Marketing Mondays: Career Q&A with Jackie Battenfield

As promised, I'm back with a short interview with Jackie Battenfield, whose new book The Artist's Guide, was the subject of a Marketing Mondays post two weeks ago. If you've leafed through the book, or even simply read my report, you know that Jackie is a strong advocate for artists taking control of their careers. Since Jackie interviewed me for her book, I thought I would turn the tables and interview her for my blog.

Jackie signing copies at her book launch at the Cue Art Foundation in New York City on June 18. Pics below are from the same event
JM: Jackie, what has changed most since you started helping artists take control of their careers?
JB: When I first started lecturing there was no Internet. I think that [change] is huge. More than ever before in history, artists can connect with potential audiences. Also, the art world has expanded in that artists are engaged in more media work, video installations, combining media, erasing the boundaries between disciplines. It's all melded.

JM: Yes, but recently the art world has shrunk financially
That has affected artists, but artists are pretty accustomed to living on margins. Not to underestimate how difficult it is to lose part-time job opportunities or a support network, but I'm hoping artists will use this time do the kind of planning they need to do to get through the future ups and downs. My book is about making a living in any economy.

JM: How?
JB: Hopefully every chapter of my book pops one myth after the other. For instance, the idea of supporting yourself only from sales of your work is a myth. Even very successful artists diversify their income, turning it into real estate or investments. Artists with successful gallery careers are teaching or doing freelance work.

JM: You talk a lot about 'multiple income streams.' There's a great little drawing in your book showing a woman on a platform supported by many poles: art sales, teaching, investments, residencies, grants, bartering, freelance.
JB: Multiple income streams ease out the big ups and downs. Very few artists are comfortable with a 24/7 studio practice. It’s very isolating. They have other talents and needs. Turn those into a source of income.

JM: For example?
JB: For example, I love working with other artists, so lecturing on career issues satisfies part of my personality, fulfills part of my income stream and it gives back. My tax preparator is an artist who loves numbers, my yoga teacher is an artist, and many of my friends have turned different skill sets into part-time work.
An animated Jackie and her rapt audience at Cue

JM: You also talk about generosity.
JB: You can give advice and time, and it may not come directly back from that person, but the generosity of spirit comes back. If you know of an opportunity and you don't share the information with others, don't think you'll be the only person who applies. If we model ourselves on generosity, others are more likely to be generous too.

JM: What was your biggest surprise researching the book?
JB: How difficult it was to turn the information I had been teaching for so many years into a readable text. It's one thing to give a talk and make up a one-page handout, quite another to turn it into a whole chapter in a book.

JM: What advice would you offer to artists?
JB: Artists often see No where there is no No. I noticed this when I was running the Rotunda Gallery [in Brooklyn]. An artist would approach me during an opening or on the street and ask me to come up and see their work. I'd say, 'Call me next week and we'll try to set something up,' and nine times out of ten they never followed up. I was pretty shocked at how often artists didn't follow up.

JM: Speaking of No, you've got a great line in the book: "If I'm not being regularly rejected, it means I'm not pursuing opportunities." Would you talk a bit more about rejection?
JB: Rejection isn’t personal. It’s not an indictment of your work. Just because someone likes and respects your work doesn’t mean they want to represent it or curate it into a show. There are a lot of other reasons why the work might not be selected. I don’t mean to say that rejection is not painful, but you have to keep at it. One Yes wipes out a hundred Nos.

Want to read more one on one? Amber Hawk Swanson interviews Jackie for the latest issue of the NYFA Current.


folk art said...

that's a good book, such advices are highly useful for artists, good post, thans!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post, Joanne. I just wanted to respond to the last question, which is about rejection.

It's taken me a while, but I finally got to some cognitive restructuring: instead of thinking "I was not accepted by this juried show" I'm thinking "My work was not accepted"
It still stings, but not nearly as much.
pam farrell

anne mcgovern said...

I've just finished the book and it has been enormously helpful. Thanks Joanne for bringing it to my attention and Jackie for writing in such clear and concise language.

LG said...

"For instance, the idea of supporting yourself only from sales of your work is a myth."

I knew this, from researching and general common sense, but seeing this in black and white made something snap this morning. I no longer have the expectation, and the constant disappointment, of myself regarding money making and fine (not decorative) art. Thank you.

