Recently I've had occasion to spend some time with internationally renown minimalist artist, Max Cole. Over her long career she's lived in New York, California, and Europe. Now she resides just down the street from me in Las Vegas, NM.
Several years ago she purchased a local newspaper building that had fallen into disrepair and converted it into an impressive gallery, studio, and living space. Now she wants to complete some interior remodeling and expand her studio space. Gratefully she hired my husband Rob to oversee the work.
Max is a delightful straight talker and both Rob and I enjoy spending time with her. She has lived a rich and fearless life, often catching us off guard when she offhandedly mentions some extraordinary experience. For instance, over dinner she dropped the story of when her artwork was selected for an international art show in the Vatican (yes, THE Vatican) and she met the Pope. He gave her private access to the Sistine Chapel --no crowds or tourists.
One of her favorite stories to tell is her big break into the art world. She was a "starving artist"in New York City. On a return trip while waiting for her luggage at the airport she struck up a conversation with the man standing next to her. He was continuing on to another city and they went their separate ways but not before she mentioned she was an artist and casually invited him to see her studio the next time in was in NYC.
Some time later he did return to NYC and looked her up.
Max says that at that time in her career her style of art was "out of fashion". She consciously decided to not chase the market but instead focused on painting whatever she wanted. So when this man came to her studio he found very large horizontal paintings in her signature style--neutral colors with precise and near-perfect hand painted vertical lines in rows. He asked how much and she pulled a number out of thin air, "$40,000". He didn't blink an eye and wrote her a check then and there.
That stroke of "good luck" seems somewhat consistent in art career stories. In fact, as I meet more and more artists and find out about their careers good (or bad) luck seems to play a big role.
Artists make art then want to somehow share that art with the larger world. There is no well-worn path to success. Instead artists have to try everything, talk to everyone, and keep putting themselves out there.
Often "getting out there" consists of paying to submit artwork to a juried show and hoping the judge selects your work. Or working with local art councils to show your art in a local gallery, library or other public space. Or networking with gallery owners to build relationships and work towards the moment when they are willing to show your work. Or joining different art organizations and participate in their events using those occasions to network with other artists, patrons, curators, and gallery owners. Or chasing social media algorithms to find followers. Or taking odd art jobs like painting murals, restoring furniture, or making stain glass windows and networking along the way to find a collector.
An artist can do all that work and if no one influential likes their work then their career stalls.
So in my final analysis it all still comes down to luck.
Max talks about focusing on having pure artistic intentions and then trusting that it will all work out. It certainly has for her.
So I'm going to try that too. I'm going to do my work regardless of whether or not it's "en vogue" and I'm going to trust that somehow it will all work out.
In the meantime I'll also keep an eye out for lucky clovers. 😉