Diary of a Career Launch: Year II

*Editor’s note: In 2000 we followed artist Steven Verriest through the first year of his aggressive career launch. We’re happy to say his career is progressing, but perhaps in a different direction than he had anticipated. Read on to find out how he’s doing in his second year as written by Steven Verriest in 2001 Artist’s & Graphic Designer’s Market.

career launchAfter spending a year promoting myself, the one most important thing I’ve learned is patience. Several times I’ve had good things happen that made me think I could just lay back on the couch in my studio, answer the phone, and choose which clients I wanted to work for. Well, that hasn’t happened yet. Selling art is a business, no matter how much I believe in my work.

I’ve used the same graphic identity for a year-and-a-half. Art directors tell me they receive anywhere from two illustration self-promos a day to a lot of junk mail. I consider myself lucky when I make it to their file folder of favorites. When they get my pieces in the mail every three months, I want them to recognize my work and make a connection to the last mailer I sent them.

HOW
In the past year, I’ve put a lot of my profits back into my business. I’ve entered a lot more paintings into the important illustration contests, and have increased the quality of my self-promotions. I purchased a list of names and addresses from Adbase.com to send my promos to. I’m taking a trip to the Society of Illustrators gala in New York City to meet the artists and art directors. I’m saving up for some more big tickets items – the HOW Conference and a page in the Alternative Pick.

I’ve spent endless hours compiling a customized mailing list. I went to the bookstore every Saturday afternoon until I had flipped through every magazine. It didn’t take long to form a solid criteria by which to search for the Holy Grail of illustration assignments. I found websites that have tons of links to magazines, but I wanted to hold the actual magazine in my hand and see the illustrations for myself. I went to the library and wrote down all of the contact information for the major U.S. newspapers and their Sunday Magazines. One website I found for the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, aan.com, has list of about a hundred alternative newspapers and their contact information.

I started to believe that the more places I had on my mailing list, the more people I would expose in my art, and the more clients I would receive. I researched three major Lists for sale: Morgan Shorey, Steve Langerman, and Adbase are all approximately the same price. The Adbase allows me Internet access to their entire database. I’ve chosen 1,000 names to mail to. With the Adbase list, I can later experiment with sending to other possible clients.

My representative has two copies of my Black Fur Portfolio and is taking it around to a bunch of art directors. We’ve been working together for a year, and he has given me a lot of opportunities I could never have had without him.

My website has gotten a thousand hits in one year. (At least two hundred hits are my own.) I put my URL on all my promotion pieces. A couple art directors have told me over the phone that they checked it out. Some even checked it out while I was talking to them on the phone. At first, I thought art directors were to busy to wait for art to download off the Internet. After talking to a few of them, I’m discovering that they enjoy searching for illustrators’ websites. They can search by style and bookmark their favorite websites. They can search by style and bookmark their favorite websites. Now my portfolio can be seen on Theispot.com.

I was lucky enough to join the Graphic Artists Guild, (www.gag.org), before I made some big purchases. My membership fee paid for itself several times over in savings. Because of my membership, I saved money on airline tickets and my membership at Theispot.

For encouragement, I kept telling myself that art directors who can’t use my illustrations might at least show them to someone who can. Finally, two art directors told two curators about me, and I got my first gallery show. Then my curator told another curator, and another art director told another curator. So far I have had four gallery shows in Detroit and one in Chicago.

After my first show, I finally learned that I needed to cover more bases if I wanted to get any kind of exposure, so I started researching art galleries. I read two books on the subject, one written by a curator and one written by an artist. It was interesting to see the two different points of view and to understand where each party was coming from. I’ve met a lot of gallery artists and illustrators along the way who have been very helpful.

With some luck, I just may be able to make a career out of painting.

For more art tips, check out these titles:
2015 Artist's & Graphic Designer's Market Photographer's Market 2016

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