I love meeting young people in the process of painting a mural. Taggers, budding artists and cool little girls, I enjoy them all. I wish I could sit down with each one of you and spend a couple minutes fostering this interest in the Arts or the spirit of creativity. I asked for advice early on and I wasn’t told things I could use. No one kept it real for me. I do Career Day whenever possible for whatever grade level will listen for that reason. Let me spend a minute telling you young artists and entrepreneurs what I wish someone had told me before I made some huge life choices.
Art School and 4 year Degrees rock, but they drill the creativity right out of you. You meet your professor’s expectations, not your own. You will always be creative and your work will be honest cultivated on your own. More valuable to a full-time, working artist who freelances is business courses. Take them both. Put yourself in a position to follow your passion. Business development is crucial and you’ll want to know all the working parts of a successful business. On-site education in the right place is every bit as powerful as the right college degree.
Artists work hard. They train hard. If they meet expectations and become successful enough, they’re able to paint somewhere you might meet them out in public. Until then, it’s about ten years of real struggle to afford housing, find clients who value you fairly and find exposure that doesn’t cost you money in the process. You probably won’t have a lot of control over the work you do. You’ll paint a lot of bedrooms and residential murals. You’re at the mercy of clients, pestering or being non-communicative. You will spend 80% of your time finding clients, negotiating and designing, 10% marketing and 10% painting. You’re gonna have a lot of strange roommates. Get ready for that.
If you’ve met a working artist and they were less than gracious, it wasn’t me but let me apologize on our behalf. Artists are sensitive. Announcing you are also an artist and comparing work can cross artists the wrong way. Not that you’re not an artist or aren’t talented. Everyone is an artist like everyone is a human being on planet earth. Talent only matters if you’re willing to make money with it and risk your reputation on it. That artist worked really hard to curate their career to work publicly and negotiated that contract which isn’t always fun. That artist painted over 50 murals before you met them. They’re also very busy and concentrated. I’m sorry if we’re not always awesome to approach.
Want to be a full-time working artist or an entrepreneur today? I hope you like playing with your cellphone. Start your Instagram and facebook accounts early and begin building a following. Their likes and purchases will show you where the market for your work is. This is a network you can get paid for later. You’re an artist. Your life is colorful and your creativity is online content.
Separate yourself from others, artistically and/or professionally. Offer something different. Find your niche clients. For a long time public schools were my niche.
Do not wait for opportunities. Go make them. Find clients and projects you want and follow up on your sales calls. Your tenacity will be admired by those who are successful.
Festivals and Boutiques sounds like a great idea, but unless setting a table is really your jam, they’re more work than they’re worth. You are committed to one place and one smile for hours and hours. Unless you’re really moving product, it’s not fun. I really failed at this. It makes me appreciate the little successes so much more.
Be a student and a professional, but always save some of your best energy for your own creativity. Stretch and grow within your imagination and continuously discover yourself through your craft.
Don’t be defined by your failures. Allow them to inspire success. Don’t like someone’s reaction to your idea, start over and work better. Think about your audience but put yourself into your work. Take a negative feeling and use it to your advantage. Change opinions. Have conviction. Have faith in yourself. Leave room to grow and fail. No one died of rejection.