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One Question with Caroll Michels, author of “How to Survive and Prosper as an Artist: Selling Yourself Without Selling Your Soul”

Your book How to Survive and Prosper as an Artist: Selling Yourself Without Selling Your Soul is now in its seventh edition! What would you say is the biggest change you’ve seen in the art world since your book was first published in 1983?

Caroll Michels: The art world is comprised of various occupations and components. The biggest change affecting most everyone and everything in the art world since 1983 is the advent of the internet.

For fine artists, artist websites have eliminated the gruesome slide package that was once a primary presentation tool. In addition, the internet has made it possible for artists to research potential exhibition venues without the necessity of visiting the venues in person. Some artists are selling work directly from their websites, eliminating the ungodly 50%+ sales commission to galleries. (However, the pros and cons of selling work on artist websites are covered in the new edition of my book.)

Another big change, thanks to the Internet, is the information explosion. Artists can quickly and easily access information on exhibition opportunities, grants, residencies, competitions, etc. The explosion is also instrumental in providing artists with more information about career development.

When the first edition of my book was published in 1983, most of my clients were women. This substantially changed in the 1990s, and today client genders are equally divided. When the first edition of my book was published in 1983, the only other book available that addressed career issues for artists was called An Artist’s Guide to His Market!

When I first started working as a career coach and artist-advocate in the late 1970s, hanging out a shingle was not an easy task. As I point out in the new edition of my book, “I crossed the sacred line of discussing money, marketing, and self-promotion, and challenging some very basis perceptions about the art world. I would go as far as saying that to some people I was considered a ‘witch’. To a large extent these career development topics remained controversial throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Things began to change when the century changed.”

Another substantial change in the last 35 years is the use of social media, although much of “buzz” regarding various platforms promises more than it delivers. The biggest advantage of using social media is that Facebook and Instagram, for example, offer artists the ability to stay in touch with many artists and nonartists who readily give them feedback and kudos for every piece of artwork created. This is a very attractive panacea to the loneliness and isolation that artists experience spending hours alone in their studios without any input from the outside world during and after the creative process takes place.

About Caroll Michels

Caroll Michels is a career coach and artist-advocate. She has helped thousands of artists launch and sustain their careers in the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia, and South and Central America. Michels’ artwork has been exhibited in museums in the United States and abroad, including the Georges Pompidou Museum in Paris, Haus am Waldsee, Internationale Kunst in Berlin, Germany, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and in New York City the Institute for Contemporary Art, The Clocktower, and Exit Art. Michels has received numerous grants, including those awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts; the NY State Council for the Arts; the NY Council for the Humanities; and the International Fund for the Promotion of Culture/UNESCO. She was a fellow at the Alden B. Dow Creativity Center in Midland, Michigan.


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