Last month a group of A.C.T. Featured Artists shared their thoughts on obstacles.
What do art world insiders know about handling the ups and downs of the art world that we don't? Turns out there are a lot of overlaps.
Stewart Cubley, Process Arts Instructor
"Often accomplished artists who show up have started to feel stale, either by becoming too wedded to a successful style that's expected of them or just has lost the juice and is no longer interested in what they're doing.
"The issues that come up [in painting for process] often center on the terror of an unsatisfactory result, doubts about personal worth and the fear of risk-taking. Getting past these issues produces a thread that the novice or experienced person alike can explore and evolve for quite some time because it comes from emotion and excitement of discovery rather than expectations."
Margaret Danielak, Artist Representative
"The biggest mistake artists make (that become obstacles) is when they go around their gallery or rep to make the sale directly to a client. Unless you are planning to give your rep a cut of the sale, don't do it. The art world is a small one and your gallery or rep will find out eventually.
"In addition, when you part ways with your gallery or rep, make it pleasant and smooth. You never know when you may work with that person again or what they might say to others in the art world about your professionalism or lack thereof.
"The other biggest mistake that artists make is to 'come on to' a gallery owner/rep at a reception. That is rude to the artist whose work is on display, and it is horrifying for the gallery owner who has only 2 hours during the reception to sell the work on display to collectors.
"Just introduce yourself, get the director's or gallery owner's card and then call or email them and make an appointment. I value recommendations by artists, dealers or gallery owners I know who refer artists to me. It's a great way to be introduced."
Margot Knight, Executive Director, The Djerassi Resident Artists Program
"I read Colin Wilson's 'The Outsider' when I was a teenager and what it told me was that we have such enormous ability to create meaning in our lives and we often allow others to create that meaning for us. There is a freedom in that that I try to live everyday. He said, 'Boredom is the inability to pick up on subtle vibrations.' I am a believer in that. If you're bored, look in the mirror - there is nobody to blame but yourself.
"The President of Walt Disney World, Meg Crofton's mantra is
'Do the best you can. Then forgive yourself.'"
Robert Patrick, Curator & Producer, The Art of Chuck Jones
"Can you imagine how boring life would be if there were no obstacles to overcome?
"We are all in sales because every day is a negotiation about something or with someone. The art business is a roller coaster and you have to be prepared for the lows. Everyday is filled with minor and major obstacles; you are always negotiating your way through life (personally and professionally). I'm from the school of answering objections before they're asked."
Martha Richards, Executive Director of WomenArts
"I think the most common problems are lack of funds, lack of visibility, and isolation.
"So my advice first of all is to figure out whether you can get or create some kind of steady job that uses your creative skills. Many artists are happy as teachers or as employees of arts organizations. I would also encourage artists to look carefully at any federal or state employment programs that are available in their region, and see if there is a way to use those funds to create arts jobs for themselves.
"My other suggestion is that artists should form groups or alliances and do their fundraising together. Even if you are just getting together to review each others' proposals, it helps to have other artists to cheer you on when times are tough and to celebrate your successes."
Benny Shaboy, Publisher and Editor of Art Opportunities Monthly
"The biggest obstacles are lack of money, lack of time and keeping to the task even when it becomes tedious. In theory, one can get more money, but one cannot get more time.
"Not every seemingly good idea turns out to be, so knowing when to continue down a particular path and when to change course is essential."
Michael Yochum, Gallery Owner
"The biggest challenge artists have is creating a business plan, putting themselves out there and selling their work - both directly and getting mainstream gallery representation.
"They create standard portfolios and submit them to galleries, without realizing that the best way to get into galleries is by referrals. They need to think strategically about who can introduce them.
"I was speaking to an artist who sells a lot of work though Open Studios. I asked her if, when she sells a work to a collector, she asks them if they also buy work in galleries and where. She looked at me quizzically. If a collector buys your work then they obviously like it, and if they buy work at a gallery, then the gallery likes the collector. Wouldn't that be a perfect way to get an introduction?"
Most of the obstacles we face are ones of our own making and only we can resolve those.
Obstacles outside of us are common to artists everywhere, and that may be some small comfort - you are not alone.
What are the top three obstacles you would like to resolve?
Please post your comments here, and I'll respond on Facebook and Twitter where we can get a lively discussion going.
Creatively Unblocking 300 Creative Blocks
How to Turn 9 Common Obstacles into Art Business Opportunities
A.C.T. Featured Artists: How to Overcome Obstacles
What Artists Can Learn About Persistence from Winston Churchill - Lesson 1
What Artists Can Learn About Perception from Winston Churchill - Lesson 2
P.S. If you need an accountability partner for your art business or someone to roll up sleeves to produce art marketing materials or work on your web site, just let us know. We can help you. If you haven't already had one, start with a complimentary 15-minute conversation. Sign up here.