Opening reception at Site: Brooklyn for the show, “Animals.”
Let’s assume that you have been happily and busily creating and you have found your niche and your direction. You love what you are doing. And now you want to show your work to others besides friends and family. What’s next? Over the course of my long career as an artist, working in different materials and venues, I have come to realize that at the very core of any success I have had, is my willingness to take many risks and make an effort to find opportunities to share my work.
This began as a puppeteer and soft sculpture artist, where I both performed and wrote plays, but also made a decision to display my creations at craft fairs and galleries around the country. At first it was scary to present to the public. I recall having been somewhat terrified while getting ready for my first craft show. But I did it, and it gave me a career in fiber and fine crafts for close to 10 years.
When I made a choice to develop a career as an illustrator, it was even scarier. Why? Because back then, before we had website portfolios, you actually often had to make in-person appointments with art directors, to allow them to leaf through your work while you watched, nervously wondering whether or not you would be met with pleasant approval or dismissive disdain. Of course, I met with both. But I kept going. And it ended up being a 35 year+ career as an illustrator, the last 20 years of which were in the field of children’s books, and THAT was even harder. Publishing can be a terrifying world. There’s a reason that there’s a book entitled, “It’s a Bunny Eat Bunny World.”
But, terror aside, I still kept going and eventually I was not only a published illustrator for trade books, in addition to newspapers and magazines, but I also became a published author.
Eventually I reached a point in 2017 where I wanted to simply make art, unencumbered by external demands. But, like any artist, I had a need to share my work. Then came the question: where and how? It had been a long time since I had sought out exhibits. I was too busy creating books.
That is where we are blessed to have such a thing as the Internet. The Internet is the great equalizer. You can put up your own website and formally present yourself, your work, and your philosophy for anyone willing to take a look. Want to write? Compose and post on a blog and you are published. A blog is also great for demonstrating your creative process. Want to sing? Sing your heart out and put the video on Youtube. Best of all, we have the magic of Facebook and Instagram where potentially millions of people can see and enjoy the efforts of your creativity with very little effort. I have found great satisfaction on Instagram. I’ve been given feedback and I’ve gained an appreciative audience. I’ve had opportunities come my way that were totally unexpected. Best of all, I have also made friends with other artists around the world and I’ve enjoyed looking at their work. All it took was a willingness to take a risk and share.
Finally, if you have reached the point where social media and web sites alone don’t quite satisfy, you have the ability to seek out group shows where you can present your art in a more formal setting. When I reignited my career as a painter, I had not sought gallery representation. How will I share my work aside from Instagram and Facebook?
My efforts proved successful. I began to get invitations to show. In 2019 alone, I’ve shown my work in 12 juried group exhibits around the US. I was only able to do this because I was willing to risk rejection.
My piece on the gallery wall at Site: Brooklyn for the opening reception for “Animals.”
So here are some steps to think about as an artist:
- Work freely and without expectations to start. Embrace the simple process of creating. Be in the habit of needing to make art for your own peace of mind.
- Look for and connect with like-minded creators. You will find that the energy of camaraderie is addictive and stimulating.
- Seek out art organizations in your area. These groups can provide a helpful community and opportunities to show.
- Explore social media like Instagram and Facebook to reach a wider audience. You would be surprised at how much those venues can give you a feeling of confidence and strength to keep going.
- See what juried shows might appeal to you. They often have themes. You might find the perfect opportunity to submit to exhibits that suit your own style and sensibilities.
- MOST OF ALL– Enjoy every step of the process. It’s a wonderful journey and you should feel enthralled to be on it. Don’t rush it. Savor every moment, even the tough ones. It’s building your character as an artist.
Finally, for a great read about how literally starving artists persisted and encouraged one another, I have to recommend “Ninth Street Women” by Mary Gabriel. Your will learn how determination kept artists, both men and women, going in spite of great challenges. Here is an interview with her about the book and the artists she profiled:
I hope some of this is encouraging, but also inspiring. You should consider yourself lucky that being creative is a driving force for you. Keep going. You’ve got this.