The 10 Steps to Working As An Artist

Hi! I’m Crista Cloutier of The Working Artist Masterclass.

I’m an artist, just like you. But I’ve also been on the other side, working as an arts dealer and gallerist, a curator  even critic. I want share what I’ve learned about how artists succeed in the art business.

So today, I’m going to share what I see as the Ten (10) Steps to Working As An Artist.

Let’s see if you can find which step you’re at right now.

  1. The first step is actually a step back – back in time. Do you remember the first time you felt that creative spark?

Was it the joy you felt playing with crayons? Was it the attention you got from being the kid who could draw? Did it come later in life for you?

When did you first know that you were an artist?

Take a second and identify that time for yourself.

  1. Okay, so the second step is about taking that first step forward. Now that you’ve connected with that voice inside that whispered “I am an artist,” let’s ask where it wants to take you?

Do you have a vision for your life as an artist? What does that look like? What do you want to do with this thing?

Or maybe you have a project in mind, and that’s the direction you want to move in next. The second step is all about setting the course.

Of course, you do know that when we try to set the course in life, life can take us off course. Right?

The funny thing about that is, it’s the journey that life takes us on that brings us to where we want to be. But often in a whole new way, different than anything we could have ever imagined if we had been the ones in charge in planning the whole thing things ourselves.

As a creative person, you need to let go and allow. It’s part of the process. But you still set a course or a goal for yourself in this step because without it, without setting an intention, we often end up going in circles or not moving at all.

It’s the energy behind the vision that sets your adventure in motion. So identify where it is you want to go as an artist. And don’t be afraid to dream big.

  1. And speaking of being afraid …Facing your fear is the third step.

Name an artist who has no fear. You can’t. That artist doesn’t exist.

So if fear is stopping you, give yourself a huge pat on the back. You’re at the third step, baby. Now let’s keep moving because you don’t want to be stopped here.

This is someplace you’re supposed to move through, not where you’re meant to live. Trust me, if you keep moving forward, you will grow and learn and achieve. But if you stay stuck in fear, you won’t.

  1. The fourth step is all about making the work, it’s about developing your craft. Developing a consistent practice.

Indulging your curiosity. Learning. Working. Creating. This is a step that never ends, actually. You’re committed to doing this. You’re committed to doing this.

  1. The next step is to find your voice.

What does that mean?

It means that you have something to say and you have found a way to say it through your work. It’s about exploring your ideas and discovering ways to share those ideas through your work. It’s about maturing as an artist.

Like craft, this is also something that you never stop developing and as you go, your voice as an artist will continue to deepen and grow.

  1. The sixth step is confidence. Confidence isn’t something you’re born with. It’s not a matter of you’ve got it or you don’t. That’s ego.

Confidence is the sixth step because it’s born from the first five steps; from knowing who you are and where you want to go. From facing your fears, developing your craft and finding your voice.

This is how you build confidence. You work for it.

  1. The next step is all about grit. I call it the tenacity and audacity step. Because you have to be tenacious and audacious to work as an artist.

It’s kind of in the job description, right?

Look, it’s audacious to even call ourselves artists. I know a lot of artists who won’t, or who feel it’s someone else’s right to decide if they’re an artist or not.

I personally don’t believe that.

But really, that’s one of those wonderful art conversations you and I could have over a bottle of wine as we talk about all the other elusive, philosophical topics around art and being an artist. I’m certainly not going to change your mind in a ten minute video.

But what was this step again?

That’s right, grit. Tenacity.

You have to stick with it as an artist. You have to keep working, even when it’s boring, even when it’s really hard, even when you get discouraged, even when you face obstacles, even when it looks like all hope is lost.

Because it’s not really about what you make as an artist, it’s the kind of person become as you do the work. And a big part of the work, step 7 in fact, is about having the courage and the commitment to doing the work.

Now Step 8 is the step you’re going to hate. And it’s probably is the step you’re most afraid of. Do you know what that step is?

