Is it necessary to learn things the hard way in your art career?
Miguel Mayher, founder of The Fine Artist Summit, doesn't think so.
A career in the arts is already difficult enough. Why not seek the advice of those that have come before you and avoid unnecessary mistakes?
That's why Mayher created The Fine Artist Summit, a free online seven-day educational event assembling 37 accomplished artists and art career experts from around the world to share their insights on what it takes to thrive as a visual artist in the 21st century.
Each day of the week offers five different masterclasses, designed for artists who seek practical, current advice to help grow their careers. The masterclass sessions, 36 in total, are offered free of cost and each will remain available to registrants for 24 hours.
Registration is open now at Fine Artist Summit and the event begins on November 22, 2019.
Mayher sat down and answered our questions about what to expect from the summit, why he created the summit, and also shared some personal advice on getting started as a professional artist.
Why did you create the Fine Art Summit?
I created the summit after artists would turn to me for business and career advice, and sometimes I would tell myself, “someone out there must have a more specific answer to this specific question".
I realized I don’t have all the answers. In fact, no one does.
The artist’s journey is a creative path, and by definition, no two artist’s careers are the same. This doesn’t mean you can’t learn from others’ mistakes or take inspiration from their successful approaches.
By bringing together dozens of successful artists and advisors, I started to see patterns emerge on what makes an artist’s journey thrive.
The summit seeks to bridge the gap between what is taught in art schools and what artists actually have to learn (the hard way) in the first ten or so years of their professional careers. It is my wish that this lessens unnecessary pain and leaves only the necessary, productive kind of growth.
What do you think most artists struggle with when establishing a career?
Internally, confidence. Externally, time to make great art and money to sustain themselves.
How will this summit help?
The Fine Artist Summit allows artists to hear directly from other artists, perhaps further down their career path, that of you can take inspiration from (hint: self-doubt does not go away, even if you are successful in the eyes of the world). You can avoid unnecessary mistakes and time-wasting efforts—these are different from the necessary mistakes of the creative process.
You can decide for yourself in a more informed way what is the ideal next step in your artist career instead of simply guessing and hoping.
By learning from experts who have written books on career advice for artists—from grant writing, to how to write about your artwork—artists will be able to speed up their learning curve and lessen the frustration that comes from dealing with the oftentimes less-appealing practical matters. In fact, some may even experience a shift in mindset that allows them to actually enjoy the same activities that they previously dreaded. Participants will come out with more confidence about speaking with collectors, hosting an exhibit in an art fair, or following up with interested buyers.
If you could give advice to an artist just starting out about building a career, what would it be?
First, know for yourself if you can be perfectly happy without being a professional artist. If you can, you probably should consider taking another path. This is an arena where compulsion is required to make it.
Second, define what "making it" means to you.
If you don’t define success for yourself, you will end up looking around you and becoming a second-hand version of some other artists. And, that defeats the purpose of taking on this creative journey in the first place. Be honest with yourself with the hardship of the lifestyle that comes during the early days. Keep focused on the magic that you create in the studio and the rest will fall in place in due time. Things happen and opportunities are created when you persist working hard while educating yourself to take intelligent risks.
See if you can arrange your life so that you can devote yourself 100% to your art career for 18 months to two years.
One year may suffice, but it's also good to have a buffer period of time. Say "yes!" to every opportunity during that period and see where it leads you. Create constantly and apply constantly. Then pause and evaluate carefully. All paths have a struggle—but are you suited to this struggle?
If you find yourself getting results both in and out of the studio during that period, that at least hints at the possibility. Make a decision based on your experiences during this period about whether you decide to proceed or not. Regardless of the answer, you will know you made the best decision possible.
How does that advice change as they become more established?
Once you start getting more opportunities than you can handle, you can afford to be picky.
There is first an exploration phase, and later, a curation phase. Once you have found your voice in your work, have at least three "critics" confirm that you are ready to show. Make sure that these are people who will tell you things objectively and from a credible perspective.
Then, focus on being more selective. At this point, you can do less of everything and choose a few of the better things. That becomes the new direction.
What topics will the presenters be covering?
Most topics are relevant whether you are an emerging artist or mid-career. Here’s just a small sample of what you’ll learn during the summit sessions:
- How to write your artist statement and talk about your work
- How to sell your art even if you are introverted
- How to get into a gallery step-by-step
- How to get into museums
- How to succeed in art fairs
- How to secure art grants
- How to benefit from artist residencies
- How to grow your Instagram followers the right way
Why is it important for artists to get training beyond their studio skills?
The myth of the starving artist and the image of Van Gogh dying penniless exist for a reason. If you don’t allocate at least some part of your day or week to developing your opportunities beyond the work itself, then how will your work ever leave the studio?
How will others enjoy your creations?
How will you stand out in a world full of noise with the beauty and meaning you have brought to life?
You don’t necessarily need to identify as an entrepreneur, and you certainly don’t need to learn everything about accounting. But, knowing your practical strengths outside the studio, as well as your weaknesses, and seeing you how you can compensate for them—whether that be learning new skills or asking for and hiring support—is a requirement if you wish your art to be seen and, yes, sold.
How can artists benefit from the summit and how can they be part of it?
The Fine Artist Summit will make all of their educational sessions free to watch every day of the seven-day conference. Attendees will have the option to upgrade to a Premium Pass to keep access to the recordings plus many valuable bonuses from sponsors and speakers with tools to help artists on their professional journey. Artists are encouraged to register now to receive their free “ticket” to the conference. The Fine Artist Summit begins on November 22, 2019.