Posts tagged Art career
Women Working in the Arts: Alexis Yuen
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Create! Magazine is pleased to introduce you to Alexis Yuen of The Art Diplomat for the next installment of our ‘Women Working in the Arts’ series! Our Director, Alicia, was excited to connect with Alexis to learn more about her newly launched art advisory as well as which woman artist has had a major impact on her career.

She describes her business, The Art Diplomat, as follows:

“I connect brands and individuals with artists who do socially-engaged artworks. Because of my previous work at Christie's and Art Basel, I often get approached by corporations, hotels, properties, and individuals to buy or commission artists. However, instead of looking for big artists represented by galleries, I would direct them to emerging artists who are doing socially-engaged works. I speak with my clients about what values matter to them (e.g. climate change, migrant crisis, gender inequality) and I look for artists and walk them through the buying and commissioning process, sort of like a curator or project manager depending on the client. On the artist side, I travel extensively to meet with women artists and often coach them through their careers. So far, all the artists I've worked with are women of color like myself. Having worked in the commercial art world and been an activist artist, I see there's a huge gap between the two worlds. I hope to empower activist artists by bringing more capital, organization, and attention to the art x activism field.”

Alexis has been previously featured by Marie Claire Hong Kong and was recently profiled by Kno. For more information on The Art Diplomat, please visit her website or follow along on Instagram here.

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Choose one woman artist from history or who is working today and tell us about why she inspires you.

This is easy. Dorathea Lange’s Migrant Mother changed my career as an artist and now an art advisor working with socially-engaged artists. When I first started in art school, my focus was initially in fashion photography but I ended up switching to documentary photography. One of the reasons for my decision was seeing Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother (1936), which humanized the cost of the Great Depression and gave a face to a suffering nation, in my photography history class in freshman year. I remember thinking how the photo was so beautiful, yet so incredibly sad. The photographed 32-year-old mother, Frances Owens Thompson, had wrinkles beyond her age, most probably from the sun she endured in the pea-pickers camp; her worried look and crouching body make the viewers feel the kind of stress and burden she must be experiencing raising three hungry children. And despite the sad subject, Lange managed to capture Thompson in a strikingly beautiful and respectful composition that draws you in and begs you to find out the story behind this woman. When I discovered how Lange’s report and photos from the encampment incentivized authorities to send 20,000 pounds of food, I was overwhelmed by the power of art in calling for actions in social change. I followed Lange’s footsteps and used my photography to capture migrants’ stories in Boston Chinatown and facilitated community conversations on the topic of belonging and identity in a gentrifying part of the city. Granted, with the proliferation of photography, the effects images have on us may not be as significant as in 1936, but I will always be inspired by how one powerful image got people to notice, talk about suffering, and take action.

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15 Smart Ways to Invest in Your Art Career (Plus 3 More That are Free!)
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Our Director, Alicia Puig, recently wrote a guest post for Empty Easel on ways to invest in your art career! If you haven’t heard her podcast on the 10 FREE ways to invest in your art career, check out that first on Art & Cocktails then read her full article on Empty Easel’s website.

Excerpt:

“You’ve probably heard the saying “you have to spend money to make money,” right? That’s not always easy to hear when you’re just starting out, having slower than normal art sales, or trying to find work, but if you are able to allocate some funds to professional development it can (and often does!) end up rewarding you with more than what you put in.

The good news is, investing in your art career doesn’t always require you to spend money. Setting aside some time to work specifically on business and administrative tasks can be incredibly helpful and yield great results.” Read the rest of the post here.

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The Grass Isn't Greener, But Sometimes It's Okay to Check
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I recently interviewed emerging Philadelphia-based designer and digital artist, Jeff Manning, who told me that his advice to his younger self would have been to focus more on competing against himself rather than his peers. This idea really connected with me and got me thinking to the bigger idea of how often we compare ourselves to others - today, in so many more aspects of our lives than our careers. It can be detrimental when taken to the extreme, but sometimes, it can actually be not only useful, but important to do so. When it seems like everyone else is making more sales, having bigger exhibitions, or getting better exposure, it feels difficult to not unfairly or unnecessarily judge ourselves against others and even more significantly, to not let self-doubt or jealousy get the best of us. So instead, let’s take a moment to identify the productive ways we can use comparison to keep us moving forward!

Perhaps you’ve already read Kat’s article about how to price artwork. If so, you’ll remember that looking at other artists who are in the same stage as you and making similar work (in terms of size, materials, and time spent per piece) is a great way to estimate what you can be selling your art for. Pricing has been kept such a mystery in our industry for so long, a trend fostered by perceived competition and scarcity between galleries and artists. But luckily, attitudes on this are finally beginning to shift. Whereas collectors of the past might have been intimidated to make an inquiry at a traditional gallery, today, potential buyers can see prices listed online or even contact artists directly via their websites and social media channels. I encourage you to not only be aware of how your peers are pricing their work, but to also be open to sharing this with other artists if they reach out to you and finally, of keeping tabs on larger trends in the industry. 

Along the same lines, if you are working in the arts either in a full-time role or in addition to your studio practice, get to know your what your colleagues are being paid. Hopefully, you saw the recent salary spreadsheet that was initiated by a curator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (yay Philly!). It went viral online, with thousands of people who work in museum, gallery, arts administration, and education positions adding their wages to list. Knowing what others make will help you better negotiate your pay and ensure that you are being compensated fairly within your company. This can, of course, be an awkward conversation at first, but again, the more transparent we all are with each other the better off everyone will be in the long run. 

