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Aletta de Wal
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The Flip Side of the "Starving Artist" Myth - Part 4

So far we've flipped three myths about artists related to money, three more about lifestyle, and three about how to build an art career.

The final three myths in this series break my heart because anyone who believes them has lost faith in their own abilities and doubts that the future they want is possible. The flip side is that you can find what you've lost and even strengthen your faith and your hopes in the process.

Myth #10: Your Art is So Good That One Day You'll Be "Discovered"

My number one piece of advice for artists is to work relentlessly on their signature body of work. That said, there is no shortage of artists producing very good work.


The Internet has exploded exposure to the point where finding your site can be like finding a needle in a stack of needles. The odds of being discovered are pretty slight. Don't wait for this minuscule possibility.

Flip side: You Market Your Art to Help Your Audience Discover You
Having the promotional tools, like a web site, Blog, social media and postcards is a given. But they are not marketing - they are carriers for your messages.

As I said last time: Marketing is a series of conversations designed to build a bridge that connects you and your art with your audience.

You need to know the kinds of people who like your art and your subject matter. You have to understand how and where they like to look at art, why they buy and how often. You use that information to show your art in the places and ways they prefer and you help them imagine your art displayed in their homes.

In other words, you help them discover you, like your work and uncover their desire to own a piece of your art or tell someone else about it.

Myth #11: If It Didn't Work Out Once, It Will Never Work Out

When things work out right away without careful planning, the right skills, tools and methods, it's usually a fluke.


Avoid artists who tell you that they've "done it" and "it doesn't work." They contacted the right people, sent out the correct material, created the work that the public wanted, and, even after doing all of this, they still didn't get anywhere. If you probe, you will find that these artists gave up after one, two or three times. Either they didn't want to appear pushy or they assumed that the person was not interested.

As Henry Ford said, "If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right."

The Flip-Side: Developing an Art Career Takes Consistent Action
If all inventors gave up the first or second time, we would be in the dark, cleaning our homes with straw brooms and writing with quill pens. We would not have light bulbs or new kinds of vacuum cleaners, smart phones and laptops.

Most artists don't create a perfect work of art the first time. Marketing is the same. There is a lot of trial and error, patience and persistence.

Marketing art is like working in the kitchen in a house full of teenagers. As soon as you've put away the last dish and wiped the counters, the fridge door opens and the cooking and clean up starts all over again. At least with marketing there is a chance of having money come in instead of just going out.

You need to take consistent action so your marketing meets the audience when they are ready. More than one show builds a reputation; more than one gallery contact leads to dealers that will represent your art; more than one sale builds an art business that lasts. Art purchases happen when collectors want to buy. Media exposure happens when the writer wants to publish the article. Gallery exhibits happen when the dealer has room and your art is a fit for the clientele. Be there when the decision is ripe and they just might pick you.


Myth #12: You Can Succeed Only in New York (Or any Other Art Mecca)

New York City and London are two of the most eclectic art scenes in the world for artists and art lovers. Symbols of artistic recognition and fame include prominent museums, leading edge galleries, cutting edge artists, top art critics, and trade shows like Art Expo. It's no wonder that these cities have such mystique for artists and art lovers as dream destinations. A related myth is that you can be successful only if your work is in an iconic magazine like Art in America. Not true!


The Flip-Side: You Build Your Career Where You Live Your Life
Big city markets are tough to break into, even for artists who live there, and, like any location, there are rules and customs for artists who want to exhibit.

You'll be happiest where you can comfortably balance all the roles in your life and flow from one to the other with limited stress. Success depends less on where you live and more on how you build relationships with people everywhere you go. If you live an interesting life, your art and your business will be more interesting.


What do you do when one of these myths come calling? Please post your here or on Facebook and Twitter.


Related Posts to Help You Banish Myths

An artist who attended my workshop "Bust the Starving Artist Myth" asked me for a free pass because her "last year had been tough." She was well dressed and carried a laptop in a leather case.  Saying yes would have been unfair to the other artists who paid, as well as to the conference organizers. I told her where to find the free business advice I provide on line through my own website and blog.

Here are the other three posts on myths:

The Flip Side of the "Starving Artist" Myth - Part One

The Flip Side of the "Starving Artist" Myth - Part Two

The Flip Side of the "Starving Artist" Myth - Part Three


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