Author Topic: Advice to young artists  (Read 9128 times)

tanhanivar

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Advice to young artists
« on: July 01, 2014, 09:34:48 PM »
I am looking for some good posts to give to young/early-career artists which focus more on saving-to-sponsor-your-own-art-career.

The Shockingly Simple Maths (http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/01/13/the-shockingly-simple-math-behind-early-retirement/) is obviously an excellent one, but can anyone recommend other posts or articles which could also be good for people keen to become artists? Basically a take on/entry point to MMM with "creative integrity", "patronage" and "freedom" swapped in for "FU money" and "FIRE".

The background is this: Last night, I went to a literary event in my capacity as a member of the sponsoring organisation's board. I am, however, known to be an illustrator, and several literary mothers dragged their artistic daughters over to me, with instructions to them to "Network! Network!". It was all embarrassing and sweet and funny, and I gave what advice I could including, for the first time, the advice to try their hardest to save at least half of any money they make.

My theory is that most artists are told they have two choices:
  • Make a living off art (and possibly starve); or
  • Make a living from something else (and possibly starve your art).

They should be told about a third option, where if you have (or have to have) another job, you choose to live like a starving artist, save half, and eventually become your own patron. This also solves the usual "golden handcuffs" problem, which kicks in at a very low salary when it comes to artists.

The Shockingly Simple Maths post clicked for me, but I'm older and think about money more than most 15yo aspirational illustrators. I'd like to be able to point them to resources which would at least start them thinking about this as an option.



EricL

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Re: Advice to young artists
« Reply #1 on: July 01, 2014, 09:49:13 PM »
Based on the current environment and costs of higher education my advice would be this: try to maximize the time spent on improving and leveraging your innate artistic talents. Minimize money and time spent on higher artistic education.  The raw materials for such an education can be found in libraries and all over the Internet.  The only reason to supersize and artistic education would be if universities had modern-day equivalents of Renaissance masters to apprentice under. When last I checked they don't.

tanhanivar

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Re: Advice to young artists
« Reply #2 on: July 01, 2014, 10:06:09 PM »
Good points, EricL. I'm in Australia so fortunately most of the young artists I know are doing short diplomas/certificates or will only have fee-help debt (increasing, but a lot less than the USA).

I'd also like those who need to get other jobs to make ends meet (or keep family happy) not to feel trapped, but realise the opportunity they have to become self-supporting. Older ones "get" the FI/RE argument, but for those just leaving highschool or experimenting with selling prints on Etsy, that's still a foreign language.

moreless

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Re: Advice to young artists
« Reply #3 on: July 01, 2014, 11:25:46 PM »
Oh yes, forum readers please offer up what pearls you might have. I don't know if I can offer much wisdom as I'm just starting in my actual efforts just now, but here goes.

I went to an extremely expensive, 'elite' university and for my first two years majored in pre-law and economics. I was kidding myself. My parents live a hellish life treating their small salaries like they're burnable, and having no reference for where all that money was going (wantonly accumulating debt, I later learned), I thought the only way to solve those problems was to be a big shot lawyer or banker who made much more money than my parents. But I was kidding myself. That's not my path. I switched to art history and visual arts my third year. I was lucky in that a scholarship and other work covered all but 9k of my total expenses, but had I known what my decision would be, I would ABSOLUTELY have spent my time at a lower cost university (the high cost one I attended was rife with screwy perspectives and overall brats), or just plain working. A lower cost university would have provided better networking among more, equally serious artists in a larger art scene. Just working would see me well ahead of the curve I think, rather than starting to get my feet wet in the art market for the first time after undergrad. I wish I could point to useful posts or forums or etiquette guides for the art world, but I don't know them because I worked with a tiny department in a tiny school where none of the professors expected their largely affluent students to stick to their guns. Go to a school where the teachers are working artists in a large market, convince them you're serious, and then bug the ever living daylights out of them about events, people, strategies, and standard practices. Kindly, of course. I would advise against NYC based on what little I know. Far too insular, far too established, far too EXPENSIVE. 

Leaving undergrad, I worried about the idea of selling my art as primary income. I didn't want to get trapped making a specific sort of thing to make ends meet. I knew that would take the joy out of something I loved tremendously.

I'm very lucky that my current job is extremely flexible, which has allowed me plenty of time to devote to my photography in addition to a regular income. But someday, I'd very much like to put all my time into creating things. Living a very frugal life and LIKING it is the first step. It allows me to throw my spare dollars at materials and tools rather than an apartment or dinner out that I 'deserve.' I deserve to make my art, and thus, saving my money to be able to do so as my primary job is my first priority. If you're serious about art, that's your first priority as well.

gooki

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Re: Advice to young artists
« Reply #4 on: July 02, 2014, 02:33:49 AM »
My 2 cents.

