Wednesday, April 11, 2007

18 words of wisdom from El Maz

thinking back on things i have learned over the past couple of years, i figure it might be worthwhile to offer some suggestions and advice for other artists. these are all things i have learned(usually the hard way)

1. before you do anything else, buy this book called "Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines (Graphic Artists Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines). you can buy it at Amazon, here is the direct link:
there is so much info in here that i wish i had at my fingertips a year or two ago. it's about 22 bucks. pony up and buy it for god's sake.

2. always do work with a contract. a contract is your safety net(as well as your client's). if a company doesnt want to deal with contracts, you don't want to deal with them. plain and simple.

3. understand, and accept, that if you do enough work eventually somewhere along the way someone will fuck you. it has happened at least once to almost every artist i know. i don't wish it upon anyone, but the odds are that it will occur. the trick is to not get bummed out and walk away from everything just because you got burned. the best thing to do is to learn from that mistake and make sure you don't fall into the same trap again. i didn't follow my rule # 2, which is how i got dry-fucked on 2 separate occasions.

4. 99% of things in life are not free. even if you think they are free, they aren't! almost everything comes with strings attached. always be very wary when people are offering you free things or gifts. usually, that offer is followed up by a phone call or an email requesting you do an insane amount of work for little or no compensation/exposure.

5. it isn't always about money. every time you are approached for a project or an art show, you should weigh the positives vs. the negatives. i know this may seem like common sense, but several people i have talked to have made the mistake of chasing money and not doing what they really wanted to do. if you know that a project will end up providing a huge amount of exposure that will lead to more work, that may be more important in the long run than a couple extra bucks in the short-term.

6. you do not have to take every job that you are offered. even though some may seem like the chance of a lifetime, i have found that those chances will usually come back around again. careers are built over the long term reflected by a stack of solid work, not based upon one or two home-runs that you hit. it is your right to choose who you work with, what you work on, and when you will be working on it. try not to forget that.

7. learn how to promote the shit out of yourself. you are your own representative. you are your own advertising firm. whatever means you need to take in order to get your name and your work out there, then do it.

8. slowly build a clientele and a list of people who have purchased your artwork in the past or are just generally interested in your work(and hopefully owning some of it in the future). these people are your VIP's. always remember that they took a blind leap of faith on you when you were just starting out. a little contact with them goes a long way, even if it is just to drop a line to see how they are doing and to inform them(or show them sneak peeks) of your upcoming works. keeping a previous client satisfied is a lot easier than convincing new people to buy your work.

9. build, and sustain, a group of artists who you would consider to be your friends. help each other out. if someone contacts you to be in a show, and you know that 4 of your friends have been dying to do a similar show, give the gallery your friend's info and vice versa. if you have 5 people working towards a similar goal, it is far easier to reach that goal than when you try to do it all alone. plus, it is way cooler to be in a show with your friends than with pompous douchebags who don't have any interest in talking to you.

10. don't overbook yourself. i can't stress this one enough. it ties in with #6. turning down a job is far better than promising you will be involved in something and then having to back out at a later date due to time constraints. it ends up reflecting poorly on you and your work ethic.

11. never be afraid to network and meet new people. if you go to a new gallery, seek out the owners and introduce yourself to them. try stopping by on a slow day and chatting with them. word of mouth is a strong thing. i am not suggesting you be pushy, but getting to know them will help you in the long run. if you are shy(i frequently am) about your work, drop them an email at a later date and provide a few samples of your work. just let them know that if there is ever a group show in the future you would love to be included. and for god's sake, IF they do invite you to be in a show, pay attention to rule #10 and don't flake on them.

12. be careful who you align yourself with. sadly, if a company or a close friend of yours does some super shady shit, and you are known to be close with them, it can end up reflecting poorly upon you. of course, no one knows what the future can hold, but if a company has a tumultuous past you might think twice about aligning yourself with them.

13. your attitude goes a long ways. don't be that prick artist who has such a huge ego he can't be bothered talking to someone who admires what he does. if you suck at being sociable, then don't go to an event where you will be asked to sign and draw for people. simple. stay home and paint and hate the world. there are tens of thousands of talented people in this world. someone will always be more talented, more hot, more popular, and more busy than you are. unless you are chuck norris. he is the top of the food chain.

14. learn how to listen to criticism. note, i said listen to, not accept. everyone has an opinion, and if you are completely satisfied with your final product it doesn't truly matter what someone else has to say. most criticism is complete shit. but in some comments you can usually find something to learn from and grow from. i believe you can keep from being stagnant if you keep one ear open. but don't change who you are and what you do just because some jacknut told you to paint hands a certain way or that your style looks like so-and-so.

15. always be accessible. if someone writes you an email, try and respond within a reasonable time frame. it's common courtesy.

16. going to art school does not make you an artist.

17. understand that some promises are just empty promises. try not to get bummed out when a project falls thru or a company decides to go with a different artist. it happens. paying attention to rule #2 can oftentimes help with this problem, but not always.

18. never forget who you are, what your vision is, and where you want it to take you. don't be afraid to change things up now and then. never sacrifice your vision because of a project. take pride in yourself and what you do. oh, and make sure you eat lots of corn. and pulled-pork sandwiches. and always remember to floss.

thanks for stopping by,

1 comment:

Lindsay said...

I'm no artist, but if I was, I would take these 18 words of wisdom from El Maz, which was technically more than 18 words, and memorize them. Nicely put, sir.