When I graduated with an MFA degree, I knew I was not going to rely on galleries and curators for my career.
It was very clear to me that if I wanted to exhibit my artwork, I would somehow find my own venues, and if those venues were not around to find, then I’d build them from scratch.
Our MFA program was far from being commercial in nature. I studied Sculpture; others studied Painting, and most of the students envisioned themselves doing projects for non-commercial art galleries, and getting paid for selling their work through the galleries’ dealers.
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Most of the artists in my school waited for a gallery owner to stroll in the school in the hope they’d be selected to become the next rising star. They were creating artwork in their studio, and declared vehemently that everything that had to do with promotion “was not their thing”.
Before I even graduated, I started sending my resume and proposals to galleries, illustrating for them exactly what idea I was passionate about pursuing in their space. Many of them welcomed my ideas. I’ll never forget what a gallery owner in San Diego, CA said to me. He pointed to all the walls and floors in his gallery and said: “Do whatever you like here, in this style of yours”.
There are no sweeter words an artist will ever hear except maybe of “You are welcome to eat all the cheese and grapes we’ll serve here”.
I curated dozens of art exhibits and included my own work in the mix. And when I started shooting video segments and learned how to edit them, I created an International video festival, and of course included my own videos.
This festival was screened around the U.S and China for three years. I wrote to some venues and offered the screening for free. They wished to bring more viewers to their venue so they offered in return some grants and a place to stay. We used a trade-in model.
I did not necessarily rely on galleries, and many of my projects took place outside, in the city, on the streets, or in the restaurants of kind people. In many projects, I included artists from all over the world. One experience led to another, and very soon I found myself going to national and international Artist Residencies, which offered to host me, exhibit my work, and promote me. I refrained from attending Residencies that asked artists for a pay, and only attended the ones that offered room, board, and some allowance. This helped me to stay aloof somehow, and take a pride in my work.
It’s a little bit like a job interview. You don’t go to the interview praying you would get the job, no matter what. You go there telling yourself you are the best employee ever, and that this guy who sits in front of you will be lucky to hire you. After all, your contribution is priceless.
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Since my resume got longer and more impressive, I also started getting some grants. Most of them were very prestigious and offered a nice sum of money.
I also sold my artwork to people I met all around because most of the time I met many new faces.
I was able to make a living from my art.
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So What Are the Conclusions?
Like in every aspect of life, looking around and waiting for others to judge and motivate you, may affect what you think of yourself. Not only that you may change your style to match some kind of an imaginative curator or gallery’s vision and lose your own authenticity, but it also may paralyze you as an artist.
You will end up sitting in your studio, waiting for a break, feeling like you are wasting your time, and being harsh on yourself. You may even feel “you are just not good enough” and quit being an artist. It’s better for your self-confidence to initiate than to let the others judge your work.
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If you actively try to find your own venues, you get to meet a wide range of people and may change and alternate your style. You basically create yourself over and over again. Those are all positive things.
I learned sculpture and video and some computer programs and finally decided that the right venue for me was writing and illustrating of children’s comics and graphic novels, just the way I had done throughout my childhood and youth.
My art journey has arrived at a beautiful closure for me.
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If you don’t promote yourself, don’t come up with new projects, and refuse to understand that all this is a part of an artist’s life, you may start believing that “artists cannot make a living”. But what prevents you from being a full-time prosperous artist is not the fact that there are no clients or venues for your projects but the thought that others should pave the way for you and decide who you are, and how good of an artist you are.
Just get out to the world with your own vision of what you would like to create, how you would like to show your creations, and where.
You are awesome and your artwork is a gift. Don’t ever forget it.
(A portion of my conceptual art can be found HERE)
Read comics, create comics, and prosper ♥
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