A plan is nothing. Planning is everything. -Dwight Eisenhower
Successful artists as well as businessmen use creative thinking to get from point A to point B. -James Rosenquist
Basically you could say that artists I have known who have had rewarding and successful careers are those who have been able to make very clear choices about their priorities and expectations. Once these priorities were selected, they wasted no emotion on the other things they gave up. I want to make it clear that when I refer to a successful artist I do not necessarily mean financially successful. To me a successful artist is one who continues to make art, and is not more than 50% bitter about the rest of life.
- Bruce Beasley
According to a Harvard study of their students ten years after graduation, those who had specific goals made salaries three times greater than the salary of the average Harvard graduate. Those with written goals made ten times the average. Whether you are planning ahead in order to make money or to have the career you want, planning can get you organized. Being organized can give you more time to make art, and cost less time looking for things.
One of the best things about writing down your goals is that when you are finished you can cross them off your list. It is a good reminder about what priorities you have chosen, and gives you a good way to check back and see how you are doing.
Planning is a fluid process. Plans are made, and plans are changed. A good plan is flexible, and changes with your good (or bad) fortune. It is better than making New Year’s resolutions at the end of each year, only to forget about them a few months later. Writing things down has a way of making ideas concrete.
Don’t forget that something like creating a mailing list is a big step to getting organized. When that exhibition or performance comes around, you won’t have time to dig through that shoebox full of business cards and pieces of paper with addresses of people you have met at openings.
If you keep track of your work, and have a list of where that work is, when you have that retrospective or midcareer survey, you will know what you have made and when, and you won’t have to create that list from scratch. It will also allow you to keep track of what shows each work has been in, and when and where you sold that painting you did 10 years ago. Keep an inventory of the work as you make it.
Planning does not have to be overwhelming. Start small and work up to the big stuff. Get organized first, and things will fall into place more easily. And be creative about planning. There is no one way to do anything.
Short Term Planning:
Short-term plans start with today and span into the next couple of years. Start small with such things as a mailing list, your artist’s statement, résumé and getting your slides labeled. If someone told you today that there was a deadline next week for a show that your work would be perfect for, or a grant opportunity came up, would you be able to get your shit together in order to meet the deadline?
If you have your résumé up-to-date, your most recent artist’s statement written, and your slides in order, you will have a better chance of meeting the deadline and not missing a great career opportunity.
Start with writing down your goals, for three months, one year and three years. Make sure to check back often and update or revise your goals. If you’re not sure where to get started, check out the list of goal examples below.
Long Term Planning:
Long-term planning should include those things you would like to accomplish in four to five years to the end of your life. You can do this by thinking about what you want to accomplish in the long run. If you have trouble picturing that far into the future, try writing a script for an awards ceremony in your honor, or write your own obituary. This will require you to make some long-range plans as to what you want to do with your life and art career. Check back periodically to see if your ideas have changed over time, or to see if your short-term goals are supporting your long-range plans.
See below to check some ideas for long-range planning.
- Create a mailing list
- Set up Artwork Tracking
- Get a professional photographer to document my work
- Label slides
- Put slides in binders
- Project binders
- Create a brochure of work
- Put together proposal packets
- Create a Web site
- Get into a group exhibition
- Do a solo show
- Get a review of my show
- Get a teaching job
- Apply for a public art project or commission
- Sell a painting
- Schedule a studio visit
- Curate a show
- Apply to artist’s residencies
- Travel to......
- Write a review
- Get an art dealer
- Earn 30,000 a year
- Produce a catalog of my work
- Show in (Europe, New York, Los Angeles)
- Make a living with my artwork
- Find a studio
- Do three performances this year
- Do two shows this year
- Hire an artist’s assistant
- Hire a studio manager
- Apply for a business license
- Apply for a DBA (Doing Business As) business name
- Organize the office
- Get a museum show
- Make 10 paintings for new series
- Fill out planning sheets
- Call my mother
- Research artist funding
- Meet with a nonprofit for fiscal receivership
- Research materials for donation
- Paint the studio
- Order new lighting
- Get insurance
This article is excerpted from Get Your Sh*t Together, an artist's professional development series produced by Side Street Projects, Los Angeles. Visit their web site to order the complete series on CD-ROM.