I’ve been working full-time as an artist for around 6 years now. During that time I’ve exhibited internationally with galleries and art fairs and taken part in a number of public art projects. I don’t know about lucky breaks, but I do feel very lucky to have been represented by some very good galleries over the past few years, who have invested their time and resources to increase my profile on the international stage.
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I work on the London/Kent borders, in a converted cow shed. It’s a very peaceful environment where I can dedicate my full concentration to my work. However it does get cold and there is a constant threat of spiders introducing themselves to my work! I try to work a normal working day, around 9am-6pm, but I do tend to find that work spills into my evenings and weekends, especially when I have deadlines approaching.
Method and Approach
I started out as an installation artist – I made big hanging sculptures that were suspended from the ceiling. I still love making these, but I wanted to develop a method that would allow me to use the skills that I’d developed to make art work that people could realistically have in their homes. I now produce sculptures and 3D wall-based works which draw upon these principles – I make structures of clear nylon threads which act a little like a canvas. I then attach my materials to these structures to give the impression that they’re floating. I’m interested in themes of time and change, and the materials I choose tend to reflect this.
Marketing and Promotion
I am fairly active on social media to promote my work – I like using my Facebook page and Instagram as I find they work well for visual material. I also have my own website and a mailing list which I have developed over a number of years. But for me, I think the best promotion is just to get the work out in the real world and seen in the flesh. As my work always has a three-dimensional element, it can be difficult to get the full impact of the work through photos alone.
Exhibitions and Shows
I now mainly exhibit through my galleries – either in their own gallery spaces or at art fairs or venues where they have a presence. When I was starting out, I also took part in open studios and put on my own exhibitions, which was a great way of getting my work more well-known and seen by new galleries. I still try to do one exhibition per year with a small group of other artists, which we organise ourselves. I find this a really useful way of trying out more experimental and less commercial works, which in turn helps to develop the more commercial side of my practice in new and interesting ways.
Obstacles and Challenges
The main obstacle I face is time management. I find it difficult not to let work take over my personal life. I don’t feel like I’ve overcome that issue yet, but I am slowly getting better at giving myself realistic timeframes and building in contingencies. I also try to book time away from home as it forces me to stop work and take some time out. It’s too easy at home just to pop in to the studio and before you know it, realise that the whole weekend has disappeared!
Tips and Advice
I think the best piece of advice I can give is to be professional. Having a good relationship with my galleries has meant that they have had confidence to invest in me and promote my work. It’s tempting when you’re starting out to sell to clients directly and not pay the gallery commission, but in the long run, it’s much better to have a lasting and collaborative relationship with a gallery who can support you throughout your career. Meet their deadlines and be reliable.
For anyone who is at the very beginning of their artistic career, I would say the most important thing is to get your work seen by as many people as possible. Apply to group exhibitions, send information to galleries, put on your own shows. And really really don’t get discouraged by knock-backs. There are a lot of reasons a gallery might turn you down, and it’s not necessarily about the quality of your work. Also, give yourself enough time and resources to build up a good portfolio before expecting to make any money from your art. It can take a long time to get exposure and representation, and you’ll find it easier if you don’t expect to be drawing a wage from day one.