10 things that should be taught in art school

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For formally trained artists and creatives, it may feel like you have everything you need to “go out and create”. But at the end of the day, there are some real world skills that artists need — and they don’t teach them in an art college or university.

Becoming an artist requires as much dedication to developing these somewhat obscure skills as developing your creative abilities. To help my fellow artists – so we can enjoy more art in the world – here are 10 skills they aren’t (but shouldn’t) be teaching them in art school.

1. How to build a business as an artist

We can learn how to create our best work in a particular medium in school or through formal art training. But when it comes to building a business out of your art? This is not something many of us learn or even think about possible.

However, it is possible to build a successful business with your art. We as artists and creators need to know how to sell our art and ourselves. People buy the artist as much as they buy the art, so creating a story, a presence, and a cohesive image can help build a strong foundation for your art business.

See also: How art helped me find a different perspective on business (and life).

2. How to deal with hesitation and doubt

Who are we to create art? Who are we to try to make a living from our work when so many other artists are struggling to survive? The long-held societal myth of the “starving artist” keeps many amazing creatives from ever pursuing their skills, let alone starting a business or generating an income from them. Our work is to overcome them.

3. How to change the way you think

As mentioned above, part of an artist’s job is to face the challenges of the mindset and take a deep look at where they come from. We must confront our social influences, our upbringing, our stories, and our relationship with money.

We must also learn to personify resistance and to put names to our fears. Elizabeth Gilbert often talks about how fear never goes away, but there’s one thing we can do to help deal with it: Ask her to take a back seat.

4. The power of visualization

As artists, we have the opportunity to contribute something out of what we see and make tangible. We can essentially visualize what we want to see in the world – and that’s a superpower. Visualization is a tool you can use to create art, build a business, and even create the life you really want.

It’s not just an artist’s superstition either. This is rooted in scientific fact. What does this mean for artists? It has been proven that visualization works. It is not an intangible artistic concept – we can use this ability to create our art and succeed in both business and life.

5. How to create multiple revenue streams

As a painter, I have created several sources of income through the sale of my paintings:

  • In art galleries (selling the physical canvas, selling art in stores, etc.)

  • About digital prints (selling hard copies of my original paintings)

  • Through license agreements (allowing companies to source my original artwork for printing, design, etc.)

  • Create, teach how to create and sell NFTs (non-fungible tokens)

I’ve also created courses and programs to help artists like you hone your craft and establish a thriving art business. Other artists have:

  • Has taught other artists their specific medium through classes, workshops, etc.

  • Goods sold

  • Commissioned work for bidders and customers

See also: How to Build and Sustain a Successful Art Career

6. How to manage finances

As artists, we have to look at our finances. We need to get a little left-brained sometimes. We also need to know the basics – ie what an income statement is, where our income comes from, what our expenses are, what our cash flow looks like, our projections for future earnings and so on. It’s important to know what you’re spending, what you’re bringing in, and how your art is selling.

7. How to create honest art

To be a successful artist, you must embrace what is called “honest art.” This is art that is true to you, your skills and what you choose to bring to life. The most powerful and effective art is just art she can create. For those of you struggling to create “honest art”, try some sort of cleaning. Don’t look at other people’s photographs or paintings if you’re a photographer or a painter. Don’t compare your art to someone else’s. Remove those inputs and create whatever comes to mind. You will surprise yourself.

8. The value of community

The community helps us inspire and keep us connected, and also gives us an unparalleled ability to create our own space with our art. Not only can you showcase your art in more places, but you can also create real connections with the people who could potentially buy (or share) your art.

If you want to sustain yourself through your art—financially, artistically, spiritually, interpersonally, socially—put community building at the top of your list.

Do you want to make a living from selling your art? Would you like to share your work with more people? Then you need to understand the basics of marketing. As artists, we can take inspiration from other artists and some of the biggest brands to see how they market their creations. The basics are out there for us to learn by proxy.

See also: 10 things the artist and the entrepreneur have in common

10. When to ask for help

When we spend all our time doing tasks that keep us from creating our best art, we are not doing what matters most to us (and the world, if I’m being honest). And if we don’t have time to make art, we can’t create honestly, market well, or build a community. All of these are cornerstones of a successful art business.

So let me ask this: Is the best way to spend your time uploading images to your website, or is it best to create art that you can sell on your website? Should you be worrying about what caption to post on Instagram, or should you be building connections in your community? Do you need to focus your energies on learning all about marketing, or is your energy best spent in your studio?

You can’t do everything and certainly not everything alone. Don’t think too much like when you make honest art.

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