I wish I was able to say that my emerging career as an artist is something that I am solely responsible for, that I have done everything thus far on my own, and that the responsibility for my success rests solely on my own shoulders, but that isn’t true.
When they say it takes a village, it really does take a village. My local community, especially the arts scene where I live, has been instrumental in regards to my early success. I would not be where I am right now without them.
If you take nothing away from any of my other articles, know this: you need to make friends with other artists.
Your local artist community is absolutely vital. Participate in it. Get to know the leaders of it. Go to the openings of other artists shows, talk to them, pick their brain about their technique. Follow each other on instagram, subscribe to their Youtube channel. When you have a showing, it’s basically a sure thing that they’ll go to it if you ask.
Art is like any other industry in that it matters who you know. Networking is essential to spreading your name (and thus your work) in a circle of professional artists, collectors, and consultants.
Making friends with other creative people, or creative-people-adjacent, is something that can only benefit you! You will gain a brain to bounce ideas off of, a critic who only wants to see you succeed, and someone to paint together with.
The art friends I’ve made in college always turn up when I ask them to come over and critique my work in progress painting, or help me wire a few pieces, or come with me to install a display and help me figure out where to put everything. If you’ve always wanted to paint in the park but don’t want to do it alone, bring an artist friend.
Seriously. Make friends with other artists.
One of the first connections I made in the professional art world was my college painting professor, who is now sort of my mentor. And she has been absolutely indispensable in pushing my work to new places, critiquing me, teaching me new techniques, and just sharing some wisdom on being a professional artist and the hustle that’s required to make ends meet. Shout out to Chris Willcox, you are the absolute best.
Participate in your local artist community, and make connections within it, and your career will reap the benefits of years of expertise, new eyes, and great connections. Trying to make a living as an artist is a struggle, the income insecurity that people talk about as an industry hurdle is real, but you know what? You’re not in this alone.
There are people out there who are just like you, or were once just like you. It’s hard, but not impossible, to get your start in the art world, so why not develop relationships with those who have already had experience navigating the scene?
Kelsey Rodriguez is an emerging artist and Political Science undergraduate student in Saint Paul, Minnesota. She just recently opened her small business selling her original artwork, Poured Planets, in the spring of 2018. She has exhibited at several cafes around the Twin Cities and has ongoing consignment relationships with galleries and art consulting agencies around Minnesota.