Inspirational Words are Great, But Here's Some Practical Advice From 8 Working Artists

Paige Simianer | June 18, 2024

Artwork Archive artist James-Allan Holmes working in his studio. Photo courtesy of the artist

Inspirational words are great. We love inspirational quotes, too.

They can provide a much-needed boost of motivation and remind us of the dreams and passions that drive us as artists. In fact, there's a lot of wisdom behind words like, “follow your heart” and “hold your vision.” And they certainly have their place in the journey of an artist. 

However, when it comes to starting your art career and strategizing for your art business, it’s hard to build a career on advice like that. While these words can ignite the spark, practical guidance and actionable steps are what can really make a difference. You need a bit of insider knowledge, advice, and strategies that have been tried and tested in the art world.

So, we've talked to real Artwork Archive artists and got some real advice on what's worked for them in building their art careers. Whether you're just starting, or looking to elevate your art business, their wisdom is a good place to start! 

Keep reading below to learn what has genuinely worked for these 8 working artists: 

Jasmine Best, Screened In, 102 x 240 x 144 in

As hard as it can be, do not compare yourself to other artists

“There is no right or wrong way to be an artist."

"Do not let preconceived notions of what you think you ‘should’ be doing as an artist stop you from making decisions that are relevant only to you.”

Jasmine Best 

The beautiful thing about an art career is that it can look completely different for every artist.

What works for one person might not work for another, and that's completely fine. You don't have to follow traditional standards or chase trends to "make it" in this industry. In fact, some of the most successful artists are those who stick to their vision, no matter what.

Remember, your unique perspective is what sets you apart, and staying true to that will lead you to make the most authentic and fulfilling art. 

Artwork Archive artist Pilar Wiley in her studio. Photo courtesy of the artist

Invest in good photography for your artwork

"I regret not investing in professional photography [for my artwork], shows, and installations early on..."

Get good pictures of everything!"

Pilar Wiley

Investing in good photography for your artwork is a must if you want to be taken seriously as an artist. High-quality photos showcase your work in the best light and help you build a strong portfolio. They're often the first thing people see and can be the key to securing exhibitions, attracting buyers, and gaining more traction on social media. Cutting corners in this area can really hurt the presentation of your artwork.

Now, if you’re not in a place to hire a professional photographer just yet, don't worry; you can still achieve high-quality photos without the investment (though we do suggest making this one of the first things you outsource once you’re able to do so!) In the meantime, follow these tips to photograph your art like a professional.

Once you have those high-quality photos, don't just leave them scattered in folders on your desktop. Upload them to Artwork Archive to keep them safe and always available.

How to Store Your High-Quality Photos:

With Artwork Archive, you can easily store your artwork images in one place. The platform automatically resizes and optimizes your images, so you always have the best version ready for customized reports or your Public Profile.

Plus, you can access the high-resolution original files whenever you need them. This way, your portfolio stays organized, and your images are always ready for any opportunity that comes your way!

Artwork Archive artist Dela Anyah working in his studio. Photo courtesy of the artist

Gain a good understanding of art contracts—and use them!

“The advice I would offer every artist is to study or gain an understanding of art law and contracts.

This is crucial as every interaction with art institutions, galleries/dealers, collectors, and more relies on contracts.”

Dela Anyah

Getting a handle on art contracts means that you’re protecting yourself, your artwork, and your client—plus, it demonstrates your professionalism! These contracts protect you by clearly outlining the terms and conditions of any agreement, whether it's with galleries, dealers, collectors, or institutions.

Contracts like Commission Contracts detail project dates, payment schedules, and project requirements, keeping everyone accountable and on the same page. Gallery Contracts, on the other hand, outline the terms of representation, including commission rates and responsibilities. Even for small projects, having formal timelines and conditions in writing keeps everything on track and professional.

Always, always, always make sure you fully understand any contract you're signing BEFORE you sign it, even if this means hiring a lawyer to look over it for you. Art contracts are your safeguard. They prevent misunderstandings and disputes down the line. Without a solid one, you leave yourself vulnerable to exploitation and other legal issues. 

Keep Your Contracts Safe & Organized With 'My Docs':

Make sure to keep all your contracts safe and organized.

Artwork Archive’s 'My Docs' section is great for this—you can store all your important documents in one place and even attach contracts to specific contacts.

Marryam Moma, Love Lives Here

Connect with an artist community & cultivate a solid network

“Build a strong support network, seek mentorship, and actively engage with the art community."

"Embrace challenges, believe in the value of your work, and remain open to learning and evolving.”

Marryam Moma

The best way to make career-changing connections is by integrating yourself into your local artist community.

Create relationships based on positive interactions and goodwill. Help other artists with their goals, attend their openings, and tell them about a gallery that would be a good fit. We are all in this together. 

Make an effort to meet and support other artists. Go to association meetings and offer resources, tips, encouragement, and useful discussion. Join a local artists guild, reach out to your community center, and show a genuine interest in what other artists are making. Your own community is the best network to get started. 

And, don’t be afraid to ask other artists for tips or even mentorship—they’ve been where you are and could help you navigate the art world!

Track Your Network:

Artwork Archive's integrated CRM feature helps you create and manage contacts efficiently.

