Inhabit The Mask: How To Go From ‘Aspiring’ To Artist
You’ve written stories, designed dresses or recorded a song. But does that really make you a writer, a designer and a singer? At what point can or should you start embracing the title of ‘artist’? And won’t it just sound pretentious when you do?
Maybe – and maybe not.
If you want to be called a professional in your field, you have to start by thinking like one. Do what you say you would do, take responsibility, take initiative, and learn to work in a team. Nothing in the arts is done alone. The conception and creation of an idea might be, but to execute it and gain exposure is a team effort.
In the arts perhaps more than any other field, time is ciritcal. It’s essential, and wastage of it is costly. Be reliable; if you are not, the domino effect of delays you cause could affect the entire production line of a project.
Aletta de Wal suggests a checklist for determining your professional status. Although the following list relates predominately to the visual arts, it can be readily applied to all sectors of the creative world).
Do you have all of these?
- A portfolio. You need showreels, photography samples and ready-to-go stories. This is your work; this is what you want to hand off to potential employers. It is not just proof of your creativity, but a weapon.
- Experience. You can make as many short film ideas as you want or as many clothes designs. But if you never actually execute the idea, you will not be able to grow as an artist. To be a professional, you have to dive into the professional world and…
- … face feedback. Good, bad – it’s all part of the industry. Having your work reviewed is important because it shows you are confident enough to show your product to the world. It’s also necessary to get ideas and views from other people in order to improve your product but also to know your market. It is a business, after all.
- Income from your work. A professional is someone who can make a living from what they do. This won’t happen overnight, not in this industry, but you have to start somewhere. Even if it means freelancing, with time you will have enough knowledge and reputation to learn how to price your services.
- You understand the market. This is a fast-paced, ever-changing environment. In order to stay on top of your game, you have to know your niche. If you want to be a writer, be a reader. If you want to be a singer, be a listener. Always keep up to date with your industry.
Knowledge is power. Being knowledgeable in your field not only shows your passion for the industry, but it also makes you a much more desirable person to work with. More importantly, it helps you in your creative endeavours as well, because it gives you a competitive advantage and assists you in the growth of your business.
There are four easy ways to do this.
- Find a mentor. Find someone who can teach you and be there to answer pressing questions.
- Network. Be social, mingle and keep in touch with anybody whose information you have. Like we said, this is a social, team-based industry; the more people you know the better, and the more you can learn!
- Read trade publications. These are magazines or journals geared to a specific business. Reader’s Digest (writing), The Stage (theatre in the UK) and The Hollywood Reporter (film industry) are a few examples. These have the latest updates on your specific field.
- Online research. The good ol’ internet. Take some time every day to update yourself on the latest happenings. Maybe set up google alerts or bookmark your favourite website. Of course, make sure your information comes from knowledgeable sources.
The distinction between being a professional and an amateur is the passion for what you do – and we mean passion for everything the industry comprises, even the not so fun bits.
In the creative industries, there will be paperwork. There will be legally binding contracts with small print that can ruin your work. There will sleepless nights, and long working days. You will have to deal with the higher-ups and fight for your voice to be heard; you will have to get used to compromise. You will meet people you don’t like. You will meet people who don’t like you. Your mind will be scrutinised and your every move followed.
It will not be easy. If it were, everybody would be doing it. But the fight is what makes the outcome so rewarding.
Being passionate will make you seem confident. it will create enthusiasm and make others want to see your work, and it will influence others to be passionate too.
“The people I have seen achieve the greatest success in their professional and personal lives are passionate people that lead, support, and mentor others with that ‘zeal and zest’ for the work and people”.
So ask yourself: do you have the right attitude, the work and experience (no matter how small) to back it up. Do you know everything their is to know about your line of work? Most of all, do you have an unadulterated desire to succeed?
If yes, then go ahead. Next time somebody asks, tell them what you are and don’t be ashamed!