Art and Business Aren't Separate

Stop thinking of your business actions as separate from your art.
Everything you do for your career and business should be directed by the art you do.
Your art should be central to your business plan, your marketing, and your goals.
You may say, Duh. But have you been compartmentalizing your business in your mind? Have you been thinking that it needs a different space (time, schedule) than the one you give your art?
Have you been neglecting, avoiding, or disliking the business stuff?
What would happen if you started thinking as lovingly about your business as you do about your art? What might shift for you if they were one?

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16 thoughts on “Art and Business Aren't Separate”

  1. They will never be together for me, no matter what training I get in either area they can never be one in the same way of thinking for me. Business is so left brained and selling yourself, while art making is so right brain and being yourself. Yes, I know I’ve read and studied your material and others about how business can be being yourself, but it really isn’t possible for everyone. Some people can join the 2 together and it is perfectly fine for them, but for others, like me, it just doesn’t work. I have to keep them separate or I can’t do either one. I know you are well intended and have lots of good advice that seems to make this possible and it is for some others, but for me it just doesn’t work. I’d rather have someone else I could hand over the business side to, but that isn’t going to happen, at least not in the near future, so in order for me to even do anything with the business side I have to shut off the art making side and vise versa or I’ll never do either one.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Victoria: Even if you hand over the business to someone else, it’s still your responsibility. It’s totally okay for you to feel this way, but my hope is that one day you’ll embrace rather than fight the left-brained stuff. It’s just a wish for you.

  2. I don’t think art and business are separate for an art professional. I mean it’s ME making the art and it’s ME trying to promote it. I always say that I wear many hats. I have to be my own secretary, office manager, website assistant, publicity director, artist representative, carpenter, writer, video guru, etc. However, I don’t change personality when I go from working in my studio to presenting my art to a gallery. Being organized (left brain) helps me be more creative (right brain). Listening to my intuition (right brain) helps me stay focused on what’s most important about my work when putting together my website (left brain). I think some people get confused and think that if you are actively selling yourself, then your work will get influenced in a bad way because you will only make things you think will sell. And that doesn’t have to be the case at all. When you let yourself get distracted by what others are doing or selling, then you are simply afraid. We all have to work through our fears. It doesn’t mean your left brain is taking over your right brain because you are actively trying to get your work out there. I don’t enjoy all of the work involved in being a business person, but I don’t enjoy spending three hours sanding wood either. It’s got to get done if I want to get on to the next step I do enjoy. Sitting down at my computer and catching up on articles with business advice, is a nice break after working six hours in my studio. And going back to my studio after spending two hours updating my mailing list is even better.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Alex: Beautiful. You spoke to my point. When you think of them together, you don’t get caught up in the “selling” mode. You do more sharing than selling.

  3. This is a great post! Once I embraced the fact that I can put as much love and creativity into running my business as I do making my products, my business has become so much better. There is certainly opportunity for using your creativity to run your business (and making your business feel like art).

  4. this is just what I am trying to do. to be more compassionate about my business side of my art. Usually I resent it feeling like it takes me away from the MAKING of the art. but instead now I am trying to look at the business side is what ALLOWS me to do art for a living. by being a smart business person and tending to the business side of being an artist, I get to be a full time artist!

  5. Heck, I work in oils, now walnut oils which take months to dry, well, actually a year if I am being good…I can’t paint non-stop because it gets in my eyes if I don’t take breaks…For safety, I take really long breaks in between painting, business stuff keeps me busy during those breaks…It’s actually really just a natural progression…Funny thing, I have always been a little ambidextrous, but over the years of being a painter I can now paint with my left hand- the constant right brain stimulation I guess…

  6. All the comments so far have only verified my point. Even the painter 6 month waiting. Yes, being ambidextrous myself there is much my right and left brain are working together. My point was if I am focused on my painting I can’t be focusing on the business side of things and if I’m focusing on the business side of things I can’t be focused on the art making side. One will ultimately have to have my main focus. Ask any brain expert & they will tell you the same. Approaching business from an artist way of thinking is fine but to say they are to be focused in the same space at the same time is my issue. You Alyson asked “Have you been thinking that it needs a different space (time, schedule) than the one you give your art?” How could I do my business in the same space as my easel? How could I be thinking about mailings at the time I’m focusing on which color will look right in this area at this moment? It is just not possible for me. Like I said before this may be fine for others, but it doesn’t work for me. When I am focused on the art making I can’t approach it the same way I would the business part, nor when I am focused the business part I can’t approach it the same way I do the art making part at the same time. I can take aspects of each that are compatible to the other, such as my personality and my work style, which others have brought out in their comments very well. I did not want to cause a controversial situation in my 1st comment just a realization there are others of us out there who have difficulty with doing them the same time and same space but for others it is not a problem. Thank you to all who have shared and encouraged.

