Make Creativity Your Day Job!

Because an MFA is not an MBA

Image courtesy of Casey Fleser

Note: This is a guest post by Deanne Gertner from Artwork Archive. Scroll to the end of the post for a generous special offer!

Art history proves that artists have moonlighted for centuries: Leonardo da Vinci worked as an engineer, Paul Gauguin worked as a stockbroker, James Rosenquist painted billboards, Barbara Kruger worked as a graphic designer, Julian Schnabel washed dishes and was a short-order cook. The artists I know with full-time jobs teach, work as arts administrators, serve tables, do graphic design. With the exception of Jeff Koons, most artists with day jobs aren’t business types. They’re probably not financial planners, accountants, business development directors, or marketing experts. Indeed, if your fine arts education was anything like mine, your business of art training amounted to an hour-long seminar a week before graduation – if you were lucky. It’s no wonder that so many artists have resorted to day jobs when that first student loan payment comes due. But, as Bob Dylan says, “Times they are a-changin’.”

More and more services, products, and organizations are springing up to arm artists with the tools they need to navigate the business side of creating art, from art agents to social media coordinators to medical insurance providers to intellectual property rights lawyers. Entrepreneurs are catching on that the creative industries are a booming business. Still, most of these products and services ignore a key component: the artist’s inventory. Without a physical body of work, all that other “stuff” is useless (conceptual artists notwithstanding.) Maintaining an accurate inventory is integral to an artist’s success. It lets you know the total value of your oeuvre, who your top clients and galleries are, your average sale price, and which pieces are available where and when. If you’re like most artists, however, you probably have cobbled-together Excel spreadsheets, random sticky notes, and a semi-accurate general idea (depending on your caffeine intake that day) of where your art is at any given time.

But semi-accurate and cobbled-together will only get you so far – which is not very, I might add. One online tool, Artwork Archive, puts all that amazing, untapped inventory data – data you probably don’t even realize you have – into a sleek, sophisticated archive you can harness to make your inventory work for rather than against you. For one, you’ll be able to make educated, thoughtful decisions based on cold, hard information not whilly-nilly, Magic 8 Ball randomness. You’ll be able to determine via a geographical heat map, for instance, whether you should move work from your local gallery to the one in Santa Fe. You’ll be able to see your entire inventory in a single view to determine whether you have available work you can submit to a call for entry. You’ll know when your inventory is stagnant so that you can focus your time on marketing existing pieces instead of creating new work. And that’s not all. You can create consignment sheets, track competition submissions, graph your sales over time, maintain your contact lists, generate invoices, and export your data from the site.

Advanced Inventory Reports

Advanced Inventory Reports

Knowledge is Power

Think about how much easier tax time will be with all your sales information in one place and format. Think of the time you’ll save trying to track down pieces and galleries. Think about how much easier it will be to decide which gallery should get which piece. Think about how you’ll be working smarter not harder. You’ll be a veritable genius! Art world, watch out – there’s an empowered artist in town! As an artist, think of yourself as the sole proprietor of a small business: you’re the art director, office manager, marketing director, bookkeeper, business development director, transportation manager, the list goes on. Artwork Archive is the glue that holds all of these disparate roles together to make your art career successful – as we learned from SchoolHouse Rock: “knowledge is power!”

We all like to think that art happens in an ivory tower where the artist is as removed from material society as some princess with crazy-long hair. The truth, as we all know yet struggle to come to terms with, is that artists are people who eat, sleep, get cavities, pay taxes, and buy groceries. Impossible, I know! But understanding that art is both a way of life and the means by which you live that life, frees you of that diabolical notion that making money as an artist equals selling out. Au contraire, my friend, au contraire. Making a living as an artist supports not only yourself but the entire creative economy: paint and brush manufacturers, canvas stretchers, art supply retailers, galleries, art consultants, framers, shippers, art installers, lighting designers, appraisers, conservators, curators, docents, security guards – too many to count, for sure. Is it any wonder, then, that art is two-thirds of smart?

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Do you have a system for keeping track of your artwork? Let us know about it in the comments…

5 Comments on Because an MFA is not an MBA

  1. kellyann says:

    Great material! Thank you. Imagine an MFA world that actually provided MBA core curriculu? The art world as artists would be more biz savvy. It would perhaps change the shape of an artist’s presence…Art is a business.

  2. Kim says:

    I use Artwork Archive,I stumbled upon them in 2012, did the free trial and loved it so much I bought the plan. It’s simple to use and well organized. I can keep track of where my art is, who purchased and all the past shows it’s been it. I suggest everyone at least give it a try, plus, if you have a question, he responds very quickly.

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