by Ruth Payne
Sacred space and sacred time and something joyous to do is all we need. Almost anything then becomes a continuous and increasing joy. – Joseph Campbell
The Four Basics for building your art business are People, Space, Time and Money:
- People to advise, encourage and help you
- Space to do your art and business
- Time to do your art and business
- Money to keep the wolf away from the door
The people in your life who support your art business are your pit crew. They are the ones that spin your tires! They beam you up, dust you off and say…get back on the horse! Know who these people are. Let go of the naysayers, who may be envious or are just Negative Nellies. You don’t have time for anyone who does not have positive and encouraging energy in regards to your art and business. Life is wondrous, the world is waiting for your art, and it is full of creative art marketing opportunities for you to grab. Let no one hold you back. Most people, if you explain heartfully to them, will understand and have great respect for the time you need to do your art, the path you are pursuing and the goals you have for your art sales and exhibitions.
You need a space that is yours to create art in. This may also be the space that you have your art business office in, where you do your marketing from. It is not the kitchen table. It is also not your bedroom or dining room. It is separate from the activities of daily life, and it is your designated art sanctuary.
This space can be carved out in an unused garage, garden shed, empty room, space borrowed from a neighbour, artist’s warehouse studios as in 1000 Parker Street, Vancouver, communal artist’s spaces, rented apartment space, and the outdoor studio if you are a plein air painter.
One very successful Vancouver artist has his studio in a converted garage off the alley. He rolls up the doors and it is called the Alley Gallery. Voila! Good lighting is essential, from either a skylight, natural and preferably northern light, or incandescent, but not fluorescent. Fluorescent light distorts colours.
Your tools of the trade are a professional sturdy working easel, firm armless chair, preferably the twirling type with a flexible back, your paint and palette table, a filing cabinet for your business and art inventory keeping, and a worktable for your journal and sketchbook.
Now add a chair or two for visitors, as well as a small table by the entrance where you have a photo of yourself at work, business cards, portfolio, invitations to exhibitions you may be in, and a vase of fresh flowers.
Of course your art speaks for itself, and also the essence of who you are shines through in your studio space. Potential art purchasers are intrigued to meet the artist in his studio, see work-in-progress and generally feel a part of the process. It’s all integral to your ‘artist’s magic’ and every bit of your presentation is important. Visiting other artist’s studios can be a great way to get creative ideas for your setup, renovation or to make your studio suit your personal style better. It is also a wonderful opportunity to network with other artists in their art-making space. I think it is useful to have a small shrine in the studio. This can be a table, a corner area, a small shelf, whatever works for you. On this you will put inspirational mementos, photographs of your children and mate, the seashell you brought home from your painting trip in Mexico, your little statue of Buddha or whatever has spiritual significance for you, and a candle. It is meant to centre you and bring you to the present moment of appreciation for your artist’s life.
Note: your business and tax set-up will take into account the space in which you work. Your costs and rental or mortgage agreement i.e. a percentage of your income, if used for work, may be deducted from your taxes. Please read your self-employed/ small business tax form available from Revenue Canada to learn about maximum workable deductions. For detailed information on The Business Of Finding A Workspace, a discussion of zoning requirements, leases, etc., please see Art, the Art Community, and the Law, Self-Counsel Press.
Until you value yourself, you will not value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it. -Scott Peck
Knowing how to set healthy boundaries with others is to know how to really say YES and NO and this in turn saying YES TO YOURSELF. Give yourself what you need in time, for both creating your art and for the marketing of your art. By the way, plan on spending 50% of your time on marketing. (unless you have a gallery to represent you full-time and exclusively)
Do you trade your time for easy cash? Don’t undersell yourself. Your time is meant for art-making and marketing your work. If you volunteer your time, do it because you want to, consider this tithing your time to help others, mentor students, or talk to a networking group of artists. This time is freely given, even though you may receive a small honorarium as a thank you. I believe that what you give freely and from your authentic self comes back to you at least 10 times.
Work from the 80/20 rule that made Walmart so successful.
Nothing can add more power to your life than concentrating all your energies on a limited set of targets. – Nido Qubein
The 80/20 rule says that on a list of 10 tasks, only 2 of those tasks will return 80% of the value of the entire list. Look at your art marketing ‘to do’ list. Which tasks are directly related to what you want to happen. Find the 2 high- value items on your list and tackle them first. These tasks, contacts, exhibitions, potential buyers are the ones that will really move your career forward.
Many of us actively avoid the top 2 priorities because they are more challenging than the rest. If they are to lead us to worthy goals, they are undoubtedly asking us to move into new territory in thinking and acting, and this can be scary. But this is also REWARDING.
Focussing on your Centre of Influence, as Stephen R. Covey speaks of, in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, with First Things First, is another way to do this. It takes you out of your Circle of Concern, where you tend to water down your time without concentration on your own needs. This is only a conscious choice away!
Don’t kid yourself: it’s because you’re doing all those C’s (low priorities) and NOT because you haven’t any time, that you don’t get to do you’re A’s. – Alan Lakein
Make yourself a sign: ARTIST AT WORK: Please do not disturb.
The flip side will say: ARTIST in STUDIO 2- 5pm: Please come in.
One side is for your sacred art-making time and the other side is for open studio time for visitors and buyers.
Don’t quit your day job! This may sound trite, but there is nothing attractive about the artist who is really struggling to pay the rent and keep the chicken on the table. This angst comes across in the art you want to sell and it actually pushes the buyer away. It speaks of neediness and lack of security and it is not attractive.
Balance in all aspects of your life will allow you to pursue your art business with ease and confidence. If your partner is willing to support you, you have an inheritance, or you are retiring, then great. Just make sure you have enough money for your basic living expenses, and to be able to invest in your art business. You will need to spend money on a website, invitations, business cards, as well as art-making supplies and framing. Extra cash is a necessity for this.
I encourage you to add to this list, then post it in your studio as a reminder of what you will give to yourself!
Ruth Payne brings thirty-one years of experience as a curator, visual artist, coach, and teacher. She is the curator at the Ferry Building Gallery and the Visual Arts Coordinator of the Office of Cultural Affairs, District of West Vancouver.