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10 Things About Artist Life Your Art Teacher Most Likely Did Not Tell You

3rd May 2024 | 2 Views

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Guinness World Records lists the iconic Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci as having the highest ever insurance value for a painting. Back in 1962 the painting was valued at U.S. $100 million, but taking inflation into account the current value could easily exceed U.S. $860 million. The art world can be one of extremes. Ask someone to describe what it means to be an artist, and the answer will most likely paint a picture of either the artist-celebrity or the starving artist whose work acquires value only after death. Many artists and aspiring creatives have become disillusioned after facing the realities of the art world, switching to a different career path entirely. 

German-born artist, Riham M. Taher is a self-taught artist who is defying the odds. With work focussing on realistic landscapes and portraits, the artist strives to capture the beauty of nature in her paintings while maintaining her unique artistic flair. One may find it hard to believe that Riham’s art teacher gave her an F in art class when gazing at her artist portfolio. However the artist remained steadfast, stating that she continued to believe in her dream until she achieved it. “Not impossible. As long as you have the strong will and passion, nothing can stop you,” Riham said. She shares 10 honest truths about the artist’s life. 

“Mount Fuji”, painted by Riham M. Taher

  1. Many Artists Work Freelance

Research has shown during the 2012-2016 period roughly 34% of artists were self-employed. Most self-employed artists seem to like their work arrangement, with around 79% saying that they would not prefer to work for someone else. Flexible schedules and independence were cited as the main reasons for self-employment. While temporary work contracts can make for an interesting and varied career, tough periods of unemployment between jobs are a stark reality for some artists. 

  1.  Freelance Artists Need to Budget Carefully

Being self-employed means that you are responsible for your own pension funds, holiday savings and maternity benefits. Contingencies such as falling ill, having children and even business trips will require pre-emptive financial planning. 

  1. Self-Promote

To make a success in the art world many artists showcase their talents on social media as well as their own websites. From #TikTok to Twitch and Tumblr, the artist’s online presence could help them secure a new job, gain freelance clients or creative collaborators, as well as build a professional reputation. Being digitally savvy has become an unspoken requirement in a rapidly evolving, digital-first world. 

  1. Networking is Key

#Networking events can be considered to be the art world’s equivalent of job hunting. Networking is about building relationships, not just handing out business cards or growing a following on social media. Apart from gaining access to more job opportunities, networking can be seen as an opportunity to exchange information and advice, as well as finding support on challenges and goals. A key benefit of networking is that it allows the artist to gain new insights and pick up on new industry trends. 

  1. It’s a Collective 

Many artists choose to form collectives to publicise and exhibit their work. In order to create a collective the artist will typically need to first establish a network or arts contacts in their city. This can include other artists you would like to join your collective, but also other professionals who can draw on your collective for help. 

  1. Portfolio is Key

#Portfolios are key to demonstrate the artist’s competencies. It allows the artist to show what they are capable of. During a job search the portfolio showcases the artist’s work potential to employers and presents evidence of their relevant skills and abilities. Outside of the job search context, archiving samples of work in a portfolio is a good way to keep track of accomplishments. 

  1. “Double Jobbers” is a Reality

Some artists may have to supplement their income with a second job. Doing so may provide them with financial security while they exercise their creative passions. Having a second (and sometimes third) job demands a careful balance to be maintained between ensuring financial security and pursuing creative passions. 

  1. Internships May Kick-Start Your Career

Many artists choose to take on internships to help with their career. Working for a company can prepare the artist with essential industry skills and improve employability, although the question of payment can be a hot potato sometimes. In general, the shorter the internship, the weaker the compensation. Artists will need to carefully select their internships, ensuring it aligns with their goals. For example, as an art #gallery intern, the artist may have responsibilities varying from clerical, communications-related tasks to those that are more organizational. The goal of #internships like these are to familiarize the artist with the setting of an art gallery – a useful skill should the artist choose to have their own gallery one day. 

  1. Job Satisfaction Comes With The Territory

The stereotype of the moody, brooding and depressed artist likely does not apply to most creatives who embrace their career path. A study of working artists in Europe found that artists are much happier with their jobs than their non-artists counterparts. The authors of the study point out that self-employment generally corresponds with greater job satisfaction, and many artists are self-employed. Flexible working hours seems to be a contributing factor towards perceived happiness, despite the risk of unemployment being quite high for artists. 

  1. It Doesn’t Get Easier, You Get More Resilient

Many artists make the mistake by assuming that with enough hard work and time everything will fall into place. The assumption that a certain level of success will somehow wipe out their existing problems, is quite misplaced. Success can create new and different problems. Even if the #artist has every single aspect of their career and portfolio figured out and meticulously planned, life will find a way to test you. In testing citations it can be useful to remember that there is satisfaction to be had in not giving up. In looking back and evaluating how the artist handled their hardships, new insights can come to light which could contribute to the artist’s growth and development. 

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