Sieben on Life: Start Right Now

May 14, 2015

Sieben on Life: Start Right Now
Originally published in the May, 2015 issue of Juxtapoz Magazine.

"How do you get started?" That question, or some version of it, is probably the most frequent subject of emails from younger artists. It's a valid question. However, the answer is remarkably simple: you just start. Now, I know that feedback probably sounds almost dismissive and/or naive. And I know that the underlying question is more, "How do you make money as an artist?" But the answer remains the same. If you're going to be a player in the art game, at some point, you have to realize that there's no coach. And if your ass is gonna get off the bench, you're gonna have to put yourself in the game.

Being in a band is a good analogy: you've got to spend time practicing in the garage before somebody is going to pay you to perform, and the same holds true for art. You're going to have to do a lot of unpaid work before somebody hires you for a paying gig. That being said, when you honestly feel like your apprenticeship is over and your dues have been paid, you're most likely still going to have to (metaphorically) pull yourself up by your bootstraps in order to get noticed. If no galleries in your area want to represent you, stage your own art shows to get your work in front of people. If you want to be a commercial artist and you can't find any clients, invent your own brand and work on stuff for yourself. Who knows, maybe your invented company will become the job you're looking for? Seek out small companies and do pro bono work. Self publish, self promote, self start—if you sit around and wait for somebody to start your career, you're going to be waiting for a long time. Like, till you're dead, dude.

Every successful fine artist or commercial artist that I know has a backstory that entails a lot of penniless years with blind faith as their prevailing guide. The only common denominator is relentless perseverance and optimism. So if you want to know where to start, the only real answer is not stopping. And honestly, the worst thing that can happen is you spend your life making art without anybody noticing. Which is about a million times more awesome than spending your life watching TV without anybody noticing. Well, unless you're watching The Wire. That show is really good. —Michael Sieben