Friday, 2 March 2012

Self-Taught Artist... Where Do I Start?

Work in progress by Teodora Totorean

Your main disadvantage is that you don't have a former qualification in arts as your fellow artists and your fear is that you won’t be taken seriously. However, there is a debate regarding self-taught vs. qualified along the same note as to be or not to be. The theory says that if you are talented it shouldn't matter, yet you have no idea how and where to start. You passed the first test and now all your family and friends have your art on their walls which really boosts your confidence. So how do you get it on other people’s walls?  I can tell you from my experience how rewarding it is when you sell your first painting/work to a complete stranger. And yes, it takes time to build up a reputation. But because the journey is more important than the destination, your adventure into becoming a selling artist starts here and now.

Word of mouth

Once your family and friends know what you are capable of, they can also spread the word and tell other people about you and your talent. You never know who needs to brighten up their interior with an affordable piece of art. Be realistic about the pricing even though at this stage your earnings are unlikely to cover your expenses.  But you already know that if you choose the art path you won’t get rich or famous overnight. Be prepared for that and be grateful for every single purchase. If someone chooses your art over others’, this is a reward on its own.

Find like-minded people in your area

It is a good idea to join an art society. Every county, city and town has one and they are always looking for new members. The membership fee is as little as £10 - £15 per year and it is worth doing it. Not only it gives you access to the art world but you also have the opportunity to show your work in collective exhibitions. They also organise workshops where you can meet other artists, experiment different techniques and get feedback and constructive criticism about your art. They also invite well-known artists to talk about their experiences so there is always something going on. In no time your circle of artist friends will grow and you’ll be more and more comfortable with calling yourself an artist.  

Go on-line

You can either have your own website to showcase your work, you can join online galleries or you can do both.  It is important to get as much exposure as you can, optimising your selling possibilities. If you can’t afford to invest in a website at this stage, you can start a blog. Upload images with your paintings/work as often as you can and try to tell their story.  Is there a landscape that impressed you so much that you felt the need to immortalise in a painting? Say it. Someone from that area might see it through your eyes and fall in love with it. Do you do mixed-media paintings? Explain people all the stages your paintings went through before becoming the finished products they admire. This doesn't mean that the mystery of the creation process is revealed, but it shows how much effort you actually put into creating the paintings. This way people can also get a realistic view on the price and start to appreciate your talent for what it is.

Art galleries

This is a hard one but not impossible.  First of all bear in mind that the art galleries receive hundreds of applications every month so don’t be upset if you don’t get a response. Researching the market is important at this stage and so is your reputation and your sold work portfolio. Before applying to an art gallery, make sure you are an established artist with your own unique style. You know your market, you are realistic about how much your work is worth and make sure you have an artist statement that reflects your personality and the purpose of your art. Make a mention of what inspires you, what is your favourite medium, etc. 

Research the galleries in your area first and see if they accept new artists. Read their terms and conditions carefully to make sure you follow them through. Once you applied, be prepared to wait for months to receive a response. If they don’t reply, you can assume that your application wasn't successful. But who knows, maybe in the meantime, you managed to sell other paintings be it through family and friends, your blog or the summer exhibition with the art society you belong to. This happened to me so I cannot see why it couldn't happen to you too.

Good luck and keep up the good work. And don't forget that creating art is one of the most enjoyable experiences ever. If you start this journey to get rich quickly, you can give up now to avoid future disappointments. Yet if you truly enjoy what you are doing and you persevere in your endeavour, the financial rewards will eventually arrive, which will be a welcome bonus. 

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