Are you looking to start working with a gallery? I talk more in depth about this in my article “The Do’s and Don’ts of Applying to Galleries”, but one of the tips that I discuss is that part of your research should always include checking out the artists who are already represented by a gallery you’re interested in. Don’t skimp on this one! Compare notes on their resumes and websites to make sure that you’re really a strong fit. It can actually come in handy when it comes time to putting together your application. Through this research, you may notice similarities between the gallery artists and you that you can then mention as evidence to support you joining their roster. 

Let’s say that things have been going well for a while. You’re making sales and showing in quality exhibitions and now you’re wondering what to do in order to take the next step in your career. You might be thinking: ‘How do I show in museums and art fairs? Is an artist residency right for me? What can I do to successfully apply for grant funding? or What’s next?’ This is another time when checking in with other artists is a good idea. It is likely that you may already follow or know someone at the next level and can simply ask, but if you don’t, there are lots of additional resources to tap into like podcasts, books, blogs, workshops, and more. A little bit of networking at the next gallery opening or art event also might help you meet artists who can provide this type of advice.

Finally, comparing can be a simple way to learn something new to add to your art practice. Whether it is a new technique, medium, scale, or material, if something in another artist’s work caught your attention in a way that made you wonder ‘How did they do that?’ it’s probably worth trying to figure it out (or asking them)! It could really bring an interesting perspective or value to your work. Even if it isn’t directly related to what you are making, I’d still encourage you to pursue it as creative experimentation. When you let yourself explore freely, it can spark your imagination in different ways and that could lead to new ideas for your work.

The same holds true with business or marketing as an artist. Don’t feel the need to reinvent the wheel. If you see another artist’s resume or website that is formatted nicely and looks professional, definitely use that as a template. This is especially useful when you’re starting out on social media. We’ve spoken before about how followers really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. They can help, yes, depending on the kind of work you make and what your goals are as an artist. However, what is more important is honing your voice online, showing great images of your art, and being consistent with your posts. Find some examples of artists who you think are doing this well so that you can use them as a model for your own profiles. Please note that none of the above is recommending that you copy anyone directly! Borrowing from Austin Kleon, who I recently interviewed for Issue 15, you can and should ‘steal like an artist’ but when you use others’ ideas always turn them into something that is your own and give credit where it is due.

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I hope that these tips will help you recognize when comparison can be a beneficial tool, but if you ever find yourself getting negatively affected by looking at what others are doing then please stop. Unfollow or mute those on social media that aren’t serving you or take a break from it completely. Step back from relationships in person that may be putting added stress or pressure on you. Sometimes we don’t realize how profoundly we are being affected and it can grow into unhealthy feelings of anxiety that are hard to manage. Try to spot the signs early and proactively separate yourself from what is causing it. Don’t let anyone else dictate where you should be or make you feel bad about where you currently are in your journey. Always remember that it is exactly that, a journey. Something that takes time, effort, and consistent work! 

I have definitely gotten sucked into these ideas on occasion, thinking that I should be further along in my career than I am, earning a higher salary, or doing more. But then I remember - what is the rush? I think of those who found success later in life, like Jerry Saltz and Lisa Congdon, and realize that I’m exactly where I need to be. I wholeheartedly agree with the artist who I interviewed that I’m the only person that I should be comparing myself to in that regard and if I’ve grown or progressed or learned something new since last year, last month, or even last week then I’m definitely on the right track. If you’re in this creative life for the long haul (like Kat talked about in a recent Art & Cocktails episode!), this is the type of mindset to maintain in order to ensure that you’ll remain focused on your own path for years to come.

Cheers!

-Alicia
@puigypics
alicia@createmagazine.com

Kat & Alicia Interviewed for the THRIVE Talks Podcast!
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We were so honored to be invited to be guests on the THRIVE Talks Podcast hosted by Jamie and Tara of Thrive Art Studio! Here’s a description and link to the episode:

Starting where you are with Ekaterina Popova and Alicia Puig from Create! Magazine

Do you read Create! Magazine? Today we talk with Ekaterina Popova and Alicia Puig about the ups and downs of running an independent contemporary art magazine and working in the arts! We loved talking to another creative duo about starting where you are, failure and they offer awesome tips on getting your work featured!

Listen here.

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Studio Sunday: Jennifer Small
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This week’s Studio Sunday allowed us to catch up with Philadelphia based abstract artist, Jennifer Small. We love the bold colors and geometric forms in her work so it was nice to hear a bit about what goes on behind the scenes! Read on to hear about her process and some advice she would have given to her younger self that is relatable to many emerging creatives.

Bio

By day, Jennifer Small makes visual designs on screen and by night she makes abstract paintings on canvas. She received her BFA in Painting and BS in Art Education in 2005 from Millersville University and MFA in Painting in 2012 from Savannah College of Art and Design. In 2016, while living in Chicago, she made the transition from teaching to graphic design. Her work has been exhibited in Washington, DC, New York, Richmond, Savannah, and Chicago as well as in New American Paintings and Studio Visit magazines. In 2019, she relocated to the Philadelphia area to continue her career as a painter and designer.

