You don’t learn about Business in Art School

As a Calligrapher and Watercolor Painter, I’ve made my living for the last 40 years, and supported my family, doing what I love and getting paid for it. I’ll be offering information to other Artists that just might make the path easier.    -Riva Brown

You love to Paint, right? Or build Ceramics? Or carve Marble? You’ve educated yourself in these skills. You have not learned anything about Business. You are an Artist, right? Business is for them. You are most assuredly not one of them. You’re an Artist, right? You shouldn’t even have to think about this stuff. But, let me tell you….you have to think about this stuff. Because a funny thing happens. At some point you want to go out into the world and earn your money as an Artist. And there you stand with your mad skills on how to paint a Painting or build in Ceramics. And you, my friend, are completely f**ked. You might be a married person who has always been the stay-at-home partner and now you have no idea how to earn a dollar for yourself. Or, you might be a college graduate with no idea how to pay for your next meal or put a roof over your head. Now your options include something like

1. Remain dependent. You don’t actually have to earn a living…lucky you.

2. Join the Military, a real option for younger folks.

3. Hire on to any job you can find where your Art School skills will at least not get in the way. Great. A degree in Oil Painting and now you’re a Greeter at Walmart.

4. Hustle your Artwork to anyone you can think of. Any way you can think of. Imagine if you’d taken a class that helped you to prepare to do just that? At this point you don’t even know what you don’t know. Who do you to talk to and where are they? What collateral material do you need? What the heck is collateral material? How do you make a plan to attack these things? When will you do these things and still have time to paint?


BUSINESS CARD AND BIO SHEET. Why? Let’s say you’re going to approach a Gallery owner. You do not have a Business Card. So you fumble around looking for pen and paper to leave them contact information. And you do too want to leave them contact information. Without a Business Card, you ask them for a piece of paper…because you didn’t bring any paper….and write your contact information down by hand, hopefully legibly, while they roll their eyes. Don’t forget anything! You.. do.. not.. look.. professional.

SELF IMAGE.  What image do you want to project when you go? Professional? Artsy? Left of center? Slightly insane? Totally Psychotic? If you don’t choose how you want to look but instead you head out in whatever you happen to be wearing, what impression will you leave? If you wear your Painting Clothes will you look Artsy or Homeless?

DO YOUR RESEARCH. You can actually visit the gallery before you try to pitch the owners. Look at the work. Jot down the names of artists whose work is similar to yours and call them to ask about their experience with the gallery. Go online. Find out what kind of art the Gallery represents. Make sure your work is a good match for their offering. Find out the names of the Gallery Owners and the staff members. Look at their pictures. Be able to greet these people by name when you go in.

YOU’RE IN THIS FOR THE LONG HAUL. Don’t get frustrated by your first efforts. I once had to contact a gallery owner…who liked me…7 times before he agreed to show my work. It wasn’t meanness. Professionals are busy. Don’t take it personally.


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