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If you’re an artist you already know how important it is to keep learning. Curiosity is the artist’s calling card, and devotion to craft is what separates the professionals from the dilettantes.
But don’t stop at the fun stuff. Taking artist workshops to learn new techniques or perfect old ones is important, but understanding the best professional practices is crucial if you want to make your living as an artist. You want to make educated
decisions about your art practice.
Now this is where a lot of artists say to me, “I don’t need to take any artist workshops, I’m going to find an artist’s agent to do all that business and marketing stuff for me.” And then I sigh and explain that the art business doesn’t work like that.
Artist agents, whether they are a gallery, a broker, or an old-fashioned agent, don’t want to be your mommy. They don’t want to work with someone who doesn’t understand the business, and they certainly don’t want to have to take care of you.
Artist agents want to sell art, and they want to work with someone who understands professional responsibilities and how to create the proper marketing materials, how to best show work and how to talk about it, how to handle finances, and someone who can make educated decisions about social media and online marketing.
And if you find an artist’s agent who tells you otherwise, if you meet an artist’s agent who says, “Don’t worry, I’ll handle all of this business stuff for you!” Beware because I’ve known dozens of artists who have fallen prey to unscrupulous artist agents because the artists gave their power away.
The best way to work with someone else is to understand and respect one another’s roles. Not to turn over the reins of your business because you’re “too creative” to learn the fundamentals.
Artist workshops for business abound and they are a wonderful resource. You can find professional practice artist workshops online or at community art centers. You can study with gallerists, curators, or even with other artists who’ve achieved the success you want. The choices are vast but again, do your research. Don’t just take a course because it’s cheap or quick or close to your house. You get what you pay for and that applies to artist workshops as well.
And now this is where artists say to me, “But I can find out what I need to know online. I can just google the information.” Yes, you can. But that doesn’t mean that the information is right. Again, you get what you pay for.
I recently met a young man who was advertising artist workshops for business. I asked about his credentials and he told me that he didn’t have any. He’d studied art in school, become a graphic designer, but now wanted to find a way to make money so he could go back to making art. Teaching artist workshops were how he decided to do it.
I asked where he got the information he was selling and his reply? The internet.
That said; there are some wonderful artist workshops available. The ones that I recommend include Paul Klein of Klein Artistworks, Susan Mumford of Be Smart About Art, Steven Sparling of The Thriving Creative, Allison Stanfield of ArtBiz, and Jason Horejs of Red Dot Blog.
I myself teach an artist workshop for business too. It’s called The Working Artist.
I describe The Working Artist as “everything they never taught in art school” because for some reason, they don’t. Yes, they’ll show you how to make work but they don’t teach you how to sell it, how to get shows, negotiate with galleries, create professional reproductions, or create a marketing plan.
Most art schools today do students a real disservice by not preparing them for the business of art. So this is where artist workshops can help.
My own background is quite different from the folks I listed above. I’ve worked nearly every aspect of the art business. I’ve been an artist’s agent. I’ve run a gallery, and a nationally renowned studio. I’ve been an arts broker, selling art to galleries and museums and I’ve personally sold millions of dollars worth of art over my career. I’ve collaborated with world-famous artists and those fresh out of school and
completely unknown. I’ve curated exhibitions that have toured the world. I’ve produced award-winning documentaries about art. I’ve published books and
articles. I’m certified as a fine arts appraiser. And I’m a working artist myself.
In the end, there is support and information out there for artists and photographers who are serious about their career. Waiting for an artist’s agent will not serve you.
Life is too short and the competition too fierce. If you want to be a working artist, take responsibility for those things you need to learn, and the choice I recommend is artists workshops.
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