Leaving a secure office job and going for an art career was the best decision I could make in a given time – in May 2018. (More about a change of my career here: (Dominika Prinzova – How she left law to pursue her passion for art). Now, after seven months, I am ready to share with you the first impressions, experiences and observations I made on the way. Hopefully, they will be of interest.
Here they are: my “little discoveries”:
So many options and possibilities ahead that one can easily be overwhelmed
The first challenge. On one hand it is very exciting not to know what one will do, on the other hand it can become a sort of overwhelming baggage. I remember lying on my bed, feeling a bit anxious and thinking, “What the hell am I gonna do now?”
After some time everything started to crystalize – this crystalizing process happened by testing every possibility, by trying everything that came to mind as a way to get into the art world. This included drawing portraits of tourists in Leicester Square, leaving my business cards and little leaflets on streets and in public spaces, drawing quick portraits of people in pubs, sending emails to galleries, contacting my favorite painters and asking for advice, contacting shops to start selling my landscape watercolors (that I was just about to make if they would ever come back to me :), personal tutoring in my neighborhood, contacting established portrait companies, painting on shoes, thinking about studying art as a main discipline or trying art therapy.
The thing I wanna say is that when one starts with a blank page, there are an abundance of possibilities out there and it is very easy to get lost in them; what has proven to me as a possible way is not to overthink it, simply start somewhere and just do it. Then things unfold quite gradually. For example drawing portraits of tourists in Leicester Square proved to be a dead end option, as the number of licenses is limited, they are quite pricy and the competition within this part of the art market is very high and it is not something I would like to be part of – not even mentioning the fact that I wouldn’t be any good in it. It took me more or less two weeks of research, talking to people and gathering information to realize that this wasn’t the way I wanted to go; then I could let this option go and concentrate on something else.
Being invisible in the eyes of galleries
After testing the waters, I decided that the best strategy would be to try to get a gallery to represent my work and therefore help me with a promotion and the commercial side of my endeavors.
As someone who was new in an art business and who didn’t even have any impressive portfolio to hand as my painting journey had started quite recently, I didn’t get a big applause from commercial galleries – no one was waiting for me with arms wide open. During those seven months I contacted more than 80 galleries in London that seemed to be more or less aligned with my style of work; from that number less than 15 came back to me saying a) they have a full roster, therefore were not looking for new artists; or b) my work doesn’t fit their gallery program. One gallery was interested in seeing more but considering the fact that I have no commercial materials and other factors, their board of trustees never came back to me (I still follow up on them from time to time).
After such a result, my expectations went rapidly down which (after all) I consider to be a good thing; then every reply even a negative one, is a sort of a nice surprise. What I have learned from that is that it might be better to concentrate on a few galleries that had shown a slight interest than to aim for every single gallery in town – finding the right people in the right gallery as opposed to getting any gallery at any cost. Let’s see.
This was an eye opening discovery (maybe more on a personal level than on a professional one though); during those seven months I realized that there was no place for competition when it came to art; if artists are honest to the painting during a creative process, than every painting is as unique as the person who created it – therefore will attract different some sort of an audience. As our way of thinking, life experience and mentality differs in each one of us, so do our creative outcomes; through sharing our diversity we enrich each other and there is no room for competition. I reassured myself in my belief that art brings out the better side of ourselves on the surface and that by making art we benefit society as a whole (will write more about this in future).
There are many places and opportunities for people to show their work in London. I started in a cafe, then in the foyer of a commercial building, then a gallery, Christmas fair and a gallery again. I found all those venues myself often via advertised open calls, applied and was lucky to be given the opportunity.
During my search it often came across that many galleries intended to charge an artist for exhibiting their work (after a selection process to keep a gallery level of quality though). Sometimes it can be a certain amount per painting, other times it can be in the form of a few weeks lease of a gallery space. I understand the point – the market is slow and for a gallery it is safer to secure its income by paying artists than by unpredictable clients; having said that, I cannot agree with this strategy (with exceptions). The relationship between an artist and a gallery should be equal in principle and should be about a mutual cooperation – artists provide quality work and a gallery uses its best endeavors to sell them to their clients. If successful, the gallery receives a commission (can be 50 %). This way seems more fair to me than paying an upfront payment to the gallery.
Support from other people and a feeling of responsibility towards them
Since I left my job, I begun noticing even more all supporting voices of people around. People who were genuinely interested in my art journey, offering me their help, coming up with ideas on how to make it all happen, fellow artists saying words of encouragement or friends loyally attending all my exhibitions. Towards those people I started to feel a sort of responsibility – not when it comes to subject of my paintings but when it comes to my persistence. I noticed a change in my attitude; instead of doing all this for myself, I approached it more as a project of ours.
I also noticed that when I wasn’t scared to ask for help or ask for advice from people in a sector (even quite well known), many of them happily came back to me and shared their experience. They gave me their time and offered a helping hand for which I am very thankful – I will try to do the same for other people.
Forget everything and paint
This is the most important thing – painting. It’s been a very challenging year in many aspects but one thing which shone out is that painting didn’t lose its special magic, I still love it, can easily forget the outside world and just concentrate on lines, different shapes and colors. And that’s the reason why I went on to this path – not to paint in my spare time anymore but to make painting my profession; to be able to paint more.
Year 2018 seemed to be much longer for me than previous years, breaking a routine and going somewhere – not actually knowing where – made days feel more intense than before and I am very happy for that. It wasn’t easy and I am expecting more difficult days to come but it was definitely worth it and will just carry on.