Statement

My art, initially abstract in appearance, records a journey of a day in the life—a practice that starts with documentation through the lens of a camera. My eyes act as a viewfinder narrowing down the panoramic into single frames. Compiled snapshots represent blocks of time during my process of seeing and recording aesthetic significance in ordinary routine. I see curious formal elements in common things waiting to be manipulated and transformed into abstract compositions. I collage together the single framed images, simplify and render them in paint to create the lines, shapes, and hues that fill the canvas. Abstracted layers build shallow spaces that depict my translation of the everyday. My work shows my analysis of time and space interpreted by looking through a lens at my immediate environment.

When did you first become interested in art?

I've been interested in art as long as I can remember. I grew up in a creative family where we were always drawing or making something. I knew from a very early age that I would have a career in the arts and be a lifelong creative.

Tell us about the inspiration behind your work and what your creative process is like.

My work is inspired by observing my everyday life. I see daily routine as an opportunity to record aesthetic curiosities that can be used as building blocks for my paintings. My abstractions are collections of these curiosities which represent my personal experience with time and place. I begin my creative process by taking photos of interesting visual sightings observed while moving through my normal routine. Next, I make sketches collaging parts of the photos together to create compositions that work well as formal abstractions. Sometimes the original source material in one painting relates, sometimes it doesn't. Color is a consideration before I begin. I usually start with 2 warm colors and 2 cool colors and during the painting process expand upon or reign it in from there. I work from painterly to more precise (with the help of a lot of painter's tape) combining acrylic and spray paint to build my surfaces into abstract structures that tell my story.

What do you hope your viewers take away from seeing your paintings?

I hope viewers of my paintings see energy, movement, and variety from a formalist abstraction point of view but also their approachability after learning what inspired them. And as a result, they might consider slowing down enough to appreciate their own daily environment.

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What is one piece of advice that you would give to your younger self?

I would advise my younger self to be more proactive earlier with sharing work, applying for opportunities, and connecting with other artists in order to build a community and also see personal growth.

What is your favorite thing about being an artist?

My favorite thing about being an artist is its unpredictability. I can't predict what I will make, who I will meet, or where it will take me next but I'm very much looking forward to the ride.

Are there any exciting exhibitions, projects, or collaborations going on this year that you’re currently working on or will be soon?

My work will be published in Vol. 45/46 of Studio Visit Magazine coming out this summer. Additionally, I am continuing to make work and get reacquainted with the east coast after moving from Chicago to the Philadelphia area in April.

Find a selection of her work available online with our new gallery PxP Contemporary!

It's Not Luck (& Other Reasons Why Creatives Need to be More Vocal About Their Accomplishments)
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You’ve been accepted to a juried show, received a prestigious award, had an incredible review written about your work, or made a major sale. Congrats! It’s one of the best feelings in the world to know that others are supporting what you do. So why are we often hesitant to share the joy that we’re experiencing? Perhaps you’re shy and don’t want a lot of extra attention or think that going on about your accomplishments is boastful. While there is certainly a line between updating your community with exciting things that are happening and oversharing, there are a few key reasons why creatives, and especially women artists, need to be more vocal about their achievements.

I’m sure many of us have fallen into the trap of brushing away compliments. Rather than thanking someone for congratulating us on selling a painting or landing a gallery to represent our work, we’ll come up with an excuse to make the accomplishment sound like less than it is. “Oh, I got lucky” or “It’s not really a big deal” you might say, but that’s not true! Too many of us operate under the strange, outdated notion that it is more polite to negate a compliment than accept it. Even if the circumstances surrounding a particular moment of success seem serendipitous, you likely played an active role in making it happen for yourself. You made great work that was recognized by the juror (or curator, gallery, collector, etc) and you put yourself out there by applying to the opportunity or perhaps through networking and being active online. So stop giving anyone or anything else the credit. It’s not luck, it’s you.

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Always remember that it is important for your peers to know about your achievements. Why? Because you never know who can introduce you to your next, big opportunity and it may only take one new connection to catapult your career to the next level. Success in the arts often occurs like a domino effect, where one person will find your work and from that perhaps another will share it, and then another, and it keeps going from there. It’s almost as if the tastemakers in the industry have ‘FOMO’ and if one magazine or curator is featuring a certain artist, then others feel they should be too. Yes, they want to try and find the ‘next big name’ first, but once one influencer has identified a great new talent, others often follow soon after. You can help this process along for yourself by making sure that your community knows when you’ve been featured in a magazine or exhibition so that they can help share it too and potentially build buzz and momentum.

Making others aware of recent accomplishments also helps with name recognition. I’ll share a story here to help illustrate about a friend who recently went to an awards ceremony in the advertising industry. When his team was honored with their first trophy of the evening, he opted not to join the group onstage and when his colleagues asked why, he cited the same feelings of not needing the attention or wanting to look too proud. But then he realized, it’s not just an opportunity to celebrate with his team, it’s a chance for everyone else in the room to see that they produce high quality work for their clients. If you see the same person going up to accept multiple awards, then you’ll start to remember them and likely associate that person with being great at what they do (and maybe want to work with them in the future!). Therefore, try not to be shy about sharing that you’ve won awards or been given other important recognition. You should want your personal and especially your professional contacts to remember you for all of the great things you’ve done!

