Three days on Star Island in the Isles of Shoals, off the coast of Rye, NH. I was there for a Creative and Professional Practices Retreat, run by painter and sculptor Kim Bernard. I was hoping to hone my writing skills, tune up my resume, artist statement, and biography, and generally knock my artist business skills up to the next level from someone who knew what they were talking about, who “walked the walk”.
I wasn’t disappointed. Eleven other visual artists worked steadily through the holiday weekend, with long walk breaks, cookie, breaks, and yoga breaks. With several clever exercises, Kim helped us articulate our dreams and identify our obstacles. We then rewrote our artist statement, that little piece of writing most visual artists hate to write. Kim helped us see it as an opportunity to bring viewers in, clarify, and make your work more easily accessible. The irony is that writing a good artist statement can help the artist even more than your viewers. It can make your work truer to your intention or original vision. It can help you see whether you are making the art you think you are.
Kim shared her experience with galleries and museums and the best way to put yourself forward in the art world. There is so much to do beside make your work. We edited and formatted our resumes. We talked about image processing and submitting to juried exhibitions. Where do you want to show your work. How do you match your work to a commercial gallery? Or maybe you don’t. How many other avenues are available? Public art grants, residencies, teaching, nonprofit venues—the list is huge, and each needs a slightly different approach.
The bottom line is that that are as many ways to succeed as an artist as there are artists. And the secret, (not a secret, really, is it?) is that you must know what you want, want you really want, before you’ll get it.
So, a cool ferry ride, fun in an ancient hotel, a beautiful landscape, a hundred photos, new friends, and lots of homework to do.