- by Barney Davey
Art Career Advice for Supporters
As one who provides support for an artist, I say blessings upon you. The task you have undertaken is no less daunting than trying to get an art career off the ground. It takes talent, determination, and a distinct temperament to do the work you do.
(Make sure you see the 10 Need to Know Art Business Basics for New and Emerging Artists infographic below.)
Artists and Art Careers Are Not All the Same
Artist supporters and their relationships and responsibilities with their artists vary widely. The gamut runs from providing moral support and encouragement to being the breadwinner giving the artist time to develop.
Just know whether you are a parent providing financial aid and assistance or a spouse who works in the business with the artist, you are as rare as the artist you love and support. Moreover, your dedication and backing are often the difference between success and failure.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU DON’T HAVE SUPPORT
Having support is a bit like having artistic talent. It is not given equally, or even fairly in many cases. If it’s not readily available, don’t let that stop you from finding it. Consider an apprentice, hire a virtual assistant, or wrangle a friend or relative. Determine what you need and let it be known you are seeking help. Be proactive. When you seriously put out your intentions you will make this happen.
You Are a Precious Gem
As an artist ally, you’re rare because few people have the ability and capacity to nurture an artist successfully. In many cases, an artist’s success is wholly dependent on their support system. It’s probable that without the love and care you provide, your artist would struggle mightily, or even flounder and fail.
Not every successful artist has had active supporters working to help them achieve their goals. That’s because every situation is different. A common theme among successful artists is they have support. While it sometimes is financial, more often in highly successful careers you find a supporter actively working in the business.
Your Work Is the Glue to the Success of the Business
In 30 years of helping artists get their work to market, I’ve talked with many supportive spouses, parents, family members, and friends of artists. I found them universally generous, helpful people who freely chose to take an active interest to help their artists succeed. And, their contribution to the success of their artist’s career is immeasurable.
Usually, these backers have skills that balance the talents of the artist. What they add creates a powerful combination of competencies and purpose. In a show of love, belief, and solidarity, these supporters have hitched their wagon the artist’s dreams and vision of success. Partnerships like these create an exceptional dynamic where the mix of aptitudes focused on shared goals creates greater success than either party would enjoy on their own.
The Path Less Traveled
As an artist supporter, you already know you have chosen a path less traveled. Being out of the norm is what makes things exciting. It can also make things scary because of steady projectable income, especially in the early going, often is not there. Artists make for undeniably unique partners in many ways.
Artists see the world through a different lens than others. That makes them fun and exciting to be around… most of the time. While their strong right-brained tendencies fuel their creativity, it often is the cause of letting mundane left-brained tasks left undone or off the radar. That can drive your left-brained tendencies batty sometimes. Make sure you have some leverage to keep from letting things get out of hand. While being an artist is a freeing experience, it doesn’t come with the right to be irresponsible.
The Unsung Hero
When you read biographies of famous artists you find the devoted spouse who has endured a non-conventional lifestyle, years of financial instability if not outright poverty, often unnoticed and under-valued. In the wild ride that runs from the highs of stellar reviews and fabulous sales to rejection and low sales and interests, the unseen spouse is the one at the center holding things together. It’s a shame, but a fact, that artist supporters work in relative obscurity rarely receiving the credit for the success of the artist’s career.
We aren’t all made to be on stage. When you see a play or concert, you know there are hundreds of people filling the behind the scenes roles that give the support needed to make the presentation possible. Your role actively helping your artist find success is the same. You are the unsung hero of the story. While your name may not be mentioned when the artist receives accolades always know that informed people like me, and those close to you know the value and worth of your work. Thank you for your service to your artist.
Artist Allies Come in All Types
Not every artist ally is a quiet patient person working in the background. Some are artists themselves. Some are the quintessential stage-door mothers who seek to control every aspect of an artist’s career. In those cases, you find the match of personalities is what drives the circumstances.
