Tips for Survival, According to Michael Shane Neal

Michael Shane Neal is an amazing and prolific artist and a fantastic guy. If you ever meet him, you’ll find him to be extremely personable and gregarious. He’s received many honors and accolades. In the midst of teaching numerous workshops and painting many commissioned works and going on plein aire painting trips, he finds time to write on his new blog, The Spectator.

In two recent posts (Tips on Survival! and Tips on Survival 2, Neal shared some tips for survival he mentioned in an article he wrote for a newsletter for the Portrait Society of America a few years ago. While all ten tips are pretty important, I’ll highlight/paraphrase/condense most of them (since I don’t wanna copy him outright):

  • Set goals and write them down! List things you would like to accomplish both in the short term and in the long term. … Setting goals is the first step to accomplishing them. Hang them near your easel as a constant reminder of what you will achieve.
  • Work hard. Whether you have the opportunity to devote your entire day, or just a portion of the day to your art, work hard! I have worked 12-18 hours a day for more than 15 years. It is important to devote as much time as possible to your growth as an artist, but you must work smart as well. An hour of painting free from distraction is worth 3 when the phone is ringing and the kids are home from school.
  • Study. Spend quality time developing your skills by reading and studying each day.
  • Tenacity! Don’t take “NO” for an answer! … Commit yourself to growth from every experience. Remind yourself constantly that you will succeed, that you will grow as an artist, and your decision to follow your dreams to become an artist will become or remain a reality.
  • Thrift. For nearly the first 10 years of my life as a full time artist I painted every painting on a $2 easel bought second hand, mostly held together by duct tape and a prayer! … Survival is your main goal. Living frugally whether by choice or not, is important. Getting to the next painting is your ultimate goal.
  • Identify your market. Recognize “who” can purchase your work.
  • Diversification. Not only does diversification help you grow as an artist, but it provides other opportunities for you to show your work and advertise your name as well as provide alternative income!
  • Dependability. Unfortunately artists are not known for keeping schedules, arriving on time for appointments, or generally running their affairs in an orderly and responsive manner. Go the extra mile and remain dependable at all costs. Be responsive and provide the best customer service possible.
  • Develop a support system. Develop relationships with other artists and friends you can trust.