Here are ten things you can do right now to develop your art career.
1. Focus. If you're an Ancient Artist, you don't have a lifetime ahead of you in which to "find your way." You have to focus right out of the starting gate. What do you want to achieve? Where do you want to be this time next year? I've found journaling to be extremely helpful in getting to the bare bones of what I want and believe. If you get stuck wondering what to write, this is what works for me: I start by writing "So what are you thinking about now?" I carry on a written conversation with myself, asking and answering questions. And I'm usually surprised at how vague ideas slowly become clarified. This works well if you just want to vent, too, then throw the stuff in the shredder.
2. Draw on your strengths. Lets face it - you've already lived a successful life. You've handled challenges, taken risks, probably had a career and a family, and figured out how to pay your bills. You know what hard work is and no one's going to kid you, developing an art career is hard work. But you have the strength of your accumulated life experiences to draw upon. Those experiences will support you when the muse abandons you, or three months pass and you still haven't heard on that portfolio review you sent out. Trust that you are where you are supposed to be and that you have the resources to get through everything.
3. Start treating yourself as a professional. You would be surprised at the number of artists I talk to who haven't kept the names and contact information on people who have collected their work, or who never thought they needed to be computer literate. They just want to sell their work -- or get someone else to sell it for them. Here's the hard truth: there are many more artists out there than there are collectors. The competition is tough. Be ready today for where you want to be tomorrow.
4 . Create compelling art. We all want to think that our art is compelling, original, unique, right? But it just ain't so. Do an Internet search for abstract art or go to E-Bay and see what I mean. After the first three pages of thumbnails, everything looks the same. This is not cause for despair, though, because those other artists don't realize what you know now: you must be different. Oh, not earth-shatteringly different, but put some thought into what you create. Read about the inspirations that motivated Rothko (you'd be surprised) or find a group of artists and use their process as your inspiration. Find a way to tell a compelling story, which is the perfect segue into #5.
5. Create a body of work that tells a story. Buyers tell me they connected to a work of art because they connected to the story the artist was telling, even if that story wasn't the artist's, but their own. Maybe your strength is in the way you use color, or capture the light. Maybe you create still-life paintings like the Dutch Masters, or non-representational pieces that capture the imagination. By working in a series, you begin to distill your story. And no doubt you will have hundreds of stories to tell, which translates into thousands of paintings just waiting for you to complete. But here's the point: if your story so compelling that you need several canvases to completely tell it, then it will be compelling to others. If it's something that's over and done with in 10 minutes, you might as well call it wallpaper.
6. Continue to learn. It's when you think you know everything that you get into real trouble. Know that there will always be artists ahead of you who can help light your way, just as you can help light of way of those following in your footsteps.
7. Start local. Believe it or not, the best place to get started is in your own home town. There's a mystique about knowing "the artist next door" that fascinates people. You'll find it easier to network with other artists, attract media attention, get your work exhibited in public venues, and learn the finer points of marketing and promotion by doing it in front of a friendly hometown crowd. It's also an excellent way to get feedback about your work.
8. Research the market. There are many ways you can research your market. When you visit galleries, ask questions as to what is selling and at what price point. If this seems to awkward for you, just visit the galleries on a regular basis and see if they rotate out the work regularly or if the same pieces are hanging around forever. Go to community galleries, where the volunteers will probably be more generous with the information, and ask them what appeals to people. Go to the frame shops and ask what they are framing. Look at the home decor magazines to see what kind of artwork is featured in the photographs, and the color schemes of the room decor. You can check out Pantone's web site for the latest in color trends. Go to the major art organization web sites and look at the exhibition pages. Join those organizations that are a good fit to your work. Make friends with the Internet search engines and manage your bookmarks. Some of my headings are : Art Business, Art Organizations, Blog links.
9. Get Digital. If you aren't doing it already, get a digital camera and start using it. If you don't have Photoshop on your computer, get it, or some other software that allows you to manipulate your digital photographs. There are organizational programs for artists that allow you to catalog your work, and I've found this to be increasingly more important to me as paintings go out on consignment to multiple locations. I use a program called Art Works Pro, but there are several programs available and each has it's benefits and short comings. You will want to get a web site eventually, if you don't already have one, and then there's promotional materials where you'll need to send resized jpegs or tiffs. If you can design and print your own postcards you can start mailing to your list on a regular schedule. Which leads into tip number 10.
10. Stay in contact with everyone. There is so much that could be said about building up a mailing list, that it can be overwhelming. But start small. Go with your friends, those people who have bought pieces from you, local galleries, the local newspaper, the Arts magazine reporters, anyone within your local area who might be interested in what you are doing. Your goal in the beginning is to gently introduce your work, get them familiar with your name. And to gently introduce yourself to the idea of self-promotion. No one else is going to do this for you, not even those galleries you want to get into, unless you are exceedingly lucky. I have had to pay for and mail my own postcards, split magazine advertising costs, show up for art openings when I didn't have a clue, allow horrible pictures of myself to be printed along with inane quotes because I didn't think about being prepared. Reporters are busy, they just shoot and write down part of what you say. You want to control the message. That means you take responsibility. Don't wait for someone else to do it.