Please take from this essay the basic message I'm putting forth and feel free to apply it to yourself and your own artistic goals.
If you feel you might be one of the group of undervalued artists I speak of, consider asking yourself the following questions:
-What do I want to do with my art? (hobby or career?)
-How can I make my art work for me?
-Who could use my style of art?
-Am I underselling myself?
-Who is my target audience?
-How can I reach them to sell them my services?
-What do I need to learn in order to expand my usefulness?
Though many advances have been made in the art world, creative careers continue receive little respect in the eyes of the general public. The phrase “starving artist” is often used to describe those who choose the path of the artist, but this stereotype does not have to be a reality if students are taught how to find the right niche for their artwork and succeed in their field. Artists are needed in more ways than simply painting pretty pictures to decorate homes and galleries, but this fact is often neglected by the general public, and even more unfortunately, artists themselves. As everything used by modern society has at one point been shipped by truck, so has it been designed by an artist of some kind. From architecture, to packaging design, to advertisements, creative minds are needed in ways that are often overlooked or taken for granted.
The most important thing anyone can take from an art education is not simply how to hone one’s skills, but to also learn how to find the right application for their talent to gain success. It is for this reason I have chosen the dual concentration of graphic design and marketing as my major at California State University San Bernardino. I feel that a well-rounded education, especially one that focuses on not just the creative side of art, but the business side as well, will help me become a self-reliant individual and a good example of how art education can be applied in the modern world.
A challenge most artists face is not becoming better at their craft, but helping their audience acknowledge the value of their talent. Often, artists spend more time improving their skills than finding ways to sell their creative time. This, of course, perpetuates the “starving artist” stereotype, and often leads to artists devaluing their creative work by taking whatever price a client will throw at them. This, in turn, damages the prices for artists world wide, and continues the trend of clients feeling that it is acceptable to pay a little for a lot. I feel that it is important to not just be a great artist, but to be a great businessperson as well, allowing the artist to reap the full benefit of an art education. Learning all of the best techniques in the world will not guarantee a job, but learning how to market one’s self opens up opportunities that most people will never have: the ability to be one’s own boss.
My passion is illustration, but I am often asked, “Can you do layout?” The majority of the non-artistic public assumes that when someone calls themselves an “artist”, they can automatically do all things art related, and if they’re good at painting they’re also good at graphic design. Instead of pigeonholing myself into the illustration field where I am most comfortable, I’ve decided to pursue a path in graphic design, a subject I know little about, giving myself a well rounded education that will ensure that when faced with such questions I can confidently answer, “Yes, I can.” I’m seeing more and more how the need to learn multiple fields is incredibly valuable. Though a degree is important, in the art world, it’s what you can bring to the table visually that matters most of all, but if all I can bring are my typical pet portraits and fantasy artwork, there is little market for this, and I will find myself desperately struggling for gallery space or hoping people find my artwork beautiful enough to hang in their home. This, to me, does not seem like a stable career choice.
There is so much talent in the world that is wasted because the talented individuals are not good at marketing themselves and getting their work seen by the right people. I do not want to be one of these artists by any means. I’ve always prided myself in being someone who tries to think outside of my own world of beautiful images and tries to understand my audience’s needs versus their wants. I enjoy finding a purpose for my art, rather than simple aesthetic pleasure.
In my major, I hope to become the best of both worlds. Someone who is good at art, but can also cut out the middleman and sell my art as well. By doing this, I will not have to rely on an agent or assistants to bring me business, as I will be able to seek it out myself. As it stands, I teach myself illustration because it comes naturally to me. I learn through imitation and from my peers. Graphic design is something I grew up around, but don’t yet understand it, which is why I’m going to school to learn this valuable skill. I come from a marketing family, but I’ve never formally learned marketing from a purely artistic standpoint, and I feel that’s an entirely different subject that needs its own dedication. With my dual major, I feel I will have a good grasp of how to be my own business, and upon graduation I have confidence that I will not find myself struggling with the “what now?” question most art school graduates have when it comes to finding work in the real world.
Ideally, I would like to become a “one stop shop” for all things creative. In my current line of work of marketing communications (writing press releases, white papers, case studies, and other corporate literature), the need for a completely finished product is a hot commodity. Few companies know exactly what they need or how to go about accomplishing it when it comes to marketing tools. Often times, when they find that they need literature written, they hire a writer but the work is not formatted. This in turn leads them to have to find an artist to make it visually appealing. This disperses the money between at least two people, but if I combine my writing skills with graphic design, I can deliver a fully finished piece and get paid for the work of two people. With my marketing knowledge, I can also provide an insight from a business standpoint in my writing that would otherwise need to be explained by yet another person in the chain, giving me another opportunity to keep the work and payment heading solely towards my direction. Also, with the added bonus of being an illustrator, I can market myself as someone who can not only write and format, but add interesting graphics to a piece as well, making for a very visually appealing finished product. By learning several fields, I will add value to myself as an artist.
Being an artist who knows not just how to draw, but how to make my art work for me is essential to my plan for my life. I will use my time in school to find out the best way to be my own businessperson so I can be a self reliant individual. It is through this that I hope to prove that just because one chooses to be an artist, it doesn’t mean that they have to sacrifice financial success to pursue their dream.
-L. Nicole Dornsife 2008