Starting out in art

Written by: Evan Lowenstein
As the start of the year has well and truly commenced and the long hot summer holidays have drawn to a close, it is time to consider how recently graduated students from the arts schools might launch themselves in to their career.
I am speaking mainly about the commercial and financial side of things.
As a first step, ask yourself, ‘Am I in business?’ Once you answer that question in the positive, it opens up a need for you to address a whole world of business requirements and responsibilities.
You need to consider your practice effectively as a small business ie working with a profit motive in mind and trying to make a living out of your art. This is mainly determined by the size and structure of the business.
When looking at the structure, it is usual to start out as a sole trader ie that is an individual in business with an ABN so registered.
This is the simplest and cheapest business structure to adopt. Most artists exhibit as a one person operation and this type of business registration reflects this status.
It is also worth asking, ‘When does one commence a practice?’
From a business perspective it is quite a grey area. Some artists have shows and start to exhibit whilst still studying however, others take part time jobs after they graduate and work in their studios each and every day after work.
Generally, I would advise that as soon as you start to set up your studio and you are approaching galleries with a view of selling, then you can be considered to be in business as an artist. I would even suggest that as soon as you prepare a body of work to sell, whether it is online, in group shows, at artist run spaces, cafes and /or commercial galleries, you can be considered an artist for professional purposes.
Visual arts practice is quite different from the other art forms, such as performing arts because visuals don’t really need an audience to work.They can be quite isolated, not see anyone for days or even weeks and still be busy practising their vocation.
I have prepared a series of guides to assist young artists starting out about the basics of tax and GST and running a business.

They can be found in the previous editions of Lowensteins Newsletter:

April 2017: Starting an arts business

July 2017: Tax Claims for artists

October 2017: GST & ABN issues for artists