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Most importantly, however, you need to be vocalizing your successes because if you don’t then nobody will know about them. It sounds obvious that you need to be your biggest cheerleader, but we often don’t fully realize the consequences of not sharing good news. I once had a boss who started giving me fewer shifts than my two other peers. Confused, I confronted her about what I might be doing wrong or what I could be doing better. She didn’t have anything negative to say. Instead, she simply told me that the other two girls spoke up more often about the projects they were completing on a daily basis or the sales they had made and I didn’t. I was so surprised to hear that I wasn’t actually doing anything wrong. Even though I was selling just as much (or more!), keeping up with all of my work, and often staying late to do a little extra cleaning or to take on additional tasks, this one thing was holding me back.

I also read an article around that time which stated that believing you’ll get recognized just from keeping your head down and working hard unfortunately isn’t true and it’s women who tend to suffer the most from this misconception. With that in mind, it made more sense. As my employer usually worked from home rather than in the office, how was she supposed to differentiate my sales and projects from what the other girls were doing if I didn’t tell her specifically? So now, even if I still sometimes feel a bit reserved about ‘tooting my own horn’, I try to think of it as an integral part of promoting myself and push myself to do it in order to keep my career moving forward instead of stuck in the same place.

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Finally, even though it might feel a bit awkward at first, it’s very likely that your artist community really wants to celebrate your successes with you. There will always be negative people and those who struggle with jealousy, but your core support group will stand by your side. Just like they will be there for you when you’ve been rejected or are having a slow period, they also want to be a part of your high moments, especially if you’re going to pop that champagne ;) Cheers!

Of course, none of this is to say that there aren’t instances where a bit of good fortune plays a part in our lives. Some people have parents or other role models who supported their careers while some don’t and certain cities or countries provide more opportunities for working artists than others. Instead of focusing on things that can’t be changed, however, remember that there are so many examples of people who have overcome difficult circumstances and achieved success anyway, despite their obstacles or limited resources. This is about cherishing exactly those people and those moments. I’ll bet you can think of several examples of when you had to ‘make it work’ too. Be proud of those efforts, show how grateful you are for what you have, and perhaps even try to pay it forward to other artists you know who may need help or guidance.

We all go through highs and lows and it’s a powerful thing that more artists and people in general are being authentic about when they’re not having their best day. We don’t always need to see perfect lattes and curated travel photos. But part of being real is sharing when good things happen too, even when they are little victories. If you’re starting out, having a small show at a local cafe or selling your first work are totally worthy and incredible accomplishments. Share them! Not because it’s bragging or trying to make others think that you’re this great, successful artist (you already are one and don’t need anyone else’s opinion to prove it). Rather, it’s the chance for you to share something that you’re genuinely proud of and that excites you, which your followers and those who support your work will truly appreciate and celebrate too!

-Alicia
alicia@createmagazine.com
@puigypics

Good Vibes Only: Negativity in the Art World and How to Fight it
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The more we put ourselves out there, the more people will share their opinions of us and our work - both good and bad. It’s amazing to have people express interest in your art on social media and especially in person. We hope that you appreciate the encouragement, internalize that you are deserving of the positive support, and enjoy returning the compliments as much as Kat and I do! But as they say, it’s not always sunshine and roses. It’s likely that you’ve encountered negativity in the art world and it can be difficult to be at your best when the attitude of others doesn’t match your own. I’ve broken down a few common situations below to identify and overcome these unnecessary sources of drama!

Ignoring the ‘Starving Artist’ stereotype

“So what are you going to do with that?” was a question that I would often get from people when I told them that I was studying towards a BFA (and when I was in grad school for my MA in Art History too!). My response was almost always met with a look best described as halfway between puzzled and concerned. After working in the arts for the past ten years, however, I feel more empowered in this field now more than ever. For example, while there is still tons of progress to be made, we are seeing more women and people of color taking charge and making their way into the roles and institutions that had previously been out of reach. Choosing to pursue a creative career shouldn’t feel like it limits your options. From exhibiting nationally and abroad, working for galleries and art fairs to museums and non-profits, starting a business, writing a book, and more, it isn’t what can an artist do...it’s what can’t we do?

It took me quite some time to arrive at the realization that my possibilities were not limited by what others think artists are capable of. While it can be disheartening that not everyone will be 100% supportive of your goals, you don’t need anyone else’s permission to follow your passion. When you put yourself in the mindset that anything can happen, things can surprise you in the best way!

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Minding your Ps and Qs

When Kat and I went to Miami in December 2018, what really stood out to us was the incredible variety of art that we saw (at over ten fairs!). This is one of the things that we appreciate most about this industry: the art world IS big enough that everyone can find their place in it. Not everyone will be represented by blue chip galleries or exhibit in museums, but you do not need to do either of those things to find supportive collectors and share your work with people from around the world. With this in mind, push yourself to be a savvy networker: keep business cards with you, have a memorable elevator pitch ready to go, and don’t be afraid to speak up about your accomplishments.

Here’s an example:

Kat and I stopped at a booth to admire a piece we liked. A man walking by paused next to us to introduce himself as the creator of the work, explain a bit about it, and as he was on his way to do something else just quickly ended the conversation by saying: “Thanks so much for looking at my work. Here’s my card. Please keep in touch!” Keep your business interactions professional and polite, which will ensure that you leave a great impression.

The art world is great for making new connections and finding your niche, but be very careful about burning bridges. It is so unfortunate that for as much good as social media has done for artists, it has also given some people the false notion that they should use it to criticize others. Whether it’s posting disrespectful comments or even trying to preface a remark with “I don’t mean to be negative but…”, engaging in that kind of behavior online will guarantee that the other person will not want to work with you. What if down the road they are the link to a big opportunity that you would have loved to be a part of?

