Art is broad and it doesn’t have to be defined in a specific way, not in this article at least. Hopefully you are certain about yourself as an artist or you have started to discover how your artistic self will express itself because it is a lifelong process. Growth is the only way to be fulfilled and to let creativity flow free. If you for some reason don’t know if you are an artist or you want to discover more about your specific style I suggest you read my previous articles; How to Discover Yourself as an Artist and How to Discover Your Art Style.
It is important for you to know who you are and how you identify yourself when you decide to make art a career because it’s a big decision to make it your career. A decision that will come with both joy and sacrifices. Before you make that decision you should ask yourself these three golden questions, which I will discuss below in detail.
1. Ask yourself why
Some of you are in the middle of your career and have already gone quite far on the road in a specific field or branch. Or you might be younger and haven’t decided yet if you are going for a higher education or you will start working. You might even be at the end of your career and you’re feeling like there is something more you want to do. Or maybe you simply want to switch it up and change your life. The most important thing is to know you want it and for you to know or figure out why. You have to know why, because without knowing why you won’t sustain the storms coming – and they will come.
So ask yourself the question why, is my first advice. Let me go deeper. Let’s say you want to paint (easy pick since my experience is in the area) and make painting your career. That is perfectly fine, if you have the courage to ask yourself why? Take some time and reflect, beyond the most surficial level because this is your life and you want to be able to stand in the end without regrets, knowing you lived with intention.
Back to the question, why an art career? Is it perhaps because you want to become famous? Do you love attention and people applauding you? Or is it the process itself you love above everything, are you just having the time of your life putting the color on the canvas? Is it someone else’s expectations of you becoming a painter/artist that you try to live up to? Is it some deeper calling you feel to express yourself and communicate to others in this way? Do you want to change society in some way?
It can be anything or everything. Only you know your why, and that is powerful. That is your strength.
2. Define your current situation
My next advice is to take some time and look at your current situation. This will facilitate, give perspective, and paint the picture of your preconditions. It might not have the best outlook but that won’t hinder you from doing what you want to achieve your dream. This advice is not so you will be discouraged and give up on your dream, it’s simply important to ask because you want to be aware of the circumstances you are in right now, it is your reality.
I want to add that your current situation is not your future and anything is possible, but you still have to understand your current position to be able to dress up for the journey in the best possible way so that you can start moving with as much power and positive expectations as possible.
These are some questions to ask yourself and write down the answers to clarify your situation for yourself:
What are you doing today?
Are you working, studying, taking courses, in between jobs or anything else? If today you quit your current job to start doing what you want, are you willing and able to do it? For most of us it is a financial decision, because our finances might not allow us to do whatever we want to. Or can you take a part time job or start a side hustle and start selling your art or your artistic services as soon as possible? Personally I wouldn’t recommend you to put yourself in a situation where you need to sell only to survive, because becoming an artist takes time and you have to discover yourself first. If you only do things because you feel pressure to survive it might not be the real you and it can stress you out in a bad way.
Where are you living?
Country, society, community. This question is important when different countries and communities have specific regulations for setting up a business. Making art your career doesn’t mean you have to start your own business. At first it might feel distant but if you’re planning to make this lifelong you should have that option running in the back of your head and start gaining knowledge about the possible ways for your business to set up.
What is your family situation?
Are you married or single, have a big family, any partner, kids, pets, relatives, friends? etc.
This is a big one. If you know you’re an artist by heart and you have been doing your craft for some time it might have become known to those around you as well. This may be the most important point in this entire article. Because the people you surround yourself with (including your inner voice – the beliefs about yourself) will determine your success in making this a career.
If you have close family and friends that are always questioning your process and your choices it’s likely you will start questioning yourself as well. That might also, in the long run, weaken your self-confidence and lower your self-esteem and it can make you perform on a lower level than what you are capable of. I have experienced this myself and it is devastating so to speak.
When you are in the transition between careers, the most important thing to have is support. But when people who love you are unfamiliar with what you are doing it is harder for them to relate to your new self and they try to drag you back to the familiar you, which is no longer serving you as your new self. If you are not aware of this, it will take place in your unconscious mind and it will build up a lack of trust for yourself which will not help you to achieve your goals as making art your career.
