Being an artist is definitely one of the more “interesting” career choices one can make in life.
It is hard enoguh in what we used to consider “Normal Times” to sell our work, connect with buyers, get our work into galleries, apply to all the juried shows, and then travel to those and take on herculean efforts to set up our mobile galleries for a few hours.
Throw weather events, poor turnouts, high gallery commissions, high material costs, huge travel costs into that equation, and many of use were simply “living an earning”, more than “earning a living”.
And now? Covid-19 Pandemic Times? Um, yes – we now see the value of “Normal Times” so much clearer, don’t we? Having to pivot to online shows takes a LOT of time, a steep learning curve, and more expenses just to keep up with the needed technology.
And then the galleries closed. For example, two weeks after I delivered a set of my paintings to a popular gallery i downtown Charleston, covid closures happened. And then, protests happend in front of the gallery. And then they re-opened, but with boards in the windows – and without tourists, because: pandemic times.
“Pivot” ( remember the couch scene in ”Friends”? Yup, that is now real life, folks.
It is time to pivot – and to get good at it. Can’t sell your work online? Create a line of work that you CAN sell online. Don’t know how to do that? Watch some good tutorials to learn the ropes. Don’t have the technology for it? Ask around – someone in your circle is bound to have some sort of webcam setup or know someone that does.
But where do you pivot to? Ah, yes, excellent question!
Just like us artists, people are stuck at home, wondering where their “normal” went – so to get your work in front of them, you need to meet them where they are: online.
Whether you set up a virtual classroom on Zoom, or run a live art show booth video on your Facebook page, or set up your booth in your front yard for a drive-by art show – making it work is what keeps us from being quitters. It is, after all where we “live our earnings” – so giving that up does not just cut our income, it also cuts our heartstrings in the process.
The past two weekends we participated in two online fiber festivals with my Sheep Incognito artwork. It was not easy setting up the technical side of things: we subscribed to Zoom Pro level, only to find that my laptop/ browser combo is a bit outdated, and would not run smoothly and, I have yet to figure out how people would register or sign into my zoom meetings. With that challenge, and a timed slot for my live session, we pivoted to just using Facebook Live Video instead. We had added new products with my work on them right before the event – but did not have time to get it all uploaded there, and ready to order on the website. Pivot again: we set up one listing for three different product types, and just added a field where buyers could enter the title of the image they want on their products. We then place the order with our printing providers, and have things shipped directly to the buyer. It costs a bit more in production and shipping costs, but frees up time instead.
Time we then can use to create other products, or paint new paintings (on a smaller scale than for the show booth – pivoting again!).
So, how DO we survive as artists in these strange, peculiar times of Covid-19 pandemic? We get dizzy, we keep going, and we gain energy from seeing what CAN be done, rather than letting the “what we can’t do anymore” bring us down.
On that note, an ecnouragement to all you artists out there panicking right now: keep pivoting, until your pivoting skills turn into a beautiful dance with adversity. It might just be the ballet performance your buyers have been waiting for anyway.