Since I have considered myself an “artist”, over the last couple of years, it has been a steep learning curve learning about how the art world ticks. Much of how it works has been a complete surprise to me and has sometimes led me to wonder why anyone would want to be an artist.
We’ve all been in art exhibitions and said “I could have done that!” and of course that is sometimes true, and the quip is “but you didn’t”. Art often looks deceptively easy. Anyone could churn out a quick painting or photograph right?
It might be a surprise to learn that actually “doing art”, putting paint to paper, getting out with your camera etc is a very very small part of being an artist. I find it very frustrating how little art I get to do. I seldom sit in my studio producing, or even playing.
Most of my time is spent:
- Marketing – maintaining my websites, designing business cards, postcards and flyers
- Social media (keeping track of Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and blogging is overwhelming sometimes!)
- Researching the subjects I am interested in – this can take a great deal of time
- Researching genres, materials and exhibition ideas
- Visiting exhibitions and gallery openings
- Arts Council and other applications – writing proper proposals etc can take days
- project managing exhibitions
- Networking generally
The above probably takes 90% of my time. (And of course I am juggling this with a demanding job that actually pays the bills!).
Previously I could not have envisaged the work that goes into the piece that might be seen at an exhibition. One piece of art might be the result of ten test pieces and months of research. One photograph might be one of 500 which were taken. The artist may have become a mini-expert in an area that inspired them and will have done a lot of work placing the work in the lexicon of art history.
Producing art is intensely personal, discussing this with an artist recently she said that exhibiting art is like “running down the High St naked!”
Running down the High Street naked!
It can be incredibly hard to put yourself ‘out there’, baring your soul and then watch people pick over it, hardly notice something that took hours, or sniff at your favourite piece.
Being an artist is wracked with uncertainty, indecision, confidence issues and takes a great deal of courage.
And money. I have spent thousands on materials, frames, printing, presentation, marketing…… Entering competitions costs money and artists are seldom paid for being in exhibitions. I had no idea how frequently artists are working for free – what other profession does that? This was exemplified by the recent Sainsburys faux pas where they asked a professional artist to volunteer to redecorate their cafe. The backlash was huge and immediate from the artistic community.
I am driven to produce art that expresses what I need to express – but sometimes I do wonder why I want to attempt to forge a path in such an incredibly uncertain and difficult area.
Knowing what I now know – how little art an artist does, why would anyone want to be an artist?!