Friday, October 15, 2010

Art and Business

In case people are not familiar with my circumstances, I'll give a brief rundown of the last year or so before I get into the topic at hand. Last year, we moved to Christchurch, New Zealand from Portland, Oregon. "We" being myself, my wife and two small children. It was and still is a fantastic adventure. The country is beautiful, the people are lovely and overall the experience is very rewarding.

With that being said, there are some things that have definitely changed and not necessarily for the best. One of those things is my "career" as an artist. In Portland I was working 12-18 hours a week teaching at various art colleges (or Unis, here in New Zealand) around town. I loved the hours, the pay, the environment...pretty much everything about my working life. The pay enabled me to have a productive studio schedule as well. Even with small kids I was still able to get a solo exhibition every year. Now, moving across the world pretty much assures that you will be starting from scratch and that is exactly where I am. I knew this would be the case but it still doesn't change the fact that building an art life from the ground up is a very long, slow and difficult process. I have a resume of work and exhibitions which helps but nobody knows who I am as far as New Zealand goes. Which brings me to the topic at hand.

I have decided to try and become more of a businessman. Within the context of creating art, the idea of marketing yourself, soliciting show ideas, etc is a very odd concept for most artists. I know very, very few artists who are good at it. Adequate is a better word to describe how artists tend to muddle through the business side of art and that pretty much fits my situation. I do what I have to do to get my work out there and that's about it. Being in the middle of the South Pacific makes you a bit more resourceful and I have decided to swallow my ineptitude, apprehension and give the enterprise a legitimate shot. Of course, the internet makes things so much more incredibly accessible but it really is about building relationships. Relationships with galleries and the people in them, relationships with potential collectors whom you rarely ever meet in person and relationships with other artists trying to do the same thing. I don't have much of an indication how any of this will pan out but my basic strategy is to get my work in front of as many people that might be interested as possible. I have sold on since 2007 with initial success and am revitalizing that effort. I have joined a smaller site called Artfire which conducts their web searches differently and this is proving slow going at best but by all accounts it is a six months to a year proposition. I have started this blog, have developed a Printman Page on Facebook and have tried to link them altogether to give myself some sort of presence on the web.
The most noticeable thing I have encountered in this process is how different the two sides really are. The business side of art feels like a social mask, a role I am playing, whereas the creative side is the comfort and fulfillment side. Don't get me wrong, I "like" the business side in that it is a problem to be revealed and hopefully solved but it feels foreign. The trick is finding the balance.


  1. You're just awesome, Printman!! Sent my neighbor this page; he is an amateur artist and thought he might like to see some of your work.

  2. I like to think of marketing as a creative act, a bit like making a painting. Reframing it in this way helped me to feel more real when I'm attending to the business side of art. It's not a social mask then; it's just another way of expressing myself!

  3. Gwenn, you seem to truly have found the balance. I've always abhorred the artist/gallery relationship in many ways so I really believe in finding a middle ground where artists can be more independent and self sufficient. It's an ongoing process.

  4. Hi Mike, I like your blog, your project and your sincerity. And you valor in picking up your family and moving them to the "South Pacific."

    Re: Making a living from it. Our experience (my wife the printmaker and me, the flunky) is that it takes a lot of trial and error. I made her first website 10 years ago. (Her reaction was: "What do I want a website for; I'm an artist...")We've learned quite a lot in 10 years, and I'm not averse to sharing it.

    I'll tell you what. If you want to create a group on Print Universe called "Making a living from it," I'll contribute the first post.

    P.S. Perhaps you could email me at mike(at) There are a couple of things I want to mention.