Be a prolific artist.

Be aware of other avenues for selling your work. Illustrations can be sold in digital form via stock libraries (istockphoto etc). Even if one illustration only makes five digital sales a year, do one illustration a day, that's $3650 a year. Do it again next year, that's $7,000... give it 6 years and you're earning $22,000 a year in commissions alone.

Start at 15 years old, you'll be done by 21, and you'll be really fucking good at what you do having created over 2,000 works of art.


Burgis81

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Re: Advice to young artists
« Reply #5 on: July 02, 2014, 04:22:17 AM »
One idea is to do "commercial" art, e.g graphic/web design, branding, art direction, ad graphics.

Other idea could be to do the above or traditional art and learn about:
marketing & positioning, entrepreneurship, value based pricing etc.

no need to be a starving artist :)


Cwadda

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Re: Advice to young artists
« Reply #6 on: July 02, 2014, 05:34:47 AM »
I'll throw in my $.02. As an ISFP, my personality is geared toward art. Interestingly enough, it doesn't manifest in the visual arts; rather through music (I draw stick figures and am terrible with visual art).

When I was entering college, a lot of people recommended to go into music. I decided against this to go for a career that's more employable and monetarily stable. The only option for a career like that was teaching, which I wasn't into. After 1 year at my university, I took up a quarter time job as a music director at a church. It pays for roughly half of my college expenses.

They say ISFPs need some sort of outlet for music, art, etc. This is very true for myself, and I'm lucky to have found a happy medium between going for a career that's more employable and exercising my true passion. My goal would be to become financially independent, become semi-retired, and then do a lot of musical things.

I give a lot of credit to those who go out on a limb and wholly follow their aspirations. I have two friends who are studying film at expensive schools.

Overall, I would say there are ways to enjoy your passions even if they don't turn into a career. Pursue your passions to have outlets to fall back onto. Things will work out.
« Last Edit: July 02, 2014, 05:38:02 AM by Cwadda »

BFGirl

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Re: Advice to young artists
« Reply #7 on: July 02, 2014, 05:44:05 AM »
I desperately want to pursue my art full time (fiber arts), but need to work at least 6.5 more years. (I am eligible to receive my pension at that point).  I am drained at lot of days when I get home and don't feel like working my side business, even though it gives me a lot of pleasure.

My advice to young artists would be to try your craft full time and see if you can make a go of it before you have family responsibilities.  By "full time" I mean spend the hours on it like you would a full time job, whether it is creating, marketing, or doing the books.  The only way to succeed is to get your work and your name out there.  Take every opportunity to promote yourself.

You can do it even with a regular job, just realize you will have little down time and sleep at first.  I worked my ass off at first to get my business going.  I have had to pull back some because I just couldn't keep it up, but am looking forward to being able to devote more time to my passion in a few years.

AustralianMustachio

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Re: Advice to young artists
« Reply #8 on: July 02, 2014, 05:56:49 AM »
Great thread!

My 2 cents.

Be a prolific artist.

Be aware of other avenues for selling your work. Illustrations can be sold in digital form via stock libraries (istockphoto etc). Even if one illustration only makes five digital sales a year, do one illustration a day, that's $3650 a year. Do it again next year, that's $7,000... give it 6 years and you're earning $22,000 a year in commissions alone.

Start at 15 years old, you'll be done by 21, and you'll be really fucking good at what you do having created over 2,000 works of art.

Great post

GuitarStv

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Re: Advice to young artists
« Reply #9 on: July 02, 2014, 06:02:42 AM »
You know the cliche about the fat artist who has an easy time in life?  No?  Well, there's a reason for that . . . Be very sure that you love what you do before you head down this path.  Also be aware that just because you love what you're doing, it doesn't mean anyone else will.  At least in the field of music, opportunity to make any real money is rare and competition is fierce.

My advice would be to have a day job, and work on your art in your free time.

Neustache

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Re: Advice to young artists
« Reply #10 on: July 02, 2014, 06:22:49 AM »
My husband is a musician, and he has enjoyed doing that on the side while working full time.  His daytime job pays the bills and more, and then he practices in the evenings and gets occassional gigs.  My hope for him is to allow him to retire early, and let him focus on music and writing.  If he has a solid 30-40 years of retirement, he'll have loads of time for a second career as a musician (barring any injuries we get prone to in our old age!)


kyanamerinas

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Re: Advice to young artists
« Reply #11 on: July 02, 2014, 06:34:43 AM »

My advice to young artists would be to try your craft full time and see if you can make a go of it before you have family responsibilities.  By "full time" I mean spend the hours on it like you would a full time job, whether it is creating, marketing, or doing the books.  The only way to succeed is to get your work and your name out there.  Take every opportunity to promote yourself.