I’m sure you’ve also seen the comments that start off with “sorry to be the one to say this but…”, as if this excuses poor behavior. They’re never from someone who writes criticism as their profession. Rather, it is a cheap way of putting aside guilt when they know that the second half of what they’re going to say is unnecessary and negative. It is highly unlikely that any person with a valid reason for being critical of something would apologize for it.

The same holds true with overreacting to not being selected for a gallery or exhibition. We know that it is disappointing and frustrating, especially if you’ve applied more than once. We’ve been there! You send your best work and hope that it will be picked, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen. I actually discuss rejection in much more depth both in our first book ‘The Smartist Guide: Essential Art Career Tips for Emerging Artists’ as well as on the Art & Cocktails podcast, but my best advice is to stay positive, try to be gracious, and move on. Something better is coming!

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Developing a thick skin

I strongly believe that artists should support artists rather than get sucked into competing with or comparing yourself to others and it is especially disappointing that even today, you still see women who think it’s okay to put down other women (why?!). Remember that everyone is on their own path and even if another artist is finding success that doesn’t mean that you never will. Jealousy will only distract you so keep working hard and be patient that your time will come when it’s meant to. It’s also important to bear in mind that people rarely post about the hard times and struggles that they go through. If all you see are sales and exhibitions, it may seem like an artist achieved ‘overnight success’ when in reality they had to put in blood, sweat, tears and years of effort!

Negative feedback or unsolicited advice (not actual constructive criticism) can feel annoying at best and devastating at worst. As your initial reaction might be defensive, first ask yourself if it is even worth it to continue a discussion with this person. If you still feel the need to respond do so concisely and politely, but don’t expect anything in return. It will be up to you to tune them out, delete their comments or even block them. Kat shared a quote with me a while back that really resonated with me that was something along the lines of “nobody doing more than you will criticize you, only someone doing less.” The people who go out of their way to bring you down are simply dealing with their own feelings of insecurity. While it’s unfortunate that they have to take it out on you, focus instead on the awesome people who are genuinely there to encourage you and what you do!

Kat and I are so happy that the community of readers of both Create! Magazine and The Smartist Guide is a positive place for artists to share, connect, grow, learn, support, and inspire or be inspired by one another. We know this isn’t always how it is and that it can be difficult not to let the fear of facing negativity interfere with or stop you from putting yourself out there. But if it is your dream to be an artist, we encourage you to do it anyway!


Cheers!
Alicia

alicia@createmagazine.com
@puigypics


Are you making the one mistake that is keeping your art from being featured?
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We’ve seen it happen time and again and artists have asked us about this when considering what to submit to our magazine or new gallery, PxP Contemporary. Think that including images from multiple series of works will double or triple your chances of being selected for that juried show, publication or gallery you’ve dreamed of showing with? Well, unfortunately, that’s not likely the case. I know that it’s tempting to want to show off the range of your style and creative ability, but here’s why this isn’t the time to do so.

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  • Demonstrate to the juror that you’ve taken time to really develop an idea, push yourself and stick to it! When you focus on one subject for a while, you get a much better idea of what works and what doesn’t and this helps you build your creative voice. Always keep in mind that submitting your work is like a leaving a first impression. If you have pieces from two bodies of work it can give off the vibe that you don’t quite know who you are yet as an artist or that you’re not confident enough in either series to commit to it fully. I’ll borrow from Kat here and say that you should always be sharing work that excites you! Which paintings, drawings, sculptures, or (insert whatever incredible work you create here) are you most excited about right now? Those are what you should be submitting!

  • Sometimes, it’s purely practical. For publications especially, it is difficult to consider an artist if we wouldn’t be able to put together a consistent spread with their work. Each book, journal, or magazine will have a distinct aesthetic so make it easy for them to know that you are the right fit and to feature your work. The same applies to a gallery, which has to make sure that your work could fill their space and look professional. They are also looking out for their collectors, who come to them specifically for their curatorial expertise. Rather than show them everything in the hopes that they end up buying something (with the risk of overwhelming them), a good dealer will work with the client to help them find something they love from a narrower selection based on their interest and budget. Collectors do often want to see a variety of works, but still within the same theme or style.

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  • If you are equally satisfied with several bodies of work at the moment, I’d still recommend only applying with one or at least one at a time. The biggest issue with this is that you’re leaving the curator to fill in the blanks and assuming that they can or will. How is someone who is not familiar with your work supposed to imagine what the rest of a series looks like when they’ve only seen a few pieces from it? You know that a whole group of works exists that are as great as the ones you’ve submitted, but the curator does not. If they have to go through hundreds or even thousands of artist submissions, they won’t always have the time to go looking through your website or Instagram account to see if you’ve made others like the one or two that they did like.

  • If you’ve recently started a new body of work that you’re wondering if you should start putting out there, make sure it’s ready. Do you have enough works from this series completed and photographed? If not, what’s the rush? There will be more opportunities to apply to. You can keep submitting from an earlier series for now if you want and if there is no restriction from the organization on how recent the work must be or simply allow yourself the time to fully dive into this great new idea.

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Of course, none of this is to say that you have to stick to the same thing forever. No, on the contrary, because it would be hard to have repeat collectors if your work never develops. Your gallery, if you have one, and your collectors simply want to see you continue to grow and will support you along the way!

