Thursday, September 25, 2014

How to be an artist

My friend suggested I start this post with: “Tell me how this is accomplished.”

I’m actually curious. It has been three months since I started my work as a full time artist. When people ask what I do, I say I’m an artist. That is my job. (It still feels weird to say and the responses so far have been mixed.) And while I’m a big fan of ‘fake it till I make it,’ I realized, while drawing the other week, that I might not know what I am doing. For one, if being an artist is my job, why don’t I make any money?

I still very much want to be an artist, the question is: am I doing it correctly? I ask in spite of the fact that I have been making art for some time, with two art degrees no less! I realize my ambivalence is in lieu of the fact that I’ve represented countless artists as a curator, art dealer/seller, and gallery director. How is it that I haven’t a clue if I’m doing this job correctly?

Well, I think the artist interviews I’ve been conducting on the blog are a selfish attempt to investigate that question for myself. I’m looking for inspiration. I need ideas. Not creative ideas. I know how to make art. I learned how to make art in school but I don’t think I learned how to be an artist. I’m not trying to play a game of semantics trickery. There is some mysterious part of this job that I am certain I am missing-besides money of course. Or maybe that is it.

So far, I’ve heard some tried and true ideas on how to be an artist: Submit your work. Get into shows. Expect rejection. Make more work. Repeat. I googled the title of this blog post and found that if the aforementioned actions are not enough, you can pay to learn how to be an artist. I’ll pass. Most of the posts I find on the internet regarding this topic tell me the pitfalls to avoid. From what I can gather, being an artist is a combination of specific behaviors, credentials, (some sort of audience) recognition, and the artist’s own determination.

I’ve learned a good deal from my friends, which reinforces the idea that being an artist means being part of an artistic community. For instance, I’m applying to residencies and a friend told me to stress in the application that I’m looking to produce more work right now, not expose it. Yes. Of course some residencies are geared more towards production rather than exposure. I honestly never thought about it in those terms though or that I even needed to say it.

I’ve also learned from the artists I’ve interviewed on this blog about the importance of demanding time for my work, and, if needed, setting up a schedule. I’ve heard the value of setting up hard, concrete numerical goals for ones creative practice. But I haven’t given myself hard numbers to follow so far, I guess because I thought creativity is fluid and, dare I say, intuitive. But it doesn’t work that way. Artist’s say, “I’ll make 2 pieces a month,” “I’ll do one 30 minute performance a month,” etc.

If anyone wants to leave a comment about what they do to be an artist, please do so! In the mean time, I’ll be working on my calendar.

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