In my interviews this week, I’ve stumbled upon a stereotype about artists that I despise: Artists are flighty, flakey, and full of themselves. Yes, perhaps there are some underdeveloped creative spirits out there who fail to follow through, who agree to a commission they never complete, or believe themselves to be the most talented individual in the room. As my graduate studies come to a finish, I am considering how to help artists develop their creative careers, but I have concerns that this creative group can be unwieldy and troublesome to work with. However, I’m pretty sure this kind of person can be found in almost any profession. People more readily accept this stigma about artists because the creative process can seem so mysterious.
Artists are full of creative ideas. That’s why poets keep journals, painters keep sketchbooks, and bar drinks come with cocktail napkins. In Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic (which I highly recommend to any artist no matter your medium) she talks about how she believes Ideas find artists to bring them into the world. When an Idea comes to an artist asking to be created, the artist has the choice to work for the Idea or let the Idea move on to another artist. There are myriad reasons why an artist may pass on a particular Idea, and work diligently on others. This is one of the best concepts I’ve ever read that can explain the nature of artists and their flights of fancy with creative Ideas.
Going back to arts business mentorship, I believe it is imperative for an artist to answer to the question, “Is making art your business or your hobby?” Please consider this definition of hobby from Dictionary.com:
HOBBY [hob-ee] Noun, Plural Hob-bies. An activity or interest pursued for pleasure or relaxation and not as a main occupation.
If making money as an artist is not your goal, if you would prefer to create only what you will as the Ideas come and go, then perhaps art is your hobby. Please know, hobby is not a bad word, and does not mean you are not a true artist. It just means your activities surrounding your creative practice are different than someone who plans to support themselves entirely as an artist. If making art and selling it is important to you, then your activities must include more than art creation. The good news is that building a business around art can also be a creative process. Sure, there are finances to consider and websites to be made, but there is also branding, maketing, networking, and so many other creative tasks. Perhaps working on your business can help you take a break from a heavy piece or give you insight about your next body of work. You never know where Ideas come from, but you do have to be ready to accept their offer to bring them into the world. Working on the business side of your art will allow you the opportunity to accept more creative Ideas because your work will be moving out into the world and supporting your next idea with the finances needed to support your studio.
If you are a working artist intent on selling your work, then perhaps an arts business mentor can help you take flight on your journey as a creative entrepreneur.