I have been meaning to write this post for a long time now and it is dedicated to Artists Just Starting Out.
I do not in any way think that I hold a crystal ball when it comes to being an artist and building a business around my art making. In fact, one of the things I enjoy about this path is that there is no direct course anyone has to take in order to have a flourishing business. It is flexible, fun, and can explode with persistent care.
This year I have had so many inquires to meet over coffee to discuss my creative path with artists just starting out. I have enjoyed every single meeting for many reasons, but primarily because it takes me back to the space I was in when I started to grow sea legs during the first few years of my business.
But a few things have happened along the way. I, (like all of you out there) am more pressed for time than ever. I oversee things at both Marquin Designs and Vino & van Gogh. I have a 1.5 year old who requires a ton of attention and goes to school half days. I'm about to have another baby. And we are moving early 2017. (On a total side note, life seems to only get busier the further you get down the path...)
So this year I am going to have to take a break from meeting face to face with artists early in their career and direct them to this post. I hope that my fellow artist friends will leave any commentary below that you wish you had known in the early days. And it is my wish that this will be very helpful and informative. While its not coffee with us connecting in person, I hope it is a close second.
Four Important Things:
Find a Subject Matter you can stick with Creatively. This can be harder than it sounds, but you really really need to do it. I think this comes when you paint/draw/create a bunch of pieces and pin point what sort of theme you can in turn create a large body of work.
When I look back on the beginnings of my career, I was all over the map in terms of what I would paint. I created a vase of flowers, then a scene inspired by downtown Greenville, and then an abstract painting. This was all necessary because I really needed to drill down on what subject I could stick with to make a series, but you do not want to embark on being an artist and present a bunch of random creations: they need to be cohesive.
This seems really easy, but until I figured it out, I was flailing in the wind.
By cohesive I think you should establish a similar subject matter (Miles Purvis does this well with her Charleston Basket Weavers), and/or a color palette (C. Brooke Ring paints with a dash of white in all of her paintings), and/or a design technique (Mary Mac from Color Charleston has a cohesive design style so that you can tell all of her products come from the same consistent group.)
Once you have the Subject in Tact, work on your Style and Approach. Once you figure out what sort of subject you can stick with for a long time (a series of a minimum of thirty paintings, or a series that unravels over the course of years like Lulie Wallace's Flower Paintings,) work on your style and approach. Lulie has developed a style that is original, but also references van Gogh. Creating a style that is vaguely familiar is a smart move because people can connect with it.
Think of how Ralph Lauren does actually not re-create the wheel: he keeps re-creating a version of the American Woman inspired by all of her forays into the good life. It is because his brand is so familiar and nostalgic that people connect with it. It is harder to connect with style that is 'out there' (think avante garde fashion designers) but easy to connect with style that is familiar.
This is all to say, I think you can be as wildly creative as you want to be. But if you want to become an artist with a sellable brand, you need to be relatable and familiar.
Just Do It. Nike was right when they said it. Half the battle is just getting in the studio and creating. If you can do that and churn out a body of work, you will have stuff to sell. And that is the most important part of this: selling the things you make.
Don't overthink your Instagram feed (ok, a little thought does need to go into this, but sometimes people get bogged down by social media!)
Do get yourself into the studio and get to work. This is how ideas come, subjects stick, and you get better. (And I can't tell you just how true this is: I have grown so much from creating lots of work over these past six years!)
Create Your Own Path. Last but not least, there is a huge community of creatives out there. Everyone is cutting a different path and there is no direct path to success. It is lots of trial and error, lots of following your gut, looking at people that inspire you, and forging ahead.
Oh, and it will be a ton of work. Imagine a lot of work then double it. Thats how much work this will take. But if you are passionate about your work, it does not feel like a job. I often times say my job is in fact just my big old hobby.
In closing, I wish we could meet in person, but to all the Artists Just Starting Out, please leave a note below (or any questions you might have.)
And to artists on the up and up: please share your best pieces of advice below.
Happy (almost!) 2017 everyone.