6 Things Working Artists MUST Do to Thrive

Artists often get a bad rap for being aloof, unorganized, or ineffective, but it doesn’t have to be that way. More and more artists are learning that to make art a career, there’s more to it than applying a paint brush to a canvas, cutting paper for collages, or working in Adobe Suite.

Thriving as an artist is about running everything outside the practice itself as a necessary component of your ‘lifestyle business’.

That said, I still get way too many half-assed emails from artists who reach out in an effort to get more eyes on their work, but do so in a way that cripples the effort from the outset.

Every single artist artist relies on building relationships and offering value through their artistic practice, so let this list serve as a simple way to make sure you’re ticking all the boxes.

If you want to make art and get paid for it, these takeaways will help you feed your artistic seed.

Ahead I unpack 6 things working artists MUST do if they expect galleries, publications, and customers to follow, promote, and purchase their art.

1) Build & regularly update a professional-looking website.

It’s 2017 you guys, there’s really no excuse for not having a website, or having one that sucks. As an artist, your work is your business card, your foot in the door, and your personality all wrapped up in one.

If you don’t have a website that clearly and cleanly displays various examples of your work, that doesn’t say anything about you, and doesn’t allow interested partners to get in touch easily, you’ve already lost.

2. Send your work to as many galleries and art publications as humanly possible (read the caveat).

While having your work in art shows certainly helps acquaint the public with your style, the reality is that no one knows you’re in the studio cranking out awesome stuff unless you tell them.

In running IPaintMyMind, we’ve reached out to artists to show in the gallery about 50% of the time, while the other 50% of the time, artists submit their work. As a gallerist, I’m so thankful to artists who reach out in a personable way… especially after researching our organization.

The bottom line is that outreach is part of the gig. Setting aside even one day per month (2–3 is probably better) to send your website link, press kit (in PDF form), and most recent artwork to galleries and publications will go a long way.

Do the legwork (from your computer) and the right eyeballs will find you.

The important caveat is… know enough about the group, person, or publication you’re reaching out to so that they take you seriously, instead of feeling like you took the the easiest, least personal option.

If you create abstract oil paintings and the gallery you reached out to only features photographers, you’ve just wasted everyone’s time.

3. Create an EPK (electronic press kit) and update it — mail a paper copy to the top 10 galleries you’re interested in every 6 months.

Your EPK should give interested gallerists and writers a thorough yet concise glimpse into who you are and what you do.

Make it downloadable on your website and don’t be shy to stop into galleries in person to deliver them, or to just put them in the mail if the logistics are nuts.

Don’t limit yourself to the city you live in. Think big.

4. Go to art openings.

Guess who goes to art shows… art enthusiasts, gallerists, and artists.

And that’s exactly who you’re trying to connect with!

Even smaller cities have plenty of local art openings, and since most of them are free to attend and serve complimentary beverages, you could do a lot worse on a Thursday evening… (like rewatch that Netflix show you’ve already seen twice).

In-person is the best, and it’ll keep you top of mind.

5. Connect with other artists and pitch group shows.

Getting a gallery to commit to a solo show of yours might be stretch, especially if you don’t have a proven track record of sales.

Connecting with other artists who you respect, and whose styles you think are complimentary to your own is a great way to put something cohesive together with multiple networks being activated.

By pitching a show to a gallery in advance with some wiggle room to let the curators frame the experience, you give the gallery every reason to work with you.

6. Use social media in a targeted way and please, please, please promote your shows.

I don’t blame you for not wanting to be on Twitter or Instagram constantly, after all, your art needs to be created! That said, Instagram is a particularly useful tool for visual artists because the art speaks for itself.

Don’t forget to “heart” people’s positive comments on your posts, post in-process pics, short videos or time lapses that give a view into the process of making your art, and follow artists, galleries, or publications you think are dope.

As for the please, please, please portion of this statement — don’t let this slip. You need to make the most of every opportunity to show your work and being careless about event promotion is a great way to not get invited back.

You Have To Grind It Out

The reality is that you’ll probably only get accepted at a gallery or get featured in an article 10% of the time — and even that would be killing it.

Taking the approach that writers or sales people do, as far as making sure they do enough outreach to potential outlets or clients in a way that gets them enough work, is where it’s at.

For as personal as your art is to you, you can’t take rejection personally. And the more outreach you do, the less it stings when you don’t hear back.

Until you have a patron that wants to fund your life so you can make the art you want to, becoming a professional artist is about doing the things outside the creation of the art itself that can make your artistic practice sustainable, or even lucrative.

If you take the above points seriously, you’ll give your art the chance to do more for you than you might have ever expected.