If you’re making abstract sculptures, but have always wanted to try painting cats, go ahead! One of the greatest things about being an artist is having the freedom to experiment with your creativity. Ultimately, you have to DO YOU. But when it comes time to apply to that next exhibition opportunity, I hope you’ll consider the above and give yourself the best chance of being selected!

As always, both Kat and I are happy to answer any art career questions you have so please feel free to reach out to us: info@createmagazine.com or alicia@createmagazine.com and if you liked this article, check out the Art & Cocktails podcast or our new book The Smartist Guide for more tips.

Cheers and I wish you luck in applying to our current call for Issue 15 curated by Paradigm Gallery! Submit here.

-Alicia


Get noticed on Instagram!
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You may have heard that a lot of galleries, curators and writers now discover new artists that they end up representing, exhibiting or interviewing via Instagram. It’s pretty incredible that social media has created such a simple platform for sharing art worldwide. That being said, there are so many talented artists showing their work on Instagram these days that it can seem like a competition for followers and impossible to get noticed. But neither of these are true. Make sure your feed stands out for all of the right reasons!

  • Quality photography for artwork: We know, we say this all the time! As Instagram is a visual platform, it makes sense that all of your images should be high quality. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to spend hours to get a perfectly lit shot of your studio or an artfully messy image of your palette and brushes. Focus on clean, cropped photos of your work that can easily be reposted. Make it easy for others to share your work.

  • Along those lines, while it is fun to mix up the type of images that you share, like detail shots, an installation view and works in progress or even your cat, make sure you regularly show finished pieces (perhaps one of every three to five posts depending on how much work you have and how quickly you create new pieces). I came across a really incredible painting that I wanted to share on Create! Magazine’s Instagram so I went to look up the artist’s profile. I scrolled and scrolled, but could not only not find the painting I wanted, I couldn’t even find one single image of a nicely photographed, completed work cropped to the edges. Needless to say, I unfortunately wasn’t able to share this artist’s work.

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  • Use the right hashtags: We discuss hashtags in more depth in our new book “The Smartist Guide” but the general rule is to be relevant to your work while not being too general or your posts will get lost in the mass of images. So if you make sculptures you could use #sculpture, but that has over 10 million posts and #sculptures has over 1 million. Instead you could try #sculptureart (200,000+) or #sculpture_art (9,000+).

  • It might be your goal to get reposted by a larger influencer account like an art blog, magazine, or curator. DM-ing them to ask for a feature isn’t professional and probably won’t work, nor does random tagging unless they specifically request it. Our magazine has specific guidelines that are easily accessible on our website for how to apply for features and it is likely these other platforms do too. Pay attention to them! Often, these accounts will post simple directions like using a certain hashtag on your posts. We look through #createmagazine regularly and love seeing the great images that the artists in our community share with us. Kat also mentioned recently on an Art & Cocktails podcast episode that Instagram doesn’t allow us to sort through all the messages that are sent to us. With the volume of DM’s we receive, after a day or two it is hard to go back and find specific ones even if it was an artist that we liked. Do the math - if we get even 1 message per day that’s 365 artists per year asking for a feature (it’s actually more)! Emailing is much more effective and we receive far fewer requests that way.

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  • While I can’t speak on behalf of other publications or curators, I personally don’t care what an artist’s follower count is. If I like the work, I will happily reach out for an interview or repost the work whether they have 50, 500, or 50,000 followers. There’s no need to play games by following a bunch of accounts hoping that some will follow you back and then unfollowing them a few days later. People definitely notice (I do) and will remember you in a negative light.

  • Make connections with other artists, curators, galleries, and arts publications that you genuinely like. This way you can meaningfully engage with their posts. For example, if you leave a particularly nice or interesting comment on a post, it is likely that they’ll click through to your page. It pays off to be a friendly follower ;)

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  • Don’t feel pressured to post new content all of the time. It’s likely that only a fraction of your followers will see any given post so if one has performed particularly well feel free to share it again a while later. Especially as you get more new followers, it is a great idea to keep putting your best work out there - you never know when a new writer or curator will end up on your feed!

  • When you do inevitably get your work shared, you can definitely repost it on your profile to be proud of your accomplishment and it’s also good practice to leave a comment thanking them for the feature. Hopefully one shared work will cause a chain reaction leading to more! That happened to Kat last year with a piece she didn’t expect and early in my career as well with a completely different type of work than what I usually made. Be patient and consistent with your posts and it will happen to you too.

Above all, none of this is important if you aren’t yet happy with your work or don’t have finished pieces to show. Put the time in your studio to get to the point where you have a really strong body of work to post about first and then trust us, the rest will follow.

Happy ‘gramming!

-Alicia
@puigypics

If you’d like to hear more about what writers are looking for on Instagram, you can check out the Art & Cocktails episode Kat did with our other magazine contributor Christina Nafziger at createmagazine.com/podcast.

Looking for additional career tips like these for emerging artists? We’re so excited to share our recently launched book, The Smartist Guide, which discusses topics ranging from perfecting your resume and writing the perfect pitch to a gallery you’d like to represent you to dealing with rejection and finding the best opportunities to show your work! Learn more here.


So You Want to Leave Your Day Job

Ekaterina Popova

If you are an artist or creative who dreams about leaving your grueling day job and making it on your own, I wrote this for you. I have been self-employed for the past two years and wanted to take a moment to share my experiences, the good, bad, and the ugly to hopefully help you take the leap when you are ready.