You can do it even with a regular job, just realize you will have little down time and sleep at first.  I worked my ass off at first to get my business going.  I have had to pull back some because I just couldn't keep it up, but am looking forward to being able to devote more time to my passion in a few years.

i work as a translator, which is very different but still everyone told me it couldn't be done. i was lucky enough to have more than a year's living expenses saved so after uni i didn't take a job but instead started 'working' as a translator full time. for the first few months this often meant 8 hours a day of self-promotion and also training/learning/practice.
i appreciate art is different but if you have the money and the opportunity, it may be worth giving yourself a few months to work solidly at establishing yourself.

begood

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Re: Advice to young artists
« Reply #12 on: July 02, 2014, 07:30:35 AM »
My 12-year-old daughter and I talked about this just yesterday. She said she didn't want to work in a "gray office" all day and wondered how she could get a job with National Geographic as a photographer -- an NG photographer visited her school last year and wowed us all!

We talked a little bit about vocations and avocations, and how one path to a less stressful life is having financial security. And we talked about how working hard and saving lots of money can then give you lots of flexibility to pursue your passions.

She has a real talent in art - her art teacher from school this past year said she is working three to four grades ahead of her age level. She already has a sense of how difficult it is to make a living as an artist (an aunt is a career artist... supported by her physicist husband!), so we'll do what we can to help her find the balance between nurturing her talent and working toward independence and a strong financial foundation.

expatartist

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Re: Advice to young artists
« Reply #13 on: September 30, 2014, 12:41:10 AM »
My 2 cents.

Be a prolific artist.

Be aware of other avenues for selling your work. Illustrations can be sold in digital form via stock libraries (istockphoto etc). Even if one illustration only makes five digital sales a year, do one illustration a day, that's $3650 a year. Do it again next year, that's $7,000... give it 6 years and you're earning $22,000 a year in commissions alone.

Start at 15 years old, you'll be done by 21, and you'll be really fucking good at what you do having created over 2,000 works of art.




+1 Excellent post. You're taking the concept of compound interest and applying it to art.

pagoconcheques

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Re: Advice to young artists
« Reply #14 on: September 30, 2014, 09:51:22 AM »
I think there are some parallels here to young people who excel athletically and aspire to become professional athletes.  The number of people who can support themselves, let alone make a decent living, as professional artists is tiny.  Many of the niches of commercial art have been rendered obsolete with technology.  It used to be every town above a certain size had a symphony and could at least provide part-time work for a few dozen musicians--these are all but gone.  Like professional athletes, only the very few and very best get rich, bench warmers on professional sports teams don't make much money at all. 

The hard question nobody wants to ask or answer is: Just how good is this young artist?  Just as in a typical entire school district only a handful of athletes are good enough for college scholarships that could reasonably track into professional ball teams, only the top few percent of artists (whether painters, musicians, or whatever) are good enough to even justify the time or money investment in professional training during their college years.  Art and music teachers, like coaches, will generally tell all their students, and the parents who write the checks, how good they are.  As with all sectors, there is an entire business model that requires a certain throughput of students simply to keep the system functioning.  Those good enough to get through the system and pay their own bills with their art on the other side are effectively subsidized by those who pay to attend/learn but aren't good enough to compete at the end. 

Cynicism aside, I really like the idea of educating young artists about vocation vs. avocation, and it's an excellent plan to subsidize yourself as an artist through the auto-patronage system the OP describes. 

Spondulix

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Re: Advice to young artists
« Reply #15 on: October 02, 2014, 08:29:57 PM »
Business skills - learning to view yourself as an entrepreneur, and not just an artist.

I did a certificate in business at a community college AFTER getting a Masters Degree in Music from a prestigious school. I got in the field and saw a number of established colleagues making terrible business decisions. They didn't know how to run a business, and just assumed they could hire someone else to deal with it. I watched two companies go under, and vowed to never be in that position. Those were some of the best classes I ever took (and I've taken classes with at least 7 colleges over the years). Degrees in the arts tend to focus on honing your skills, and usually lack the common sense business aspect - courses on accounting, entrepreneurship, sales and marketing. The majority of people who do their own art as a primary living (whether it's music, art, writing, etc) are probably working on their own, acting as their own accountant, agent, sales manager, HR, etc.

