What it takes to be a professional artist – Conrad Snider

It is important to be realistic about what you want in life. College is a time when you learn who you are, what you want, what excites you. If you want to be wealthy, choose something else. If you want to have a 40-hour-a-week job and weekends free, choose another career. If you don’t have the drive to get up early and work a long day, get another direction for your life.

Becoming a professional artist is about choosing a lifestyle. Be realistic about the possibilities, examine what you want your life to be. You need the drive to make things and the work ethic to do all that is needed to make it work. There is a freedom in studio work, especially with scheduling. Preparation, working on equipment, marketing or working on the studio may take as much as 75 percent of your time. The other 25 percent is used to create art. And that is okay because creating art takes a lot of energy.

It is also important to figure out how you are going to do this for a life time without becoming burnt out. You need another thing going on as well – teaching, or teaching in the studio, or perhaps something else that is related to what you do but separate. This will allow you to split up your time and your thought process, which will allow your mind to be fresh for the other thing.

To establish yourself and get your name known, you should get artwork out to galleries and competitions and enter lots of shows early on. This will cost money but build up your name. You may well need a part- or full-time job to support yourself during this phase.

Working for other artists is a real possibility for helping you along in your career. However you should be mindful of what you will gain from this experience. Your position will be as labor not junior artist. You will learn valuable knowledge for your own studio, how the studio should function on a daily basis.

If your goal is to live an interesting life and to be in the studio, then you may want to become a full-time studio artist. Basically you can live anywhere and be an international artist. There are some things you will want to do. Learn ways to keep yourself going, motivated. Have several projects going at one time so you can work on more than one thing. Understand how you function best, what your best rhythms are and how they work. Work in blocks of time, break up your day with different projects. These ideas work for some artists. You will have to find what works best for you. Start out small with the capacity to expand. The process of becoming a self-supporting artist may take some time. Be patient and persistent.