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

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