You can sort your connections into Contact Groups, keep track of where and how you met someone, write notes on interactions, and track what you've sent them. By using Artwork Archive to manage your contacts, you can nurture and grow your artist network, and make sure no valuable connection is ever lost.

Artwork Archive Artist Richard Keen's work hanging in a room. Photo courtesy of the artist

Learn when to say ‘no’ & stay dedicated to your art practice

"[Being an artist] sometimes means telling the people who love you and want to spend time with you that you need a little more studio time, or staying up late when everyone else goes to bed (or getting up early if you're one of those morning people).”

“An art career takes extreme dedication and persistence, any way you slice it."

Richard Keen

First and foremost, you've got to get crystal clear on your priorities. Take a hard look at how you're currently spending your time. Are there any activities or commitments that aren't truly essential to your well-being and progress? It's important to find a balance, especially when you're just starting out in your art career.

In the beginning, you may need to be more ruthless in cutting out distractions and saying "no" to things that don't align with your artistic goals. This doesn't mean completely isolating yourself or neglecting important relationships—it just means being strategic and intentional with your time. As you become more established in your art career, you can start to shift those priorities and bring more balance into your schedule. Maybe you can devote a bit more time to socializing, hobbies, or other interests.

We know, we know, it's tough to disappoint the people in your life you care about. They want to spend time with you, and that's a beautiful thing. But, if you don't carve out dedicated space for your art practice, it will always take a backseat to other demands on your time.

Mark Acetelli, August59 x 79 in, 2023

Work against perfectionism

“Don’t wait to get inspired—get to work. The muses will come if they see you are working. Make lots of art and don’t be afraid to fail."

"Lose your attachment to the end result; it will help you loosen up and be in a state of flow.”

Mark Acetelli

Admit it, being perfect is exhausting. And waiting to create until conditions are perfect means that you'll be waiting forever. Artists who double as perfectionists tend to put way too much pressure on themselves to create, and this can leave you staring, wide-eyed, at a blank canvas for days. But, even Picasso didn’t churn out masterpieces every time he sat down to paint.

You don’t have to create a masterpiece every time you enter the studio. If you go in and do anything creative and it feels good, you learn something or enjoy the process, that is a success. By all means, prepare. Do what you need to do to get in the zone and create your best work. But, if you catch yourself feeling hesitant to get started for this reason, push yourself to begin anyway.

Artwork Archive artist Kelly Witmer in her studio. Photo courtesy of the artist

Remember, building a successful art career is a long-game

“When starting out, practice patience and remember this is a long game."

You’re always planting seeds—most of which will never sprout, and some may take years to.”

Kelly Witmer

It's easy to get frustrated or feel discouraged when things don't take off as quickly as you'd like. But, just remember: every successful artist has been where you are now. They've been beginners and faced rejection, setbacks, and moments of doubt, but they kept showing up and putting in the work. Each step you take for your art career, no matter how small, contributes to your growth as an artist.

So, what can you do to stay motivated and focused on your long game? Start by celebrating those small, quiet victories along the way. Did you finally master that tricky technique you're been practicing for weeks? Did you receive a kind word of praise from a fellow artist or collector? Did you step outside your comfort zone and try something new? Those moments may seem small, but they're proof that you're growing and evolving as an artist.

Keep working hard, even when it feels like you're not getting anywhere. Keep learning, growing, and pushing yourself to be better. Keep showing up for your art, day after day, with passion and dedication trusting that all of your efforts will eventually pay off.

James-Allan Holmes, 'Related Red', 9 x 12 in

Professionalize your practice from the very beginning

“Professionalize your practice from the very beginning of your career, or from this day forward if you've already been working with your art for some time."

It’s never too late or too early to access the resources to ensure your practice is organized and your work can be effectively marketed.”

James-Allan Holmes

Now, we know what you might be thinking. "But I'm just starting out!" or "I'm not ready for all that business stuff yet!" But, as artist James-Allan Holmes points out, it really is never too early or too late to start treating your art like a professional.

No matter where you are in your career, using a tool like Artwork Archive can help you streamline your art business and organize your art career.  Plus, having a system in place as an artist also sends a clear message to the art world that you're serious about your career. It shows that you're professional, efficient, and committed to your craft. And when you're competing with countless other artists for attention and opportunities, that can make all the difference. 

Professionalizing your practice is an ongoing practice. It's not something you do once and then forget about. It's a mindset, a commitment to treating your art career with the respect and dedication it deserves. And with tools like Artwork Archive at your disposal, you've got everything you need to present yourself as the professional artist you are—or the one you're striving to become. 

Professionalize Your Art Practice With Artwork Archive:

With Artwork Archive, you can easily catalog your entire body of work, track your sales and expenses, generate professional reports, and a lot more. 

If you're not already using Artwork Archive, you can create your free account here. Take some time to explore the features and start inputting your artwork details. Make it a habit to record every sale and expense, and use the reporting tools to present yourself professionally. 

One of the most practical things you can do as a professional artist is to organize your art career, and to do that, you need the right system and tools in place. Artwork Archive can help you do just that. From inventory management to sales tracking and portfolio organization, Artwork Archive provides the comprehensive solutions you need to streamline your art business. Try it for free for 14 days



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