This article is not meant to sound  discouraging or like a typical ad from a "laptop lifestyle" guru telling you to instantly quit your job and make millions while traveling the world. The path is challenging, exciting, and I welcome anyone who feels that they are meant to follow it to join me, but I also want to be completely transparent and helpful in preparing you for what may be ahead.

So should you simply hope for the best, be positive, and put in your two weeks in order to pursue your dreams? Not at all, at least not yet. Hear me out. I’ve been there and I know what it takes. You have to be strong mentally, financially, and emotionally to do this, and while I love to encourage everyone I meet to chase after their dreams, I want to empower you and help you make an informed decision by sharing my journey first. 

If you already have a job or career, aside from making art, that allows you the time and freedom to create, while giving you security and an income and you enjoy it, good for you! This was my original plan and it did not work for me, which is why I am here. I think any way you can support your lifestyle while making art is honorable and you should be proud of it, even if it's not related to your passion. If you happen to enjoy what you do at your day job, I applaud you! This article is for those who dream of being their own boss or are deeply dissatisfied with their current employment. 

I promised myself that once I started making headway in my own career as an artist, I would "send the elevator back down to someone who needs a lift". I do not have all the answers or solutions to your unique situation, but I'm hoping my experiences, both good and bad, can give you some ideas and perspective on what life is like and how I got here. These are the things I wish I knew when preparing to leave my job, graduating college, and trying to learn about who I wanted to become. 

I was worried about all the wrong things, such as experience, level of education and other nonsense that played essentially zero role in my career. I had a lot of insecurities, which held me back. I had a negative mindset that was probably a plug on many great opportunities I missed. I was resistant to change; I was expecting someone or some job to come save me. I now look back and find comfort in these mistakes and try not to slip back into negative patterns of thinking when hard times arise. 

Now that you read through that little disclosure, here are some helpful tips that will prepare you, empower you, and build you up to the person you want to be when you are crazy enough to take your art/venture out into the world. As always, you are capable, strong, and talented, and I am rooting for your success. 

Visiting Create! Magazine at McNally Jackson Books in NYC:

1. Be Your Own Investor

When you start working for yourself as an artist or creative, you will have to think of yourself as a business. I was resistant to this for a long time, but once it all clicked, my life changed. You are the CEO of your art career. You have to take full responsibility for your success. This means making wise choices about your money, your time, and how you present yourself to the world.

If you are still working your day job, USE it as your "angel investor". I know a lot of times day jobs don't pay nearly enough even to cover the bills or student loan payments, but do your absolute best to save as much as you possibly can, and you will thank yourself later. Nickname your bank account "dream art career" or "studio fund" and put away any extra dollars after your bills and living expenses are covered. Save up for the time when you will leave, envision your life as a self employed person, and also use any extra money for building a website, photographing your work with a quality camera or hiring a photographer, covering application fees, and buying the materials you need to create your next body of work. 

Even when I was suffering through my waitressing days, I would use the extra $100-$200 I had for canvases, visiting exhibitions in bigger cities, and applying to dream opportunities. I also always had a budget for art books and magazines so on my breaks my mind would constantly be filled with things that I aspired to be around.

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2. Use Your Free Time to Build Your Career. 

Right after I graduated, I was so discouraged that I couldn't find an art related career that I would sulk, binge on Netflix, and cry about how miserable I was and how unfair it was that I had a college education and had to work minimum wage jobs. I dreamed of being hired by a gallery or museum and basically waited for someone to come save me. No one came, and I had to figure it out on my own. 

One day, after a year of rejections from every single art job I applied to, I said, "Fine. I will figure this out on my own." I remember I got a job at Macys in the makeup department (the most creative gig, as of yet) and decided to just make the best of my situation. I aggressively painted in the mornings before my shift and on weekends. I even snuck my phone under the counter to research calls for art and get ideas for future paintings. On my lunch break, I sprinted to Barnes and Noble and hungrily consumed every new magazine while sipping on a cappuccino. I started to enjoy my life, even though my employment wasn't ideal. I started to be happier and even more motivated. 

Not surprisingly, the good energy that was radiating from the new determined me eventually landed me more opportunities than I ever had before. I got an exhibition in Philadelphia and sold my first large painting to a stranger. The small exhibitions and opportunities gave me the encouragement I needed and field my positivity. 

Around this time I also got the idea to start my first magazine, FreshPaintMagazine. I remember having a "lightbulb" moment and I excitedly began researching how to make it happen. The first publication was scrappy to say the least, but I'm so glad I was inspired and bold enough to do it. At this point, I was building an online community, getting deeper into my own work, while balancing the world of retail and the often catty cosmetic department (a bunch of bored women standing around all day :)). I don't remember how this happened, but I started meditating and practicing affirmations to protect my passion and positive attitude, especially in an often-depressing work environment that could easily bring me down. I was getting somewhere and I kept pushing through as much as possible. 

My first magazine, which I founded in 2013 while working at Macys:

The first copy is here! Official launch is next week! So excited!

