Starting Your Art Career: A Guide for Students and Beginner Artists

Thinking about turning this love of art into a career? Are you a student who is trying to pursue their creative passion? This week’s blog post summarizes questions I often get asked by student and beginning artists. 

Focus: Don’t struggle so much with figuring out what medium you want to use. It takes time to tease out the art your supposed to make. Sometimes this means multiple medias and sometimes your medium changes during your career. Finding your style and voice also takes time. Younger or beginner artists often juggle multiple medias they are interested so this is normal. Yes it can feel frustrating when a fellow artist seems to have it all figured out and they’ve always known they were going to be an illustrator, but focus on your journey, not theirs. 

Day Jobs: Tons of artists have day jobs…probably some of your local favorites have a day job. The dream of hiding out in your studio by yourself and following your goals of being an artist are a lot more lonely and boring than dreamy and relaxing. Plus, day jobs give you nice schedule consistency so your not sleeping in until noon and burning the midnight oil in the studio. Day jobs give you benefits which can be helpful especially health care and beginning to save for retirement. The trick to tackling the day job with pursuing an art career is finding a job that feeds your creative side and aligns with your values. Learn why day jobs are important even when you want to pursue your art career.

Resume: Keep a paper trail, take notes, and track everything. Keep all of your press mentions and note all the exhibitions you take part in (even coffee shop shows). This information is important for when you begin to build your artist resume and your CV. You will thank yourself later for this. As you grow into a more established artist, you can begin to tailor your arts resume to fit your career growth and take the coffee shop show off your resume because you’ve had a more noteworthy opportunities. Learn the difference between CV and resume here. 

Money: Be careful of PIE – payment in exposure. When your first starting out its easy to get these types of offers and usually they don’t give you any exposure. Read about payment in exposure here

Guidance: Find a mentor, or someone you can turn to when you need some creative guidance. This person should be able to get you through your creative blocks when you need to get going or give you feedback when your needing some assistance. Learn how to work effectively with a mentor here.

Community: Get involved in the local arts community and the local arts culture. Get to know who is also a creative entrepreneur and events around your city. Learn some networking tips so you feel confident when meeting other creatives here.

Creative Preferences: You will learn what you do and do not like through trial and error. Maybe you hate the business side of being an artist, maybe you love volunteering with local non-profits, maybe you love watching your blog analytics or maybe you hate doing commissions. Regardless of what you learn about yourself and your work habits, embrace your discoveries. Not every artist loves all aspects of their creative roles and that’s okay!

Art for Arts Sake: Make work because you enjoy the creative process, not because you are thinking about how people will react, if a post will go viral or if someone will buy the piece. It can be difficult to try to make something for fun when your concerned what people will say about a piece. This perspective can however, stifle your creativity. 

Brand Grab: In the times of social media this wont be a new idea but I’ll share it anyways. Create accounts for all the social networking sites with your creative business brand. Open the accounts even if you don’t use the network so you have the control over your brand name and nobody else can open an account under your name. You then have the opportunity to use that account in the future. Do this also for new and up-and-coming social networking sites to save your account too. Learn about developing your digital brand here. 

Take Feedback, Leave Criticism: Learn to take helpful feedback from the supportive creatives around you but leave hurtful criticism at the door. This is a practice.

Rejection: You will get a lot of rejections. Its okay. Your art work won’t fit every collector’s taste and wont follow every exhibition vision. Keep applying and trying to get your work out there. If you struggle with keeping your emotions in check, read this blog post about responding to rejection. 

Got any other tips for student and emerging artists? Comment below!

If your a local student (currently enrolled in some sort of creative program) whose trying to figure out their creative career, I offer one free consult. Perfect opportunity to practice networking, becoming involved in the local arts community by getting to know a fellow creative, and receiving some guidance for your career. 

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