Sunday, August 09, 2009

Art as Business: Starting Point

Lately I’ve been doing some serious thinking about my situation as an artist and where I’m heading. I’ve decided that now is the time to make things happen. To put some extra pressure on myself and to share my experiences (past ones and what I will learn from now) I’ve decided to make it all public here on my blog. Every Sunday - starting today - I will deliver posts about Art as Business. These posts will either be about me and my strategies, progress and drawbacks – or more general about Art as Business (those things I wish I had known 7 years ago)

I remind myself constantly “start where you are” (I’ve even glued the text on my window). If you want to run a marathon and have never been training it’s not very smart to decide to go for the New York Marathon straight away, right? To be able to succeed you would better have to start out slow and train until you’re fit. Same with most things – just because you can’t do it right away doesn’t mean you can’t do it. “All” you have to do is to figure out your current situation and come up with a strategy (and stick to it - and be very persistent).

So – where do I stand right now?

I’ve been self-employed as an artist since the summer of 2004 – with a break in 2005 when I was on maternity leave. I exhibit regularly (1-2 separate exhibitions/year) at galleries (but not the best), I make public commissions at least every second year and sometimes small odd art jobs, I sell my fine art prints in galleries (not a lot), I teach art sometimes and occasionally give workshops. (for details see my CV) Except for a 25% job in a gallery 5 months this year – and giving 2-3 aerobic classes/week until last year – I have not had any other job these years. I have been making at least half of the money me and my family (partner and son) has been living on. My partner is also in the creative business (film) so I have not had someone else’s regular income to lean on. Added should be that we have cut our living costs as much as possible.

Ok – it is not totally bad. I am slowly making progress, but I feel that I’m not really aware of where I’m going and that I’m probably not following up things. Besides NON of my incomes are guaranteed (workshops for example depend on demand and an exhibition can get very few visitors just because of the weather).

Two big questions:
1. What is my goal and how do I get there?
2. How will I make a descent living meanwhile?

I do not just want to make a descent living as an artist. I want make really good art and exhibit in the best galleries. This is not about money in any way. So how do I get there? (Anyone?) One thing I know for sure: it will take some time and I have to have some incomes to get there – which leads me to no 2: How will I make a descent living as an artist meanwhile?

Where do I make money now? What do I know doesn’t work? (And what will not take me away from my main goal?) Do I have additional ideas? be continued next Sunday.


Anairam said...

Oh, this series is going to be great - I can't wait for the next one, Alexandra! I think it is an issue that many artists struggle with - how to maintain one's goal, and make a living from art (or not). I have only started on my creative path, I am not even sure what my goal is. I am looking forward to the insights you gain on your journey!

nathalie et cetera said...

I agree with Anairam, this is going to be great! And if you keep on writing it like a police novel and leave us on a cliff hanger every week, I won't be the only one coming back! Thanks!

Veja cecilia said...

för det första känns det så skönt att du tar tag i det och gräver ner dig i det, jag blir inspirerad och motiverad. "think outside the box" tycker jag funkar bra för mig. det får mig att omvärdera mina kunskaper och våga ta nya steg i olika riktningar. sen finns det alltid den där ömma punkten med hur pass kommersiell man vill vara... ser med spänning fram mot nästa söndag:)

Laura said...

excellent. thanks. the energy you use to endure can be used to create change. a great step in this direction.

Marchi Wierson said...

I am really looking forward to this series!!!! They are my challenges and questions too.

aimee said...

this is such a wise observation! my husband loves to tell me the story of two people who wanted to win a bike race, and one person went out and bought a very expensive bike, and the other person only had a crappy old schwinn. and the guy on the crappy old schwinn won the race. it's so easy to dwell in the future and say, "i'll do this when i've done that, or i'll be able to do this when i have that." it's a similar moral. start with what you have and where you are; you don't always have to wait for a major accomplishment or buy fancy gadgets in order to get moving.

i think i'm going to like your serious sundays (i've always taken sundays seriously anyway for no good reason)

asphalt and air said...

i love the phrase, "start where you are"
it's so true. that in order to get somewhere, you first have to plant your feet firmly in the ground where you are and then head forward. if you have a false start and head forward without knowing where you are, you are likely to go in the wrong direction or not have the proper supplies with you.
i'm going to spend the next week figuring out where i am!

Maria said...

thank you for this post !

emcee said...

Oh dear, these questions i know!

i'm self employed since 2005, trying to keep balance between income and my art, with the intention that soon one comes easily from the other!

. said...


Morran told me about your blog. I'm very happy she did. These past few months I have been making big thoughts about art, the art world, what is art..blah, blah. Looking at art as a business can be overwhelming. I would like to share a web site where I have found some very useful information. It is also interesting to see how American artists deal with the art as a business compared to European artists.

I really think you can do what you want to do, focus more on high end gallery opportunites.

You go girl - enjoy the ride!

heidi s.

●• Thereza said...

thanks for sharing all that, alexandra. i love the 'start' where you are' bit. it does say a lot about our own BUTs... no but(s) start where you are, this is going to be my new motto!

Christine Clemmensen said...

Hvor er du god! Hvor er jeg glad på dine vegne, at du gør så gode ting for dig selv. Jeg glæder mig til at følge med. Det bliver med garanti lærerigt, og helt sikkert inspirerende og spændende. Tak fordi du vil dele denne del af din verden med os.
You Go Girl! ;-)

Rynke said...

Hey, this is great! I'm really excited you do this! Questions I have to starts asking myself too... Thanks for sharing! :)

Alexandra Hedberg said...

I'm very happy to receive all these long and interesting comments. I hope I can live up to your expectations!

Lori said...

I am with you sister. Thank you for your courage to write about this so honestly and with humor. I am a new reader and am glad I stopped by.

Monty said...

I share the same views. Liked your blog very much.

olha pryymak said...

way to go! I am currently reading The Artists Guide by Jackie Batternfield for the same purpose

kate alexandra said...

Just found your blog via Camilla E .. and was really interested to read your thoughts on your working life thus far and how how things are going .. where to start .. how to keep focus, progress and still earn a living. Its very relevant and judging by the comments, seems its 'not just me' trying to deal with the same things!
Thanks for sharing .. will definately do a Sunday visit.
: )

Tabuena arts central said...

Just do it!
let your passion work!
Vincent Van Gogh & Paul Gauguin, never even consider selling they're art or what will happen tomorrow, All they care about is freakin "paint, paint, paint!

Kitty Kilian said...

Hey Alexandra,

I have only just discovered your Art As Business series and I love it! I am going to read all of it at leisure very soon, but in the mean time I already made a link to my own blog - thought I'd let you know. I will be back in touch with more comments later..

Ola Åstrand said...

Thumbs up!!