Beside creating art, the most important step in developing your art career is to take action! You can enter or relaunch your career either haphazardly or with a plan. The one you pick will likely determine how long you stick with it and if there is a happy ending to your story. If you enter (or re-enter) the market with a plan, it means that you’re tuned up. Your tools are in order, your strategies are focused and your attitude is adjusted. Most concept artist will work in a cooperative and interdisciplinary team.
As an artist, your mind is usually flooded with ideas – but great ideas will never reach their potential if they are not enacted. Often there are too many ideas swirling around in your head – that’s where your action plan comes in. Once created, you can identify priorities from your plan and focus on your creative path. Your priorities will provide you with a direction of where and how you need to spend your time. The other areas of your art career that don’t involve creating can seem like a tedious chore. Activities that involve marketing your art, writing your bio, uploading images, applying to shows – are all part of expanding your business. If you consider them an extension of your creating, you will find them more valuable as these activities begin to offer you more freedom to create.
Okay, so maybe this isn’t news to you. You’ve thought about creating a plan, people who support you have suggested it – maybe you’ve even written a sticky note and stuck on your To-Do list – yea? Hey good for you! Unless you’ve actually done it, my guess is that note-to-self has transferred along your calendar with each passing day and may in fact be losing its stick. Don’t look for blame or shame here, there is none, simply a chance to do it now, like there is no tomorrow.
So whether you need to shake things up and relaunch your career or you’re launching for the first time, get a note pad (a big one) and pen and write some notes to yourself while you read this article – quick before any panic sets in!
First, let’s address a couple of areas before we begin. Write your own list on your own paper. It’s okay to print this list here for reference, but to make it real and yours, write it in your own words. This article is focused for painters and illustrators, but is a good place to start for any creative career. Please adjust it to fit your own creative focus.
Next, these steps listed are quick and basic and are meant to spur you on in the direction that your inner artist already knows to go – so add to the list as ideas come to you, but keep it simple and small. I’ll put some resources at the end of this page to lead you to more detailed steps than there is room for here. These are steps that you can start right now that will build the foundation for planning and setting goals for your art for the long-term. The idea is not to make a super-detailed plan set-in-stone; instead, you want a bendable plan (like Gumby!) that moves and stretches with your evolving goals and your path of exploration as an artist.
If you want your art-making to blossom and grow, you must treat it like a living thing: nourish, nurture and release it. Once created it’s an outside thing – your seed bloomed!
Like it or not, your art is a product, a thing you’ve made. To release it, you either give it away or sell it. Selling it and making money from it is not a sell-out. Receiving money for your art is part of the circle of giving and receiving… and giving again. The unique way you produce your art, your story about your process and the methods you choose to sell it will set the tone for the integrity of your work. If you want only to create for yourself, then you wouldn’t be reading this far – so trust your instincts and move forward to create and share your unique vision.
Got your pen, paper? Write your title:
(your name) Amazing Artist Action Plan
1. Evaluate your skills. (e.g., artistic, business, selling)
2. Research and learn.
3. Jot down your philosophy, mission or statement. Make note to review later.
4. Set up a workspace.
5. Schedule time to create.
6. Create a budget.
7. Create 10 or more finished pieces.
8. Price your art.
9. Have your art photographed professionally and saved digitally.
10. Assemble a portfolio.
11. Get a bank account for your art and a PayPal account.
12. Select and build home base for your online presence as an artist. (e.g., website, blog, online shop)
13. Select and create one or two places to connect and share your story and build your community. (e.g., blog, YouTube, Twitter)
14. Select and create where will you show and/or sell your work. (e.g., Etsy, Flickr, Zazzle)
15. Select sources where you will go to learn about fellow artists, get inspired, learn what’s new and find resources and opportunities and schedule daily or weekly visit. (e.g., Twitter, art magazines, art business blogs, art forums, Facebook groups)
16. Make a list of your favorite artists who you consider working successfully and review how and where they market their work.
