June 26, 2017 (edited in 2021) – by Shoshana Brand
When I graduated with an MFA degree, I knew I would not rely on random galleries and curators for my career.
It was crystal clear to me that if I wanted to exhibit my artwork, I would somehow find my venues, and if those venues were not around to find, then I’d build them from scratch.
Our MFA program was far from being commercial. I studied Sculpture; others studied Painting, and most of the students envisioned themselves doing projects for non-commercial art galleries, and getting paid for selling their work through the galleries’ dealers.
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Most of the artists in my school waited for a gallery owner to pop up one day in their studio and select them to become the next rising star. They devoted many hours to their creation, and declared vehemently that everything that had to do with the promotion of their work “was not their thing.”
Before I even graduated, I started sending my resume and proposals to galleries, enthusiastically illustrating what idea I was passionate about pursuing in their space. Many of them welcomed my proposals. I’ll never forget this meeting with a gallery owner in San Diego, CA. He pointed to all the walls and floors in his gallery and said: “Do whatever you like here, in this style of yours”.
There are no sweeter words an artist will ever hear except maybe of “You are welcome to eat all the cheese and grapes we serve here”.
I curated dozens of art exhibits and included my work in the mix. And when I started shooting video segments and learned how to edit them, I created an International video festival, and of course, included my videos in the program.
This festival was screened around the U.S and Internationally for three years. I wrote to some venues and offered the screening for free. They wanted to attract more viewers to their venue so they offered numerous grants and a place to stay. We used a trade-in model.
I exhibited my work in galleries. Later, wishing to spread beyond them, I placed many of my projects outdoor, in the city, on the streets, or in the restaurants of kind people. In many projects, I included artists from all over the world. One experience led to another, and soon enough I found myself going to national and international Artist Residencies, which offered to host me, exhibit my work, and promote me. I refrained from attending Residencies that asked artists for payment and never asked other artists to pay me for their inclusion in my program. I only registered to events that offered room, board, and allowance. This attitude helped me to stay aloof and take pride in my work.
It’s a little bit like a job interview. You don’t go to the interview praying you would get the job, no matter what. You go there telling yourself you are the best employee ever and that this person who sits in front of you will be lucky to hire you. After all, your contribution is priceless!
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Since my resume got longer and more impressive, I also started getting some grants. Most of them were highly prestigious and offered a nice sum of money.
I also sold my artwork to people I met all around because most of the time I met many new faces.
I was able to make a living from my art.
So What Are the Conclusions?
Like in every aspect of life, looking around and waiting for others to judge and motivate you, may affect what you think of yourself. Not only that you may change your style to match some kind of an imaginative curator or gallery’s vision and lose your own authenticity, but it also may paralyze you as an artist.
You will end up sitting in your studio, waiting for a break, feeling like you are wasting your time. You will start scolding yourself unnecessarily. You may even feel “you are just not good enough” and quit being an artist. It’s better for your self-confidence to initiate than to let others judge your work.
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If you actively try to find your own venues, you get to meet a wide range of people and may change and alternate your style. You basically create yourself over and over again. Those are all positive things.
I learned sculpture and video and some computer programs and then started writing and illustrating comics and graphic novels, just the way I had done throughout my childhood and youth. Later, I founded my own publishing house, Ajar Books, and started creating personal and artistic planners and journals.
Nowadays I am selling my journals in various venues, instruct workshops on the power of journaling, and am into digital illustrations and NFTs. My digital artwork is a hybrid of my abstract paintings, drawings, and photos, all created using Photoshop.
My art journey always brings me to beautiful places.
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If you don’t promote yourself, refuse to come up with new projects, and can’t understand that all this is a part of an artist’s life, you may start believing that “artists cannot make a living”. But what prevents you from being a full-time prosperous artist is not the fact that there are no clients or venues for your projects but the thought that others should pave the way for you and decide who you are, and how good of an artist you are.
Just get out to the world with your own vision of what you would like to create, how you would like to show your creations, and where.
You are awesome and your artwork is a gift. Don’t ever forget it, and continue to shine.