I also think it's important to emphasize that there are many careers and options that are related to what you trained to do. You don't have to be 100% creative or doing exactly what you went to school for to be "successful", and you're not selling out by taking a day job. In fact, diversifying may help your survival long term. (For what I do, there's more demand in some seasons than other, so when I was freelance, I would have a side gig in a related-field who's demands were the opposite. I view it as sustainability, not selling out). As someone else mentioned, there are corporate jobs where you can earn a decent salary and use your creative skills. Some people are more suited to a 9-5 job than self-employed life, and there is nothing wrong with that.

AustralianMustachio

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Re: Advice to young artists
« Reply #16 on: October 02, 2014, 11:09:02 PM »
Business skills - learning to view yourself as an entrepreneur, and not just an artist.

I did a certificate in business at a community college AFTER getting a Masters Degree in Music from a prestigious school. I got in the field and saw a number of established colleagues making terrible business decisions. They didn't know how to run a business, and just assumed they could hire someone else to deal with it. I watched two companies go under, and vowed to never be in that position. Those were some of the best classes I ever took (and I've taken classes with at least 7 colleges over the years). Degrees in the arts tend to focus on honing your skills, and usually lack the common sense business aspect - courses on accounting, entrepreneurship, sales and marketing. The majority of people who do their own art as a primary living (whether it's music, art, writing, etc) are probably working on their own, acting as their own accountant, agent, sales manager, HR, etc.

Great advice. Echoes my experience at the moment exactly

Melody

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Re: Advice to young artists
« Reply #17 on: October 03, 2014, 05:52:56 AM »

My theory is that most artists are told they have two choices:
  • Make a living off art (and possibly starve); or
  • Make a living from something else (and possibly starve your art).

They should be told about a third option, where if you have (or have to have) another job, you choose to live like a starving artist, save half, and eventually become your own patron. This also solves the usual "golden handcuffs" problem, which kicks in at a very low salary when it comes to artists.

I've seen option four work very well for a few friends:
Part time work!
One friend works part time as a graphic artist (3 days a week) and focuses on her art for the other three.
Another works 2 days a week as a health and safety advisor (well paid job) while running her arts based business the other 4 days.
Another is a supply teacher, working more if she's struggling to make sales (painter) and less if she isn't. Either way the bills get paid and she still has plenty of time to be quite prolific.

Also, another classic MMM idea - multiple income streams. My Musician friend:
plays music
writes for a music press
works for music festivals (sound engineering type work)
runs a record label.
Of course he'd love to focus soley on writing and performing songs, but the other stuff is all related (so he quite enjoys it too) and fits around his number 1 priority.
The supply teacher also does the same thing, she knows there might be limited # of people who can pay for original works of art, but her t-shirts are hot sellers and tide her over, although the margins are smaller. She also does some commission based art for people/business like murals etc. She also works at an art gallery sometimes.

CestMoi

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Re: Advice to young artists
« Reply #18 on: October 06, 2014, 10:45:35 AM »
I’m a little late to this party, but as an artist myself, I’d recommend that a young artist learn to embrace saving and investing early. They should start to regularly save and invest a good percentage of their earnings as soon as they earn anything.

In addition, they should be aware of any expenditures for creating their work: the cost of their art materials, the cost for renting a studio when the time comes, etc, and make sure these things are well within their budgets.

I know this isn't the focus of this thread, but in terms of gaining creative skills, I'd recommend a young artist learn to examine people and objects visually. They need to make this a habit.

It’s a good idea to get a lot of experience in different kinds of visual art: nude figure drawing (a must), figure painting, landscape and skill life drawing/painting, abstract drawing/painting, collage, perspective, portraits, human anatomy, mixed media, illustration, graphic design, web design, 3D animation, film shooting and editing.

I’d also recommend studying motion and how objects/bodies move, especially for animation. In addition to the important skill of observing well, a course or two in human anatomy is a good idea for this (or for any artist, actually). Dance, sports, or yoga courses also help to understand movement.

I'd recommend the young artist read well and often, and be trained in writing. At some point they're going to be writing and communicating about their work, so they need good language skills.

They should study art history and constantly look at art in books, galleries, online, etc. They should get input from all the arts, and from other areas as well: music, dance, film, theater, poetry, opera, literature, psychology, science. The inner resources they draw from need to be as rich and deep as possible. They also need to learn how to recognize and avoid cliché.

There are important business skills to acquire: networking, marketing, accounting, entrepreneurship, balancing a budget, how to approach/deal with a gallery, how to get a job in a commercial art field, what demonstrable skills are required. They should keep aware of any available opportunities/courses to learn business skills, whether geared toward artists or not.

