A young printmaker recently talked about her experience in art school compared to the “real world” after graduation.
“Even though I attended a top ten art school, I felt shortchanged,” she said. “They taught me how to make art, and that was it. It’s almost as if they simply wished me good luck when I left. I didn’t have a clue who would buy my artwork, or where to sell it.”
She ended up applying to gallery exhibitions because it seemed to make sense, and she lived in a city where opportunities and venues were available. Her work was well-received, and she won two cash awards and sold a couple of prints during the three exhibitions she participated in. But, that was the end of her sales.
“You can’t make a living entering art exhibitions,” she said. “I took a business class at a community college during my art school years, and it helped, but it was very basic. The most helpful experience that I had was getting an internship at a small art press. That was eye-opening.”
That was where she learned how the press worked on an everyday basis, and how they managed their budget. She was part of a team that worked together to earn a living through creating and selling art. Today, she has started her own small business, a very different one than she originally imagined. But she has found her own way.
Every artist has their own journey, experiences, mentors and mistakes made along the way. For some, the chance to be a full-time artist never materializes, and they end up in another field to make a living. For others, a fortuitous meeting or a good network of connections helped to pave the way.
How did you get your start? What was that first encouraging step that helped you make the commitment to pursue making art and selling your work?