I have been thinking a lot recently on the qualities of artist and business-person and to what extent they can really exist within one human. Much of what we write about on AMS is about the marriage of the two concepts to create stunning art and successfully market and sell it to the world. But is that realistic or are we just drinking artistic coolaid?
Lets start with a premise that I hold true.
True art comes from somewhere. It is the result of an experience where the artist explored the worlds of beauty, spirit, terror, humanity, or the psyche – and brought back the experience for us to share. When you look at a painting or a sculpture created with that consciousness it has an impact and you can’t help but notice it.
When I saw one of Van Gogh’s self portraits (the green one!) in the Musee D’Orsay in 1996 I gasped after wandering through the rest of that art museum half asleep. I had similar experiences with a Rodin Sculpture in Amsterdam, several portraits by El Greco at a MET exhibition, and an original Georgia O’keeffe painting at a house I visited in Woodside, California. (Yes – someone actually had an original O’Keeffe in their house!)
I have similar experiences when I look at more recent work, like that of Rick Clarence, Ken Marshall, Zeph Farmby, or Latifah Shay. These artists are all explorers of experience and consciousness and it shows in their work. To me, that is the artistic consciousness and you can’t be an artist without it.
A great artist has that together with the technical skill and craftsmanship to execute the creation of the work. But the technical skill alone does not make an artist. I see this regularly at art fairs and exhibitions – technically excellent work that has nothing behind it. As such it is decoration and that is OK – but it is not art, at least in my personal universe.
Combining the artistic consciousness and technical skill is actually a lot of talent all wrapped into one human being. So then, is it realistic that this same human can also be a good business person?
The answer is: It depends on the person.
Van Gogh was immersed in his worlds of experience, so much so that he often spent all the money his brother Theo sent him on paints and canvasses when common sense would have suggested that some food might be a good idea! So Vincent probably wasn’t the ideal business person. My guess is that he may have lost some of his artistic intensity in becoming one!
My understanding of Michelangelo (which I admit is entirely based on a reading of Irving Stone’s “The Agony & The Ecstasy”) is that he was very much the great artist and the great business person. In the course of his life he had to manage budgets, difficult family and political situations, and a number of popes, all of whom seemed determined to undermine his success. And yet he did succeed and all those challenges impacted his work in a powerful way. You only have to glance sideways at the magnificent “Pieta” in St Peters Basilica to know what I mean.
Picasso was a consummate Marketer, Jackson Pollock wasn’t. Both were great artists. Andy Warhol was a business person and advocated the business of art. But honestly, I’ve seen a whole bunch of his original work in several museums and I have never been moved. It is certainly iconic work though. Basquiat’s work, on the other hand, grabs me by the throat, but my guess is that he explored the worlds of the psyche in his work and was less interested in business. (Just a guess).
Where does this all lead to? The answer I believe lies simply in the old saying:
If you know that you can happily bridge the worlds of art and business, especially if you want to or even enjoy the challenge, then that is your path and you will be successful.
On the other hand, if you know, deep down, that you need to focus on the exploration and creation of your art at the expense of business, then do that. You then have choices:
You can choose to pursue your art as a hobby where you can put all your love and creative energy without the guilt of feeling that you have to sell to justify calling yourself an artist. (Hey – how much did Van Gogh sell while he was alive?)
Or, you can choose to look for family, friends and friendly business people to help you with the business aspects of your career. You can also outsource a lot of the repetitive marketing work at very low cost by being a little creative.
Can you be an artist and a business person? If you want to. But you don’t have to be. Build on your strengths and enlist help in the areas you need support. This is actually a principle all good businesses use!
Of course an artist can be a business person too, if they so choose. Successful artists need business skills. Whether they choose to learn or hone these themselves or enlist an expert to look after this for them is entirely up to them. But completely ignoring the business side of art is a sure way to fail.
When it comes to art AND business, I´m confused at times. When observing the artmarket (THE artmarket) I feel there is just pure capitalism, nothing that has to do with passion or originality, a salesman´s dream.
Modern artists that sell art for a living need to produce a hundreds of images a year, and once they hit the primary market, they were more quickly sold and burnt out than you can think of. There is no sense in acquiring to be a rat in such a race, at least for me. I feel home when I can do a commission, then I know what I have done for the money I got and two people get something out of this, and not 4,5,6 or 7 who got even more for a painting than it was sold for originally. The logical function of this market is a riddle to me, and god only knows why it still exists. If you want to have success as an artist, see the artists live as a straight business path, make a plan and get even better in marketing, and if possible; avoid attending schools who are not able to teach art-marketing, even better; study art and study marketing seperately, then have a unique idea and work this out.
I think so much of the marketing is just showing up! We can sit alone in our studio making art an nobody knows about us, or we can put it out in the world and see what happens. I recently had a solo show of my art at a large spiritual center in LA. Because of certain events in my life I was unable to be present for several months, and consequently began to think that nobody cared about my work or noticed that it was hanging there. When I finally showed up and had a "meet the artist day" I was overwhelmed! All weekend I heard inspirational stories from people about how my work healed them, moved them, inspired them. I got offers to show my art in other upcoming venues. I had requests to speak about my art and my process, and also to give workshops. All this from just showing up. In addition, because of the current market, I decided to make smaller affordable limited edition giclee prints of my work, as well as greeting cards to sell. These sold so well that I ordered more, and I have been offered to continue selling these at this venue (even though my work had to come down so that the next artists show could go up). So…sometimes you don't have to be either an artist or a marketing genius. You just have to show up with a big smile and let the world know you are here! Plus, the positive feedback has really inspired me to make more wonderful art!!
One thing that we should remember is that "art" is not the exclusive domain of "art". It would be silly of us to think that the only way, and place one can be an artist is in the realm of the arts. It would be silly of us to think that there is not artistry in fields like engineering, science, medicine, plumbing, entrepreneurship. Creativity is not exclusive to the arts. Consequently there can be a TON of creativity in business. The artist who realizes this is the one who makes a killing (not by accident, but by creative design).
Read my blog BlackOpsArtist
Yes the artist should be a business minded person. Look at Warhol, he was the best at both.
Don't forget promotional efforts on your own behalf. In the era of the Internet there are many free tools available to you. Direct email, email news releases, Linkedin, facebook, twitter just to name the top three social media web sites that you must be in. Google give a higher ranking to your linkedin and facebook pages than your art web site pages.