...till you make it.I've been to a lot of discussion and artist panels since staking out into the real world seven years ago and I still have no idea how to find success as an artist. Everyone measures success differently and the journeys can be very different. It can be a cake walk for some and an uphill battle for others. But, what if you are paying off college still? What if you're paying your own bills, not married, and just trying to survive being an adult day-to-day? The truth is, I am balancing working full time, taking some web design classes (dang it, still have to do the homework!), freelancing, and my Paper Parasol Press line all at once. Luckily, I have amazing coworkers, supportive friends, a boyfriend who makes sure I don't forget to eat, and comfortable shoes to get me through the day! It's difficult when you have to pay your bills and be an adult and at the same time find the energy to put toward your craft.
So, success? What is it to me? get creative! I like to make things with the idea that I am putting something beautiful out in the world. I decided to major in Illustration for the sake of storytelling and creating. I am not going to lie - art school is expensive and I am still paying mine off. Working in multiples has allowed to to hand pull something on my press and still have it feel "original" as opposed to flat printing it digitally. This is the type of work I want to put out in the world - something tactile and with character. Multiples are my friend and can be an affordable way for people who appreciate art, but can't necessarily afford a $500 painting. Look into giclée printing or sending your art off to a digital or offset printer. Yes, websites like Etsy, Art Fire, and even Ebay can help someone make money on his or her art. Be careful to not spread yourself too thin, but don't put your eggs in one basket. But there are so many other resources - licensing, trade shows, craft and art fairs, galleries. There is always something new going on. I can wholesale, design custom wedding invites, and do a gallery show here and there. A lot of times, I get wholesale orders from a craft fair.
Make sure craft fairs are worth it. Sometimes it takes a trip to one to find out. Customers are different all over the country. An art fair in a conservative area of a small town is far different that in a trendy area of a city. A Brooklyn mom may find it more amusing having to explain to her 7-year old daughter that your pin with the word "home wrecker" doesn't necessarily mean someone who is messy. You invest a lot of time into your craft - figure out the costs for travel, hotel, plane tickets, and the cost of the fair. Some may be more expensive than others and a $350 fee may be hard to swallow, but if the fair is busy from open to close it may be worth the upfront costs. Craft and art fairs are also a great way to meet your customers face to face. One of my favorite experiences was being able to meet a wonderful woman in SF who had won one of my giveaways months earlier. Be nice to your customers because usually they are super sweet to boot themselves! You never know what friends you may meet.
Trade Shows can be more money and a lot more energy. Most are wholesale shows, which means you will need to be ready to take credit cards, and huge orders. It's also a little rough because you won't make cash right away like at a fast paced craft fair. Make sure you're ready to jump into the world of trade shows, as the investment is much higher and are usually 3-5 days long.
When I am not creating for a client, or a craft fair/wholesale show or my business, there are plenty of other projects I can do: sketching, painting, collage. Sometimes, it's good to switch up mediums or take a step back from your "work," which for me is letterpress printing and designing to play. I love those summer days when I can get on my bike, go thrifting all day and take photos. I don't call myself a photographer, but I love the medium and it helps me create something without pressure.
get the hell out of dodge Yes, I have travel issues. I am all about adventure and the "uncomfortable moments" where I am trying to order in Polish in line at a milk bar or in a pharmacy in France trying to ask in French for cough drops. (thanks to those travel books with French translations!) Getting lost is also fun and there is no better excuse for it than being a traveler. You don't have to leave the country for this either. Recently, in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago I attempted to order tamales in super poor Spanish. Finding the hole in the wall restaurants, a new bike path, or independent bookstore is also fun. When I am burned out creatively, I escape, runaway, pack a lunch and jump on my bike. Adventure is everywhere, so grab your sketchbook, camera, and interact with the world! No worries, your computer will still be where you left it.
let's grab a drink! Luckily, I am friends with a lot of business owners, artist, store owners, crafters, and folk who beat to a different drummer. We are all busy and have a mutual understanding that sometimes one of us may pull a disappearing act from time to time. It's also fantastic I can grab a drink with people I admire and share experiences and insight in the industry. It's really fantastic, after a long week, being able to settle down for a movie with the boy or a walk to a neighborhood park with a swing set. Make sure to always take time for your friends and family because usually these are your biggest supporters.
Oh, Happy Day! Life is hard. Ain't that the truth? I play the cards I have, do my best, and enjoy the good moments. It's all a balancing act, maintaining sanity, being organized, and working hard every day. Remember, to takes a breather when need be and don't sweat the small things. It's good for your health, believe me. Treat your clients well and remember to take jobs that cater to you. I've taken jobs I knew I wouldn't be great at or that did not cater to my style and in the end, I was unhappy with the result.
Passion, persistence, and patience will help. If you have to work that waitress job or the part time telemarketing job I salute you. You will know when it's the right time to go into business for yourself. It's not for everyone and takes huge amounts of self discipline and motivation- sometimes working 14 hours a day, seven days a week. Also, observe successful artist, network, market yourself and follow your own path. Keep your sketchbooks! Sometimes, we don't realize how far we have come and looking back at older ideas/sketches makes us realize we have come far! If someone has the ultimate secret to success, let me know because I don't know if I will ever figure it out!