It’s failure. And believe it or not, failure is an actual step. You can’t skip it. Every artist fails. You have to fail to get to success.

So don’t be afraid of failure. Be challenged by it instead.

Every time you fall, I want you to find the gold, the gift that failure brought.  Because failure never comes empty-handed.

Maybe you had an exhibition but no one bought anything, so you felt ashamed, you felt like you failed. But if you look for the gold, you might find that there was maybe someone you met who introduced you to a new idea or a new professional contact or even information about how you could market your next show better.

The more you look for the gifts that failure brings, the less power failure has to scare you or stop you. So fail big. Fail often.

Art world superstar Vik Muniz once told me that those time he succeeds is when he actually failed to fail. He said that his whole career stands on failure.

So forget about what your ego tells you failure means. Because you’re an artist, you know that failure means you’re learning and growing and working. That’s a good thing.

Step 9 in working as an artist is about finding your audience. This is where you connect with your people in a meaningful way.

Your people are the ones who show you, support you and buy from you. They’re your community, your patrons, your followers.

When I started working in the art business, I met the most successful art dealer in town. She’d worked on an international level with incredible artists.

I was just starting out and didn’t know anything, so I invited her to lunch so that I could ask questions and learn from the master. She told me that the art business was all about relationships.”

And she’s right.

It doesn’t matter whether those relationships are online or in person. Your relationships are the most important currency you have as an artist. Build them. Nurture them.

And if you’re not sure how to build these relationships, or how to nurture them, or even how the whole art business thing works, this is where I can help. But I’ll tell you more about me and what I do later.

Right now it’s time for the last step. Step 10. Can you guess what it is? It’s been with you this whole time.

From the start, when you first knew that you were an artist. From the moment you dared to dream about the life and the work that you wanted to create.

It was definitely with you when you faced your fears. Your fears were real, but this was stronger.

Do you know what it is? It’s your faith.

Facing your fears was faith in action. You worked faithfully as you developed your craft and your voice as an artist. As your confidence grew, you took bigger chances. You audaciously faced down obstacles with faith and grit.

Step eight, failure, was where you found faith on your knees. You learned that there’s always a gift when you fall down, because that’s how we get back up again.

In step nine you shared what you learned on your journey with others, the faithful.

And now faith is our last step, because this journey is a circle. Artists take this journey again and again.

The more times you take it, the deeper into transformation you’ll go. It will be reflected back in your work, it will be reflected in your life, in your career and it will be reflected in your self.

Because you are an artist.

My name is Crista Cloutier and I created this video to welcome you to The Working Artist. Each Thursday I’ll send something out that I think you might like; a blog post with information about working as an artist, a video that I hope will inspire you, an interview with another working artist.

It will always be something different. So watch for that email on Thursdays.

Because you’re new to the club, you’ll be hearing from me a little more often for the next few weeks. So in addition to my Thursday emails, I’ll be sending you even more information about how to sell your art, how to make money from your art, and how to find more opportunities to work as an artist.

I’ll also be sending you information on The Working Artist Masterclass, which is my premium program. And I would love it if you would take a real look to see if it’s right for you.

Because if you’re struggling to show and sell your work, I believe that I can help.

So now you’re probably asking, “Who are you, Crista? Why are you in my in-box? How do you know so much about working as an artist?”

Good questions.

I’ve worked in and around the world of contemporary art throughout my career. I’ve collaborated with world-known artists, I’ve introduced unknown artists to the marketplace. I’ve seen where artists get stuck, in confusion and overwhelm.

So five years ago, I created The Working Artist Program to help artists – like you. Since that time, I’ve worked with thousands of artists, from over 60 different countries.

And through the Masterclass I’ve helped them achieve their dreams of becoming working artists. I’d love to help you too.

So watch for my messages in your in-box. I’ve got a lot of good stuff coming your way. Take what you need, leave the rest. I look forward to staying in touch. Bye for now.

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