Archive | January, 2012

Being Self Employed: The Art of Survival.

23 Jan
Blue River One:  Copyrights 2012.  All rights reserved Hannah Leach

“I left university with no idea what I was supposed to do as a career, and completely confused about how to make a living. I think my vision had been clouded by the idea that you have to get an academic degree in order to then get a 'proper' job...” ~ Hannah Leach


Hannah Leach is 29 years old and a self employed painter, hypnotherapist and a writer, which she has been since the year 2000, when she moved from East Yorkshire to live and study in Birmingham.  Originally having obtained a BA Honours degree in Cultural Studies and Sociology she has found that since graduating, she has had to become “a jack of all trades” in order to fund her own skills and talent. She feels that being self-employed – for her – has not always been a choice, but rather a necessity, because after university, the only work she could find was through temping agencies. It took her six years to find a permanent job, which was still only a part-time administrative position.

Hannah thinks that this may have a lot to do with the conventional ideology that many of us are brought up to believe; that is to say, if you study hard, are intelligent and get good grades, then you are guaranteed a great job once you have graduated.  However, the skills that she has always had were just not required in the conventional job market.  In order to survive by making an honest living, Hannah had to learn that if she wanted to work, then she would have to start creating opportunities for herself.  However, it took quite a few years before she had the confidence to start taking her own skill and passion as an artist more seriously.  But ever since she has started to promote her work as an artist, it looks like Hannah Leach has a promising ‘self employed’ career ahead of her.  Hence, it currently seems that Hannah’s only regret is that she hadn’t started promoting her artwork more seriously until now!

Having already been exhibited twice last year she is currently preparing for her first solo exhibition, scheduled for 6th Feb-13th April 2012, at the Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham, UK. The Old Joint Stock gallery is an absolutely gorgeous and very popular venue, with its traditional old English architectural style. This venue has enough space to exhibit more than just one artist, but the collective effect of all of her paintings in one area will bring an explosion of colour to the walls of the Theatre Gallery.  Hannah’s exhibition at the Old Joint Stock will be made up of a collection of impressionist paintings created by oil on canvas, with a few acrylics, watercolours and pastels.    She is also setting up her own new website, to display low-resolution images of more of her paintings and as well as selling her existing work she has finally started her search for commissioned work.

Purple Trees One:   Copyright 2012.  All rights reserved Hannah Leach

...I was one of the students who was being groomed to go to Oxbridge. It’s only in very recent years I’ve discovered that I learn best by actually doing something in practice and I slightly regret not doing a more practical, ‘hands on’ course, like art.”


How long have you been painting?

 I’ve been painting since I was a small child.  I did Art at GCSE and A-Level and won prizes in it at school, but I remember thinking that I’d be bored if I studied Fine Art at University!  I wanted to do something which I saw as being more cerebral, hence choosing Cultural Studies and Sociology. 

 

Why didn’t you study Art at University?

I thought that doing a subject that required lots of essay-writing would be more stimulating for me than painting all day.  I had quite a limited notion of what studying art would involve. As a teenager, my parents and teachers considered me very academic, and I was one of the students who was being groomed to go to Oxbridge.  It’s only in very recent years I’ve discovered that I learn best by actually doing something in practice and I slightly regret not doing a more practical, ‘hands on’ course, like art. 

Why do you regret not having studied Art? 

Although my course was fascinating at times, I feel like it took me away from myself and the skills that I already had.  I left university with no idea what I was supposed to do as a career, and completely confused about how to make a living.  I think my vision had been clouded by the idea that you have to get an academic degree in order to then get a ‘proper’ job.

Do you make money from your art enough to survive? 

No, not from my Art – I’ve only recently started exhibiting/selling.  But I am self-employed as a Hypnotherapist, which is quite a creative line of work – it lets me choose my own hours and I just about make enough money from that to get by.

Snow:  Copyright 2012.  All rights reserved Hannah Leach

“I thought that doing a subject that required lots of essay-writing would be more stimulating for me than painting all day. I had quite a limited notion of what studying art would involve.”


 

Why do you think that there aren’t enough jobs or paid work for Artists?