Even if your closest family and friends love you, sometimes you need to protect yourself from them and maybe distance yourself from them for a while. That doesn’t mean you don’t love them or you don’t spend time with them. It is simply you setting boundaries.
On the other hand, if you have a family that supports you and embraces you, that will be the fuel you need to take the next step and you will need a lot of courage to step out into your new world as a career artist.
If you surround yourself with supportive people that understand who you are and what you are doing, it will be easier to go with the flow. Those around you are likely to come with positive input and other bright insights you haven’t thought about.
You might get financial support, time support (taking care of kids, cleaning etc.) because you will need to loosen up some time to be able to work, save-your-energy-support. There are lots of support you can get, but it will also be your obligation to make sure you cut out all the unnecessary stuff in your life. We all have ”time wasters” that aren’t enjoyable and those are the things you will get rid of. It is your decision and choice to make this happen. You have to do the work and you are responsible for the outcome. Take control of everything that is in your control and release what is outside your control, that is just energy consuming.
3. Take Action
Take steps. Small steps. If you want a career to be long-lasting you don’t want to force something to grow. Building a career is just like growing a plant. It needs to be planted in good soil and taken care of while it’s still small and unknown to the world. It has to get love and the right nutrition to be able to function and to live up to its potential as a bigger plant.
Do not rush. I can’t emphasize this enough. Yes, you need to throw yourself out there and be willing to do things that scare you, but you should never compromise with your own health – mental, physical or spiritual – nor should you lower your morals or let go of your integrity in order to get to where you want to go. This needs to be intact and if you are a solid artist your career will take off in the time you are ready for it.
Stay consistent to the process, not the outcome. Your becoming is more important than the expectations or beliefs you have about the end result. Why is that? Because you don’t know all you can become when you’re setting your expectations and if you limit yourself to become what you thought was everything you could be when you set the expectations you’re fooling yourself.
As you travel down the road called life you will understand more and gain more experience and to lock yourself in is like saying to an apple tree “no you won’t have apples, you have flowers and that’s it.” You’ll stop there, because you know it was the flowers you wanted and then you won’t go further because you didn’t know you were capable of producing apples. This is so very important: do not limit yourself.
You want this to last for a longer period of time and to be able to do your craft in different seasons of life and that requires you to build a strong foundation.
So when you start small. Always take the time to evaluate your work and reflect upon the process.
Now you’ve asked yourself the three golden questions…
- Your why – sets the tone and helps you see yourself as an artist – as your career..
- Current situation
- Imagine your ideal situation or who you want to take the place of in the world as an artist. You have already discovered yourself and your art style (on one level), where is your audience, where are the people that are amazed by your work, who do you want to affect with your creativity, which are the platforms and communities?
…once you’ve answered them you can move onto the final step.
4. Start Networking
As mentioned before you have expectations and desires and that is great as they lead you to places where you can thrive even more. As a painter you want to become visible and you start networking with artists and art galleries. Don’t give up if you get some no’s or people turn you down or tell you that your work isn’t good enough. People who don’t know you might have a bad opinion or you might not win the contest, but have to go forward and build your fan-group.
Yes, you heard me. You want to be where people cheer you on. People that love what you do. This won’t be at the start when you’re still trying to figure out who you are as an artist because if you don’t know, without people’s approval that you have the right to do what you do, you will fall short when no one is applauding.
You’ll find your fan-group when you have stated your why and you are stepping out, taking it from the small pot to the garden so to speak. Everyone will be able to see it. And where you decide to plant it is crucial. If you plant it where the soil is unnourished it might not survive.
Take some time with this, it’s an always ongoing process.
Show off your work. Your own platforms are great but maybe you want more views or help with selling. I highly recommend you connect with an art community. There are tons of them here, below I mention a few that I am using:
Feel free to discover what suits you best and good luck!
Annamaria Johansson is a full time artist based in Stockholm. She was born in 1986 in a city called Östersund which lies in the northern part of Sweden. At an early age, Annamaria had great urge to paint and draw. Her work is strongly influenced by the candid description of being a human in today’s society. Annamaria’s travels have allowed her to collect a lot of experience from all parts of the world, including inspiration from Zanzibar, Cape Verde, Vietnam, Dominican Republican, New York and Europe.
Annamaria’s latest artworks can be found at: www.beyondartwork.com
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