What I've Learned So Far In Matters Of Art & Money
As 2016 comes to a messy, screeching halt, I found it somewhat cathartic to take a look back at a few of the more important lessons learned when dealing with art, artists and the exchange of ideas and funds. In the few years following art school, I have seen my fair share of successful and unsuccessful business transactions made between my clients and the Alex Alexander "brand", if you will. Yet when going out on a whim becomes your bread and butter, with only your raw talent as collateral, your way of life is sustainable only by the surest and purest of exchanges with the world around you. One can only hope to be so lucky, because at best, only 1 in every 10 art-based business relationships actually develop past the point of conceptual actualization -at least thats been my experience. Just because you share the same seemingly radical views and ideas doesn't automatically mean your intentions are mutually suited and money has the potential to be made.
In your first five years or so of living as a working artist, you will experience a rash of odd jobs and dead end networking while hoping not to miss the opportunity of a lifetime. Yet in my experience, you can't afford to find yourself in any way obligated to stagnant, unfulfilling or ill-suited business relationships regardless of how promising they seem to be. When you're out there just trying to make it honestly on your artistry, its easy to get sucked in to some unhealthy habits and dealings. I am by no means running some fortune 500 company here but I do know a thing or two about expending professional, art-focused energy in the right directions. Here are a few things I've learned while dealing with people, art product and money that may help you if you've ever thought about pursuing your passion or "brand" while retaining your dignity at the same time…
1. Establish Your Worth Before Others Do.
Once you've acknowledged the weight of your brands potential, settle for no deal worth less than the strength of your most sought after commodity. No one can provide your unique perspective. No one can do you quite like you can and its best to be abundantly aware of that fact and make others abundantly aware of that fact also. Dont let some culture depraved cheapskate, or anyone for that matter be the one to put a price tag on you unless, of course, it fits the bill.
2. Stand By Your Ethics But Dont Be A Proud Dummy.
Although there is no accounting for personal taste, what may be sugar to you may in fact be shit to someone else. Be aware that especially as an artist, there will always be someone challenging your point view. Slap a dollar sign on that point of view along with a contract of sorts and you may find yourself compromising more than your aesthetic. Be flexible but dont loose yourself in the process of appealing to others.
3. If You Can Absolutely Help It, DO NOT Conduct Business With Family or Friends.
No matter how efficient you are at your craft, those relationships can always turn sour real quick. Some feel uncomfortable with contracts and legal jargon when all you're trying to do is hold everyone involved accountable for upholding their end of the deal and over your ass in the event that something goes awry. Friends and family will sometimes try to abuse the work relationship, asking for deals and discounts hoping you'll bend your rules for them. Take my advice, dont do it (too often) And treat contracts like condoms that protect you in the event of bad business with family, friends and everyone in between.
4. Keep Personal Politics And Emotions Out Of The Equation Whenever Possible.
Your precious perspective will always come second when dealing with people who bear high expectations of their spent dollar towards the arts. Even those with no real clue of what they want won't stop at the opportunity to deem you ill-equipped for your job . At the end of it all. regardless of your medium, its a buyers market and some buyers are idiots. Retain your morals while understanding that interpretation can and often will be compromised. Make a buck and just keep it moving if you're able to.
5. You Can't Pay The Bills With Exposure
…unless you're being exposed to the amount of money you deserve. Exercise your right to say no to gigs that insist on only paying you in "exposure". If they are truly at liberty to expose you to potential clients willing to pay you top dollar, then they should be a paying client as well.
6. Evolve Within Your Craft
Dont become stagnant in your art. Always look for new ways to get your point across. Regardless of your medium, theres certainly more than a few. Change with the times without sacrificing authenticity. If you are good at what you do, growth is inevitable so dont fight it -welcome it with open arms instead.
7. Collaborate When You Can
Personally, I work best by myself, this can be said for most artists. Too many cooks in the kitchen is bad for the recipe in my book. Yet there are times where my respect, admiration and shared perspective with a fellow artist drives me to consider joining forces, putting our heads together to build and bridge gaps between genres. This doesn't happen too often because artists are not only extremely passionate but egotistically fragle and insecure at the same time. If the collaborating parties are poorly suited and a creative vibe isn't properly nurtured, this could mean a wasted effort on both sides. Also be leery of those who latch on just to ride your coattails. Some people dont want to collaborate as much as they just want to be associated with another persons good idea. But in the event that you've met your creative equal who is ready and willing to put in that work, strike while the iron is hot and become a force together. After all, there is power in numbers just make sure you pick the right ones.
8. Dont Believe The Heightened Hype
Some people have the tendency to project their illusions of grandeur onto the art world. Claiming to have "made it" like there is some sort of agreed upon race to success. They flaunt their good fortune like it grows on trees. So when the grass is starting to look a little greener in someone else's lawn, dont loose sight of your own fruitful soil. It will not serve you in the long haul to compare your path to others. Tend to your garden in your own time. Success is a personal, ongoing journey -not a finite destination that brags and insists upon itself. So the next time your seemingly successful colleague feels the need to overemphasize, namedrop, post obnoxious images of cold hard cash out on someone else's yacht or any other tacky crap like that, remember that good work and real talent needs no exaggeration. It speaks for itself.
9. You Are Not Your Failures
'There is no shame in admitting loss or failure. Proper acknowledgment of such will keep history from repeating itself. One missed win doesn't take you out of the game completely but pride and self loathing will for sure. So take that L like a champ, get out of your own way and get back to the proverbial drawing board.
10. Keep Going, Win Or Loose