I attended and presented at the SEA (Self Employment in the Arts) conference in Naperville (a suburb of Chicago) last weekend. It was so great to be there! Hundreds of undergraduate art students from the middle of the country, as well as faculty were gathered to listen to artists from all disciplines (writers, visual artists, performers, musicians) talk about how to make a living in the arts. I wish that this had been around when I was in college. To have people share their experiences, successes and failures, was so illuminating.
I gave two talks/workshops, one on Alternative Income Options for Visual Artists (stuff you can do to make a living, what is the difference between artist and artisan, do you have to “pay your dues” to get started in an art career, and more), and another on costume painting in particular–a day in the life of a costume painter. I also participated in panels on how to price your work, how to build the perfect portfolio, and All Your Questions Answered (and we answered all of them).
This is me, second from the left, answering questions with ceramicist Eileen Braun, painter and author Janet Bloch (she wrote Strategic Marketing Tools for Visual Artists), and photographer Erik Unger about How to Create and Present an Effective Portfolio. Everyone agreed that work should be the very best you have–don’t have 10 mediocre pieces and 10 fabulous ones–just have the ten fabulous ones. And that work should be presented with some kind of arc or story in mind–take the viewer on a journey.
This is a nice picture, and someone sent it to me, but I do not have the photographer’s name–if you know it, comment on this post and let me know! I would like to give them credit where credit is due!
I tried to be a force of positivity during my “slide” talks–showing work from the artists who contributed to The Successful Artist’s Career Guide: Finding Your Way in the Business of Art. As in the book, it was my goal to tell students that they can make choices about what they want to do with their lives and art, where they want to do it–that they can have a life, and a family, pay taxes, have health insurance–and can actually MAKE these choices for themselves instead of being buffeted by the winds of chance.
I talked a lot about following your compass–that we all have one, and that if we are in tune with it, then we can hold up all opportunities as they present themselves to this inner template, or compass, to know if the opportunities are ones we should embrace or reject.
Karl Warma, a faculty member from Quincy University, drew this picture of me talking about following your inner compass.
The conference was very well organized, thanks to the SEA Conference Director and head honcho, Amy Rogers. I think people had fun attending workshops and one-on-one sessions with artists, and left the conference inspired, by all accounts. I was impressed with the students who attended, thinking them uniformly sophisticated , confident, and knowledgeable. I am not sure I was any of those things when I was their age!
For more about this conference, and when next year’s conference will be held, go to selfemploymentinthearts.org.