If you’re an artist, fresh out of college and starting your career, what is your strategy for success? It can be argued that the world is a smaller place due to the advances in technology. Now we are able to market ourselves online through websites, various social media platforms, join art collectives, not to mention seek formal representation by galleries showcasing the work of both talented graduates and seasoned practitioners.
I’ve had a number of conversations with creative professionals, from architects to fashion designers, on the subject of how important it is to be business minded as well as creative. I’ve participated in a number of discussions regarding how important goal setting, marketing and strategic planning is. I’ve also witnessed contrasting views regarding how best to use the aforementioned platforms of communication. Maryland based artist Roopa Dudley is one person who has made it her personal goal to provide guidance for painters looking to establish long and fruitful careers. She kindly shared some of her thoughts with me:
Can you tell me more about how you became an artist?
I always wanted to be a wizard – so I became a painter. It started out at a very early age. I made my first watercolour painting of “Lady” as in “Lady and the Tramp” when I was only 3 and a half years old while the rest of my family was glued to the television watching the popular show at the time “The Six Million Dollar Man”. Once I discovered the joy of painting, I never stopped thereafter.
It of course helped that I had the genetic makeup for it; my father was an artist and my mother is quite artistic too. What pushed me to make it into a full time career was getting laid off from my regular 9 to 5 day job in early 2012. In order to deal with my anxiety attacks of being unemployed, I started painting much more frequently. The writing was on the wall for me when people started buying my paintings.
Is there particular artist that inspires you?
Oh, I have a whole list. Leonardo Da Vinci for his versatility, Rene Magritte for his thought provoking ideas and humor, Paul Gauguin for his intense colors and compositions. Tamara De Lempicka for her contemporary style and personality,Frida Kahlo for her courage and allegories. Salvador Dali for his technique and craftsmanship. M.C Escher for his draftsmanship and illusions.
I also interview many living artists for my Art Blog from all over the world whose work I find remarkable. Their personalities and contribution to society fills me up with all sorts of inspiration. So I do everything I can to support them and promote them and their work. As a matter of fact about six of them will be the superstars of my upcoming book, the next in the “Painter” series of three.
What’s your favourite medium and why?
Acrylics on canvas board. I like how the colours are so brilliant. Acrylics are easy to layer, environmentally friendly, don’t stink up my studio and are fast drying. Furthermore, they are versatile and permanent…unlike any other medium. As a matter of fact, I will be one of the six featured artists in the upcoming ‘Eco-Friendly Artists’ issue in the Professional Artist Magazine because of my conscious choice of using environmentally friendly products.
You recently wrote the book ‘ A Strategic Painter: Mastermind Your Craft. ’ The title seems self-explanatory but can you explain what motivated you to write it?
I wrote the book “A Strategic Painter ” as a manual for painters. Years ago, when starting my career as an artist/painter, I was looking for a similar book but could not find one. For the past fifteen years I went though a journey, learnt the “tricks of the trade” through trial and error, with research and analysis.
I read a lot of books that danced around the subject of art but were mainly catered towards the business aspect of being an artist. It was mind-baffling experience like I was missing an important piece of the puzzle. One day, on my quest to find this artist manual, I came across a book “HOW TO SURVIVE & PROSPER AS AN ARTIST” by Caroll Michels which gave me the answer to the “why” factor as to “why there are not too many books written to guide painters?” Here is what she wrote, “Some academics who discourage career advice at the college level believe that students should be sheltered from real-life survival issues while in school. But many fine-arts faculty members are opposed to career development courses for selfish and self-serving reasons: they are aware that today’s student artists will become tomorrow’s practicing artists, and eventually artists with whom they will compete for gallery, museum, and press attention, so there is much resistance to imparting any sort of information that could possibly give these future peers a career edge or jeopardize their own pecking order in the art world.” I figured that perhaps there are more people like me out there and if I can help them out and save them a few years, then that is a good thing. I am tired of hearing the phrase the “starving artist” and I sincerely believe on the contrary that painters have a lot to offer to the “starving world” that is devoid of fresh ideas and innovative concepts. In this digital age, the sky is the limit for any painter who wants to succeed.
How has it been received?
It is a slim book. With 30 images, it is less than 100 pages. It is meant for visual readers with possible ADD and a limited attention span so the chapters are short and to the point and keeps things interesting with all sorts of carefully selected chapter related visuals. No fluff at all. At some point I may include a couple more chapters, but for now I am quite satisfied with it.
A couple people who have read it (it just came out in the end of January 2014 so nobody has posted any reviews just yet – sigh). They have told me that it will be a great text book for college students who are taking painting classes as it gives them a clear picture as to how they can help themselves become a serious painter, how they can use and exploit the media to market and promote themselves. Also, for those who like myself, who were basically recreational artists and decided that they should take their passion to the next level.
However, on the flip side, I just got a review yesterday from someone who is a professional artist (I am connected to her through linkedin). Over all she liked the book however, she had a very specific problem with a chapter in the book dealing with art galleries vs. art studios (sales). I do understand where she is coming from. What she did not take into an account is that when one is starting out, it is one of the hardest things for an emerging artist to get a gallery representation. My point was to encourage artists just starting out that there is much more to being a professional than having a gallery representation and there is a way around it. So there you have it. You have both sides of the coin about my book.
This book is definitely not for everyone especially mid career artists who already have a gallery representation or the artists who are seeking major gallery representations or the artists who have a fragile mind. This is a total out of the box DIY approach fit only for those outliers who like to take charge of their own destiny.
With massive growth in social media and online marketing platforms how important is gallery representation for an artist?
Galleries will soon be becoming extinct and that is a fact. Unless they transform themselves into something other than what they are right now, digital revolution is going to annihilate them. Painters are becoming quite empowered with all kinds of knowledge available to them on the internet. Collectors are becoming educated when it comes to where to put their hard earned money towards and actually find it quite entertaining to visit artists in their studios and get to know them. Work of art is becoming more important than ever as collectors want originality and at an affordable price. A few well-reputed galleries would still survive despite the revolution I am sure, but gallery representation for an artist is now a thing of the past.
So what’s next in your career?
I usually have an annual Open Studio Exhibit around 4th of July weekend. I have been doing that religiously for the past three years. Majority of my art is sold during that exhibit. So I am preparing for that “Hot & Steamy” Open Studio Exhibit. Shoot me an email if you are in Maryland and would like to come. RoopaDudley@gmail.com
I have three more books to write. My second book, I plan on getting published next year. Writing a book is an exhausting experience (quite similar to pregnancy) but once all is done, and the product is out — voila!
The next three books are more art history as well as business related than my first one, which is in the “Art – Study & Teaching” genre. They will be catered towards mid career painters and art enthusiasts. As you can see, if I live long enough, I have already planned out my whole career – after all I am ‘a strategic painter. I practice what I preach.
I wish Roopa continued success with her career. For further information or to contact Roopa please visit http://artiststories.wordpress.com/2014/01/19/roopa-dudley-strategic-painter-artist-stories-entry/