What does it mean to be a rookie in the visual art field in Romania? (II)

Last time, I wrote about the first things you need, if you want to start your journey within the art field, passion and talent. Today, I will write about the other two categories, courage and work and a flexible and responsible spirit. I marked a few points about the last two categories in the previous article too, because the three of them can only exist together. Now, I will address the last two categories fully.

When you’re a rookie, you get hit by an endurance test and that is, having to deal with tons of disapprovals. Maybe your parents want you to be a doctor, maybe most of your teachers are too narrow-minded to understand, appreciate and cultivate your potential. You will be told probably, that there’s no place for you in this art university, art high school, or that what you do is wrong and ugly (because it’s not what you are ordered to do, because it disturbs them). You will sometimes feel the competitive tension between you and your colleagues and you will figure out that even if, school can feature you in a few contests and exhibitions with boring dictated themes, these won’t  necessarily help you to pay your rent, or create bonds which can later get you out of the “starving artist” label.

You need a will of steel to get over this obstacle. You need to assume everything, to look rejections in the eye and tell yourself  “It’s your loss! Because while you discourage me, I grow, I evolve and when you will search for me, I won’t need you anymore!” If you really are passioned and talented, you must never let anything to tear this dream down!

Moving to the next point, if you work as much as possible on your creations, it is relatively easy to have an exhibition. What’s hard is the road to get there, because you either didn’t organize your project well enough, or because art in Romania is still a wild and unknown territory for many and that’s what will hurt you most, because it will bring a lot of setbacks.

A ready to exhibit project, is one which: has at least 10 artworks, a title, a concept, a poster (it is better if you make it by yourself, because you will avoid many complications. However, you might be lucky enough to find a gallery which will make your poster for free, but it doesn’t happen very often) and some money set aside for prints and frames (because you don’t know if you will find sponsors).

The next step is finding a location (you also need to set some prices for your works and decide when you would like to have the exhibition), you need to gather dozens of e-mails from galleries or to write them on Facebook. How? You search them on Google dude, we’re in 2016, you don’t need any special relationships, to send your project/portfolio to a gallery. If from 20, 10 will answer, you are one lucky bastard (some of them will answer after you’ve found a location). From those 10 galleries, 5 will tell you that you eat shit, in classy or offensive ways, 3 will not be available and 2 will say yes.

After you’ve chosen a gallery, you must go to see the place and talk with the gallerist. You will make an event where dozens of people will come, you need a plan, you need to see how the selling and other things will work.
Now, all you need to do, is to make the event on Facebook (with minimum two weeks before, but there are always exceptions) and post teasers to attract people. One day before the opening (or in the morning of it), you have to go there and help people to place your works just the way you want them placed. Then, you can finally chill and have a good time at your opening, hoping that you will sell something. It is very possible that you won’t sell anything at first, because it really is hard to sell in general and because you still have a lot to learn. If you however manage to sell at least one, you can consider it a big victory for a rookie!

You will carry your works like a heavy bag full of living babies, your babies! You will run through subways and busses full of people, panicked that an accident might happen and ruin all of your work! You will carry them on terrible weather, because you might have to go to so many places, that you won’t afford a taxi. You will receive tons of negative critics (but negative critics with arguments and pertinent points of view are best)! And you will also figure out that, if you don’t plan your time carefully, you will lose a lot of things.

I think this is the hardest part really, to have time for it all, so you will raise higher and higher: painting, drawing, meetings, useless meetings, frauds, studies, openings, rejections, relaxation, friends, sleep and whatever else you need to do. You must know as many trustworthy people as possible, you must be able to count on them almost as much as you count on your creations. They will come to your exhibitions, they might buy and they will give your keys for doors full of opportunities. You just have to be at the right place in the right time.

(c) Alexandra Crisbasan
(c) Alexandra Crisbasan

At a normal job with a schedule, at least you know at after a certain hour you go home and that tomorrow you start over. With art it doesn’t work like that, in art you must work spontaneously, where you get to, when you can, no matter where you are. You must be flexible like Mister Fantastic from Fantastic Four, you must find that flow I was talking about and I know it’s complicated, but it will bring incomparable satisfaction.

In a world dominated by robots who know mostly commands learnt from memory and repetition (because of the education system and not only), you must think for yourself and you must not chicken out when the sky is falling (inevitable). You must grow with your art, as free and as open as possible, because otherwise you do it in vain! You will meet many dubious people with who you DON’T have to be associated. You will start being friends with your partners, life will become more interesting, it will be easier to take a few days off, you will speak differently and more casual with the new people you meet. The whole idea is to not break down because of the pressure and to trust that what you make with your hands it’s good and that it will keep getting better.

You will see that if you keep working hard, people will come to you, more than you come to them. They will propose projects, they will say “I will pay you”, without you having to ask ashamed about the money. You will see that if you didn’t sell anything at your first exhibitions, now you will go to the sea with the last money you got on your work. You might not stay a week, but you will at least stay the weekend, be proud!

This journey is like an empty canvas. You, the creator must paint it with the best care and passion if you want it to become your life. You, the creator must make mistakes into trumps, you must continue painting until that canvas will represent everything you wished. You will pay much for this, but it’s gonna be the best investment. You will “starve” when you are young and powerful so you can reap what you sow not so long after. Be dedicated and you will get where your heart needs to be.

The more free you will be, the harder it will get, but at least in the evening you will be able to drink some wine with people from who you can learn, people who help you evolve. You will figure out that the whole purpose of this, is not to get to sell one artwork with millions, but to sell enough to be the slave of the system as little as possible. And last but not the last, rather the most important, if you want to excel, you must be your own masterpiece, that will make you unstoppable!

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Bucharest-based artist. Psychedelic photographer, brain-scratching writer / poetess and priestess of the macabre.

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