One of the biggest stereotypes of artists is that they are lazy and unreliable. In many cases that is true. For anyone who has ever currated a show a tried to deal with getting bios, label info and images of the pieces for the show from artists in a timely fashion I'm sure you experienced more than your share of hardships and frustrations with that. Then, most likley, after they drop off their work for you to hang you realize that there are loads of pieces that aren't prepared with hooks or wires to be hung! What a shit show!! It's not very hard to maintain a certain level of professionalism and it is extremely important!!!!!
In order for you to succeed in the art world you need to get your art in front of as many people as possible. Ideally people who want to buy art. Hanging in shows and at key events is essential to achieve this. If you are the kind of artist who leaves everything to the last minute and then just hands all your stuff in late and ill prepared then you are going to start to be thinned from the pack. No currator, gallery or organizer wants to deal with someone who is unreliable. So even by starting to just be on time with submissions and maintaining a certain level of professionalism you can stand out amongst all the other artists competing for wall space in a show. If it comes down to you or them and you have always been on time, are organized and PUT WIRES ON THE BACKS OF YOUR PAINTINGS, then they will choose YOU over them!
I am guilty of showing up to hang my work after having only finished the painting 20 minutes prior, but I always make sure to have all my ducks in a row when I show up... and I always show up on time. It seems like a simple thing to do, but I know first hand after having my own gallery and being involved with many other shows how many artists drop the ball on the little things that eat up your time when you have none to spare. So when you show up to a show with your work here are some easy steps to win you more brownie points than the next guy:
- Always get your application and Bios in on time
- Submit your label information before the deadline (it is very frustrating to make them last minute for a whole show) If you are responsible for making your own labels then make them look nice and clean. Your title and price scribbled on a napkin and stuck to the wall with gum ain't going to cut it!
- ALWAYS and I mean ALWAYS have your pieces ready to be hung with wire or hooks... ALWAYS!! And also make sure you do it properly. Nothing is more gut wrenching for a currator than to have a painting fall off the wall due to faulty hardware... I made that mistake once... make sure you dont :)
- Show up with everything you will need to hang your pieces. hammer, hooks, tape measure, masking tape, pencil, screws, screwdriver, extra wire. It's smart to just have a mini tool box that has all of this stuff in it so you never need to scramble to find it last minute
- Bring business cards. More than you need. It is a pretty sad thing when someone is at the show and wants to get a hold of you at a later date to look at other work but you are out of cards. It's pretty unprofessional and can turn away potential clients.
If you are going to personally be at the show/opening (and you should be) make sure you look good. If you are just hanging out with your hair all messed up in torn jeans and smelling like last nights party... it doesn't bode well. Do your best to look somewhat sharp. If you don't have any nice clothes in your wardrobe because you normally don't wear them... then go buy some for just these occasions. Not all openings are really formal so you don't need to go overboard. Talking with the gallery or organizers to get an idea as to the crowd is a smart thing. Your personal appearance is a powerful weapon in the art world. People like to be around successful people and patrons like to support successful artists. Art for many people is an investment so they want to know that the art and the artist they are investing in knows what they are doing and has a promising future. If you look like you can't even afford a nice shirt or a pair of shoes this subconciously speaks volumes in terms of your success in the minds of your clients. So look sharp and even somewhat quirky, but not sloppy. If you want to be a little flamboyant then go for it. You are an ARTIST! It's somewhat expected of you :)
If you are trying to make a living off of your art then you are using your art as a business, so you need to treat it as such. There are many little things you can do to put forth a professional image, even if back home your book keeping and studio is a mess. Start by getting yourself some kind of logo or brand image. This could simply be your name written in a certain font or your signature or the likes. It doesn't need to be crazy, but you want to use it on everything you do. If you send out invoices you want it on your letterhead. Use it as your email signature, have it on your business cards, return address labels, even make stickers if you want and put em on everything you own. It's amazing what a difference something recognizable can make. There is a reason there are massive advertising and branding corporations out there... cuz it works!! If you are making tags for your pieces in shows then put it on there as well. Once people see this consistency and organization from you then they will begin to believe you are successful, even if you are still struggling along. It's not like you are trying to fool people into buying your art or to make them believe you are better than you are, but you are trying to become easily recognizable. If you start off with the little things that every business has then you will be able to grow and flourish as you begin to figure out the rest of it. You should try to emulate other successful artists by following what they do... but make sure that you don't bite their style! Blatently copying another artists unique style in hopes that the style will create success for you as well is a no no. It's one thing to copy someones business model, but doing shitty knock offs of their art as well and selling it for less is something you should hang your head in shame for :) I will talk about working on your unique style in another blog soon. It's too much to get into in this one.
Like any business starting up it is wise to make a proper business plan. Now you don't need to sit down and do cash flow projections for the next three years or anything like that, but have a basic plan as to where you want to show your art, who your target audience is and especially what your main goal is. One day I want to show in the National Gallery of Canada so I have a picture of it as my screen saver. When you start a painting you have the vision of how you want the piece to look or a picture you are trying to copy. You hold that vision in your mind the whole time you are working at that goal, but you have to go one step at a time and be patient. Most likely you will sway from your intended path, but if you go with the flow and let those "happy accidents" turn into something magical then you will always make it to your end goal. And just maybe it will be 10 times better than you ever imagined it in the beggining. So choose where you want your art to take you and never give up!!! The power of your creative mind is way stronger than anything else on the planet and it's only limitations are your own thoughts.