This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. Luann also writes a column ("Craft Matters") for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explores the funnier side of her life in craft. She's a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer. She's blogged since 2002 about the business side--and the spiritual inside--of art. She says, "I share my experiences so you won't have to make ALL the same mistakes I did...." You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
Continuing my last column on how—and how not to-- get good advice.
4) There’s no such thing as a sure thing. (AKA There’s no one thing that will make your career.)
Usually, the best advice is simply what gets you to your next step. There shouldn’t be a huge risk involved. I mean a HUGE risk. Putting the advice into play shouldn’t cost $10,000 or make you take a second mortgage your house, or take any kind of gamble that could ruin your finances, your resources or your marriage. (Unless you’re trying to get out of a bad marriage!) Sometimes life calls for that kind of risk. For those people just starting out, or trying to suss out the next thing, it does not.
One artist did just that. Someone convinced her that getting into a certain show would make her career. She invested $10,000 in a brand new booth, show fees, photography, advertising, travel costs, etc. She and her husband DID take out a second mortgage on their home, sure that this was the one big break that would change everything.
Her work was extremely labor intensive, so her prices were outrageously high—especially for a person just entering the market. The show was the wrong fit for her work. She’d never even done a big show before. The booth fee alone was $1,500.
She didn’t make a single sale.
My heart aches for her. She gambled everything, and lost. A little homework on her part would have saved her...well, $10,000.
Yes, there is “believing in yourself” and “taking risks”. But if you gamble everything, you truly have to be willing to lose everything.
5) Sometimes, the best advice is right in front of you.
I have a theory. I believe most of us know, deep down, there’s a simple answer in front of us. (I didn’t say EASY answer!) For many reasons, we simply don’t trust our instincts. Or we don’t get a chance to walk ourselves through to find our own answer.
I sometimes meet artists who obviously have talent, passion and drive. But they’re stuck. I’ve learned not to make assumptions about what they need. And I’ve learned not to even act quickly on what they SAY they think they need.
Instead I ask questions—lots of questions! When you give people a chance to be heard, when you listen deeply and carefully, and ask about what you don’t understand, you learn so much. And then the “answer” is so simple, so obvious… The “advice” I give feels like shining a light at their feet so they don’t trip over it.
One talented artist was in a panic. She had a body of work she’d had some success with, but it was no longer selling. She wanted help figuring out a new marketing plan for it.
But during our conversation, she told me about an exciting new series she wanted to work on. She talked about it enthusiastically, but bemoaned the fact that she couldn’t get started on it til she’d sold all her old work, so she could get it out of her living room.
Wait a minute…. How many pieces were we talking about??
Did she need the money? Not really. It would be nice, but not a top priority.
I asked her if she had an attic that was clean and dry. Yes, she did. Then why not carefully wrap up those six paintings and store them for awhile. She could get to work on her new series, and worry about those six paintings some other time. Why waste time trying to build a new audience for old work she didn’t want to make anymore??
She was so stunned, she was speechless. “I never thought of that!” she exclaimed. She said I’d given her “permission”, and that was all she needed.
6) If it makes you happy/excited/re-ignited/ and it doesn’t cost much, do it.
There’s a certain reaction we have when we hear the advice that’s right for us, where we are right now. It’s like our heart leaps up to meet it. It just feels right. It feels like what we need to hear in order to take our next step. Even if it heads us down a wrong path, we get the affirmation and the energy to take that in stride—because it got us going down a path rather than fretting about how to find the path. When you’re moving forward, more things can cross your path.
And often, the best advice is just that—simply the way to take your next step.
So listen to all of us here who write for FineArtViews. Some of us think one thing, some of us another. Maybe they’re right for where you are now. Maybe I’m right for where you’ll be in a few years—or never! Some things will sit well with you, some things won’t.
The one thing you can bet on? It’s all good. For somebody, somewhere, sometime.
Maybe even you. Right here. Right now.