They should find a group of like-minded individuals to share ideas with, to give and receive support. Being an artist in a somewhat unaware-of-art world can be challenging, so they’ll benefit from having supportive individuals around them.

To comment on a remark made by another poster: Producing a good illustration/artwork every day can be difficult, for many reasons. I’d say producing a good artwork every week is more than challenging enough. But if the spirit of that post was “work constantly”, I’d agree. The more you paint/draw/design, the better.
« Last Edit: October 06, 2014, 10:59:13 AM by CestMoi »

tanhanivar

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Re: Advice to young artists
« Reply #19 on: October 08, 2014, 08:25:35 PM »
Thanks for the thoughts and updates, all!

Señora Savings

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Re: Advice to young artists
« Reply #20 on: October 09, 2014, 01:27:30 PM »
The hard question nobody wants to ask or answer is: Just how good is this young artist?  Just as in a typical entire school district only a handful of athletes are good enough for college scholarships that could reasonably track into professional ball teams, only the top few percent of artists (whether painters, musicians, or whatever) are good enough to even justify the time or money investment in professional training during their college years.  Art and music teachers, like coaches, will generally tell all their students, and the parents who write the checks, how good they are.  As with all sectors, there is an entire business model that requires a certain throughput of students simply to keep the system functioning.  Those good enough to get through the system and pay their own bills with their art on the other side are effectively subsidized by those who pay to attend/learn but aren't good enough to compete at the end. 

I disagree with this.  Go to a crafts fair or a farmers market and you'll find plenty of people selling their handmade work.  Many people hire musicians for their weddings and parties and have original artwork hanging in their homes.  With an athlete it takes quite a bit just to get on a minor league team (if your sport has them).  I don't think it's all that hard to squeak by with $1000 a month as an artist.  That's making a painting worth $100 every three days, booking a $250 music gig every weekend, making three $10 necklaces every day.  It's not easy to sell platinum records or get your work in the Met, but there's plenty of room for artists and craftspeople in our society.

The key is learning to live on less.

TheBrutalProof

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Re: Advice to young artists
« Reply #21 on: October 09, 2014, 02:19:59 PM »
You need to check out https://www.patreon.com/

Just go there and listen to Jack Conte talk about his vision for ad-free business models for artists and direct incentivization of content by fans. 

Runningtuff

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Re: Advice to young artists
« Reply #22 on: October 10, 2014, 01:52:50 AM »
Great thread idea.Feel like I'm still working this one out in terms of balancing finance and satisfaction, but multiple income streams and learning the business side of things are definitely important, and a p/t job is useful.

Shipwreckgirl

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Re: Advice to young artists
« Reply #23 on: October 10, 2014, 11:38:15 AM »
Great advice in this thread!  I wish I had had this advice before I graduated college 18 years ago!  In my opinion, it is very difficult to make a living as an artist.  I would say to a young artist - take business classes, learn how to market yourself and your art, become fluent in promoting yourself online, think of yourself as an entrepreneur, take art history classes, learn and practice the techniques of your chosen medium...Read a lot.  Practice a lot.  Make stuff.  Being a successful artist to me, means making enough money to live on, and creating art you want to make to satisfy your creative self.

Tyler

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Re: Advice to young artists
« Reply #24 on: October 10, 2014, 12:07:51 PM »
My advice for young artists is to look into Industrial Design. It's a great field for applying sketching and sculpture skills towards tangible products. I've worked with many talented industrial designers over the years with fine art backgrounds.


Melody

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Re: Advice to young artists
« Reply #25 on: October 11, 2014, 05:35:03 PM »
I have a non arts based job but music is my hobby . Surprisingly we get paid to do it (we don't do covers or write for anyone but our selves and are fussy with where and when we will play!) These are very small amounts without actively managing ourselves (we don't even have a Facebook). So I have made the call to learn about managing ourlselves and forked out for a concernce on this. If I can turn this into a nice little $300 a month side hussle I would be stoked. I agree therefore that it's easy to make a bit of money as an artist even if you are not a good artist. (In my case I have only been playing two years and can barely play by ear so not a good muso by any standard.) I actually spend more time on sport each week but will never see a penny out of it ;)

bluecollarmusician

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Re: Advice to young artists
« Reply #26 on: October 11, 2014, 05:52:49 PM »
The best advice I know is:

"Never get a job.  Do something you love so much that you would do it for free.  But do it well enough that people pay you to do it."

There always room at the top and the bottom- it is in the middle things get crowded.