Sylvia White’s Hard Facts for Success in the Art Business

Sylvia White’s recent Advice on Art piece, titled 5 Facts Artists Have to Face to Succeed in Business, is as hard hitting as anything I’ve read on the subject.

I encourage you to read what she has to say and come up with your own conclusions. To motivate you, and let you know she is not fooling around, here are the points –

Sylvia White has been advising visual artists on their careers since 1979 through her company, Contemporary Artists’ Services. That’s long enough to have gained a tremendous knowledge by experiencing the ups and downs of the business through all kinds of cycles and gyrations with artists coming and going. Her recent Sad_artist Advice on Art piece titled 5 Facts Artists Have to Face to Succeed in Business is as hard hitting as anything I’ve read on the subject.

I encourage you to read what she has to say and come up with your own conclusions. To motivate you, and let you know she is not fooling around, here are the points:

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  1. You will not get “discovered.”
  2. You will not find a gallery that “understands your work” and feels as passionately about it as you do.
  3. No matter how original you think your work is, it has been done before.
  4. Just because your work look just like Jackson Pollock, (or, fill in the blank) doesn’t mean it’s as good, or that you can price it the same.
  5. You will not be able to make a living off the sale of your work.

Those are harsh words to say the least; throwing cold water on the aspirations of most artists. Personally, I know too many artists who defy what she is saying to buy into her logic 100%.  But, I do know there are plenty who could use a reality check like the one she is throwing down and use it to figure out if a full-time art career makes sense for them. And, as you read through her points, you realize she is coming at this with wisdom and compassion, as a person who wants artists to succeed and be happy with their skills, creativity and legacy whatever it might be.

On the other side of the equation, I had a blog post not that long ago titled, The Power of Believing in Yourself. I contend when talent and determination are fueled by driving ambition (and perhaps a scoch of luck) they propel some to climb heights others only dream of; things happen. In these instances, no amount of denying or cold water will slow them down. The real trick is to set your expectation on realistic goals. You do that by objectively assessing your talent, your resources, including finances, business smarts and qualified help and your ambition. It’s not easy to get your arms around all these, but when and if you do, you can use the information to set believable and achievable goals that include defying Sylvia’s hard logic borne out of her decades long experience.

One of the reasons I am such a firm believer in the print market is that artists who are not museum bound, who are not ever going to be shown at Art Basel Miami, can still make a decent living by successfully establishing an art print career. The ability to get paid repeatedly for the same creative effort is the key. Of course, there is more to a print career than that. But, when it comes together in the proper context, it is a terrific alternative to being a hobbyist or a starving artist.

Chair On a personal note, for many years, I dreamed of opening a custom furniture design shop and co-op woodworking gallery. Eventually, I realized my joy was not in the commerce, but in the making. As a result, I made peace with my dream and kept the joy and passion of my hobby just that. I’ve shown this chair I made about a year ago, so for you long time readers, I apologize for the repeat performance. I guess you could say I am still proud to have gained the skills to design and build this chair. I’m equally proud there is only one in the world like it.

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Barney Davey

I help artists and photographers find buyers, sell more art and operate profitably.

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