When you’ve been through one or more careers and you’re starting an art biz, you’ve got a lot going in your favor. Read more about Things One, Two, and Three on using your age and experience to your advantage when building a new biz.
But first, a memory of beautiful Hannah, a professional ballerina who dances in Canada. This painting was a big favorite of many of my collectors when I painted her. The colors and movement were really emotional and exciting for me. I look forward to doing more work like this going forward. In fact, I’m taking a year-long mentorship with Rosso Emerald Crimson during 2023 and I hope to be sharing lots more exciting stuff next year.
It may be hard to tell (ahem), but I am no longer a chicken of the spring. And yet I am still eager and excited to build an art career that I plan to pursue as long as I can. Like most of us, I spent years and years and yet more years pursuing the things of the American way of life. Raising kids, pursuing careers that tried to murder me in broad daylight. (They could never have sneaked up on me in the dark. I laid awake most nights staring at the ceiling in misery.) Paying hard earned cash for things I didn’t need. But that crap is a blog for a different day. Today I’m going to write about being an old artist with a new career.
We have so many advantages when we start a business in our dotage. First, we have already done other stuff that taught us things. My list is rather long and very varied, and I’ve carried knowledge away from all of it*. I came from a generation when people were supposed to start a job and retire from the same job, but I just couldn’t. I moved around a lot. I tried different things. However, if you did start in one business or field and saw it through to retirement, you’re probably ahead of the game. My advantage is the experience of lots of different ways to do a working life. Yours may be that you see the big picture and saw how things tie together, and how chronology affects outcomes. And maybe you saved more money than I did.
The big issue with starting a late-in-life business is figuring out what to purge from your bag of tricks, what to reuse, and what to learn from scratch.
Thing One: Get rid of the idea that you can’t start anything new when you’re past 40.
Seriously. 40 is the very first year of your prime. And guess what? Your prime lasts a long fucking time! I got my Master’s degree when I was 50 and had a whole career based on that before starting my art biz.
Right now my knee joint isn’t my best friend, and sure, the aches and the pains I didn’t have when I was 40 are an annoyance, but I don’t plan to take up football. I’ve started a new art business. My brain still works. My eyes still work. I still get excited when I see something pretty or unusual or read remarkable prose. I have arthritis in my hands, but it isn’t enough to stop me from making things. If I ever can’t art, I can write. If I lose my hands, I can talk to my computer and it will write it all down for me. And damn it, if I have a stroke, which unfortunately runs in my family, I’m not going to sit on the couch waiting for it to happen. I’m going to build a legacy, people!
Announcement: I’m 65. I went full time as an artist when I was 63. I’m not dead yet, and since you’re reading this, I’m going to wager you’re not dead either.
Thing Two: Revitalize what you already know
I did a lot of freelancing before computers, so I have some knowledge about approaching people for work. But I have to learn anew the preferred way to approach people. I used to send typed query letters along with some photocopies of my tear sheets (pages my articles were printed on, torn from magazines I’d been published in) and send them off with a stamp in the mail, and some poor editor somewhere had to read them as well as dozens or hundreds of others deciding if they had a space for it in an upcoming issue. A query email isn’t much different from a query letter. And website portfolio is a lot easier than a hard copy portfolio that you have to carry from person to shop to gallery. A lot of our prep for starting a new biz is just polishing up stuff we already know. Some editor still has to slog through submissions, but that’s their career choice.
Thing Three: Everything you don’t know how to do is on YouTube.
We live in a miraculous time. Abso-fucking-lutely miraculous. If I want to know how to do something, I just click over to YouTube, and somebody is talking about it. If I need inspiration, there are thousands of Ted Talks. Hell, if I wanted to fix my kitchen sink drain I could learn how on YouTube. (That is never going to happen, but I could.)
I watch webinars and read books every week to hone my craft and to build new chops in online marketing. I watch lots of art skills videos. There’s really no stage in life when it makes sense to just stop learning and rely solely on what you already know. Things change too much and too rapidly. New info is figured out and we need to adjust our course. But since we have a knowledge cache, we can gild it with a bit of new info and we are Queen of the Hill, Niblings!
Thing One: You’re not dead yet. Of course you can start a business.
Thing Two: You already know most of what you need to know.
Thing Three: Everything you don’t know is on YouTube.
Have a safe and happy New Year’s Eve, my Friends!
Onward and Upward,
*MacDonald’s cashier, babysitter, warehouse laborer, housekeeper, oil refinery lab tech, draftsman, freelance writer, student, singer, artist, animal behaviorist, writer, speaker, minion, geek, boss, and belittled servant. Oh, there was more.