Phase One: Building the Foundation of Your Art Career

Phase One Overview

It's tempting when you decide to become an artist to feel as if you're already behind. Social media is full of established and upcoming artists who make it appear as if their career has taken off overnight. However, these artists are actually all in Phase Two of their careers. Don't feel guilty for falling into this trap. Many many artists give up their careers because they don't understand where they are in their artist's journey.

What causes most artists to struggle in the beginning is their lack of understanding of how one creates an art career. This creates self-doubt and hesitation causing many artists to question why they started this in the first place. However, once you understand where you are in your journey, you can rest easy knowing you are on the right track.

Consider each action step below as a checklist for you. If you have formal education as an artist, such as a bachelor's in fine art, you may not need to necessarily build a skillset. However, you may not have created an efficient creative process yet. Or, perhaps you've decided to shift into digital art.

If you find yourself struggling with an action step, it might be because you have not yet mastered or completed a previous step. Don't feel ashamed or as if you failed if you need to go back a step. It's all part of developing your foundation. You will reap more benefits in Phase Two the more solidly your foundation is built in Phase One.

A word from experience: there is no time limit on developing your career. The most harmful thing you can do is decide that you will be a Phase 3 artist in four months when you have no business or presence established. We do not expect oak trees to grow in four months and you should consider your art as a seed that is growing. Your art will evolve and develop at its own pace. Part of your journey is to allow your art to flourish and keep following what interests and excites you.

Build Your Skillset

The first step in your art career is building a skillset. This means learning the technical skills required to become an artist who can efficiently and consistently put out art. This includes developing a style, learning art techniques and concepts, and developing muscle memory.

The most important aspect of this step is repetition. The more you create, the better and faster your skill set will grow. You can use courses and workshops to improve your art, but nothing will substitute for practicing your craft over and over again. This stage is not about selling.

Nothing you create at this stage should be to sell. Let me say that again: nothing you create at this stage should be to sell. Focusing on selling creates a perfectionist mindset this inhibits and slows your growth as an artist. Don't shoot yourself in the foot. This is all about creating to grow yourself from a hobbyist artist to a professional artist.

Learn more about Building Your Skillset here.

Develop Your Creative Process

As a professional artist, you will have to create the skill of being able to create art when you do not feel like it. Additionally, you will need to learn to create proficiently and efficiently. This is all about shortening the time it takes you to put out a piece of art. When you have commissions, shows, and other various deadlines, you will be faced with art block and burnout.

Without a creative process built into your system, you will find yourself with unhappy clients, constant looming deadlines, and lots of stress. It will feel as if you can never get ahead of your to-do list. And, you will find you have no more time to create the things that bring you joy. This leads an innumerable amount of artists to burn out and eventually quitting their business.

A creative process is a system that gets you into the flow of creation regardless of your mental state. This is key to keeping workdays manageable and consistently knocking out chunks of projects so that you are staying ahead of deadlines giving you the breathing room to focus on growing your business in Phase Two as well as continuing to do the things you love to do like going out with friends, seeing a movie, or just getting out of town for the weekend.

Learn how to Develop a Creative Process here.

Create Inventory

It's finally time to create inventory! Congratulations! This is a wonderful stage to get to. Creating inventory should not begin until you have both mastered your skillset and have honed a creative process.

What does this mean? It means you should not create inventory until you can consistently create work quickly and efficiently. Let me break this down further. Before you begin creating inventory, you should be able to take an idea for a piece and execute it 80% of the time or 8/10 times. If you can do this, that means that your skills have transferred to your subconscious memory and are embedded in your muscles and mind. This is exactly where you want to be before creating your inventory.

Note: I know many artists will want to skill the first two steps and will want to begin to create inventory immediately. This might seem like you are saving time, but it will actually cost you more in the long run as you will not be able to scale or grow your business because you cannot create consistent work on a schedule for deadlines. You are only hurting your business by starting here if you have not mastered the first two steps.

Once you are ready to create inventory, you need to create a lot of inventory. This means having 100+ works in your back pocket. Your art is your product. Imagine a store that you go in and it only has three things. Are you likely to buy one of those three items? Probably not, but if a store has 100 items, you will spend a lot more time looking and are more likely to find something that speaks to you.

It's critical to have a large inventory when you take your work into the community and online in the next step.

Learn more on Creating Inventory here.

Foster a Community

It's very hard to see as an artist how a person goes from painting to profiting. A common thought for artists is that if they are good enough they will sell or they will be asked to be in museums, shops, and shows. But, this is not reality. Your being good enough has nothing to do with it. Artists get into galleries, shows, bars, museums, businesses, etc. because they asked.

Don't feel ashamed for having thought it was through merit. I used to think that. It was a huge relief to realize that it wasn't because I was a bad artist that I wasn't being asked to be a part of things. It takes networking (in which Alejandro is a mastermind meanwhile I would rather peel my skin off). For extroverts, this is going to be a skill you will greatly enjoy growing. If you are an introvert and/or a neurodivergent, which many artists are, you are going to have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

You foster community in two ways: locally and online. With a stockpile of inventory, you will be able to take your portfolio to local bars, restaurants, bookstores, businesses, boutiques, etc, and let them select which art they would like to display in their storefront. From here you can easily work out a consignment deal and your work will be presented to the multitudes of clientele that the business receives.

Online you will be sharing your art via your website and social media. With 100+ works in your back pocket, creating an online presence will become infinitely easier with content ready to be published.

Learn more about Fostering Community here.

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