A successful art career might seem like a unicorn: rare and bordering on mythical. Though we can’t all be Jeff Koons-level famous, there’s definitely room for more successful artists in the world. In fact, a few simple art career tips will get you there.
Of course, first you have to define your version of success. Is it making a living from your art? Is it becoming so famous that the Kardashians collect you? Is it just getting your mom to stop telling you to get a real job? Before you shoot for the stars (or for the Venice Biennale), you gotta get real with yourself.
We all need practical tips in our careers, and an art career is no different. Despite all of the romanticizing that shrouds their lives, artists, like everyone else, have to make to-do lists, use their Google calendars, and yes, even pay their bills from time to time.
If you’re struggling to level up in your art career, here are 12 simple tips you can try today.
If the issue is creative:
1) For a creative rut, try a solo retreat
Like broken air conditioning and texts from your ex, creative blocks happen. It’s okay. It’s a fact of life, and the sooner you accept it, the sooner you can stop beating yourself over the head with a palette knife, it will help to get those creative juices to flow.
When your art career is at stake—a looming deadline for a show, for example—it’s hard to be easy on yourself. And yet, that’s just what the situation calls for. No one’s ever come up with a brilliant idea by trying to squeeze it out of herself like that last drop of toothpaste.
Sometimes, a change of scenery is just what it takes. If you can, try to shake up your atmosphere by staging a little getaway. Ideally, go on your own, somewhere quiet and calm where you can get in touch with your inner muse. For tips on how to grab some much-needed #metime, check out our guide to the artist solo retreat.
2) Fine-tune your productivity by nailing your morning routine
Then again, maybe the problem is actually much closer to home. Whole books have been written on the daily habits of artists, and for good reason. Yes, the world is almost as obsessed with the weird and wacky quirks of “creative types” as it is with the morning routines of successful people.
As an artist, the former will probably be much more useful. Consider suggestion manuals for how to launch your day with maximum productivity potential.
If the issue is PR:
3) Try a merch collab
Then again, maybe your problem is publicity. If you’re chugging along, making the most brilliant work to ever grace this planet, but no one is taking note, looks like you need to become your own best PR person.
One great way to get your name out there is to make a merch collection. I know, I know—don’t roll your eyes at me. Before you launch into your “I didn’t pay 100K for art school to sell out” spiel, consider the following. In a post-Andy Warhol world, can we really draw a line between the two? If Jeff Koons is out there being Jeff Koons, I think you can deign to make a collection for Merci. Or, as they seem to team up with just about anyone, try Supreme. If the Andy Warhol Foundation did it, so can you.
4) Start a collective
Some things are simply better together: basil and burrata, almond butter and bananas, avocados and toast, cold brew and macadamia milk… oops, those are all food. But so do artists! Some of the greatest work of all time emerged from collective movements: think Bauhaus, impressionism, Art Nouveau, or, I don’t know, the Renaissance.
If your work has a clear social / political bend, especially if it’s new or a little controversial, rally some likeminded souls and get a little collective going. Not only will you be able to bounce ideas off each other, but when it comes to art world PR, there’s strength in numbers.
5) Get out of the house
If starting a collective seems like a lot of work on a Monday morning, the least you can do is get out of the house. Seriously, just go somewhere (preferably put on some pants first). Success is an elusive creature, but I know several places it’s not lurking: your couch, your pantry and your bedroom. Only old animal crackers and weird pairs of underwear from 2013 are lurking there.
Ideally, go somewhere other artists hang out—a museum or a gallery, of course, but every town has a local artists watering hole. If you don’t know where yours is, your first step to career success lies in finding it and making yourself known there.
Your explicit goal should be gathering ideas by looking and talking, but if a little networking accidentally happens, well, whoops. You never know where you’re going to run into a gallerist, curator or collector who can give you your next big career milestone. But you do know where you’re not going to run into them: your couch, your pantry, your bed or (probably) your studio.
6) Get in the news
As art prophet Andy Warhol foretold, today, anyone can be famous for 15 minutes. Fame is a scary four-letter word, but it’s really not that hard to become a minor celebrity. All it takes is one clever stunt noticed by the right people, then bam—sales through the roof. Need some inspo? Check out Chloe Wise’s bread bags that got mistaken for Chanel, or Lyst’s canine collection PR prank.
7) Learn about Instagram marketing
Next time you’re feeling creatively blocked, use that time off to fine-tune those Insta marketing skills. Even if you run a personal page, treat your account like a business. It is; it represents your art, which, if you’re trying to live off of it, is also your business.
On the same note, if your feed is just paintings, paintings and more paintings, it might be time to shake things up a bit.
Yes, your work is great, and that should be the primary reason why people follow you. But if you’re only posting close-up shots of your minimalist abstract series, your followers will start to get bored. IG posts with faces get 38% more likes, so throw in some face pics here and there. People want to see the human behind the masterpiece.
Ready to get totally wild? Throw in some gym content—pics from your latest run, a sweaty mirror selfie or a fancy yoga post. Just be sure to keep it quality; think Nike Women, not @gymfuckery.
Bonus: all those endorphins just might make you more creative!
10) Slide in those DMs
If it’s over 35 degrees or under 10, tip number 5 just isn’t happening. In that case, try the digital version of networking: sliding in those DMs. Just don’t get carried away: this technique should be used sparingly and intentionally.
Pinpoint a few people who you genuinely think you’d vibe with, then craft a genuine, kind and non-creepy (!!!) DM. If they reply, awesome. If not, take the hint and move on. Don’t act like a marketing list they never subscribed to and keep spamming them with unwanted content.
11) Call up some old art school friends
In the wise words of the Beatles, we get by with a little help from our friends. Even if you’ve drifted since art school, it never hurts to check in with your old squad. At worst, you’ll have a nice chat and nothing to show for it. But you never know who might have the perfect opportunity for you.
Just be genuine—don’t lead by asking if they can get you a show. Ask about their career, their mom and their cat, and chances are, an opportunity will naturally come up in the course of the conversation. Call it fate, call it karma, but people are usually the most helpful when you’re not trying to get something from them.
12) Get in the studio and get to work!
You already know what I’m going to say next. No one ever built a successful art career on good PR alone. When you finally land that studio visit, you gotta have something to show for it.
I’ll leave you with the wise words of Rihanna:
“Work work work work work work.”
Text by Katya Lopatko
Images via @jeffkoons, @jobs.art.ig, @yoga.