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Grey Cross Studios
1920 4th St, New Orleans , LA 70113
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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Are You An Unprofessional Artist?

I remember a fellow artist once telling me that they went to a gallery to try and get their work seen and the owner told them that they wouldn't consider the artist because they weren't professional enough. 

The outsider artist within me was instantly appalled by this and by the fact that the artists work was never even seen by this gallery owner. I'd not taken time to consider until years later the approach that my artist friend had used in contacting this gallery. I found out later that he walked in off the street in the middle of the day with his big clunky artists portfolio under one arm and when he was told the owner wasn't available he stubbornly said he'd wait. He felt that it showed his dedication if he waited around till the owner was free. My previous opinion that the unknown artist always gets the bums rush from galleries suddenly changed a bit. 
Fast forward to the past year here at the studio and having dealt with countless unknown artists and realizing that their is a huge difference between unprofessionality and being unknown. I've seen artists that were very talented, in fact one of the most talented artists I've ever met ended up being one of the most unprofessional artists also. His bias against another artist who was also participating in the same studio project caused him to inform me just at the mere mention of the disliked artists name that he wanted nothing to do with the project if we would bring in this other artist. He passed up a very amazing opportunity for exposure for his own work just for the dislike of another. 

I was honestly taken aback by this. He would not be the last unprofessional artist I would encounter. One young lady after asking if she could participate in an upcoming show then proceeded to tell me she could not help with any of the set up for the event yet still expected her work to be shown. While 8 other artists struggled to help put the event together, she decided to just skate on through and gain the benefits without the work. Needless to say she was in polite terms told to take her work and sell it on a street corner, because that was the closest she'd get to any show I was involved with. 

So in some cases (I stress the word "some"), the gallery owners have a point. They are investing time and energy on making that artist a known name. If the artist is going to freak out or lose it then why take a risk on them? 

I had a close friend who was a stained glass artist. When he was young he suddenly found himself surrounded by offers to show his work. He dazzled the galleries with his work and they chose to ignore the fact that at 22 he may have been just a bit young still for that much attention. He was offered a major show in New York City and on the night of the show he flipped out and literally ran out leaving everything behind. He did not return to his craft for 20 years and it scarred him as an artist forever. 

Now gallery owners don't always make the best decisions. Don't get me wrong. I am not suddenly taking up for the galleries and I am in no means condoning some of the stupid antiquated ways they do business. But there is something to be said for a professional demeanor. The key is to find a way to be a professional while still maintaining that creative edge that makes you as an artist unique. 

I've learned a lot about being professional by watching those who were not. I know how important it is that you present a professional image with both gallery and potential buyer. But I also watch my creative edge carefully. I do not want to lose the joy of the craft while in the pursuit of the sale. I understand the importance of certain things though. They include:

  • Patience
  • A well crafted body of work
  • Attention to the small details
  • Knowledge that my work that seems perfect to me now will only get better over time
  • Always have something new to show the world
  • A genuine smile will go a lot further than a frown (silly but true)
  • Courage to put yourself out there despite rejection
  • Dedication to the craft
  • Representing not only yourself but the art world will take you far
  • Patience

Yes patience gets listed twice because its about patience that as your own skills improve your chances improve also. Impatient artists end up being dental technicians or working for Taco Bell because they think because they can draw today they'll be a success tomorrow. 

Creativity is rarely that easy. It comes easily to us as a skill but as a source of income to keep us alive its far harder. 

So remember, be patient and be professional. Let your work speak for you. Be creative also in both your art and the way you present yourself. And above and beyond everything else don't be pushy! 


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