The Balance

by Beki Borman

February 18, 2010

Beki Borman was born and raised in the Milwaukee area of Wisconsin. She attended the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design where she received her BFA in painting in 2004. Since graduating, Beki has exhibited both locally and nationally. Beki uses a range of mediums and often combines both painting and drawing techniques. . Her images are based on nature and use color and pattern to create expressive interpretations of organic forms. Some of Beki’s influences include Gerhard Richter, Vincent Van Gogh, and Frantisek Kupka. She currently works out of her studio at the Bay View Hide House.

There are many romantic notions of what an artist is, which include, but are not limited to, impulsive, flamboyant, eccentric, flighty, obsessive, dramatic, and of course, poor. The reality can be some of these things in different capacities, but in the end, the reality is up to the artist. Many years ago, when I was a kid dreaming of an art career and making plans for art school, no one ever told me that as a professional artist I would spend more time filling out applications, sending out slides, writing proposals, updating resumes and websites, and networking, than I would making art. Like many things in life, being an artist is an eternal balancing act. I am going to describe two sides to art as a business, and how they have influenced my life and my work.

Business and Art
The business of art can be very daunting, and it dissolves the romance very quickly. Rather than being lost in daydreams waiting for moments of brilliance, an artist needs to be committed, diligent, organized, and timely. There are a lot of other artists in the world doing really great work, and famous artists are not “discovered.” Really, artists end up needing a business degree, because they have to not only make really great art, but also package, brand, and market it. They need business cards, websites, mailing lists, portfolios, paperwork, and the energy to distribute. That means going to openings, meeting people, shaking hands, and making connections. And, to top it all off, even the most diligent artist still usually takes decades to make sufficient living off of art sales alone. So, in the meantime, these endeavors are usually supported by other jobs, whether they are odd part time jobs, teaching, waiting tables, or working at a museum or gallery. So when does the artist make art? Perhaps this is why it takes decades. It can be done, but it is a long journey, and a constant balance.

Balancing Purpose and Function
The other side of art, as a business, lies in the work itself. This is the balance between the individual and society, the business and the creativity. I am sorry to say, that it is very easy for the business of art to be the destroyer as well. I have recently found this problem in my own life. I was starting to have some success as a professional artist. The sales were coming more regularly, the juried shows were more responsive, the website hits were climbing. It was all positive. The problem was that I started to forget why I was making art, and I started to let those sales influence the direction the work took. I had to ask myself if I was making art to sell, or if I was making art to learn, develop, and discover. I choose the latter. Frankly, if I just wanted to make money, there are a lot of other things I could have done with my life. I chose to make art, and it feels good when art makes me money, but again, I need to find the balance of purpose and function.

The important point to be understood here, is that art can be a very successful business, and a dedicated artist can make a career out of art while avoiding the cliches of lunacy and starvation. The cliches and stereotypes, however, exist because the process of doing this can put an artist out on a very thin line, where complicated decisions have to be made. It is easy for the artist, wrapped up in the chase of fame and fortune, to lose sight of why they became an artist in the first place. The other side, however, is just as critical and I would like to add that treating your art like a business implements a level of seriousness that can be necessary in making thoughtful art. Art must be looked at critically, and sometimes when we ignore the business of art completely we fail to take ourselves seriously enough to make good art.

Clearly the messages are mixed, but all sides should be constantly weighed in the spirit of self evaluation. In my own life and work, I have stepped back from exhibiting for a while. If opportunity knocks, I do not turn it down, but I have relaxed in actively seeking shows for the next six months or so. I want to take some time to be a student again, in a sense. I want a little freedom to take risks, read, write, and just make art. This is my answer to maintaining the balance. The answers and path will be different for everyone, but the real romance of an arts career is staying firm to that path.

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Last edited by patricia obletz. Based on work by Tyler Schuster.  Page last modified on February 20, 2010

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