Friday, August 22, 2014


Professionalism is just as important in the art field as it is in any other type of business. The way you portray yourself is very important, and while the image of an artist as a disheveled eccentric is attractive in theory, portraying yourself as professional leaves the impression of a trustworthy individual in the minds of others. This is essential when people are considering purchasing your artwork, when they are trusting that you will follow through on a commission, or when someone is trusting that you will have a body of work prepared for a gallery showing in time. If someone has a sense that you are well-managed and put together, they will be more likely to give you these opportunities.

A good friend once said to me: dress for the job that you want, not the job that you have. For years I believed that being an artist meant that I could play by my own rules and avoid the standards that everyone else would have to live their mundane lives by. However, when my friend said these words to me,  I was working for minimum wage in a mundane office, unemployable as an artist, and those words really stuck with me. I realized that getting ahead as an artist would take more than talent, hard work, and good ideas. It would also require me to present myself as someone that is put together. And despite the fact that I wanted to be acknowledged as a working artist, I began feeling as though the job that I wanted as a working artist was not one as a disheveled eccentric who was obsessive of all things art, but one as a professional looking artist who is successful at their business.

I began dressing more professionally at my job, I purchased a few blazers and always tried to look nice. However, when I started business school I never thought that I would fit in. I never felt that my attire would ever be up to snuff, and I always had difficulty looking truly professional. As time went by and I gathered more business attire (might I add, at no cost more than I was buying regular clothes for the most part), I realized that it's not that difficult, and that anyone can dress professional with a reasonable amount of comfort as well.

Can't wear a pair of pantyhose without a starting a huge run in it? Buy some damn dress pants. Break my face on the bus with high heels? Payless has plenty of flat shoes, don't worry. Can't find a button up shirt that doesn't look like the buttons at the boobs are hanging on for dear life? Well, there are plenty of nice shirts without buttons.

Another thing I learned years ago is that your art should look professional as well. Now, mind you, I am not saying to change your art style. If you art style is a mess, let it be a mess! However, there is something very important one of my professors during my Visual Arts degree taught me. I was working on a book project for a printmaking class, and I had printed and bound a book. Now, I was never very good at precise detailed work, but I wanted to make a nice-looking book like the ones I had seen made in workshops I had attended. But instead the inside cover of my book had glue all over it and the pages were all a bit crooked. My professor for that class, when critiquing my book, told me one something that has stuck with me ever since. She said "Lenore, your artwork is very messy. That isn't a bad thing, it's the type of artwork that you make and it's who you are. But you have to embrace it and to always make sure that if it looks messy, it looks messy on purpose".

That has stayed with me to this day. My messy disheveled artwork was suddenly no longer something I struggled with, but instead became something I could be proud of. I stopped trying to make neat artwork, and instead put my efforts into making sure the messy work I was making was presented properly. My artwork remained messy while the presentation changed.

It took me years to realize that this practice was important for myself as well. I could remain a messy person, who is all over the place, constantly busy, constantly have a million ideas running through my head, working on a variety of projects, as long as I presented myself in my dress pants, nice shoes (no heels) and nice shirt (no buttons) so I looked like I was being a messy person on purpose.

Have any tips on professionalism as an artist? I'd love to hear it! Comment below!

<3 Lenore

Friday, August 15, 2014

Love art every day

As I said a few posts ago, when I spoke about how I keep focused on art while I am busy, I often try to make whatever small doodles and drawings I can to keep myself involved. Here's a quick little doodle I did on my iPad. Thought I'd share as a reminder to you all to love art every day.

<3 Lenore

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The struggles of a Fine Arts graduate

When I finished my Visual Arts degree, I was very unsure of what to do next. If there is one thing I've learned after completing a university education, it is that the focus of university is on academia and knowledge, and what you do with it when you're finished is of no concern to them. This is unfortunate, however, because many students are never taught the skills to get the job, or to even know what job they are qualified for. There is something that I find very frustrating about programs that charge such large sums of money and put teenagers in insurmountable debt despite holding the firm belief that there is no place there to teach usable real life skills in the field.

While I was studying Visual Arts, I spent the entire four years feeling as if I had myself all figured out. "I am soooo lucky that I know what I'm passionate about and what I want to do for the rest of my life straight out of high school", said my brain while dragging my tired ass to class every day.

However, things were very different after I was out of school. I was left with this wandering sense of "now what?". I had to find somewhere to live, money to pay rent, and no one was showing up at my door offering me money to live as an artist.

So what did I do?! Well I did what many artists do at that point in their career! I started working at a call centre. (Other acceptable answers here would have been gas station, restaurant, or retail outlet).

It's a sad truth: since the recession it has become extremely difficult to be an artist. I don't understand how art schools can stay afloat if they do not begin teaching students the skills to survive after art school. You see, no matter how passionate you are about something, you still need to eat and pay rent. No matter how passionate I was about art, I had to work 40 hours a week at a call centre. There have been several points in my life where I've had to work two jobs, up to 60 hours a week, just to afford the cost of living. Finding the time to make art on top of that is difficult. Finding the time to network yourself or to sell your art on top of that is near impossible.

Here is a great Maclean's article about how difficult it is to be a Fine Arts graduate right now, and how schools have to adapt.

Students need to start these processes while still in school. Students need to start gaining the business skills (networking, marketing, financial skills, etc) while still in art school, because they will never find the time to learn these on their own. Instead, they end up in dead end jobs with piles of half-finished and finished canvases in their bedroom that no one will see because they don't know how to get someone to look, while busting their asses to pay off their debts.

Now that I'm enrolled in an MBA, I feel like I am gaining the necessary skills to be a working artist. If that doesn't work out, I have the skills to find a job that will pay me enough that I can at least have the time to get my art out there. However, I was never made aware that applying for an MBA was an option for me as a Visual Arts graduate. It took me four years the figure that out. Nor did I think for a second to enroll in business electives during my undergrad. Why did no one tell me these things?! Why have I suffered this whole time?

I think one of the issues is that the professors teaching these programs never faced the problems that we do. When they finished school there was grant money available, there were teaching jobs, they didn't have to choose between making art and eating. However, I sincerely feel that they should look around them and see what is occurring to students after they walk out of the school doors. They need to adapt, or there will be no room for art school and no room for art in the lives of the upcoming generation.