So You Just Graduated Art School, Now What?

Catherine Deschamps-Montpetit July 13 2021


3 useful tips for a smooth transition into the emerging artist’s career.

Congratulations! After years of studying and hard work, you’ve finally made it to the end goal: your school’s graduating students exhibition. You’ve created, received criticism, polished up your skills, and now you can finally enjoy the fruits of your labour. Take the time to savor this satisfying moment in your career, because what lies ahead will be a new kind of challenge.

Unfortunately, after the graduation high comes a very serious thing you likely weren’t prepared for in school: real life. “Adulting” is tough to begin with, and now you have to add being a professional artist on top of it. All of a sudden, the friends, teachers, and mentors you were in contact with on a daily basis are no longer by your side. You aren’t eligible to use your usual studio space, and you can’t access your school’s library or multimedia equipment for free anymore. Your schedule is now completely open, unbound by the constraints of a class timetable.

This lack of structure may feel liberating at first, but it may also be extremely alienating. The lull between graduation and your first work experiences is even more delicate for emerging artists; the next step in your career won’t be anything like someone trying to find a traditional 9 to 5. Luckily, by establishing a routine early on and following a few simple tips, you can get through it in one piece.

Create a path to success with everyday habits

“Galaxy River” by Etienne Rousseau

First and foremost, independent artists should establish a routine. Don’t just think in terms of your artistic practice; develop good habits in your personal life as well. As silly as it sounds, try to wake up at the same time every day. Get ready as if you were going out to class and carve out scheduled time each week for research, experimentation, and creation.

If you can’t afford a studio right away, set up a creative space in your apartment or room. Whether you are into painting, sculpture, or printmaking, the setup doesn’t need to be professional. Don’t worry about the size of the space, fancy equipment, or anything of the sort; The goal is to keep creating. As long as you are making something, you are on the right track.

Remember to make time to do administrative tasks regularly so you don’t fall behind in other aspects of your career. You are a professional artist, but for now, you are probably also your own book keeper, social media manager, and agent. Set up your schedule so you can work, but also have time to do other things, like exercise. This will ensure that you maintain work-life balance and avoid burnout. (Yes, artists can burn out even if they love what they do!)

Never stop learning

“The Conference” by Jo Galang

Don’t think you are “done” learning just because school is over. Whether it’s doing an MFA, watching YouTube videos, or listening to podcasts, you need to keep learning to stay inspired.

If you don’t want to spend more time in traditional educational programs, find a mentor or sign up for a private course. Try to see your first years out of school as a time to absorb as much information as possible. With this in mind, look for assisting opportunities. Many established artists need help managing their studios and can, in return, give you an hourly wage and an idea of what your future might look like a few years down the line.

This is also a great opportunity to connect with other artists, curators, collectors, and art administrators. Make sure to stay up to date on current events and learn about all kinds of subjects, even those that are unrelated to your practice. Remember, artists do not exist in a vacuum; they are a part of dynamic societies that are ever-changing. Balance is key.

Find an art community

“Le Moulin de la Galette (recreation)” by Satyajeet Pandere

Most importantly, you need to go out into the artworld. Read blogs, listen to podcasts, and consult web sites. Visit museums, private galleries, festivals, and vernissages. Although it might seem intimidating at first, try not to worry too much. Go to art openings and have discussions about a subject you already know a lot about: art! If you are too shy to go alone, try recruiting a friend from art school to go gallery hopping with you. This is a great way to stay in touch and take some of the social pressure off while networking.

Other ways to build community are to join a club or become a member of an artist-run space. These are non-profit organizations where artists get together to support each other and share resources. Other artists are not a threat, they are assets! Aim for a strategy that combines online resources, like Facebook groups, as well as in-person experiences.

If you follow these tips, the transition between student-life and the start of your career should be relatively painless. They will allow you to get a handle on the ins and outs of being a professional artist so you can prepare for the next step: making a career plan.

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wlande199925 replied 1 year, 3 months ago Amazing article!
christinamarando21432 replied 1 year, 6 months ago great article!
mandarinaesc565 replied 1 year, 6 months ago Great tips, Catherine thanksssss