Before you go on a trip there’s a lot you have to do. You buy tickets, book a place to stay, find someone to feed the cat, and pack a suitcase. You get ready.
What does it mean for an artist to be ready? It’s not a passive state, where you sit around waiting to be discovered. Getting ready involves intense preparation for what hasn’t happened yet, and won’t, unless you are ready.
This preparation is especially important because the art world seems to function in a random way. Your friend gets into a gallery even though you’re the better painter. A jeweler’s ordinary work is selling out on Etsy.com, while your one-of-a-kind pieces attract few buyers. That photographer’s fuzzy experiments get reviewed in Lensculture and suddenly he’s a phenomenon. If you are an emerging artist, you have to ignore all of this noise and concentrate on one thing: getting ready.
Perhaps the best way to understand this idea is to remember the last time a moment of opportunity appeared, and then quickly disappeared, because you were not ready.
Here are some examples:
Each of these questions assumes that you have an up-do-date website, a resume, and a price list. You want to respond right away, and you can’t. Instead of feeling bad about it, use your energy to get ready.
Getting ready may take you a few weeks or a few months. You may need help with parts of it. Just remember that getting ready will save you time (and frustration) later on. You will also develop the confidence that comes from knowing you are ready.
Getting ready includes knowing what you want from your art practice. Be honest with yourself about your intentions and circumstances. Think carefully about where you are right now, and what success would look and feel like for you.
What’s important to you? Maybe recognition is your primary goal, or you want to increase sales, or just spend more time in the studio, making art. Take a moment, and try to visualize your own success. What do you imagine?
You’ll also need to take into account the circumstances in your life. You might have a full-time job, or two small children at home, or elderly parents to care for. Part of getting ready is being clear about what you’re willing and able to do now in order to create the future you envision.
A successful art career, no matter how you define it, takes time, energy, resources, and (above all) perseverance. You might have to learn new skills, ask other people for advice, put yourself out there and even risk rejection. But nothing will happen until you begin.
Ask yourself, “what’s one thing I can do to get ready?”
Mary Edwards, Ph.D.
Career & Life Coach for Artists
I’m a Career and Life Coach for Artists, based in the San Francisco Bay Area and working with artists across the United States and internationally. If you’d like to ask a question or set up a time to talk, please write to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.