Kathleen said...

My copy of the book arrived over the weekend and I can't wait to dig in!

This book is just one of the many valuable things I've learned or discovered by reading your blog. It (the blog) always makes me want to go make more art. Many, many thanks.

Stephanie Clayton said...

i look forward to getting my hands on this book.

regarding jackie's statement:
"Very few artists are comfortable with a 24/7 studio practice. It’s very isolating. They have other talents and needs."

jackie's words are a reassuring reminder that most of us DO need other things in order to maintain balance and provide multiple sources of income. i've been rather hard on myself lately, wondering how i could feel so unbalanced with all this studio time and nothing else. true, it IS isolating. so now i'm teaching a few hours per day (instant income), and spending the rest in the studio...it's all good.

thank you for this preview of some of the topics in jackie's book.

Stephanie Sachs said...

One of the best streams of income for me over the years was drawing five minute portraits at parties. They are realistic but caricatures can work too.
In my twenties it was a major source of income and I had a spot on Front Street where I set up daily. Now it is a very small part of my income and only work through entertainment companies. Quicksketch allowed me to work short hours, develop great drawing skills, and become comfortable in the public eye. Here in Hawaii we have lots of convention parties but on the mainland there are always bar and bat mitvahs.
I currently charge $165 an hour and know artists who charge even more.
Amazon is sending me Joanne's book along with "Seven Days in the Art World" looking forward to reading a little business and a little gossip.

Anonymous said...

Hello Joanne--
Over the last few months, I think that you've given everybody a great deal to think about with regard to art as a career and a livelihood, but these posts always seem to bring up more questions than answers for me. I can certainly identify with the very practical notion of wanting to make a living off of my artistic endeavors. However,I am troubled that all of these recent posts fail to address a question regarding the relevance and value of the art that is being produced today. It is not my intent to offend, but I see more and more artists today, who approach their art as little more than a glorified business. Art and opportunity have always shared a at least a few things in common, but I think it is important that we as artists aspire to be more than opportunists fixated upon critical acclaim and financial gain. I think it is fair to ask every artist, "where are you coming from what makes your art worth making let alone sharing with an audience?" In my mind, there are questions as significant for an artist than this one. Any way, thanks for your time and thanks for providing an excellent forum for discussing and appreciating a wide range of images as well as ideas.

Kesha Bruce: said...

Ordered my copy last week! It’s taking forever to arrive here in France, but I’m waiting patiently as I know it will definitely help me run my “glorified business” as I continue to fixate on any possible opportunity that will bring me critical acclaim and financial gain.

I don’t really know where I’m coming from or what makes my artwork worth sharing with an audience, but I know Jackie’s book will magically transform my career anyway.

*placing tongue firmly in cheek*

Joanne Mattera said...

Dennis writes: "I am troubled that all of these recent posts fail to address a question regarding the relevance and value of the art that is being produced today."

Dennis, I appreciate your comments and I am not offended by them, but I must point out that the Monday column is called MARKETING Mondays. The point of these posts is to address the ways we get the work into the world, in front of the eye of dealers, critics and curators and, ideally, into a private or institutional collection.

Kesha, who posted just after you, picked up on your commments, too. Any artist who expects to sell her/his art is running a business. And why not? It's ridiculous to think we should suffer in poverty for our art. Are the art suppliers giving their work away for free? Is Fed Ex delivering for free? Is health insurance covering us for free?

Artists have two choices with regard to art:
1) We can work another job to earn enough to make our art
2) We can sell the art to support outrselves and the making of ever more art

I've done way #1. Now I prefer way #2. Integrity does not go out the window when a work is offered for sale. (That's a fallacy from art school in a previous generation.)So I'm running not a "gloriofied business" but an actual business. When I'm not in the studio, I'm doing administration: shooting and archiving images of the work, inventory, accounts payable and receivable, PR, communication with my galleries. There's packing and shipping, studio maintenance, and a million small things that in a large corporation are done by many but in a sole-proprietorship are done by me--or by any artist who is so involved.

"The relevance and value of the art that is being produced today" is an issue that's best left to another blog. I'm not a philosopher or an art historian; I'm an artist who posts what interests me. I see a lot of art, and while I don't dig all of it, I find a lot of it interesting because it's an expression of our time and culture.

