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 and she writes "The Artist's Life" blog on American Artists' Forum. 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.
Networking is an important element for success, but if your work doesn't exude excellence, all the networking in the world will do nothing for you. Age has nothing to do with success either. I can think of examples (close friends of mine) - one who is in his 20's who had the cover of American Artist and Art of the West before he got his work noticed by any of his mentors. Another woman, close to my age, who's career is growing by leaps and bounds - several major galleries have recently contacted her about representation. These artists' work is getting noticed because it stands out in the crowd.
Hanging out with well known artists hasn't made me famous or gotten my work into major galleries. I hang out with: Richard Schmid, Nancy Guzik, and the Putney Painters, and yet, I am not being sought out by galleries. My friends and acquaintances include: Jeremy Lipking, Tony Pro, Daniel Keys, Eric Rhoads, Kathy Anderson, and gallery owners across the nation. I've learned from the best, and have all the connections in the world. So why am I not where they are? The answer is simple: Because I don't have an awesome body of work, I've never won or placed in a major art competition, and I simply don't put in enough hours at the easel. My career has migrated to writing and teaching, which leaves little time for the studio.
It's Not Whom You Know, It's What You Know and How You Put It To Use
Could I make it in the art world if I painted every day? Absolutely! But I would need to raise my work to a much higher level if I expect to reside in the same boat as my more famous friends. Does that mean I can't make a living with my art? Not at all, but my collectors are not the same group of people who collect their work. There are plenty of artists out there who are making fabulous livings who have no connection to the famous artists I do. Whom you know doesn't really matter in the long run - well, not as much as what you know and how you use that knowledge while creating your artwork.
Unfortunately, many artists contact me asking to get connected to Richard and Nancy or American Artist Magazine. This is like shooting a bear with a 22; you'll only irritate the bear. The better way to get their attention is to pursue excellence in your work. Enter and win national competitions, and above all, be a pleasant, honest and giving person - in other words, easy to work with, and then you might
get a chance to work along side of master artists.
The truth of the matter is that artists like Richard Schmid will and can only let a few people into his close friendship circle - I am not one of them
. In fact, years ago, he and I had disagreements; I was being rebellious and it didn't go over very well. I know better now - keeping my mouth shut most of the time. I listen more and don't brag or try to impress him with my knowledge or accomplishments. I understand that the only way to get his attention is to knock his socks off with my painting skills - and that needs no words. I knew Richard for 2 years before he invited me to join the Putney Painters. For many, it has taken much longer than that. The fact of the matter is - the group is unlikely to grow beyond it's current members. I have always maintained that we Putney Painters need to stand on our own - because Richard could decide at any minute that he no longer wants to paint along side of us. When he leaves, hopefully we will be established well enough as artists in our own right to continue our careers without our mentor presiding.
Today, Richard and I have worked out the kinks. He seems to accept that my calling is as a writer and teacher, and not a full time painter. He likes that and because he knows me well, opportunities to work with him on future books may crop up... but then again, they may not. The last thing I need to do is bug him about it (irritate the bear). It's his choice, and if he deems my writing, editing and teaching talents as an asset to his work, he might
invite me to participate. I'm not going to worry about it much - he'll most likely forget he even said anything about it to me. The important fact of the matter is that I'm the only person responsible for my success. I can't sit around waiting for someone to promote me, I must get busy and make my own success - never depending on someone else to do so for me.