Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Accelerating the Curves: An Artist's Roadmap to Success

Guest Blogger: Sarah Hearn

Recently I had the opportunity to interview author and art consultant Katherine T. Carter regarding her most recent book, Accelerating the Curves: An Artist’s Roadmap to Success.  This book offers the reader an extensive compilation of resources yet manages to be relevant for artists at different career stages. Throughout the text, Carter offers guidance on tailoring individual career paths based on countless variables/career objectives and goals.   Below are some questions and answers from our conversation.
Sarah Hearn: Your book is a large text addressing wide range of topics- including things such as: budgeting, targeting an audience, scheduling exhibitions, writing artists statements, juggling administrative details, drafting formal letters and achieving general professionalism.  Yet I wonder if there was one thing you could distill as the most important take away for artists at all levels in their development, what would it be?

Katherine Carter: Constantly develop your inner muscle, stand on your own truth, and be brutally honest with yourself at all times—meaning assume responsibility for your choices. Commitment means refining your abilities because you never stop trying, and chances are you probably won't ever give up if you always do these three things because the entire process will have so much meaning for you.

SH:  In this text, you approach accessing the art world through a three-step plan.  This plan is very rational--start local, next go regional, and last national; yet many artists would never think to apply the now popular environmentalist mantra "think global, act local" specifically to an individual art career.  Can you discuss how you came to realize this would be an effective plan?  As we look to the future, do you see this model changing, or staying the course?

KC: It's simple and straightforward--"you have to crawl before you walk and walk before you run." Without experience, name recognition, contacts and sales, you probably won't make it to the majors—talent is not enough. Past, present and future—it's the same. You must prepare for your success, cultivate daily the qualities of success, and live your life with balance and purpose for successful outcomes.

SH:  You mentioned early in the text that you are an artist yourself.  Could you talk about your personal art practice in relation to the other primary activities you do such as consulting, writing, lecturing, etc?  Do you still find time to make your own work, or is your creative drive satisfied with your other outlets? 

KC: I was in a serious auto accident in the mid-80s and lost the use of my arms—I was incapacitated for almost three years. So I said to myself, "What can I do that would help other artists with the knowledge and success I have already had in my brief 10 year career in NY?" I don't paint anymore—I haven't since I started the company. Although I'm fine now (completely recovered), my creativity manifests itself in the work I do daily on behalf of the company, my Associates, and most importantly, my artist clients. It takes reams of creativity! I wish there were more hours in the day or better yet more days in the week as I'm 61 now and no end is in sight!

SH: Your book includes a multifaceted collection of essays by many of your colleagues and a variety of art world professionals.  These were great to read and often funny- I am especially fond of the essay by Richard Vine citing the art patron as "more rare a breed than an albino unicorn."  With so many voices included, conflicting opinions and suggestions for artists emerge.  Such pluralism seems to allude to confusion of navigating the art world itself.  Was this intentional?  As an author, what compelled you to include the essays in the same book and not publish them separately, say in the fashion of Art on Paper's Letters to Young Artists?

KC: Every artist must find the voice that speaks to them—ideas that resonate personally. It's not my way or the highway, and I do not always agree with my Associates, as I am sure they would tell you. We're different, thank goodness. I'm a "nuts and bolts" and "whatever gets the job done" kinda gal. I'm trying to make a very difficult business more accessible to artists—that's my primary concern. I wanted to give my readers a variety of other viewpoints and opinions, and let them decide what they feel is valid or suits their professional needs. There is no "one way" that works. I have worked with some of my Associates 15-20 years, and together we've developed effective templates for professional advancement; we operate as a team (where my company is concerned)--and no one does my bidding unless it is amenable to their nature. All I impose is the structure and procedures. We compliment and balance each other in an unusual way and I believe the result is beneficial to all parties involved.

SH:  Can you recall and describe a specific work of art that you have viewed in your lifetime that deeply altered your personal experience or changed the course of your life?  If so, how and why? 

KC: Nothing outside of yourself changes the course of your life—you change outcomes in your life. No one escapes disappointments, betrayal, heartbreak of pain—it's how you use those experiences to inform your life that makes the difference. I've seen so much art in my lifetime, really amazing and moving, but I can't recall standing in front of a work of art and weeping. I often hear myself say, "My God, that is really good…" Rarely do I say, "My God, that is great." I do say that easily when I am standing on a beach, looking out to sea at sunset with my Standard poodle, Hugo, at my side.

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