LG said...

Hi Dennis,

I can't speak for others but I certainly value my work as something more then a way to make money (or not make money as the case may be). The artistic and cultural value was not addressed becuase that figure cannot be put into simple numbers. Art is extremely valuable (priceless) in regards to a culture and/or society. Do we study ancient civilizations by their stock portfolio? No, we study their art!

But if art is so important in these "grander" schemes, why can't more visual artists make a living creating it?

Anyone who truly loves doing something will want to earn their living that way. It's natural to want to focus on what you love. Unfortunately, we all have bills to pay as well thus we must be realistic.

I have to keep in mind, as I build a career, that the majority of citizens in my country and my government has no interest in the arts and certainly don't want to pay to support them. I try to offset this by reminding myself how important my work is to me and how I am driven to create it.

As you said, this forum always brings in more questions to ask and consider. This is a good thing in my book.

Anonymous said...

I didn't mean to distract from the intent of the posts, it is indeed Marketing Mondays, but I do see how one perceives their art as a critical element in the effective marketing of it. I teach art in an elementary school, so the fact is, I value creative efforts at every level and in every sphere of life. Whatever your opinion, in the end I think it can only benefit an artist to think at least as much about the quality and nature of their work as they do about the prospects of selling it. Within the context of a post concerning marketing, I still believe issues of artistic integrity and cultural relevance are important unless your highest aspiration for art is to decorate walls and ultimately I suppose that is OK as well. I direct these comments at no one in particular, if anything I'm just trying to spice up the conversation. As James Kalm is fond of saying, the art community is nothing more than one large tribe, so no matter how diverse our opinions regarding art, we all share a fundamental desire and need to create, express and engage the world.
Thanks again--

Joanne Mattera said...

Dennis says: "Whatever your opinion, in the end I think it can only benefit an artist to think at least as much about the quality and nature of their work as they do about the prospects of selling it.

Yes, that's a given. But artists who are on the high wire without a net--who are supporting themselves without a full-time job and its benefits--have marketing concerns.

To put it simply: I know where my work is coming from. I want to make sure it has a place to go.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Joanne--

your intellect as well as your patience is elastic. I think it incredibly generous for you to host this wonderful forum for all of us to bat around and confront all of these important issues.

I didn't mention earlier, but I love the comment Kesha posted after my initial academic artist tirade. I only post comments to stir the thinking of others; I really hold no firm opinions on the issue of art and commerce. If I can show my work or sell my work in a setting which I deem appropriate, I'm pretty sure I'll be the first to accept the offer.

After all, I believe one of the highest aims of art is to engage an audience and you can't expect to have an audience if you're not showing or selling work.

One day I suspect that I will have to throw my hat in this blogging game. Perhaps I can start a blog regarding the philosophical debates that erupt when one considers the nature of art for too long. Then again, I might attract too many people like me and the blog will only serve as an irritation and a weight upon my time. I never know unless I give it a try.

Thanks for the great Blog Joanne
you elevate the practice of blogging to an art and the educational value of what you are doing is immeasurable.

-- Dennis

Adria said...

I just got the book last week, thanks to your mentioning it here. I have read a lot of these books and this one is the best. It is the most up to date, and deals with the professional artist who is in it for the long run, as opposed to folks who just want an easy fix.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Dennis - do you think you might have a different perspective on this matter if you actually earned your living as a working artist as opposed to teaching art on a stipend?

I certainly know that if there is no regular monthly pay check and pension cover, you suddenly find you start to pay a lot more time and attention to working out how you can best run your business. Being a full time working artist is no different from any other occupation when it comes to being a sole trader.

Bottom line - take away the safety net and you will find that your priorities will definitely change. That doesn't mean to say the art will change - but to mind it does leave a lot less time for philosophising.

Mike@ahamoment.com said...

Wow, some really great advice in here. I have plenty of artistic friends that need to know about this.

It also reminds me of a story Dianna sent us a while back.
She was told early on that a career in the arts was impossible, so went a different more financially secure route. Then a little later decided to "chuck it" and pursue her true passion -- art!

Check out here story at the link below. Hope you like it.