Being an artist for many years, owning an art dealer business representing multiple artists in Los Angeles, and being employed by the world's largest fine art instruction school have enlightened me on the finer points of what an amateur artist must do if they desire to make a living as a professional artist.
The following rules are addressed to becoming a professional fine artist working in the medium of paint. However these tips can really be applied to any medium of art, whether it be painting, poetry, or music.
It is my sincere wish that these pointers aid in your journey as a working artist!
Rule1: Know the Underlying Basics and Fundamentals of Your Craft.
For many many years I "played" the guitar and bass without having a clue how to read notes, scales, modes, keys, etc. After learning music theory my music was much better and I was far more productive.
Before I understood the fundamentals of music I had an excuse ready when I couldn't make a song go right, I was too tired, I was having a bad day, or not in the mood.
As a result since I had no clue WHY I did what I did when creating music I could never reach that state of being cause over my music, let alone professional in anyway.
Information, knowledge, data, has been, and unless the world turns inside out in the future, will always be power. You cannot only rely on your natural ability, you have to know the WHY (all the basics and fundamentals) behind the scenes of your art.
Take art lessons. If you are of the opinion that your skills are past this stage then you need to find a good mentor.
Rule 2: You Will Learn How to Market Both You and Your Art.
In my experience as both gallery owner and art dealer I have witnesses this same scenario time in and time out.
Two comparable pieces of art, each created by two different artists. One sells for $500 and the other for $10,000.
It has and will always come down to marketing and sales skill. One artist painted and displayed work in a gallery as the sole means of promoting.
The other artists would do promotional actions like press releases highlighting their new work, they had a professional website, they got interviews with art magazines, they networked with other artists, art professionals, and art enthusiasts, they got their work published in a coffee table books or calendars.
The outlets to make your artwork known are infinite, the point being, you are going to have to learn this skill of marketing so that you can apply it to yourself as an artist and to your artwork.
You could always hope that you create such an incredible work of art that the buzz created just by your painting will have the public beating down the door with cash in hand.
However that takes the responsibility of your success out of your hands and places it into the hands of the public.
When it comes to art, the public can be a very fickle entity indeed.
Honestly, do you really desire anything involving or related to the word fickle in charge of your destiny?
Rule 3: Do Not Succumb to Fear of Rejection or Failure.
Everyone has heard some variation of the story about the author who has a closet full of manuscripts that have never been read by another soul due to fear of rejection.
The same phenomena can happen to visual artists.
Many successful painters still do not view their own work to be perfect. So if you wait till your work is "perfect" then you may very well be dead of old age before perfection happens.
Don't be afraid to get your work out there. People will love your work, hate your work, see it as mediocre, or see it as the beginning of a new renaissance.
Taste in art differs widely and you will never win over everybody.
Rule 4: You Will Give the Critics ZERO Attention.
I am not just talking about art critics, but just negative people in general. A lot people on this planet are miserable and they like to drag others down with them.
Some are overt in your face, "you'll never be any good." At least they are easy to spot.
The worst are the ones that give back handed compliments or deftly slide that needle of criticism into the conversation by use of passive aggressive means.
'That last painting that you made was MUCH better than this one, I don't intend to be rude BUT.., That is very good work for a student, but there is soooooo much competition out there in the professional world,' etc etc.
Of course if you called them on it they would profess innocence, say that you are over reacting, that they were just kidding. Don't buy it.
If you can, just don't associate with these people, if they are our family don't talk about your art work with them. Hopefully you are an aspiring artist because you love to make art, not due to some misguided attempt to impress your family.
If you have no choice in being around these people just recognize that they are just lonely unhappy people, and above all, do not take it personally.
The only critique one should listen to is your professional drawing or painting instructor.
And be wary of that as well, make sure that at the same time they are critiquing your work that they are also showing you how to improve.
Rule 5: Speaking of Art Instructors, You Will Choose a Good One.
My spouse came to the states on a student visa from Canada to study drawing and painting in University.
My wife's first semester involved taking basic sketching and panting classes.
She arrived eager to learn the fundamentals of the visual arts, line drawing, tones, use of color, proportion, and the use of light and shadow.
Instead she received a lot of airy fairy over significant mumbo jumbo. The main technique taught was the 'if it feels good then do it' technique.
No substantial techniques were taught to the students simply because the instructors did not know them, or if they did they knew ABOUT them, but didn't really KNOW them!
When choosing any art school, whether it be painting, dance, music, acting, please PLEASE choose one that teaches the fundamentals and basics of the art.
Speak with your potential art instructor, Make sure that you inspect their work AND their students art as well.
Ask the potential teacher how they go about teaching the basics to a new student.
Rule 6: You Must Learn to Sell (or find someone who can and will)
The odds are, if you work is displayed anywhere where people can view it someone will come along who likes it, maybe even love it.
The problem comes in convincing them that they love your painting more than they love their money.
This is not as hard as it looks. All you have to do is handle any of the potential customers objectives and interest them continually in your work and in you as the artist.
If you absolutely think that selling your art work is demeaning to the concept of art that it totally fine. There is still a way to be an artist and not have to live in your mothers basement. You have to enlist someone who will do it for you.
Rule 7. Learn to Harness the Power of the Internet.
Take a look at ebay, type in 'original oil painting' into its search field. You will see hundreds of paintings from artists selling their work online.
Type in 'fine artists' into any search engine and you will find professional websites featuring professional artists.
There are a few websites that even act as an online art gallery and will display and sell your work online for you for a cut of the sale.
The world wide web happens to be a splendid way to show of your artwork, garner brand recognition, and to dissiminate your art to a massive international audience.
Rule 8: You Will Not Get Weird About Art and Money.
I know some of you cringe when it comes to selling your art for money, or that some of these tips might sound a little too business like, with words like brand recognition, professional, selling and marketing.
Like it or not, if someone exchanges money for your art you have entered into the field of business.
When you come to this fork in your career as an artist you can take one of two paths.
Path one, never sell your art for money, continue to work at your day job and keep art as a hobby. Perfectly acceptable. Many people do this across the world and lead happy lives.
Path two, realize that your art is providing someone with a product that they will adore for years to come, You created something original. Nothing in this world is it's exact duplicate.
For this you will receive money in exchange. This will help you concentrate on creating more works of art as you may have to work less hours at a 'real' job. Maybe you will get to the point of not having to work that 'real' job at all!
Michelangelo was commissioned by the Vatican to do his work in the Sistine Chapel. He was paid quite handsomely for it.
He was also commissioned by Florence to create the statue of David.
Artists can create wonderful enduring works and should rightfully be exchanged properly with.
Well there you have them, 8 rules you need to live by to become a professional visual artist.
I sincerely hope that they help and I wish you the best of luck in how ever you decide to pursue the field of art.
About the Author:
Eric Hines has had the pleasure of working professionally in the art industry with fellow artists for the majority of his working life as an artist, art dealer, musician, and currently as an executive at Mission Renaissance. Mission Renaissance teaches
to over 5,000 art students every single week. They teach both children and adults
how to draw
Want to Become a Professional Visual Artist? Here are the 8 Rules You Need to Live By