My Dad Was Smart

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My dad was a very smart man. Though, at the time, I had my doubts. He wasn't too pleased when I told him I wanted to be an artist. We didn't talk about what might be a better profession for me, or why was it that I wanted to be an artist. My high school guidance councilor washed his hands of me. Several teachers told me without a college education I wouldn't amount to much. 

Told you my dad was smart. Well, while I was trying to get help from my teachers and guidance councilor, my dad set about learning how one becomes an artist. He talked with art teachers from other schools and was directed to an artist named Ruth Van Sickle Ford, a successful artist and director of the Chicago Academy of Art. rs. Ford and I talked for a couple hours before she gave me a letter of introduction to Frank Young, owner of the American Academy of Art in Chicago. She said the American Academy was more in line with what type of artist I wanted to be. I studied drawing and painting there for four years. 

My education in art took a side-step when I got a job in a gallery. Working in the gallery as an errand boy I learned what this gallery looked for in the way of artists, I saw artists turned away and was told why. Wall space is valuable and on Michigan Avenue very pricey. The gallery could not afford to hang a two hundred dollar painting on it's wall and survive. It's collectors want established artist, artist with a philosophy and a long term goal. Over the years I've had to write out my philosophy and long-term goals a few time for galleries. I learned doing good work isn't always enough. I continue to learn about both the creative and the business side. 

My dad didn't send me to a person with a PhD in Medieval Studies or a person with a Business Degree who paints every other weekend for information on being an artist. My dad was smart. He sent me to an artist that was successful doing what she loved doing. I can't afford a new car every year or steak for dinner every night but I have been able to give money to help out the people in Houston and Puerto Rico by doing what I love doing.

Wading is Better Than Blind Jumping

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Stepping into the arena of Fine Art can be scary and expensive. Everyone can create art but few can forge a living from Fine Art. Today I heard a story of one, who with no experience, jumped in with both feet expecting to make a big splash only to find there were rocks in the water. This person learned a hard lesson. There is more to it than simply creating art. Knowing where the rocks are and wading in is better than blind jumping.

One needs to know the business end and how every aspect of the business works. Too many artist think because so many friends love their art they are ready for a one man show and that they can have it anywhere. I went to hundreds of art exhibitions to see the art, to support the artist and to learn. Listening was the greatest thing to do, and then to really think about what I heard. At the first exhibition I heard compliments coming from everyone, but no one reached for their check book. After thanking everyone for coming the artist looked around and found he had no sales. Only relatives and friends had come to see his work. He hadn't established a name or really promoted his exhibition. He assumed people would just come to his show because his work was so damn good. He expected a sell out. Few artists have sell out exhibitions - even famous artists seldom have sell outs. 

Without being a nuisance, artists starting out should ask other artists questions about getting started. You might not get a straight answer because it is different for everyone. We have a place near by that should be the perfect place for an unknown artist to get started. It has a bad reputation as far as getting people to come to exhibitions but with some work, an artist could begin building a name, and a name is most important. Build locally and expand small so you have a solid foundation. Set down a two-year plan of what you need to do and where you want to be in two years. Maybe you want to try street fairs for the first two years and build a following of people really interested in art, people you can invite to one man exhibitions and send newsletters to. Remember you not only have to build a name, but keep it in your collectors minds. Besides newsletters, mail out postcards with your most unusual piece on it. Think up other ways of building your name and keeping it out there.

Good luck everyone.