The Other Columbus: Never let them forget you’re an artist

Advice for painters, poets, writers and musicians hoping to get more work as pandemic restrictions ease

Scott Woods
Muralist Sarah Hout uses a stencil to make a guide as she prapares to paint on a mural along Sullivant Ave. on Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Columbus, Ohio. Working with Designing Local, an urban planning firm, 21 artists created a series of temporary and permanent murals along the road's pavement.

As society begins to open up just in time for summer and coronavirus variants, opportunities abound for the enterprising artist. 

If you are a musician, painter, poet or just about any other type of creative, you’ve probably noticed an uptick in requests for newly minted bar patios, theaters and festival-lite affairs attempting to fill the vacuum left by major events that couldn’t be held this summer. Promoters and organizations are out here collecting artists like Pokemon, and if you have the stomach for crowds and you’re vaccinated, this could be your time to shine. 

There are lots of things the enterprising artist should keep in mind when it comes to getting back into the post-pandemic groove of work. As an artist, event producer and venue owner, I’ve literally written a book on the matter. And if you asked me to boil all of the advice I’ve ever received or given into a single important lesson, it would be to put your work up front. No matter what your day job is, or whatever else you’ve got going on in your life, never let the world forget you’re an artist.

If you’re a musician and people can’t readily find your music on any of the many platforms we all use every day, that’s a problem. If you’re an artist and potential clients have to machete through dozens of pictures of you trying to build your brand through four other hustles before we get to a painting you’ve done in the last six months, that’s a problem. 

I’m all for artists showing other sides of their lives on social media. I do it all of the time. In the last five days of tweets I’ve posted about video games, the new Hiatus Kaiyote album, Dungeons & Dragons and my ongoing bid to get Michael Greyeyes of “Rutherford Falls” fame nominated for an Emmy. But you won’t go a week without hitting something I’ve written or published somewhere. You know by scrolling through my feed that I’m a writer. Some weeks you know it three times over, depending on the release schedules. My Instagram profile is an even more robust example. My IG page looks like an unfolded newspaper, with headlines broken up occasionally with a picture here and there. The same goes for Facebook. On every platform I use, you know what I do, what I am.

If you’re a musician, post your music or album covers or videos of you playing.

If you’re a painter, post pictures of your work, process and studio.

If you’re a writer, post your poems/essays/novel excerpts.

If you’re a dancer, post videos of you dancing.

If you want the business, it’s pretty straightforward math.

If you’re in a phase where you’re not producing that much but you’re still open to commissions or gigs, it’s OK to repost older work. People who want to hire you mostly want to know that you’re open to a potential ask, and they tend to notice if you haven’t posted any art-related things in months. Your friends might be tired of you pumping up your old album, but your friends probably aren’t booking you for jobs or requesting commissions. Keep the feed fresh, even if the ingredients are a little older. So long as the work is still good and representative, people who want to hire you can figure it out.

Put your work somewhere so that if someone asks, they can get to it in one link. A website is ideal, even though its upkeep is sometimes less efficient for the non-tech savvy artist. Social media platforms change rules and algorithms all of the time — usually for the worse — which means attention and access to your work changes all of the time. But if a website is too much to manage, a page on a simple blog will get the job done. People looking to do business are less dogmatic about the presentation so long as they can glean your capabilities. And the link to your work, wherever it lives, should be in or pinned near your social media bios. 

If you ever looked at a popular artist whose stuff isn’t so great and wondered why they get so much work, there’s a 90 percent chance that it’s because they make it very clear that they’re open for business. They post their art, post reviews and retweet mentions, and they do so often. If someone looking to do business sees better work, they may want that better work, but they have to hire artists who can actually execute. 

There is enough cheese to go around for every artist in every discipline out here. Don’t miss out because you can’t be bothered to spend a couple of minutes letting people know what you do.