A post shared by Ekaterina Popova (@katerinaspopova) on

Painting during a day off on our kitchen table while living in a studio apartment:

The start of something new #paint #instaartist #artliving #art #love #wine

A post shared by Ekaterina Popova (@katerinaspopova) on

3. Always Learning

As I mentioned earlier, I spent a lot of time at the bookstore, but I also started getting into business literature and self-development books. I was so motivated to make my dream a reality (though I really didn't know what it would look like). I started consuming as much knowledge and education as possible. I remember first dabbling in art career books, but later stumbling across Girl Boss by Sophia Amoruso.  

A new world began to open itself up to me. I realized I could learn how others did it and apply any relevant aspects to my life. I started to see patterns and how others from similar backgrounds made it happen. It gave me hope; it made me feel closer to my dream. I slowly began diving into the world of social media and using it to market my art and new magazine. It was a steep learning curve and I had no idea how to write captions or what to even post, but it all came with time and experience. I remember the first time I sold something through Facebook and Instagram and how amazing it was to me. At first, I thought it wasn't legitimate and that I was a fraudulent artist because I didn’t have a fancy gallery representing me (but boy, I am glad I kept doing it, because that is how I mostly make my living now). As my social platforms began to grow, my community started to emerge as well. 

I recommend for you to take time each week, or even each day, to learn something new that you know you need help with. It can be business, art techniques, social media or anything else. Libraries are still a thing, and there are millions of free articles and YouTube videos. We live in an incredible time where anything we need for success is at our fingertips. I never thought of myself as a business-person, but I am thankful to the past me for keeping an open mind and taking the time to educate myself so that I could later support myself as an artist. 

Download podcasts, get books on audible, read an old-fashioned paperback, or search YouTube and online courses to get you to the next level. 

4. Get Involved. 

Around this time I was volunteering at art openings and writing free articles for an online art magazine in exchange for free admission to museums. This forced me to upgrade the caliber of people I interacted with, to be around other artists and creatives, build new friendships, and even improve my own art. I got new ideas and was around high level exhibitions and impressive work that challenged and excited me. Though I am naturally an introvert, and sitting at home was my favorite, I knew it wasn't the person I dreamed of becoming. I hated it at first, even got massive social anxiety before any art opening, but pushed through it until it became second nature. 

I also like to remind myself that even though I did not take a traditional career path (whatever that even means) all my experiences, which I thought were negative at the time, shaped who I am today. A lot of exhibitions and opportunities came from meeting people at events that I attended or volunteered at.

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5. Celebrate and take notes. 

So when do you know when to go out on your own? When you start consistently selling your artwork or creative product, start taking down your sales and numbers to see how much you need in order to make a healthy income that supports your lifestyle. Mine has always been a combination of art sales, magazine sales, commissions, and curation. The mix of all of these things helped me make a decision over time. I would take notes and be familiar with your numbers and check them for overall consistency so you can confidently leave your job. 

Each time I had a breakthrough or figured out something new that worked financially, I would take notes, feel the excitement, and feel one step closer to my goal. 

Before I quit my job, I had only 6 months of living expenses, which I frankly regret because it wasn’t enough and I had some massive setbacks in the first few months and ended up having to use most of the money unexpectedly. Always have a little more than you think you need. Trust me, it's worth staying at your job for an extra few months if it means you can be comfortably focusing on your work instead of having a meltdown like me. Give yourself a nice cushion, because it's really hard to be inspired when you are having a panic attack over not being able to pay your bills. Test your side income for at least a year before taking the leap. 

I had an unfortunate business partnership breakup with my first magazine, which slowed down my growth, and while this is unlikely to happen to you, life gets in the way sometimes, so just be prepared as much as you can. Don't think of it as a rainy day fund, but think of it as an investment you can use to grow your career if everything goes great (which it will!). 

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6. You Are Your Personal Brand.

The last job I had at the Capital One call center taught me about the importance of being your own brand. This means that you are representing yourself everywhere you go and it's your job to show up, work hard, and have the best attitude possible (even if you eventually want to move in to another job). I am happy I had the sense to take this advice to heart. By being the best I can be, even at a job I wasn't excited about, I was able to build amazing relationships with my team members and managers. I did my best and pushed myself as a salesperson and customer service representative, no matter how frustrating it was. My managers rewarded my efforts with extra days off to paint, eventually let me transition to part time, and then finally let me to leave on good terms with the ability to come back "in case things don't work out".

I know life can get aggravating, but by being the best you can, no matter where you are, you will create a support system that may end up helping you land your dream position or help you smoothly transition to self-employment. There is something empowering about having a group of people rooting for your success and knowing that you will always have the option of going back to a day job. Not that you will have to do that, but it will help give you peace and certainty when taking the plunge. 

I hope this brief summary of my experiences will help you make a plan, if it is your dream to make it on your own one day. As I mentioned earlier, if you enjoy multiple streams of income, and they don't all have to be creative, more power to you! I struggled to figure out in the beginning and had to go the roundabout way. I have so much respect for educators, art therapists, designers, consultants, and multitudes of other professions that are creative and demanding. I also love hearing about how artists support themselves while working in finance, engineering, and love their second career outside of the arts. Don't feel pressured to make your entire income from art sales alone. It's rarely the case for self-employed artists and usually we all have to hustle, teach, and offer services to make ends meet in between those big painting sales. I wish you all the best on your journey. 

If this was helpful or you have questions, feel free to email me at info@createmagazine.com

Cheers!

Me at my home studio/office (p hoto by Emily Grace Photography)

Me at my home studio/office (photo by Emily Grace Photography)

Photo by Emily Grace Photography

Photo by Emily Grace Photography