How to Work with an Art Coach

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. Portrait of Crista Cloutier

But don’t stop at the fun stuff. Taking workshops to learn new techniques or perfect old ones is important, but making the investment in an art coach, someone who can guide you toward the best professional practices for you, is crucial if you want to make your living as an artist. 

Now this is where a lot of artists say to me, “I don’t need to work with an art coach, I’m going to find an 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, who doesn’t already have a proven track-record, 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; how to create the proper marketing materials, how to best show work, how to talk about it, how to handle finances, and someone who can make educated decisions about social media and online marketing. And the best way I know to achieve this knowledge is to work with an art coach.

Art Coaches

Art coaches abound and they are a wonderful resource for anyone who wants to take their career to the next level. You can find artist coaches online or sometimes even within your community. Many art coaches have worked as gallerists, curators, or even as an artist who’s achieved a certain level of success. The choices are vast, but do your research. Don’t choose an art coach because they’re cheap or famous or making huge promises. Choose someone whose values and interests and approach jives with yours.

Some artists say to me, “I don’t need an art coach. I can just google the information I need.” Yes, you can. But that doesn’t mean that the information is right. You get what you pay for.

I recently met a young man who was advertising himself as an art coach. 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. Becoming an art coach was 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 art coaches available. 

I myself am an art coach too. I’ve developed a program called The Working Artist

My own background is quite different from other art coaches. I’ve worked in nearly every aspect of the art business.

I’ve been:

  • an artist’s agent
  • a gallerist
  • the director of a nationally renowned art studio
  • I’ve sold millions of dollars in art to galleries and museums
  • collaborated with world-famous artists and introduced new ones to the market
  • I’ve curated exhibitions that have toured the world.
  • I’ve produced award-winning documentary films about artists
  • I’ve published books and articles and artists
  • I’m certified as a fine arts appraiser.
  • My files are housed in the American Art Archives of the Smithsonian Institute
  • I’m a fellow of the Royal Society of Art
  • And I’m a working artist myself

This is why I can claim the authority to call myself an art coach.

Selling Art is Not Selling Out: Wisdom from an Art Coach

Art is communication. Art needs to be seen to be art. Otherwise it’s just paint on canvas. So part of your job, as an artist, is to get your work seen, to get your work engaged in that conversation.

Whether you want to make a financial profit from your work or not is a personal choice. But if you are going to call yourself an artist, then you need to get eyes on your work. And when it comes to strategizing how to do this, planning is better than hoping.

Try using your own creativity to plot your career. But DO plot your career — don’t just keep sending the same feeble email to galleries and hoping for the best. If something didn’t work for you, use the energy that you might normally spend beating yourself up or cursing the art world to ask yourself why it didn’t work, and then do better the next time. Use every setback as an opportunity to learn and grow. 

Refuse to feel shame, it will only hold you back. Shame and creativity make a lethal cocktail. Name a good idea that’s ever come from shame? You can’t. 

I always say that ideas are an artist’s currency. The same way that bankers deal in money, that’s how artists deal in ideas. So you cannot afford to feel shame. It will shut your imagination right down. So when you fall down, wipe the blood from your knees, figure out why you fell, and get right back up again. A good artist’s coach will help you to set your new course and inspire you to keep going.

Try to think outside the gallery/museum mindset. That is such a narrow road, and it’s very, very crowded. I’m not saying that isn’t available to you, but I am saying that there is a bigger world out there for your art if the old-fashioned way isn’t working. There are all kinds of ways to make a living from your creativity. There are all kinds of ways to engage your art with other people.

Your artist’s coach will work with you to really look at your art and ask yourself, “Who am I as an artist? What’s my work really about? Who’s my ideal audience? Where will I find them?” And brainstorm ways that you can market your work directly to them in a different way.

Let an artist coach reignite your passion and purpose in life replacing confusion with clarity. There are moments where our excitement for our art fades, but with the help of an artist coach, you can rekindle that spark and create meaningful art once again. A visual artist coach can guide you towards realizing that success is within your reach as well. Together, create a strategy to turn your artistic aspirations into reality in both your creative pursuits and professional endeavors.

A Community of Artists

An art coach will give you guidance and inspiration. But don’t expect your art coach to do all the work for you. You have to put the work in being a working artist! And part of that work includes participating in an artist community.

Other artists are not your competition. Other artists are your best friends. Other artists will know how to solve your technical challenges. Other artists will understand your frustrations and cheer your accomplishments. Other artists will fill the gallery when you have a show because they are the only ones who will really understand how much work has gone into each piece. Other artists are more likely to know people or situations that can help you. Other artists are going through the exact same career challenges that you are, or they have in the past, or they will in the future. Be as generous as you can with your colleagues, and you will reap the rewards tenfold.

To Go To Grad School Or Not To Go To Grad School

As an artist’s coach, I get a lot of questions about graduate school. Is grad school the ticket to success? It is not.

Graduate school is expensive and time-consuming. It may help you to develop your work faster than if you worked on your own. It will provide you with valuable connections and introduce your work to a broader audience. But very few art schools and very few graduate programs provide artist career information. They are much more focused on the work itself. So it is really a personal decision as to whether or not taking on the expense of additional education is worth it to you right now. It is important to clearly understand what you will be receiving and what you will not.

This is why my tagline for The Working Artist reads, “It’s everything they never taught in art school.” Because even if you went to grad school, you’re going to have to turn elsewhere for career information. Again, this is where working with an artist’s coach can really propel you forward professionally.

