There’s something to be said for being blissfully ignorant about the way things are “supposed” to be done.
If I had read that it takes most businesses at least three years of consistent work and marketing to get off the ground, I’m not sure I would have left my safe job at the museum.
If I had waited to discover directions for leading an online class, I never would have started teaching my own back in 2003. I didn’t know of a model for online classes at the time, so I made it up.
Rules for Being a Successful Artist
There are no official rules for one’s art career, but there are precedents. Plenty of resources offer guidelines, including my own book, blog, and online programs.
These unofficial rules might include the following topics:
- How to put together a portfolio
- How to approach a gallery
- How to write an artist statement
- How to organize your website
There’s nothing wrong with knowing these things, but, in order to innovate, you must ignore the rules and forge your own path. You have to experiment.
Many artists in the beginning of their careers are frozen by the desire to play by the rules and get it all right. They don’t take action because they’re afraid of doing something wrong.
On the other end of the spectrum are artists who have been in the business for a while. They can be so closely tied to the rules that they find it hard to adapt to new ways of doing things.
Or they don’t notice when something isn’t working for them because they are too focused on doing it right.
Then there are the mavericks. These are artists who are cheerfully unaware of “the rules.” They figure out most things, but then they go and do something that makes me scratch my head.
I ask myself: Don’t they know better? Why, I wonder, didn’t they read that chapter in my book?
Darn it if it doesn’t work out just fine for them. They broke “the rules,” and the sky didn’t fall. On the contrary, they’re thriving!
Action of any kind always wins over unrelenting research. The latter devolves into inertia.
Use some of the creativity that goes into your art and apply it to your business—especially when the rules aren’t working in your favor.
Don’t be afraid to break the rules, ignore the rules, or make up your own rules. If you need it, you have my permission.
This article was originally published on February 15, 2010. It has been updated with original comments intact.