Today's Post is by Lori Woodward, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. She is also a contributing editor for American Artist's Watercolor and Workshop magazines. She writes "The Artist's Life" blog on American Artists' Forum and is a regular contributor here on Fine Art Views. Lori is a member of The Putney Painters, an invitational group that paints under the direction of Richard Schmid and Nancy Guzik. Find out how you can be a guest author.
I believe that some of us creative types are inclined to spend a little too much time in the "dream" department and not enough time in the "do" department.
My elementary school report cards show hard evidence that I was a dreamer from the start. Words like, "looking out the window", "day-dreaming", "unable to focus" described my general behavior. In first grade, I ended up meeting with the school district psychologist weekly to see what the problem was. He reported that I was intelligent and needed to skip first grade. That didn't happen, and it would have been a big mistake if it had. My disinterest in school work had nothing to do with my aptitude... it had much more to do with the fact that I am a dreamer from the very core of my being.
The World Needs Dreamers Who Perform
Now don't get me wrong... Dreaming is a great thing because the world needs dreamers. Most artists are dreamers by nature, but the hard cold fact remains that if we spend the bulk of our time dreaming and scheming, and not creating great work, our dreams are not likely to ever come true.
Ask any successful artist how much time he/she spends actually creating artwork, and you'll find that time in the studio far exceeds time either planning or dreaming. You see, they settled on some plans and dreams early on and then took immediate action in pursing those dreams. I am honored to call a handful of highly successful artists my personal friends. I see how they conduct their careers and their marketing efforts. They all have one thing in common... they are productive.
They paint/work whether they feel like it or not. They put the horse before the cart, first creating a dynamite work and afterwords, they apply the best marketing tools to get their work before collectors' eyes. In fact, these artists didn't have a hard time getting into galleries because the quality of their work is evident.
I'm going out on a limb here, and this might make some of you angry, but I have to say it because this is what I believe...
Marketing your art gets easier when your artwork is remarkable!
It's absolutely true that you don't have to be the best artist in the world or even in your locality to make a good living at it. There are many types of collectors who buy for a variety of reasons. But! If you desire to show in Scottsdale, Santa Fe, or New York City in a high profile gallery, you're going to have to be better at what you do than most artists in order to knock the socks off of the gallery manager and thereby amaze their regular collectors.
So, let me get back to my premise: If you spend any more than 20% of your time dreaming and planning, which implies that the remaining 80% should be spent creating work, you're not going to have enough work to make a living at it. It usually takes years of concerted effort to get good enough to entice the best collectors. Talent means very little - education, practice and "doing" are the real keys to success. At least these have been the keys of the artists I personally know who are wildly successful. By the way, many of them did not posses much "talent" during the early learning phases of their careers. More often, a good education combined with years of working is the way to get "talented".
Collectors are savvy spenders. You can't fool them into buying your artwork.
I haven't taught an art marketing workshop lately because I feel bad for the artists who think they can sell their work simply by paying for ads, submitting portfolios to galleries and "doing all the right things". All these things are necessary at some point, but not before their work is pretty darned good. Some amateur artists (those still in the learning process) just can't see the difference between their work and the work of seasoned professionals. Maybe they do, but think they can fool the collecting public by falsely talking up their work. Some, who are still in the beginning stages of learning, state that they are award winning artists on their resume. Those awards are not listed in their bio, and I wonder what awards they are talking about.
But don't give up just because you're not at the professional level yet. Anyone who has desire, intelligence, and self-discipline can get there. It helps to realize even the most celebrated professionals started out as a beginners.
Many of you who read this newsletter are experiencing the career of your dreams, and I'd be willing to bet you worked hard to get there. No dream ever comes true without concerted effort.