Getting Started As An Artist
This is how I started a successful art business from scratch. I hope it offers you some insight into how you can develop and grow your own art business.
While I studied Fine Art and graduated in 2000, the following years brought with them the odd painting here and there, a few commissions, a couple of joint exhibitions and while I sold a few paintings, I had other jobs to support myself.
In 2015, I had been living in Tasmania for three years, and working in the retail section of a day spa while painting on the weekends. I found the Tasmanian landscape inspiring and took photos of places I visited during my first years. I knew my job was coming to an end, it wasn't challenging me and I felt I needed to move into something more creative.
I was having singing lessons at the time, and my teacher was about to move into a new studio in Salamanca Arts Centre. I hadn't seen much of the arts centre, apart from the shops and galleries on the ground floor, so it was great to look around. She told me there were opportunities to rent studio spaces if I was interested, and it was very affordable for emerging artists. I picked up an application form on my way out and applied for a tiny space in the heart of the centre. After an initial interview a few weeks later, my application was accepted and I couldn't believe it, I had my first studio!
I was able to move in straight away, and loved the flexibility of it all. I could come and go as I pleased, and there were real-life artists everywhere! While people were friendly, I seemed to just slip under the radar somehow, into a routine of work without anyone noticing or paying much attention to me.
I was the new kid on the block, a small fish in a big pond, and I didn't know any other artists in Hobart. Also, my art was a little rough around the edges and I knew I had a long journey ahead of me. I had to prove to myself that I could do this.
The first few weeks were a mixture of terror and excitement. While my husband was supportive of my new direction, I knew I needed to make money, and I felt a pressure to succeed.
MY FIRST STEPS
- I treated my arts practice as a full-time job. Even though no-one would notice or particularly care if I turned up at 11am, I cared. So I got there at 9am.
- I made art. I painted as much as I could and tried learning new techniques.
- I kept my costs low. Other than studio rent and internet, I only had my materials to cover and my basic living expenses. There wasn't a lot left over so I didn't spend much at the time.
- I took time to go and visit all the galleries in my area. I met other artists and introduced myself.
- I emailed a few galleries to see if they were interested in showing my work. In hindsight, this was the wrong thing to do. It was way to early, and I wasn't developed enough as an artist to show my work yet. Also, I should have arranged a time to meet with them in person rather than through email.
- I got talking to an artist in a small local co-op gallery (a space run by artists) and she seemed keen when I showed her my collection of cards. I applied to join the co-op and got accepted.
- Three weeks later, an artist dropped out of their exhibition schedule and the gallery offered me a space to have my very first solo show. In three weeks time! Rather than freaking out about the short notice, I accepted on the spot and worked out how I was going to do it later.
- Luckily, I had been painting a lot, and had already built up a collection of Tasmanian landscapes. I started preparing for my first show - Celebrating Tasmania.
I sold a few pieces from that show, which was very exciting and I was proud of what I achieved. Part of being a co-op is that we all had a job in running the gallery. It was a good experience and I took over their newsletter which I prepared every couple of weeks using MailChimp. We all took turns sitting in the gallery too, so I got to meet people and felt as if I was becoming part of the local arts community in Hobart.
The following years brought more hard work, learning how to build a business and network within my local community. Little by little it got easier and more opportunities presented themselves to me. I kept developing my craft and getting closer to what I wanted to achieve.
I hope wherever you are on your art journey, you keep going, keep getting better and keep following your dream of becoming an artist.
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