Well, I suppose to do something really creative or inventive, you have to be your own boss, or at least choose your own projects.  Whereas if you’re working for an employer, you’re being paid to do a particular job which may not (probably won’t) give you the freedom to develop your art the way you really want to.  I know that some universities or big public organisations offer residencies to artists, but other than that I can’t think of many paid positions that would let you just get on with whatever art you wanted to do.  Working for an organisation can be good for some art forms – for instance, dancers join companies, and obviously actors need someone to employ them.  But I think if you’re a painter or writer, it’s pretty much essential to be self-employed and create your own opportunities rather than hoping someone else will give you a job.  I don’t mind that at all, because I dream of a life in which I don’t have to observe any typical ‘working hours’! 

How many of your paintings are being exhibited at the Joint Stock?

Fourteen, I think!

Are you selling your work there? If so, what do the prices range from?

Most definitely!  Prices will likely range from £45 to £500.

Does it cost much to mount your paintings? How do you display them?

Most of my oil paintings are on canvases which you hang straight onto the wall, so they don’t need framing.  Smaller pieces or ones I’ve done in watercolours or pastels need framing but you can pick up cheap wooden frames and then do the painting to size! 

Oil painting materials in general are pretty expensive, but I get nearly everything from Delta Pi in Selly Oak, Birmingham, who do 2-for-1 on canvases.  You can also get cheap canvases from The Works, but I wouldn’t buy their paints or brushes again – as in the past I have not found them to be of good quality.

Brindley Place One: Copyright 2012. All rights reserved Hannah Leach

“...to do something really creative or inventive, you have to be your own boss, or at least choose your own projects. Whereas if you're working for an employer, you're being paid to do a particular job which may not (probably won't) give you the freedom to develop your art the way you really want to...”


What kind of galleries have you approached to exhibit?

I’ve previously exhibited at the Birmingham MAC and at the We Are Birmingham shop.  I approached one well known gallery in South Birmingham who politely said my work probably wasn’t commercial enough.  There was another, very small, place in Harborne which has since closed down – they were happy to exhibit my work, but I had a crisis of confidence at that point and never got round to taking anything in to them.  How strange of me.  And there have been a few others (in Birmingham and in York, where my parents live) who I’ve emailed but have been given the brush off.  The manager of one place, in York, was rather rude.

Why do you think that there aren’t enough galleries that support less known Artists?

Well, if they are a commercially run business then of course they need to be realistic about whether or not they can sell a particular artist’s work.  And an unknown artist certainly can’t guarantee the sales.  I don’t blame any gallery manager for turning down an artist who they know won’t make any money – but I do feel it’s wrong to turn someone away when you haven’t even seen if they’re any good or not.  I don’t expect The Tate to be interested in my portfolio, but when even local galleries won’t glance at a new artist’s work, it makes you wonder just how you are supposed to get started.

What kind of galleries should unknown Artists target to get an opportunity to exhibit?

Either very small, independently run galleries…. or somewhere like the Old Joint Stock which is unusual in that it’s a pub which just happens to have a small gallery space upstairs.  Evidently they don’t rely on selling paintings to keep the business afloat – the alcohol does that for them – so it doesn’t matter too much to them if you sell just one or two pieces or none at all!  I think it’s becoming more popular for bars, restaurants or coffee shops to use local artists’ work as decoration – so there will be plenty similar opportunities if you hunt around a bit.

How do you think Artists can create more opportunities for themselves or even each other?

Word of mouth works well – friends can tell each other whenever they spot a potential opportunity to exhibit or publish.  Twitter, facebook etc are obviously very useful if you have a particular event you want to promote, although I think social media can create a lot of pressure to have the ‘right’ people on your friends list.  I don’t think there really are any ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ people to network with – it’s just important to know other people who have similar aspirations to you and maybe are at a similar level in their own development.  For me, a real turning point in my life was joining Birmingham Writers Group.  The people I met there took seriously the idea of doing something creative for a living, and we talked realistically about how to market our work and make profits from it.  Even though what I’m doing currently isn’t directly writing-related, being around like-minded people gave me the confidence to leave the job I was doing and become self-employed.

Prague Castle: Copyright 2012.  All rights reserved Hannah Leach

“I don't blame any gallery manager for turning down an artist who they know won't make any money - but I do feel it's wrong to turn someone away when you haven't even seen if they're any good or not.”


What advice would you give young Artists thinking about a prospective university degree course?

Heh, I’d probably tell them to ask themselves whether a degree is really necessary!  I dunno, I’d say if you actually want to study a particular subject – whether Art or something else – then do; but I’d advise against doing anything because it seems like the safe or sensible thing to do.  It really is counter-productive.

