The solitary artist isolated by his eccentricity and social ineptitude is a myth. Artists have always gathered in groups, and you will gain immeasurably from constant contact with as many other people in the art world as possible.
Making friends with artists
Networking is more than fawning at the feet of dealers and gallery owners, local artists should be first on your list of people to know. From them you will gain invaluable advice, support, inspiration and hopefully lifelong friends.
The best place to start is not by trawling the internet for artist’s discussion groups. Certainly the internet has its place, but it can in no way substitute for real human contact. The more you interact with successful artists in your area, the more you will learn about your local arts scene and the people within it.
Every aspiring artist dreams of a chance meeting with an industry bigwig, and you shouldn’t be afraid of approaching them if the opportunity arises. However, there are some important rules of conduct that you should keep in mind:
Never push yourself onto them, however tempting
This is not because these people are unapproachable, but because for the most part if they are interested in you they will find you. If you are able to be introduced to them, do not immediately start talking about yourself and your art.
Nervousness of any sort is a sign of the amateur. You should be as natural as possible, even if it’s your own show or gallery opening that they are attending.
Do not lie
A seemingly simple rule, but so many artists make the mistake of trying to enhance their appearance when under pressure. Be assured, you will be found out. It is always better to be honest about your achievements and about what you know. Never get out of your depth by talking about something you have no knowledge of. You will gain far more respect if you simply say you don’t know but you are interested to learn more.
Do not put down their views
Of course you can disagree with them, but don’t do it aggressively. If they like an artist you don’t, ask what they like about them and show a genuine curiosity. The best way to give the appearance of being interested is by actually being interested. Find out why they like certain types of art and always be open to their opinions.
Don’t get drunk or misbehave
We have already stressed many times the importance of appearing professional in order to further your career. Your reputation is everything, so don’t jeopardise it by acting foolishly.
Places to network
The best places to begin networking are local arts events, and ArteXposed members get several services that help you to do this. You should also check out local newspaper listings and ask in libraries and local government offices for upcoming arts events. You should aim to be a regular face at every event you can make it to. Many events have competitions which are also an excellent way of meeting new artists and getting yourself known.
Begin local, then spread wider. Once you have established yourself on the local arts scene, reach out to more distant towns and cities. Visit as many galleries as possible and talk casually with the people there about art. If you have the courage, you can even try creating your own arts event with a few fellow artists you’ve met, and ArteXposed will often sponsor such events if you are a member. If your reputation spreads to the right people, you may even find yourself being invited to join a member’s only arts club, which is another excellent opportunity for meeting new people.
There are no great secrets to networking. Simply try to meet as many people interested in art as possible, whether they are in the industry or not. Don’t forget there’s always the chance of making a sale or two from anyone, and you never know where it might lead.