Tips on being a Professional Artist

Wow!  We are so impressed with the quality of the work that is coming in for Excellence in Printmaking–it just gets better every year!  When expanding the original award into a full-blown exhibition, professionalism was one of our biggest concerns.  Would these students know how to frame a work properly?  Would they be able to ship it well, if need be?  Turns out, they do!  But it has gotten us to thinking, what are some main points we at WPG would share to emerging artists trying to look professional?  Read on to find out!

1. Follow instructions-If we could only give you one piece of advice, it would be this.  When applying to a gallery, a show, a residency, or anything else, make sure you read the prospectus thoroughly and completely before starting anything.  Yes, sometimes it’s annoying to have to resize all your images, but we promise, nitty gritty details like that aren’t arbitrary (or else they wouldn’t be there).  Expanding on the above example, images won’t show up well in our jurying system if they are too small or too big, and might be arbitrarily re-sized.  If you don’t follow directions, you (at best) annoy the person who is in charge of giving you that show/grant/residency or (at worst) have your entry thrown out entirely.

2. Paperwork is your best friend-A very boring friend, maybe, but definitely reliable.  If nothing else, keep an inventory and a calendar.  The inventory can be a simple spreadsheet by title where you can check whether a piece of work is in, out, or promised to be somewhere.  The calendar also helps in your planning.  If you know you’re applying for a show when your work is due May 1, you know not to submit anything that’s going to be in another show April 15-May 15.  You can also see when you’re free for artist talks, gallery visits, and more.

3. Multiple résumés are good-If you take a day to make a few résumés you’ll thank yourself later.  Every artist should have at least three:  A long artist résumé, a short artist résumé, and a professional résumé.  The long artist résumé is where you list everything you’ve ever done.  It can be as many pages long as you want it to be.  The short artist résumé is a one-page document that highlights some of your biggest accomplishments in the art world.  The professional resume may or may not have some of the same information on it, depending upon what field you work in.  If you’re in the arts field, the short artist résumé and the professional one may be identical.  However, if you aren’t, perhaps your prospective employer doesn’t need to know about every art show you’ve been in the past two years, and conversely the gallery you’re applying to may not need to know every place you’ve worked since high school.

4. Keep going!  It’s always tough to get a rejection letter, but you’re going to get a lot of them.  Do NOT take it personally and do NOT give up.  You’ll find that fit that’s right for you, but only if you keep looking.  The more you put yourself out there, the more good things that are going to come your way!

Want more advice?  Check out our earlier posts on applying for shows, presenting your prints, and planning a stress-free solo show.

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