There Are Resources

Again, don’t count on your artist’s coach to do the research for you. It’s important that you have your finger on the pulse of what information exists and what’s relevant to you. A good artist’s coach will point you in the right direction and educate you about the options.
A lot of information can be found through your local arts councils and you should consider signing up for their newsletters and studying them seriously. There, you will find calls for submission for public visual arts projects, grants, and other opportunities. Your state may even have an artist registry, which is well worth looking into.
Another great resource for artist opportunities is the Foundation Center (foundationcenter.org). This is the leading online source of philanthropic information and they maintain lists of artist grants and fellowships. These are well worth your consideration, not only because of the apparent benefits of funding, but winning awards make fabulous lines on your resume and provide incredible networking opportunities
In the end, there is support and information out there for artists and photographers who are serious about their career. Waiting for someone else to do your work will not serve you. Life is too short and the competition too fierce. If you want people to invest in your art, start by making an investment in yourself. And the investment that I recommend is working with a coach for artists.

Signs that you could find value in the advice of a Visual Artist Coach

Are you feeling stuck in your art career, unsure of what direction to take next?

An artist coach can provide the guidance you need to clarify your goals and map out a plan to achieve them.

Many artists and creatives believe they can go it alone or rely on peers for advice, but having a seasoned professional in your corner can make a world of difference in your success.

If you’re experiencing any of the following topics, it may be beneficial to consider hiring an artist coach to help you reach your full potential.

  1. If you’re feeling like you’re in a rut or unsure about your path, coaching sessions can be just the push you need to find your focus and set clear goals for your artistic journey and business. Perhaps you’re struggling with procrastination – a mentor can guide you in breaking those old habits and steer you towards achieving your goals.
  1. Feeling like the the market or the art world is lacking without room for your own genuine work. With the help of a visual artist coach, you can take back control and realize that the potential for success is already within your reach, you just need a fresh perspective. They will assist you in building a following for your work and creating effective strategies to increase your presence, visibility and bottomline.
  2. You strayed from your true passion. Coaching services for artists can help realign you with your life’s true purpose, replacing a sense of confusion and disenchantment with clear direction. There are moments in life when our former interests no longer inspire us. An artistic coach can assist you in navigating through this, guiding you back to creating art that holds significance and meaning for you once again.

Working together with an Artist Coach can mean different things for different people, as each artist faces a different challenge and has different goals and realities in motion. Do you want to have your work noticed, but you’re overwhelmed of where & how to start?

Is an Artist Coach the right fit for you now?

Are you having trouble with your next professional steps, prioritizing your objectives, or feeling hesitant to elevate your creative pursuits, business, or professional trajectory to a higher level or a different path Artist coaches empower visual creatives to maximize their professional potential and creative practice is a wide topic and sessions than can include:

Evaluating your professional journey so far

  • Defining your competencies, principles, and expertise
  • Recognizing chances for advancement and business enhancement
  •  Resolving obstacles in creativity or personnel issues
  • Enhancing your resume and visual portfolio
  • Conducting mock interviews
  • Handling projects and financial resources efficiently
  •  Promoting and building connections through networking

Do you feel like expanding your knowledge in marketing and business to take your art business to the next level?
Do you need someone to hold you accountable? Through the mentorship of an artist coach you can more easily:

  • Define your vision and objectives as a creative professional
  • Develop a plan to achieve your aspirations in your creative endeavors, career choices or business strategy
  • Establish productive habits and routines that will propel you towards success and professional growth
  • Navigate obstacles and transitions in your creative career and personal life with resilience and determination
  • Build confidence and a positive mindset to support your creative endeavors

Just like coaches or mentors in other areas of life, art coaches help artists who feel stuck creatively, are having difficulty growing the business side of things, or simply need some third-party guidance.

It’s important to remember that sometimes the best way to succeed is by joining forces with others. Those who achieve greatness in any area understand the benefits of seeking assistance.

One-on-one coaching sessions adds that additional level of support can lead to faster progress and greater achievements. Just like how you might enlist a coach in a specific sport to reach your athletic milestones quicker, an art coach can inspire, steer, and offer advice to help you reach your artistic and professional objectives sooner.

Trends coaches see among artists looking to improve

To kick off your quest for the perfect art coach, make sure to clarify your objectives and reasons for wanting to collaborate with a coach. Establishing your goals in advance will guide you towards finding the ideal coach to support your artistic journey and improving your art business. Different artists may have different experiences with certain strategies, so it’s important for artists to be cautious of promises like ‘I can teach you how to make money’  because what worked for someone else may not work for them.

Improving your art is improving your business, the coaching relationship helps you see the art market, gives you strategies and practical tips to approach it, and consolidate your path as an amateur or established artist.

Each artist has a unique path to success in the creative industry and having knowledge about the business side of art is crucial because it operates differently from other industries. Without a solid understanding, an artist’s progress could be hindered and their reputation could suffer.

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Working in the international world of contemporary art, Crista Cloutier has spent her career selling art and marketing art to art galleries, museums and private collections. 

Using her professional experiences, Crista has created The Working Artist Masterclass, where she’s developed a global reputation as an artist’s coach. Crista can teach you how to be an artist; including how to sell your art, how to sell art online, how to sell photographs, how to price your art, how to succeed at art fairs, and even how to find your art style. 

Crista has worked with established, blue-chip artists to raise their profile and attract greater opportunities. And she’s also helped thousands of emerging artists to build a professional art practice. To learn more, visit https://theworkingartist.com

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