    1. I totally understand that you do not think about mailings when you are concentrating on the color in your paintings. Nor would you think about color when you are working on your mailings. I think what most of us are talking about is shifting our attitude towards the business side of our art. Instead of resenting it or dreading it, we want to feel good about it, even take pride in it. Alyson always points out the concept of “sharing” vs. “selling.” A simple change of words and a whole new perspective sets in. We are always sharing our art with others. In my case it is a necessity. For example, if preparing and sending out gallery packets is about sharing, then it gives me joy to think more people will see what I do, instead of dreading doing it and putting it off. With this shift in attitude, going back and forth between studio work and business work is easier. And the time you dedicate to both goes from being incompatible to being complementary.

  7. Boy, as a developer of art business management software, I can’t tell you how often I hear this lament. And it’s real, and understandable. But, as a good friend of mine likes to say, “if you don’t look after your business, what you really have is a hobby”.
    Most of my artists would say, I think, that what you need to do is just make your business chores part of your everyday routine. Just do it and get it out of the way. Think of it as you would approach taking a medication that you need each day to retain your health. Your business practices are something you need to do regularly to maintain the health of your business. And, like taking a medicine, you might be able to get away with not doing it for awhile, but you run the risk of something really bad happening. If you’re one of the folks who absolutely, positively can’t bring themselves to do it, hire someone to do it for you; think of it as a personal trainer for your business.
    And, here is something that I think is desperately important, even tho many, many people hardly think about it at all. And that is, “what do I do if something bad happens?”. Fire, theft, earthquake, runaway bulldozer. It doesn’t matter what the disaster is, you should think about what you’ll do when/if it happens. Write it down. Important phone numbers, etc. What do you need to get back in business again? Write it down. You don’t want to have to think about it when you need it. Write it down, make copies, and put them in safe places, some of which you can get at easily. You can just jot everything down on a pad of paper, or you can buy a little program for keeping track of everything for you (I’ll have one later this summer, but this isn’t about selling you things).
    If your art (and your business) are important to you, it’s worth taking a little time to manage it and protect it. I think it’s important enough that I’ve dedicated my business to it. I’ll never be as creative as many of you, but I can use what I *do* know to help you, the creative community, not only survive, but thrive. But, what *you* have to do, as you use your energies to create the beautiful things that come out of you every day, is take just a bit of that energy and apply it to the chores that will allow you to make a living at the thing you love.

  8. Thank you Alex Mitchell you are the first to understand what I am talking about. I so agree we need to bring to the business side of things to the things that help our art making, but as you totally understood: not at the same moment and not in the same space. Thank you.

  9. In fact, neural networks can grow depending on use…Being able to use both sides of your brain, & later, to allow them to work in synchronicity is not only entirely possible, it makes for a more balanced oeuvre & life…It is like fingerpainting with both hands at the same time (or driving a car while listening to the radio)…It is a learned skill…This is something that will make people grow…That bridge in between the two hemispheres can be fortified…Alternating is not a requirement…Left brained people need to work their creative side & conversely right brained people need to exercise their logic…Bridging the two is the next higher skill…Again, the two hemispheres can & should work together- if not you get a split personality, or a one-sided person…

  10. Pingback: The Nature of the Business of Art – A Summary « The Art of Dawn Blair

  11. Like Victoria, I understand the need of self promotion and do it, but artist in me (and me as an artist) is “rather be in the studio”. There are people who are good at business, there are people who are good at art and there are those who are good at both. I totally agree that business part can be learned and can even be very creative. But it can never be as creative and inspiring as art (from the artist’s perspective). Business is something you have to do and art is something you can’t live without doing 🙂 Great article for the thought! Thank you!

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      HJM: You’ve proved my point. I’m just asking for a mind shift. Why can’t business be as creative as art? Why do you have to think of a “have to” rather than a “want to”? It will be a change, but it could prove to be a huge move for you.

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