Article #6 I wanna be an artist: Practicalities of Living with your Art Habit

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One of the the perennial questions for the aspiring artist is how to make a living.  

The way I think about art is as a creative exploration - into the artworks of history and the human story thus far, as well as into one's particular experience of being, in this particular time and place.  And, it is not simply a matter of executing the ideas that occur to you - but of exploring those ideas in visual terms through drawing, painting or sculpture. Turning these fundamentally speculative processes into a physical artwork, as well as presenting it and sharing it with an audience, is a complex and time consuming process. 

In the meantime, how do you eat?   

For a lucky few, artistic output matches the market and it is possible to live solely on one's art output, but for most of us, it is necessary to subsidise our core explorations with other work.

This article will look at some of the ways TIAC Academy will help you to navigate the practicalities of living with your art habit successfully.

  1. Transferrable creative skills

The first and most important thing TIAC Academy offers is a program rich in both the technicalities of visual representation as well as the intricate craft of picture making. 

Visual representation - simply making a convincing picture of visual reality - requires an understanding of

  • space

  • light

  • form

  • colour

  • familiarity with a physical media to transmit the relationships that provide this visual experience to the audience

This knowledge and skillset takes time and disciplined practise to develop.  Further , picture making involves many considerations beyond simply representing from observation. This includes:

  • design elements

  • visual communication strategies and story telling

  • strategies for generating ideas

  • strategies for executing ideas

  • understanding of how to explore and push things beyond the immediately obvious (this includes both discovering interesting relationships conceptually and visually - and this is at the core of what fine art is about - though it is hard to quantify. It is the X-Factor for which we seek the advice of living masters so that they can help us to find it in our own work.)  

The ability to make coherent solutions within a multidimensional range of possibilities, to manage the acquisition of new skillsets, communicate with others and work hard to execute - while also having the resilience and courage to investigate speculative paths that might not lead to useful solutions - these truly are skills for the 21st century.

“Soulships” by Philip Helliwell

“Soulships” by Philip Helliwell

2. Industry Connection

One of the benefits of developing competence in representational fine art is that the skills listed above are directly applicable to a range of creative industry applications. 

Sculptors might find work:

  • on movie sets for Marvel or Disney

  • or creating digitally sculpted computer games assets in ZBrush

while Painters might:

  • become digital illustrators

  • or concept artists for illustration, games or movies

    (These fields generate substantial revenue - for instance, the video game industry was worth close to 140 billion USD in 2018 and is steadily growing year by year.)

TIAC Academy already plans electives in certain tools for industry such as:

  • digital painting

  • and sculpture

  • and plans to connect those who already have found success in these fields to advise our students to help with finding a good fit to apply for

Teaching is another way that many artists make their living, however being a skilled artist does not automatically make a good teacher. Teaching is suited to those who enjoy communication and nurturing other people, and can also be greatly improved by knowledge of the fundamentals of teaching theory. For this:

  • we offer electives in teaching strategies (introductory pedagogy)

  • emphasise clear, respectful and sincere communication

  • provide lots of opportunities to give and receive constructive criticism to others

    3. Fine Art business skills

There are many practical things to consider for painters and sculptors running their business in the real world, elements we can provide tangible advice for - such as:

  • what to consider when negotiating with a gallery, and how this can be done to lead to a good outcome for both parties

  • setting up an and promoting an exhibition independently, organising catalogues and media coverage, and even finding sponsorships

  • pricing your work in a sustainable way that allows you to sell and gradually increase your prices with time and being well received, while taking into consideration the fact that selling work also makes it no longer available for competitions and group shows.

  • concrete steps you can take today to utilise social media as an artist effectively - and not be utilised by it

  • the details of how to most easily keep track of expenses and issue invoices in the specific context of being a fine artist or freelancer

  • steps you can take to work out the most beneficial accounting structure for your particular situation in your country of residence

  • if you are in the position of being able to choose between countries to be resident of and hence liable to pay tax in, which countries are most conducive to work as a freelancer or independent fine artist, based on our experience and that of our colleagues and contacts

These points are all important and can take a lot of time and energy without having a guide to help you.   With the right basic knowledge, these elements can be worked through with fewer mistakes - ones that teachers on our team have made before you so you don't have to.

4. Communication skills

A skill that really fits into the first category but is so important that it deserves its own category.  The capacity to speak

  • confidently

  • respectfully

  • clearly

  • and the ability to give and receive criticism of work and ideas in this manner

is highly valued in workplaces.  Artists in particular are often guilty of not having well developed ability to speak to an audience comfortably, particularly about their work - though this is something that can be highly beneficial for sales, valued by galleries and actually enjoyable - given some experience.  

Scott Breton Breton