The Nature of the Business of Art – A Summary

Recently, I found a new blog that I enjoy and last week they had a post about art schools not teaching artists about business. This is not a new complaint, but a rather common one.

Let’s step back for a moment. As a bookkeeper I’ve come to realize a truth: very few people know how to run a business. Really, truly!

Very few people learn the business skills they need in school. Most come out as “technicians” as Michael Gerber, author of The E-Myth, would say. Technicians are schooled in what they do, but now how to make a business out of their skills. I recently heard the younger accountants I work with say that they had come out of college with no idea of what it took to run an accounting firm (how to do billings, for example. Gee, setting their prices; sound familiar?). If they didn’t get the skills they needed, then who does?

It is the ability to be a technician (how well the skilled worker does his job) that allows the business to survive (and sometimes thrive) rather than his business skills. But artists do seem to complain about lacking business skills more. I think this is because artists work in solitude. We too enjoy being the technician. Yet because of the subjective nature of art, we often feel rejected (not realizing that the audience is rejecting the art, not us). It can leave us with a feeling of failure. So when we see money for jury/show fees, materials, marketing, etc. going out the door with very little coming back in, it’s easy to say, “Well, I don’t have the business skills I need to succeed.” It’s a cop-out, an inanimate object to place blame on that in a round-about way makes us feel more like a failure because of how that lie is effecting our subconscious. So ask yourself: do you really want to keep being a victim, or do you want to be in control?

Alyson Stanfield recently wrote in her blog that art and business aren’t separated. She’s right, but sometimes it’s easier said than done.

I’ve scratched the surface here and, I hope, got you thinking about the business involved in your art career and made you not feel so alone. If you have a question about art as a business, let me know. I can’t promise to have all the answers; this is a growing process for me too. In the meanwhile I’m whipping up some posts that should help artists take the reins on their business skills. I hope you’ll join me and share in the discussion.

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2 Responses to The Nature of the Business of Art – A Summary

  1. ericloiselle says:

    One of the best pieces marketing advice is that we are products. Us ourselves, and our art is an extension to that. Just like saying “I own an original Dali.” we have to want people to own an original of one of our works.

    It’s an uphill battle and that’s why people cop-out. If you don’t fight for yourself, then who will fight for you?

    • dawnblair says:

      We’re so in agreement on that, Eric. In fact, one of the blogs I’m working on right now deals with this exactly. I know I’ve touched on this in the past. I like the way you put here. Can’t wait to go more in-depth with it. Thanks again, Eric.

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