Advice to an Artist 5 Suggestions

Michael Newberry painting in Mexico, circa 2007
Michael Newberry painting in Mexico, circa 2007

Today a dear artist friend and mom of 3 young ones called and asked me about how to make a go of it as an artist. I thought, “It is nearly impossible. But if I can distill a life-time of doing it there is some good info there.” So here we go:

1. Forget Fame, Making Money, and Commissions.

Manet was dying and he took the time to paint 16 small floral paintings. Think like that. Art at its best is coming from your heart for no other reason than to make something you love. Anything else is a total waste of time and a sham. Lots of good people think that they don’t mind doing other people’s visions or that they are collaborating, but it is a lie. Art’s nature is to trigger your personal evolution. When you opt instead to make a spectacle, to rant, to do a commission, to do what others want, and to be popular you disrespect your soul. Instead of being a creator you hire out your talent giving others (and in the case of ranting, evil), who do not know better, power over your spirit. It is a pact with the devil, you get temporary satisfaction but the cost to you is to be plagued by self-loathing that will never go away. By rejecting this direction and making art that is 100% you, you grow and the your art becomes a gift to your loved ones, friends, and if you are really good to humanity. When you connect your passion, thought, and senses into a work it shows others that the next steps of living good is possible, and it might inspire them to achieve of their dreams. By being a champion of your spirit you pass on a great gift on to others.

2. Form a Base Income by Teaching

Teaching art is a very gratifying and nurturing experience and you really help a person grow on their path. I still get goosebumps when a beginner or anyone else makes a connection. The feeling at its most extreme was beautifully told when Anne Sullivan kept thrusting Helen Keller’s hand into water and then repeating “water” in hand-language, when Helen first grasps the connection a beautiful universe opened up to her. Teaching art goes very well with being an artist, and is financially stable but a modest income. The artist has to be careful not to take on too many students or spend too much time teaching, otherwise they wont have energy to make their own art.

3. Use an Art Site like ArtworkArchive.com

When time is a crucial it is better to paint than managing your personal art website. Personal websites can easily turn into rabbit holes and completely kill your enthusiasm to share your art. After a gazillion hours of setting it up, your art may never show up in search engines. I love ArtworkArchive.com, real people run it, and you can communicate with them. I think they will be around for decades, they or another site like them should work well for you. For each artwork you have to fill out the details: title, size, medium, type, price or sold, notes, etc. It takes patience but what you are doing is filling out their software, which then makes your art organized on their site, and searchable out there on google. When I post a work it normally shows up in google the next day. A huge plus is to fill out the price of the artwork. It simply gives a potential buyer the information they need and relieves the artist from pushing sales of their works. It lists the work properly and shows professionalism. Comforting for the collector. You can also link to your painting’s url there and it will show up neat and clean on Facebook for instance. It is the greatest way I know to soft-sell your work.

4. Use Your Personal Facebook

I prefer using my Facebook personal account to share my art. Most of my collectors are friends. It seems to me that the Professional pages are for stars or for businesses, both seem very cold. And Facebook Business is constantly pushing you to advertise. BS for an artist. If you are sharing your heart-felt art, make it as personal as possible and engage with your friends, it is sharing the love. Instagram is problematic with links, while FB is really easy to use for links to your newly uploaded painting.

5. “Speak” to the Smartest, Wisest, and Most Loving Person You Know

Writing as an artist in a bitch. Huge time waster if you are not experienced. I think 9 out of 10 artists fail miserably at it, either sounding too apologetic (yuck) or too patronizingly pompous (boo). Unfortunately, it is important to write something and you should do it out of respect for your friends and collectors. Just posting a link, or just the painting comes across as being a jerk. It says to your friends that they are not worth a few minutes of your time. A fantastic way to write about your art is to imagine you are sharing it with the smartest, wisest, most loving person you know. My grandmother, Edna, is one of the people I think about when I write. She is passed now, but she was the wisest person I knew, very smart, and so loving and supportive. Another person is a dear friend who is a philosopher. Thinking about this brilliant person keeps you from being patronizing and it helps you to be more open because you know that the other person gets you. It doesn’t have to be perfect, you don’t have to teach them anything, just enjoy sharing with the most meaningful people in your life. You will be surprised that it often touches strangers in powerful ways.

Postscript

You will have to tweak things for what works best for you. The best end result is that you find yourself making art and enjoying sharing it, that is all you need. I hope my suggestions help. Let me know, and if you have a time-tested approach please share it.

Michael Newberry, Idyllwild, 6/12/2020

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