There are things that one does not think about until asked. What do you want for Christmas? Who is the best rock’n'roll singer of all time? How do you make a great martini? You gather your own experiences and knowledge together and try to come up with an answer. I have had that experience twice in the past few weeks.
First, I participated in a portfolio review at RISD, talking with junior and senior students about their work and their artistic futures. Second, I was one of three speakers at Maine College of Art, discussing what it is to be an artist and the relationships that support one’s practice. In both cases, I felt wise…and old. Every time I would come up with something to say, I would couch it (in my own mind, at least) with, “Well, times have changed, but…” or “I’m not sure if this is still true…” But I realized that a lot of what I had to say about the last 35 years was still relevant today. We were asked to have some sort of take-away handout and so I tried to come up with a succinct reduction of what I intended to say. Here is a list of ten things to consider.
1. Make good work.
2. Pay attention and make notes.
3. Be respectful to everyone you work with, sell to, teach or learn from.
4. Make commitments and keep them.
5. Consider your representatives (galleries, collectors, institutions) as your partners and treat them as important parts of your career because they are.
6. Have fabulous images of your work but make sure that the work looks better in reality than the images do. Otherwise you’re lying.
7. Find some way to teach, mentor or serve in your field. You are giving back, developing your audience and opening yourself up to all sorts of possibilities by doing this.
8. Every way you interact with the marketplace is a game. Choose a game you feel comfortable playing and play it with intelligence and honor.
9. Commit totally to your work and career. You wouldn’t want to go to a dentist who only practices when he or she can find the time. You must be at least as professional as a dentist.
10. Make good work.
There were many other points that came out in my talk and the others’, as well. Nothing terribly new or counter-intuitive. I’ll touch on some of them in future posts, if you are interested. What I came away with was the sense that it’s all connected and it’s all a process. I also wondered if the same aspects of a career in art for the past thirty-five years will be important for the next thirty-five years. I have a feeling that commitment, respect and making good work will be. I sure hope so.
The image above is of some work that just came out of the kiln. I am delighted. It looks the way I thought it should, even after giving it up twice to the kiln gods. Not finished yet, but close.