In terms of feedback on your work, PGLA can say that they see faces, characters and action in the lights and shadows of your paintings.  Can you confirm if this is deliberate and in keeping with your surrealist style?

Hmmm, well the light and shadows are crucial to giving the paintings their character.  Recently when I’ve been looking at the collection all together, I think there’s a very slight hint of menace about some of them (although I’m only talking about a cartoony sort of menace) – as if something was lurking in the shadows.  I didn’t put any literal faces or characters in there on purpose – apart from the creepy mask-wearing people in ‘Carnival.’  But you know how in fairytales and Disney films, trees and other features of the landscape are given human characteristics like long reaching arms and gnarly arthritic fingers?  That sort of imagery is definitely in my mind when I’m painting landscapes.

Where do you want to be in the future?

Just doing what I do, but over time I keep altering the balance between each thing – painting, writing, hypnotherapy, and a couple of other things which I do more as hobbies.  In the last two years, most of my energy has gone into getting myself established as a hypnotherapist, leaving not-much time for other creative projects.  So in the next phase of my life, painting may become more prominent, and hopefully writing will follow suit.  Hypnotherapy will still be my main job, but my practice is reaching a stage where I don’t have to be giving it constant attention. 

Of all the art forms or projects I do, there isn’t one that I would want to have precedence over the others for very long –so I’m not someone who in an ideal world would want to spend all their time writing, or all their time dancing, or whatever.   I’m happy when I can move between different projects in a cyclical sort of way.  It’s not fickle because the cycles always come around again.  So, it might seem that I’ve ‘lost interest’ in something that used to be important to me, but I haven’t really – anything that’s important will eventually come back into the foreground. 

Carnival:  Copyright 2012.  All rights reserved Hannah Leach

“...if you actually want to study a particular subject - whether Art or something else - then do; but I'd advise against doing anything because it seems like the safe or sensible thing to do. It really is counter-productive.”


From September 2012, universities can charge from £6000 to £9000 a year for their courses. Although the institutions that choose to charge the maximum will have to prove they are increasing access to students from poorer backgrounds.  The choice to increase fees lies with each individual university, but because their funding has been dramatically slashed, it’s likely they’ll all be asking for the full whack.  This now means that young adults who are deciding on a potential university courses have to think longer, harder and more sensibly about the right course for them as making any wrong decisions could not only be a waste of valuable time but also it could prove to be a very expensive mistake.

Another important factor that most young adults consider before making the choice between the right and wrong course is employability.  According to a recent article in the Guardian, recent research suggests, graduates without work experience stand little chance of securing a job this year despite a rise in vacancies.  These facts put together will probably increase the pressure on those students who wish to get educated from a higher educational body, but at the same time wish to make themselves more employable in the current job market.  And for those whose creative skills are not suitable for the conventional job market, such as Artist, Musicians, Poets, etc it maybe that the decision between a practical course that would be more financially beneficial may prove more appealing than that of studying a creative course which may result in you being an artist, struggling to make ends meet post university.  We at PGLA would strongly suggest that whatever you decide to do regarding your future, you should always make learning and practice your number one priority.   When making choices about a course or career, you will be more successful choosing something that you are genuinely passionate about rather than opting for something that you think will be more financially beneficial to you.

Here are some links to pages that are related to some of the topics discussed within this article.  We hope that they will prove to be useful to you. But before you click away from this page, we highly recommend that if you live in or are passing through Birmingham between February –  April 2012, be sure to check out Hanna Leach collection of impressionist paintings at the The Old Joint Stock.

Thanks for plugging in Guys and a great big thank you to Hannah Leach for providing us with a very insightful look into  ‘The Art of Survival’  for self employed Artists alike.

 

Financial Support for Students

http://www.thesite.org/homelawandmoney/money/studentmoney/tuitionfees?gclid=CNGcvd-14q0CFSgntAodazkIVQ

http://studentfinance-yourfuture.direct.gov.uk/costs

Find Arts Funding

http://www.artquest.org.uk/

http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/funding/

Get your artwork exhibited

http://art-support.com/exhibitions.htm

http://www.artquest.org.uk/articles/view/how-to-get-an-exhibition

http://painting.about.com/od/careerdevelopment/a/galleryrepresnt.htm

British Art Gallery Directories

http://www.redraggallery.co.uk/british-art-galleries.asp

http://www.britisharts.co.uk/artgalleries.html

http://www.allinlondon.co.uk/directory/1082.php

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