Some artists need more support than others, and without the bold behavior of their ally, they would not succeed. Sometimes it’s not the proverbial difficult artist, but the artist’s agent who is the provocateur making things happen. I’m not an advocate of aggressive borderline obnoxious behavior because it’s not in my nature. Nevertheless, I’ve seen it be very successful at times, and more often find it the cause of things going badly.
There is no one size fits all when it comes to artists. There are those who are so independent the last thing they want or need is someone in their business telling them what to do. And, having a spouse, parent or another family member in that role would be a reason for many internal conflicts. They don’t want to worry about spousal approval, career conflicts, or having someone involved with their artwork however well-intentioned they might be.
Artists with Supporters Have an Advantage
I have been on the scene long enough to say I’ve seen it all. Independent artists who do everything themselves and succeed wildly. And, artists who work in close partnership with their supporters who build long-lasting, highly successful careers. It’s my estimation there are fewer successful independent artists than there are those who have a reliable support system. Sometimes it’s not a choice for an artist. While they would relish having someone helping them in their business, that sort of person is not available to them.
There are countless variations on the roles and tasks artist supporters can provide. Their help with assistance for exhibitions, admin help, moral support, or full-blown art agent is but a few examples. Not to forget the reliable “Plus One” for events, shows, and networking. The division of labor when managing an art career is always unique to the situation and to the abilities of all involved.
No One Gets It Right the First Time All of the Time
There is always a learning curve when attempting to get an art career off the ground. That means things are fluid and responsibilities will change and evolve with the career. In one best case scenario, the artist has part-time help from a spouse. But, as their career takes shape and sales become steady and predictable it makes sense for the artist supporter to join the business on a full-time basis.
Naturally, I can’t assign your roles and tell you what to do. I can only advise you on what I’ve seen work best. That is to make a pact to create a thriving business based on selling the artist’s work. Then start parsing out the details and responsibilities.
Research, Learn, Adjust, and Allocate
Figure out what is truly urgent and important. Give those tasks the highest priority. Divide them up based on skills and availability and make the pinky swear that they will get done in the time allotted. Then hold each other accountable.
Art careers only succeed when they adhere to sound business and marketing principles. Even the most inventive and unique artwork needs to find an audience. It’s more than having efficient systems to manage the backend of the business.
To succeed, you must have the means to find potential buyers. My How to Find and Connect with Art Buyers Workshop is specifically designed to help you in that aspect of your art business. It works on the principle of direct patronage. That is where the artist develops a list of patrons who love the work, buy multiple pieces, and act as benefactors to help boost the artist’s career.
It’s Crucial to Nail Down the Basics
Before you get started on selling your art through direct patronage or other distribution options, you must have sound business practices in place. The lack of basic business application is the root cause of early art career failure.
Here is an infographic with the 10 Need to Know Art Business Basics for New and Emerging Artists.
CLICK HERE to get a free PDF download of this infographic.Click this link to get your free PDF copy of the infographic.
There is so much you need to know as an artist.
Give Your Artist and Yourself the Best Business Gift Imaginable. Join the Art Business Basics Course.
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With this course, you have trusted, useful information and practical advice in one easy-to-access place. Below is a partial list of topics covered. They are designed to help you operate profitably and with ease. Check out the curriculum further down for the complete list:
- How to Price Your Art
- Getting into Galleries
- Inventory Management
- Selling Art at Shows
- Blogging for Artists
- Websites for Artists
- Licensing Art
- Self-publishing and Working with Publishers
- Social Media for Artists
- Email Marketing
- Self-promotion & Branding
- Domain Names
- Business Names
- Legal Issues
- Banking, Finances, Taxes
- Goal Setting and Resource Assessment, and lots more
This course is the best gift you can give your artist, or yourself. It’s like you are tapping my brain and downloading 30 years of art business experience in one easy-to-use place. It’s not a traditional course. It’s more ala carte. You take what you need when you need it. But, you always have the assurance of knowing you have secure access to the most comprehensive art business knowledgebase on the planet. Join today!