For the Portrait Society of America Conference in Atlanta this year, I
was invited to participate in a panel on Professionalism, Leadership,
and Service. I was asked to speak to “Building a Career for the Long
Term.” Now, anyone who saw my tax returns for 2010 would NOT have put
me on a short list for advice on professional success, but I guess
there are different kinds of success. For artists, commercial and
financial success is only one goal. So, don’t ask me for financial
advice, but I am happy to share my thoughts on what have been some
guiding principles for an oil painter’s long-term career goals.
When we start making art, we don't start from a position of, "I want to
paint like so-and-so," or not even, necessarily, "I want to paint
well." We should start from a position of, "I have a need to make art."
This is an important principle; it gives us the strength to overcome
our own bad work, and it illustrates that our first loyalty is to our
vision, not a technique.
Perhaps sometime over the last couple of years, you looked at your most
recent drawing or oil painting and thought “Why am I doing this?” The
economic recession has caused all of us to rethink our commitments and
has given many artists reason to doubt that “making it” as a
professional is a realistic goal. For most of us, sales and money in
your pocket make you feel like a “real” artist, and give (maybe false)
validation of one’s accomplishments at the easel.