Several artists have asked me for advice on becoming a professional Fine Artist. 50 years as a Fine Artist seems to have led people to believe I can help them to become pros. In the last couple years, I’ve seen pros put down their brushes and turn to other ways of making a living. That should scare me, but I have 50 years behind me and I’ve had plenty of bad ones, so I aim to hang in there. I can see at times why some artist are failing. I see it with my own career at times.
Two of these artists asking for advice have told me things they are doing to improve their chances of making it as Fine Artist. Both are wanting to be full-time landscape artists, a very crowded field. Al goes out painting as often as he can, Terry has a full-time job so his painting time is limited to nights and weekends when his wife lets him. Sometimes the two will go out painting together. Terry turns to the old masters for help, like what palette Turner used or how the artists of Hudson River School painted. There is more to it than reading books on art and artists. One needs to cover canvas, miles of canvas, for some to become successful. You need to develop a vision – a unique vision. Simply thinking that because you painted a subject makes it unique doesn’t fly. Al believes because he paints out on the spot his work is unique. He does not apply design, or composition to his work when out though. Terry relies on his imagination and bad photos, to create the same painting over and over.
Being a Fine Artist is showing up for work every day and putting in a full day of work every day. Days I write a blog are days I stay late to get my painting time in. Days I stay longer at the coffee shop are days I am painting later in the studio. The stakes are high, I am in reality a small businessman. I have to know my materials. My product is who I am. Doing my best is not enough, I need to push myself with each painting. I have to deal with how others judge my work and be the hardest judge myself with my own work. Settling because of time is a mistake amateurs make. “I only had an hour to paint ” is an excuse I hear often from amateurs and then they wonder why they cannot sell that piece they only spent an hour on. Pros paint miles of canvas before they can complete a painting in an hour.
Another mistake Terry makes is meeting with other amateurs who have less knowledge than he does and taking their compliments as stamps of a well-done job – then having his gallery reject that same piece. What separates an amateur from a pro is often the fact that a pro does quality work day after day.