Thursday, June 16, 2011


"You’ll Never Make a Living as an Artist”
Carolyn Edlund ArtsyShark

Who said that to you?

Was it your parents, who wore concerned looks while they tried to steer you into declaring a business major? Did your eyes glaze over as you imagined a noose around your neck, dragging you to a windowless cubicle in a nondescript office building where you would face a dreary existence for the rest of your life?

Was it your friends, who didn’t think big enough to believe that someone they knew could launch a creative career on their own terms, and be successful doing it? The same friends who didn’t have the confidence to create their own big dreams?

Was it your ex, who complained that “your stuff” was in the way and what did you think you were doing anyhow? Who didn’t share your creative ambition and didn’t make the effort to understand?

Or was it you?

Have you denied yourself permission to do something so out of the ordinary and daring that you never took that leap?

Negative self-talk and lack of confidence have kept countless creative people from pursuing their dreams. Yes, it’s very hard. Yes, you will be discouraged, and yes, you will hear from people who say, “You’ll never make it as an artist.” Anything that’s really worth it is difficult.

I get a lot of email, online comments and questions in person from artists who are daring to dream but are having a problem with confidence and follow-through. They are looking for assistance – sometimes they want a rep, who will take all the pain of marketing and selling away from them. Sometimes they need a sounding board, or a decision maker or a partner. Other times, they want to know the “secret” to getting into galleries or are hoping for a referral. And sometimes they have trouble truly identifying themselves as artists.

Keep these five things in mind the next time you suffer a lack of confidence in your art career:

1. You are your own best advocate.

Even if you hire people to do your promotion and marketing, you alone are the most passionate about your success. Use this drive to speak about yourself and your work proudly. If you have trouble putting your thoughts into words, work on a written summary of your business that is a sentence or two long. Practice this until you are clear that you can quickly recall it. This is called an “elevator pitch” because it is short enough to be spoken during an elevator ride. Use it during conversations with people you meet – you never know who could be your next great contact!

2. Success breeds success.

Once you get a few sales or shows under your belt, things come more easily. Getting out of the starting gate can be tough and take a toll on the ego, especially when you are faced with rejection. Don’t give up on pursuing the icebreaker that will help you get a foothold and build your confidence and your business.

3. Attitude is everything.

Think and act successfully. This doesn’t mean that you aren’t being honest; it means that you believe you are an artist with talent who is working on a career in your field. Give yourself credit for all your efforts. Be kind to yourself and cultivate friends who also believe in you.

4. There is support for you.

I speak with experts all the time who are decision makers and have the power to advance the careers of artists. Despite seeming heartless to those who are rejected, many of these people have gone out of their way to express how they wish to support and encourage artists. Quite a few of them have been in your shoes. Even though they may not choose your work because it doesn’t fit their needs at the time, don’t take it personally.

5. Don’t give up.

I firmly believe the most important characteristic of an artist is persistence. Learn from your mistakes, raise the bar on your quality, and improve your efforts. And, continue to pursue opportunities — they will come!

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