Artists – Avoid Mistakes that Set you Back

Here’s a true story I want to share with all of you who are working alone and trying to move your art careers forward and get better known.

It was just after Thanksgiving last year and an artist called me and told me she had just submitted her work to be in a booth at a new Art Fair in Miami during Art Fair Week. It was her dream to have her work be there during Art Fair Week. She had a friend whose art was there two years ago and had been seen by a curator; she got invited to be in a show in Europe as a result, and it led to all sorts of good things. She was sure this could be her big opportunity. She wanted to know my opinion. She had to decide by tomorrow to send off her painting in time.

The problem was, she didn’t know the people who were tending the booth, she didn’t know anything about the art fair (but she heard it was a good location), she didn’t know what the art fair looked like, and the people didn’t know her or her work. It would cost $2500. I told her that I didn’t think she was setting herself up for success and there were too many issues that interfered with the likelihood of a successful outcome, but she decided was going to do it anyway. She asked if I could check it out when I was there for the art fairs and I agreed to if I had the time.

While in Miami, I visited the venue, and it was a disaster. The artist’s work was on the floor, leaning against the wall, and had no light on it. Art was jam-packed all over the walls, and no one there knew anything about her work and couldn’t field any questions when asked about it. It was a bad situation all around, and it was upsetting for me to see how the promise made to the artist wasn’t being followed through on. I felt I had to do something to make the situation better, so I was able to get them to hang the painting on the wall, even though the only available space was beneath the window. There was still no lighting available and it was beginning to get dark. It would have some light on it during the daytime.

I called the artist and sent her some photos of the space and her artwork. Naturally she was upset, and called the manager of the space to express her dissatisfaction with the situation. She insisted that her art be returned immediately and her money be refunded. Fortunately for her, she got her money and her art back in due time. It was a big lesson for her.

I give the artist credit for reaching out to me for help. From a time of weakness, it was actually a show of strength. It was a difficult situation for her. She learned from her mistake and is now actively working to gain stronger footing with her career.

We all have hopes and dreams, and sometimes we jump ahead with our “pie in the sky” ideas. Slowing it down and taking thing step by step is always a more sure way to reach the success we want. In art it is the same as in any other business that success builds over time and is more likely when a plan is created and a strategy is chosen and followed.

It’s a tried-and-true method that really works. It make not be sexy or exciting, (although it can be), but it works.

I know that you get a lot of solicitations from people making a lot of promises. How do you tell them apart…the real ones from the come-on’s? How do you know what’s good for you and what is just a distraction and an expense? You know by educating yourself and finding out about the solutions that will lead to success. At the same time there are no guarantees that things will work out the way you want or the way you expect. At the very least, taking the next big step can force growth; at the most it can bring a new show, a new client, a sale or two or three, and a good return. We never really know. But when we take the next step, we want it to have some grounding in and a good sense of possibility. This can be assessed best when we are following a plan. Sometimes you have to slow down to speed up.

As you build your art career, you want to avoid as many mistakes and pitfalls as possible that waste valuable time.


Gwenda Joyce is an Artist Agent and an Success Mentor who has helped artists move forward with their art careers.  For more information and a free strategy session, Click Here.


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