Advice from an Artist

As an artist, here are some things I have learned over the years that may help you.

1) Don’t waste your money on entry fees. A show is not worth it if you are paying 30 bucks just for them to see your images. I will submit my work to a call for entry only if it is 15 bucks or under and only if the work matches what they are looking for. Pay only if it is worth it, otherwise don’t waste your time and money.

2) Apply when galleries have open calls. These are sometimes the best opportunities for you to have someone out there look at your work. And they are free. Again, make sure your materials are easy to view and exactly what they ask for - art people are very particular.

3) Go to gallery openings and schmooze. Make friends with people there. You will meet other artists, prospective buyers of your work, and gallery folk. Start making connections.

4) Get a website that works. Very eye-catching and easy to navigate. They will decide within a minute if they like your work based on it, and will possibly contact you. Make sure you have a contact link.

5) Apply for residencies. Some of them cost money, others are free. Some are two weeks, some are many months. These places could be in Wyoming or New York City. They are think tanks of creativity in which you may swim around with other art fish. You will meet other artists from all around the globe and you will become good friends and maintain your connections and even participate in future collaborations with them. Again, networking.

6) Don’t give up. Keep working. I often get discouraged and swamped with trying to put my work out there, applying to shows, residencies, etc. But the important thing to remember is to keeping making art. Don’t stop or slow down. You’re in it for the reason of making art. Number one. Don’t forget.

- Kara Dunne

Guest Post: An Artist's Career and Where it Can Take You

I was always supported by my family when I decided that I was going to go to art school. I was accepted into the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the oldest art school in the country, whose history included the likes of Thomas Eakins, Mary Cassatt and even the filmmaker David Lynch. At the time, I certainly had romantic notions about what it would mean to become an artist, complete the visions of a spacious studio and hours creating works of art. As I continued through school, my outlook would also change as I wondered whether the degree in art would become lucrative, and I would find myself asking what happens after art school. I had some successful exhibits of work and some commissions, but quickly realized that I would not be able to make a successful living being strictly a fine artist - I needed to do something else to supplement my income.

After a short foray into becoming an art historian and adjunct professor, I returned to art-making and also became a high school art teacher. Being a teacher allows me to share all I have learned from my own experience with students, and I enjoy it. The stability of my new career also permits me to continue to do a little bit of my own artwork during the school year, but the time off in the summer lets me recharge and focus on developing my own ideas and discover what other opportunities I can find.

Over the years I have painted murals, done calligraphy, and even some cake decorating. I have learned about developing my painting ability into a mural business and even taking being a teacher into giving art lessons, which I now do. I also had some hidden abilities that came out when I wanted to do some work in my home. I finished my basement for some more space, and I took the skills I learned from stretching canvases and preparing wood panels for painting into doing upholstery and the trim work in my home, like chair rail and crown molding. I have found that my background as an artist has given me the ability to plan and visualize, as well as the skills to do it creatively.   

Leonidas Moustakas