Being part of something
Original article published in Degrees Unedited, a-n, June 2010
Graduation comes so fast that many students rarely plan for what happens on day one of becoming a ‘professional’ artist. The loss of the supporting educational environment and immediate peer network can lead to feelings of isolation. Making the transition from being a student to establishing a professional career, building a reputation and garnering interest in your work can be a daunting experience,
I started writing a blog on a-n in 2009. It was self reflective and analytical of my own practice. The process of talking about how I work and who I work with, made me aware that over a period of time I had become part of an ‘art community’. Being part of something is, I believe, crucial to self development as an artist and is utterly rewarding.
Some advice for the new graduate
As an ‘emerging artist’ it is important to be ambitious, you wont get anywhere without drive and determination, but be realistic too. Not many people have sell out shows overnight.
Be methodical and understand the Art world. Find out which galleries you want to be part of and that are likely to appreciate your work. Start with smaller galleries/ project spaces and invite them to your exhibitions and build up from there.
An exhibition I had at The Residence Gallery only happened because I knew that the Curator was looking for emerging artists and that she appreciated my medium. I approached her and was offered a solo show soon after graduating.
Build your profile
Create a mailing list from visitors books at your exhibitions and then send out invitations to your subsequent exhibitions. Curators and buyers alike want to know you are active, progressing, dedicated and professional. You’re unlikely to get interest in your work if you don’t tell people about it.
Art Dealer and Gallerist Julian Hartnoll bought several pieces of my work a year ago. I continued to speak to Julian, sending exhibition invites and updates. Julian offered me a solo show in Piccadilly a year later
Create your own opportunities if needs be by putting on your own exhibitions, using empty shops as a base or even at the beginning hiring space and then promoting it to galleries
If you are offered an exhibition, galleries and curators will notice your professionalism, or lack of it. Remember the shows success is not wholly down to them. Being professional and enthusiastic is much more likely to advance your career and networks than being arrogant and disorganised.
Keep in touch with tutors, identify new mentors in your field of interest and create a critical peer network. Nurture these relationships and it will reward you intellectually, creatively and inevitably create opportunities.
Write a Blog
I was surprised how interactive a blog was; opening up opportunities for dialogue with artists, curators and many others. A blog enables you to be self reflective about your work, give others an insight into your practise and can be used as an effective marketing tool.
Join a studio
It took four years after graduation for me to get a studio and I realise now it is a relatively small expense that is invaluable in creating a peer network. As a result of many exchanges of studio members ideas with we have set up an artist led exhibition space; Core Gallery (www.coregallery.co.uk)
Build your confidence
You need to be articulate and engaging when promoting your work. This can take a bit of practice. Take part in networking events. Make sure you get feedback into your work where you can and understand what others read from your work. You can also join organisations such as www.mattroberts.org.uk and go to professional development lectures etc.
So to conclude; persist, be professional and remember that lots of other artists want to be part of a network too. Join them and be part of something.
Rosalind Davis is a painter, freelance writer and lecturer. She lives and works in