So You Wanna Be An Artist Series #01 – Your Headquarters

So you wanna be an artist?  So do I!  I want to make awesome art and show it in all the cool galleries all over the world.  I want to show my work to the masses and have them shower me with praise, money, and doughnuts.  hehe.  Years ago I had no idea where to start.  I knew that I liked painting and wanted to explore that.  So I got together some cheap brushes and some paints and started painting in my kitchen.  Right at the kitchen table.  I didn’t really know what I was doing but I felt like that was my studio space.  Then it dawned on me…I wanna make a real studio space and really give this a shot.  I want to make art that people would see in galleries.  And hopefully, BUY one day.  Along the road to galleries I have learned quite a few things, some of them the hard way.  And I would like to share them with you in a new Mini Series on the Zen of Hustle Blog called ‘So You Wanna Be An Artist’.  In this series, we will talk about all the things you need to do to make art and get it ready to approach galleries.  For many, this will be neat stuff to learn and for others, a good brush up on some skills you might have forgotten.  But don’t worry, this series isn’t the only thing I will be posting on here.  We will look at all the advanced ins and outs of art journeys too.  So let’s jump in.

jcoffy web

Me in my current studio at Arc Gallery and Studios.

Your World Headquarters – In planning your art world takeover, you need a space.  A space to make art.  Lots of art.  You also need it to be useful for some of the art biz stuff like promoting your work or communicating with your adoring fans and galleries.  Even if you don’t have much of that right now one thing is clear…YOU need a space.

As you read before I started out at my kitchen table.  I have seen so many unique artist setups over the years.  One artist was painting in a large bedroom closet.  Some folks take over their garages for art studios.  I have seen people use a small dimly lit corner or their living room, bedrooms, and yes, I have even heard of one artist working in their large well lit bathroom.  You can, of course, spend a ton of money on a studio space and make it legit.  But if you are just starting your art business I don’t recommend that.  It is an expense and sometimes it can be quite pricey.  Either way, find a place and call it your own.  Sidenote: This may be tricky with kids and pets so find a place that you can really make your own.

Now that you have claimed a space, you’re gonna need to set it up.  Here are some things to consider.

  1. Workspace – A table of some sort, maybe an easel if you are used to them.  You need a place to actually DO the work.
  2. Supplies – Get all your stuff together.  Organize it so it’s easy to get to.  The last thing you wanna be doing is searching through boxes in your bedroom or garage in the middle of a painting.  I do not recommend buying art bins at the fancy art store as they are overpriced and usually you can recycle bottles or get the same containers at the dollar store.  Save your money for the actual supplies.
  3. Light – Shed some light on things.  Maybe you can be near a window for natural light or you can add a couple of lamps to the table to really get a good amount of light.  Art lamps come in all shapes, sizes, and price ranges.  But I’m not opposed to nine dollar clip-on lights from Ikea. Do whatever works for you.
  4. Ventilation – You got fans?  You will.  Especially if you are working with toxic materials like oil paints and thinners and such.  You need some fans.  If you are close to a window see if that window can be opened from time to time.  Get some air moving through your space.  Also, this is just good for your sanity.  I don’t work with toxic materials in my space but it gets dang hot in there on warm days and a fan is crucial.
  5. Storage – After you have made your fifth masterpiece you will start to really understand the need for storage.  You need to find a place to keep your work.  If it’s next to your table and you are painter, trust me on this, you will get paint on the finished pieces if you do not store them properly.  Finding a closet or a space to store your work can be challenging.  What you are looking for is a dry, clean, cool, and pest free place to store your work.  Keep it safe.
  6. Computer –  Not everyone but most people have a computer nowadays  This device can be super helpful in communicating with galleries, collectors, coffee shops, local art friends, and even Aunt Jeana who buys paintings from time to time.  Plus, eventually, we are going to track art and sales with this thing.  So get ready.
  7. Other Stuff – Make your space a great space to create.  Maybe a rug that really ties the room together. Or a music player that plays all your favorite Kenny Rogers tunes. Some people like house plants, skulls, toys, and whatever else may inspire them to be in the space and work.  Hopefully you are gonna be spending a good amount of time in your studio, so make it nice.  I have always wanted a big fat comfy chair in mine and luckily, my studio mate has a couch that we take naps on from time to time.
  8. YOU – Last but not least…YOU belong in your studio.  You may have to battle for time in your space.  I have an 8-year-old and recently have been dealing with lots of health issues so studio time is harder to come by.  One thing that helps is knowing when you like to work.  I like working in the daylight so that’s when I do my best work, while the sun is shining through my studio’s skylight.  I also NEVER work on art before 10;30 am.  It’s just a thing I know about myself.  So pay attention when you LIKE working best.  When I was younger I would stay up all night painting.  Now that rarely happens even if there is a huge deadline.  So figure out when you WANT to be there and fight for that time.

Your ideal setup? Maybe.

This should get you started on your home base.  These items are the same basic needs in all studios.  Most artists, from the dad in his kitchen making paintings to the fancy museum artist, need these things.  In the rest of this series we are going to talk about:

  • Finishing Your Work
  • Wires and Hanging Hardware
  • Pricing Your Work
  • Getting Work Photographed
  • Archiving Your Work
  • Scouting Galleries And Venues
  • Approaching Curators and Galleries
  • Deadlines and Delivery

All of these items are internal.  Meaning that all of them have to do with YOU and your studio space.  As we move through these things you will see how that relates to dealing with galleries.  You can think of the rest of the series as a Standards and Practices of your art biz.  And here we go, one foot on the path.  Until next time.


Road To Gallery Representation

(presented by Joshua Coffy and Claire Frost) for ArtSpan

Monday September 24th, from 6:30-8pm @ SOMArts Cultural Center

This workshop is free to all ArtSpan Members and sliding scale donation for Non-Members.  Come learn about how to get your work ready for galleries, how to approach galleries, and how to successfully navigate that part of the art world.  It’s time to learn to show your work.  Join me at this workshop as many of the things on this blog are in the presentation.  Facebook event here.