hands-on direction provided to artists, curator, consultant, dealer and gallerist Alix Sloan wanted to do more.
With her best-selling book "Launching Your Art Career: A Practical Guide for Artists,” one-on-one consultations, online courses, a website, and blog, Alix helps make practical information available and accessible to young artists everywhere.
And, we were lucky enough to snag an interview! Artists, if you’re ready to take the next step toward success, read on to see what practical advice Alix offered to grow your art career:
What’s the biggest mistake you see artists make when it comes to running their art business?
The days when an artist was represented by one or two galleries and those galleries took care of tasks for the artist and advocated on the artist’s behalf are gone. Those relationships are becoming more and more rare.
Artists today have to pursue exhibitions themselves, maintain their support materials, manage relationships, ship their work, really everything. It’s time-consuming and tough to balance. But it has to be done.
I meet artists all the time who either resist or refuse to make time for career management. They just make work and then wonder why their careers aren’t moving forward. And the thing is you can make the best work in the world, but you can’t build an art career if nobody ever sees it. You have to work to get it out in the world.
Then I meet other artists who get so caught up in career development they don’t make enough time to create new work. You can get a fantastic gallery or curator to come and see your work, but if you don’t have recent work you’re excited about to show that person, it can be a missed opportunity to shine.
What steps can artists take to fix this?
I recommend artists look at the total amount of time they have for their art career every week and dedicate a percentage of that time to career development. The amount of time depends on where they’re at in their careers and what their goals are. I call this time "office hours" and encourage artists to schedule it to be sure it gets done.
What are the most important skills artists need to succeed in the current art business landscape?
No matter what the business landscape, artists always need the hard skills and passion to make their work, stick with it, and make better and better work. And, of course, all of the skills to be as independent and productive as possible during their office hours—build and maintain their own websites, research and organize submissions, pack and ship work professionally, and so on.
By far the most essential soft skill is adaptability!
The art world is in flux. We all—artists and arts professionals—have to learn to keep up on new developments unfailingly, move past disappointments graciously, take advantage of opportunities quickly, and adapt to unexpected changes without losing heart. I find it challenging myself. But it’s so important.
How can artists go the extra mile to get noticed when it comes to gallery representation and applying for juried shows?
With galleries, the best approach for getting noticed is to be supportive. If you like a gallery and are able, show up to their openings. Fewer and fewer people actually show up in person. Galleries and the artists exhibiting will appreciate it. I know I always do.
If you can’t show up, follow galleries you like on social media. And when you do interact, be considerate. Always respect their time by following submission guidelines exactly. And once you’re in a show or working with a gallery, be an asset not a problem. Meet deadlines. Promote the shows you’re in.
Be pleasant to work with and you’ll definitely stand out!
With juried shows, just put your best work forward. Submit work that is appropriate and follow instructions. So many people don’t read guidelines thoroughly which wastes everyone’s time. And then don’t worry about it! These things are so subjective. You can never really know what a juror or curator is envisioning for a show or what could impact their decision.
Watch how much money you’re spending and be sure those fees are going to good use – like helping a non-profit stay in business or paying legitimate costs. But keep submitting to shows that really make sense for you. It’s a numbers game.
What is the biggest thing you want artists to take away from reading your book?
After many years speaking at art schools and working with artists I was so frustrated by the lack of concise, practical career advice and information available to artists. I was looking for a single, straightforward, affordable resource I could direct them to that covered the basics in an encouraging but realistic way. I couldn’t find that. So, I set out to create it myself.
In the book I share my own insights and also asked over forty colleagues, artists and arts professionals, to contribute their advice.
I hope artists take away from the book a helpful, basic roadmap they can follow and tweak to suit their situation that will help them reach their goals. I hope they see that understand that there’s no secret handshake or magic formula but still feel encouraged and inspired.
I also hope, by reading the contributions, that they see that they aren’t alone. They’re part of a great big community and everyone has different experiences.
A crucial part of office hours? Tracking all of the moving parts of your art business with Artwork Archive.