Now, more than ever, the barriers of entry into the art world are diminishing.
We see artists from all walks of life online through social media. It’s fascinating and intriguing to many — especially those who think becoming an artist is for the rich and privileged. It is not.
As a lesbian latina from LA who studied accounting and entrepreneurship, becoming an artist seemed like a dream I couldn’t fulfill.
I started painting again when I was in college because I hated the relationship I was in.
In 2015, I dove straight into canvas painting and didn’t look back. I learned by doing. I made a lot of mistakes, wasted a lot of money, and ruined some relationships along the way.
I’m writing this in hopes you can save yourself from the lessons I had to learn the hard way.
Let’s get into it!
No one will make it easy for you.
I thought, “oh they will give me tips, they know i’m just an artist starting out”. The reality of the art world is honestly it’s about who you know, who they know, what they know, and willingness to share their resources. If you surround yourself with positive energy and helpful folx, you will level up quickly as an artist. Just remember it’s about what you give and put into these relationships that will determine how successful they are. Give and provide value to them before ever asking for anything. You want to build a sentiment amongst your relationships that you are here to support in anyway and have zero expectations of return favors. You will in turn build a network that will share their resources without hesitation. That is where you want to be when you are building your own brand.
Be a supportive artist. Period.
When I had my first show at RAW, I had the wrong mindset. I thought, “this is my first show! I made it! I’m going to sell ALL my art!!!” Ah man, I was so wrong haha! I sold one piece for $60 bucks and to this day people still like that piece on my Instagram. Also, the time spent browsing the venue and talking to other artists was negligible. It was me me me me. Gross and toxic, I know. You need to be a supporter first and foremost in order for other people to support you. When you are having a show (especially at group exhibits), you need to spend at least half of the time supporting other artists. Look at their art, take pictures and share on social media (with permission of course), buy their art, buy their prints, join their email list, follow them on social media, invite them to events outside of yours — it’s endless. Just be a supporter and build rapport with other artists. You will find the more time you spend being a fan of other artists the more fans you will gain. If you got nothing from this section, just know other artists just want you to care and fans like to see you caring — that’s it!
Social media is your friend.
I’ve met countless artists who think social media is such a waste of time. These same people have yet to show in any gallery, have a hard time finding shows, haven’t sold much art, and angry at the world for not caring. Most artists problem with getting into shows or selling is that — PEOPLE DO NOT KNOW ABOUT YOU. You think they do but they don’t. It’s your job to show the world your craft — no one is going to do that for you. There isn’t going to be a magical partner that will come around and be like “omg I love your art, i’m gonna make you famous…let me help!” (maybe once in a blue moon lol) but the reality is it’s far from the truth. No one cares. Please remember that. It’s your job to get people to care about you and your art — no one else! Social media is your friend. With the right content and distribution strategy, you can be the art pieces or videos on the discover page that you view everyday on Instagram. You can be the next suggested video on Youtube. You can be the viral video on Facebook. The problem is if you are not there then that will NEVER EVER happen for you. Technology is your friend, my friend.
Art shows aren’t all about sales.
Going into your first couple of shows, you want to take this opportunity to build awareness about you, your art brand/style, and build a network of supporters (fellow artists, fans, customers, art directors, curators, journalists, etc). If you see these shows as avenues for sales transactions, you are doing it wrong. Yes, maybe someone buys a piece of art at your first show for $60 but does that mean they will buy again? Are they going to join your email list? Do they want to follow you on social media? Will they continue to support your journey? I have yet to hear from the person who bought that piece of art. I saw it as a transaction not a relationship. In art, it’s all about relationships. Relationships to get into galleries, shows, PR articles, exclusive parties, exclusive exhibits, travel shows, and so much more. Your relationships are the ticket to sales. It’s all about being in the right place at the right time with the right piece of art. You don’t know where that may be until your network expands and your visibility increases. Look at these first opportunities as investments you are making into yourself. The more you invest in yourself and growth as an artist — the more opportunities will present themselves to you.
Investing in your brand makes you marketable to other brands.
Want to work with companies and cool brands? Well, why the hell should they work with you? Don’t have a website? No business cards? No dedicated email for art? No visibility on social media? This all doesn’t sound exciting to a brand thats looking to work with you. I’d say no in a heartbeat. Why? Because you are nothing special. Your brand is what makes you unique. It’s about consistency. If you have consistency across your brand, people can recognize your work without an explanation. It has to be a mutually beneficial relationship and if you can’t be decent enough to invest in branding yourself as an artist then they won’t be interested in working with you. Being marketable also has to do with the consistency of your art style. It needs to be unique and you.
Art stores are your friends but they do not know everything.
Just because an art store is an art store doesn’t mean they know the best resources you are looking for, however, I hope someday that changes. I remember I was required to hang my canvasses at my first show and I had no idea what tools i’d need. I had no idea how to put wires on my canvasses either. It was all foreign, gibberish words that had no meaning to me. I googled a lot during this time and that usually is my first go-to anyways (thank you, internet gods). My friend helped me hang everything at my show and because of the pleasant person she was at my booth, she made a new friend at the booth next to me. He gladly gave me all the materials I needed to hang my pieces without asking for anything in return or even to return them after the show. That was one of the first times I realized art shows aren’t all about “me” but about “us”. We are all in this together. When I was required to wire my pieces for a show, I freaked out inside. How the f^&% do you wire a piece? Do you need to hire someone? How much does it cost? Can I do it myself? Where do you buy this stuff? OK, I have the stuff so now where does it go? How do I cut the wire? Why won’t people give me answers at the art store? Oh, because they work there but it doesn’t mean they are experts and know everything. Alas, I went to my friend Google then Youtube to find lovely, fellow artists sharing their tips to wire pieces. That was it — I knew how to do it. Then, one of my fellow artists asked me and I gladly gave her my tips on exactly how I do it. This is why building a network of people you’ve supported without expectations will come in handy. You have a group of people that will answer your questions and have the right resources to share. In my opinion, this is everything to an emerging self-taught artist or any artist really.
- No one will make it easy for you. Give value, your time, and your support to build the right relationships to make the process easier.
- Be a supportive artist. Period. Artists and fans alike want to see that you care too. Everyone wants to support good people. Be one.
- Social media is your friend. Showing up is half the battle. If you aren’t there, someone else will be.
- Art shows aren’t all about sales. It’s about building awareness about you, your brand/style, and forging the right relationships to help you level up together.
- Investing in your brand makes you marketable to other brands. The difference between Picasso and you is that Picasso has a brand that is visible. A brand that is visible and consistent is marketable.
- Art stores are your friends but they do not know everything. Your resources will come from the network you build which includes art stores employees. You need to know who to look to when you need an answer. Finding the right people while you’re at shows, stores, and networking events will be your key to getting resources faster.
Originally published on salinamendoza.com