I’ve written a lot on this blog about the art business, and you may be wondering, “Who is he to tell me what to do?”
That’s a fair question. On one hand, I’m just one person with individual experience and personal biases. There are those who will try to apply my advice to their careers only to see no positive benefits. Then there are those who will fundamentally disagree with the economic principles I have described. There are still others for whom this information will lead to increased sales. All I can do is tell you what has worked for me and why I think it has worked so well. You are the captain of your own ship, and you have to steer it according to your own beliefs.
While I may just be one person with individual experience and personal biases, I have also experienced a lot of success in my career. For the last 11 years, I have fulfilled 47 private commissions for clients. My original Chicago Art show resulted in a whopping 64 sales over the course of 6 months, and a follow-up show sold 92% of its inventory in 1 month.
I have participated in 11 exhibits, 4 of which I co-curated. One of these was an art walk that I organized for the East Village neighborhood — an enormous undertaking! I have led over 20 art workshops and was named a Top-Rated Teacher by Dabble. Through it all, I have learned how to design, promote, and install a variety of art events.
I would be the first to tell you that my artwork and events have not all been equally successful. There is uncertainty and risk every time I embark on a new project, and I always feel that I am learning. Every new art series teaches me more about consumer demand, and every new show teaches me more about event planning, budgeting, and promotion. To be honest, I don’t think I will ever be in a place where I know it all.
Still, I have come a long way. So how exactly did I get here?
I was fortunate enough to go to art school. I had great teachers and challenging assignments, and I learned a lot. Even so, my mind wasn’t really on my studies. Like many young people, I was more interested in partying, making friends, and dating. I sincerely regret not making the most of my time there.
When I graduated, I had no idea how to turn my education into a career. Fortunately, people started asking me to make things for them. These were all friends or friends of friends, but they were my first clients. The first experience that came close to an art show was a fundraiser event for a theater company. I contributed several paintings, two of which sold.
A few years later, one of my artist friends started holding private figure drawing sessions in her apartment. Whoever showed up on a given night would split the cost of the model. This process introduced me to many talented artists, including future NIA members, Terrie Byrne and Christina Bosco. We spent many months admiring one another’s work.
After awhile, Terrie came up with the idea of hosting a “gallery party” at her house so that we could show off our work and potentially sell some pieces. This was the first show where I really felt like a featured artist. Although I didn’t sell anything that night, I gained valuable first-hand experience about putting together a show and meeting consumer demand. We proceeded to design another 3 gallery parties over the next several years, and these experiences gave me the confidence I needed to begin creating independent events.
In 2013, John Wawrzaszek recruited me to serve on the board of directors for his non-profit studio space, Chicago Publishers Resource Center (ChiPRC). I jumped at the chance to connect with the larger creative community. I transformed many of my skills into art workshops, including Figure Drawing, Drawing Techniques, and Printmaking 101. I was also able to use the space for group art shows. Each of these experiences added to my skill set.
Now, I’m doing pretty well as an artist. None of this success would have been possible without initiative, hard work, and open-mindedness. I hope my story inspires you to put yourself out there, make things happen, and learn through trial and error. You really can create your success!