Luck vs. Opportunity

Guest blogger Jenni Ward is an artist with a track record of museum exhibitions. She shares her thoughts on how artists can create “luck” for themselves.

 

Hive Series Installation

Jenni Ward’s “Hive Series” installation at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History. Photo credit: Paul Titangos

 

You know that moment when you have an amazing thing happen to you in your art career and you share it with friends, family or whatever stranger is standing next to you and the genuine kindhearted response is: “How lucky for you!” Does it make you cringe?

Yeah, me too. Because I don’t feel lucky. I feel like I put my time in and I earned a chance at that opportunity – it didn’t just magically happen. What I have learned is that you will not sell or exhibit your art, no matter how beautiful just by making it – it is simply not enough. But, I have also learned that by being dedicated enough for long enough, with deliberate and smart efforts, then sales and opportunities will fall into your lap “effortlessly”.

Over the past two years I have been honored to show my work in more than a few local museum exhibitions. This is a really big deal as an artist and I am so proud to show my work in these venues. Equally, I am proud to have put all of this time and energy into my career and to see it actually pay off with recognition. I can’t give you a how-to for getting your work exhibited with a museum (I’m still figuring that out for myself) but I can share what I have done to help create these opportunities.

I work really hard (kinda all the time) but this isn’t a bad thing, because I love what I do. Even on vacation I check out galleries, meet local artists and share my finds on social media. This is part of the job, but not all of it. Keeping a balance between time in the real world and time saturated in the studio is so essential; one can’t exist without the other if your goal is to show and sell your work. It is extremely important to me that my work is thoughtful, well crafted and matures over time. Being able to attain this is a commitment of hours upon hours focused only on making work.

 

Artist Jenni Ward in the studio.

Artist Jenni Ward in the studio.

 

Sharing what’s going on in the studio and in my head is another element. You need to be able to articulate your crazy creative thoughts to others so they can share your work on your behalf. Whether you are explaining your work on your website, writing a proposal for a project, or reaching out to someone who you think will be a great connection, if it’s not clear what you’re all about then your beautiful message will be lost.

I’ve found that when reaching out or creating a proposal, it’s equally important to research who you are connecting with. Don’t bother hounding the curator of a photography gallery when you’re making glass sculptures. Sure, there’s always a chance that the curator knows someone who knows someone, but most likely it’s a waste of time for both of you.

I have also realized over the years that the fans, family and the cheerleaders in your life want to talk about their artist friend (you’re way more intriguing than their average 9-5 friends) so keep them in the loop on what you’re doing and invite them to the studio to see works in progress, not just to the finished exhibits. They will be excited about whatever you are excited about. Use that to your advantage and be grateful when they share your work with their friends and colleagues.

For me, taking control, actively engaging, and committing to all of these elements rather than waiting for them to happen, has led from one opportunity to the next. It has taken time, but I have built relationships, gained experience and launched my art career in the process. I know I’ve got a million more things on my to-do list, but I also know that something is working here. I have not been given these exhibition opportunities randomly, so my advice is threefold…

One, make art – no matter what, be disciplined and just keep making art.

Two, be kind to those around you – other artists, collectors, fans and curators. Those who love working with you will promote you. Be sure to return the favor.

And three, go full force, head-on for your biggest, wildest art dreams – because nothing bad can come from that. I encourage you to create your own opportunities, share what works and what doesn’t and stop allowing “luck” to guide your art career.

 

 

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Comments

  1. I totally agree with Jenni Ward’s article. I too work very hard to be an artist who is not only a successful creative but also a good businessperson. I have just put together a business plan for 2015 with the help of my son who has an MBA. The hardest thing is to do this for yourself even though my background is marketing! If anyone would like help to put their’s together I would be happy to share the steps we went through to arrive at a plan of action.
    This has really calmed me down and I am not in headless chicken mode which is all too easy with so many choices out there.

  2. I will be in the museums soon than!
    😉

  3. Patty Young says:

    Thanks, Jenni! Just what I needed to hear today!

  4. Jenni,
    I love your work and can relate to your about work hard (kinda of all the time). I sell vintage items including art and find that this is true of me also. I’m so glad you are getting to do what you love NOW…when your’e young.

  5. I agree with Jenni. I am working toward my goals everyday all hours of the night and day to fit it into working as well. I felt despondent the other day because my one contact who may be interested in my forthcoming exhibition did not open the marketing email she agreed to receive from me on a regular basis. I feel sometimes it is an uphill struggle to get people onto the list and converted into customers, but i will keep trying by asking everyone who buys or shows an interest in my work.

    Facebook doesn’t work for me at all to gain contacts. Even those i went to school with aren’t interested so i am looking elsewhere.

    The next plan is to get in on the tourist trade in Windsor (where the queen has one of her residencies in the town centre). I currently have two paintings of Windsor complete and three more drawn out.

    • Joanne,
      Sounds like you are making great decisions on what works and doesn’t work for you. And while its hard to hear a ‘no’ from someone, it’s great to make the effort to ask. Keep making art and reaching out to the appropriate audience for your work and you will get the ‘yes’. Wishing you success!

  6. Congrats on getting in museums that is awesome! My dream is to get in galleries, hopefully one day. I agree many hours need to be spent each & every day and I do it each day, long hours day & night. Joanna P, you sound a lot like where I am right now. I have friends & family who love my work. Some family spreads the word and all others including friends not so much.

    I left facebook last week, just wasn’t a effective means anymore for me so been using other social sites like twitter and google +. I plan on upping my game & donating more to charities & fundraisers and attending in person as many as I can to meet people in person, share my love for what I do! There are so many ways to reach people, like selling your art in a different format other than the original design. I am using Cafe Press to sell my designs on t-shirts what have you, worth a shot for me. By the way Joanne I am now following you on pinterest & twitter, wonderful art you have!

    • Linda,
      Thank you, its been an amazing ride these past few years and worth every minute of effort!
      It sounds like you have found creative avenues that are working for sharing your art with the world.
      Wishing you success!

  7. Hi Jenny,your article is truly inspiring.As an artist who is a bit shy of interacting with people on social media or otherwise words from a fellow artist gives one courage and the inspiration on how to show your work.Thank you

  8. Nice post, Jenni! I enjoyed reading it. Articulating your crazy creative thoughts, haha, so true! Best of luck to you (oh well wait, I didn’t mean it like that! haha)

    There is the work and there is chance, they fit together like apple pie and ice cream.

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