17. Seek out seasoned artist mentors whom you can talk with.
18. Decide what ways you would like to show your work in person and get applications and contact information. (e.g., open studio, gallery, festival, alternative space)
19. Determine your audience and buyers.
20. Create a calendar or dedicated planner for your office work.
21. Make room for balanced down-time to exercise, meditate, eat whole, healthy foods and rest. A healthy lifestyle supports sustained creativity.
22. Make a note to review this list a week or two from now and revise as needed.
23. Find your Rhythm.
24. Do #7 again and again.
25. Keep going – Repeat.
Now, take a look at your paper and let’s go through them quickly together. Do you have all 25 written down? Cool. Schedule #1-3, 5 and 6 to be done within the next 10 days.
#4 can be a small corner in the kitchen or area of your house where you don’t have to move it. Doesn’t have to be a grand space yet.
#7 is good to plan a minimum of one painting (change to fit your art) per month. I highly recommend more than that depending on your style and the speed at which you want to enter the marketplace.
#8-10 will take a little time to organize. Decide how you want to archive your images. Only digital photography or film? I still have my work shot with large format film (4 x 5) it takes a few days to process, then I scan and create digital archives. If a piece is late for a show or you’re in a hurry, going straight to digital works just fine. It’s a good idea to have a portfolio in more than one form, but I don’t recommend an expensive print product in the beginning. Over time, you can select your best work and create a showcase, for now, one image (with description and price) on a single white sheet of 8.5″ x 11″ paper and organized in a binder is a great start and something you can easily and inexpensively duplicate and edit. Organize your digital files by series and file size and create CD or external hard-drive backups.
#11 can be done in one morning. #12 can be started while you are working on your art. Get as much on your home site as you can right away: landing page, bio or about page, a blog page or space for news and events and a page for your online portfolio. Check what you’ve learned from #16 and 17 and apply it here.
As soon as you have your focus and philosophy, you can start #13. #14, can wait until your home web site is completed. Once you have your first targets, #15-18 will be an ongoing routine of keeping a feel for what’s going on and where your art sits in the mix and that will lead you to #19.
Start the business planner today (#20). It can be ruled notebook, a moleskin or a day planner with a calendar and place for notes. You can take this digital if you are more comfortable with it, but a plain old notebook encourages spontaneous doodles and sketches, so that’s my choice. As you find your rhythm, you can upgrade and personalize this vital piece or your art business.
I can’t stress enough how important #21 is. You may have the idea that if you’re a happy artist you’re not a real artist. The stories we all hear or maybe even a friend or two you know – where artists are tortured, depressed or have fits of dementia in order to create may seem like a prerequisite for creative genius. Sadly, states of depression, dark moods and illnesses are more prevalent today than ever. If a person creates within these states of illness, self-loathing or altered states of consciousness, brief moments of creativity may emerge. A better path for longevity in all areas is to support your whole person, which holds your creative spirit. The key is finding your balance of mind, body and spirit. If you do, you are rewarded with unhindered access to your inner space where true creativity lives. You’ll then be able to bring out your truth and communicate meaning with clarity and passion that will have the power to transform yourself and your community in positive ways – ways you never could reach with anything less.
Do #22 often. #24 and 25 are for life, they will change and grow over time, but you’ll never cross them off your list.
Before I leave you here, are your eyes glazed over or is panic setting in? Okay, try this for a quick refocus. After a deep breath (always the first step), take a break and get grounded. Get outside if possible and stick your bare feet in the grass or on concrete or stone for 15 minutes or so. Add your own special touch while you do this (e.g., more deep breathing, standing stretches, close your eyes and do peaceful visualizations let all that tension flow into the ground) Sounds silly, but it works. When you come back inside, read over your list with your renewed calm and simply begin.
Roxanne is a professional artist and published author. She paints in encaustic and acrylic. An artist advocate, her professional experience includes publishing, special events, marketing, public relations and aerial acrobatics. Visit http://roxannevise.com for more resources and information.
The Creative Tempo Blog is a resource for artists in all stages of their career, encouraging and empowering artists to take a step, find creative rhythm and keep going.
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