Hello! Welcome to my blog, “Left Brain Skills for Right Brained People”.
I’m a Career & Life Coach for artists and other creative people. I’m based in the San Francisco Bay Area but work with artists throughout the U. S. and all over the world.
This is the next installment of my blog, where we’re reviewing a checklist of 10 behaviors that are characteristic of successful artists.
Use the checklist to see how you’re doing.
Checklist for a Successful Art Career (26 KB)
Don’t worry—nobody does everything every day. The goal is to build more of these behaviors into your own life, whenever you can.
Let’s take a look at question #9: “I am following an action plan.”
There couldn’t be a more “left brain” activity than the idea of following an action plan. It is the kind of linear, sequential, step-by-step activity that most artists hate and yet desperately need.
Why do you need an action plan? The art world operates in a strange way: it is both hierarchical and random. There are unwritten rules about how artists progress. For example, you won’t get a solo show at a museum if you don’t already have a pretty strong resume of exhibitions. And your work needs to be consistently visible at major art venues before critics can “discover” you.
At the same time the world of art can be random and unpredictable. You might be making the best art of your life but the gallery that was interested in your work doesn’t return your emails. Since you cannot control other people’s behavior, you try to control your own. An action plan is an anchor that imposes a kind of order on the chaos of the world.
The best action plans start with a tiny, easy step. Let’s say that your big goal is to license your images on products. Art licensing is a complicated business, so you need to find the first steps that will put you in motion. Perhaps you’ll want to start by looking online for artists who are already licensing their work. Or maybe you’ll decide to research licensing companies. Choose a specific goal and then break it down, smaller and smaller, until you find a step that you WANT to take. When you think of this step you smile, or feel relieved, or it gives you a little ping of energy: “I can do that!” A good first step might connect you with another person. Since many artists prefer to ask someone for advice rather than do internet research, your first step might be to brainstorm with a friend so you get your ideas out of your own head. Just make sure your first step is easy and appealing to you, so you don’t put it off. Be sure to attach a date so you can check it off when you’re done.
The best action plans are focused on activity rather than results, and include simple measurements. For example, you might be trying to become more visible through juried exhibitions. These opportunities are highly competitive, with many shows receiving hundreds of entries. You might decide to follow an action plan of entering two juried shows a month, for a year. Sometimes you get in, sometimes you don’t, but you just keep going. You put yourself in motion. When you focus on your efforts, the results will eventually follow.
Next time we’ll consider the last item on the checklist: “It is easy to find my work online.”
Mary Edwards, Ph.D.
Career & Life Coach for Artists