Australian Fine Artist

Employability Skills

Below is a list of skills looked for in many workplaces and my personal assessment of my strengths and weaknesses in each of them.

Communication

  • responding appropriately to feedback on own skill development and performance
    If you don’t want an honest and professional answer, don’t ask the question is my philosophy. I haven’t always been totally happy with answers to questions, but I can usually glean some useful information from them. Some input is fantastic and I can’t wait to give some ideas a try, some others I may have to think about. I am pretty well always grateful to anyone willing to take the time to give hints on how to do things better or possibly take my skills to a new level.
    Sometimes my reaction depends on how the feedback is given as well. If a person is giving comments that come across as harsh or disrespectful or even rude, I am less likely to be 100% accepting and it can take some internal dialogue to get past the emotional reaction to glean out any useful information.
  • consulting with peers and mentors about range of issues related to own practice
    I am a member of five art guilds so have started consulting and networking a lot, especially with artists who have been practicing for quite a while. Their input about building up a career is alway valuable. I am still nervous about annoying people too much so sometimes pull back when my logical side is telling me to go the other way but I am working on it.
  • documenting own work
    I try to photograph everything I paint. Especially if it is to go on sale or into exhibitions. I try to get the best of these on to my website and have a filing cabinet for artworks and associated paperwork for each one. I sometimes forget so the files aren’t as complete as I would like but I am getting better at it. I write editorial to go with every work that goes on my web site and am happy to talk about them to potential clients. We had to learn to get up in front of people and communicate for Cert.IV last year and to work in teams to talk about our chosen course (we had to document it to explain it). My study partner was an artist and we learned a lot together about talking about our art and goals.
  • engaging in critical discourse with colleagues and peers
    I have several web sites to visit as well as social networking for discussions and showcasing work for feedback and discussion. I also attend as many art society meetings and demos as possible to keep in touch.
    At school I try to chat to students from any year of Visual Arts fairly regularly. I like to hear about what they are doing both in and out of studies and see some of their work if possible. My only worry in this area is that I can be affected by my depression illness which can recur at times. That can stop me some days from being as proactive in this area as I would like.

Teamwork

  • collaborating with other artists
    I haven’t had to do this a lot but I remember at the break up party for BAS when five of use were put together to produce a copy of a Van Gogh with three coloured acrylics we had a huge amount of fun. We also divided up our skills and tasks quickly and worked over the top of each other with great respect and some humour. We also won that competition!
  • sharing ideas
    Sharing ideas is a great way to enhance you understanding and creativity. We can as artists “feed” off each other and help each other build up our creative “bank”. That doesn’t mean we copy each other, but we can share tips and things we have discovered which may not be for us but will work for someone else we talk to.
  • seeking feedback and guidance from mentors
    I do this all the time, possibly to the annoyance of some mentors as I like to pick people’s brains to help me improve and keep on track a lot. I figure if you have some knowledge or experience that has helped you succeed, I’d like to know how you did it! Sharing is a way we can all get ahead.

Problem Solving

  • analysing complex information and responding with creative solutions
    I have done this for my job for over thirty years, it is now being applied to my own growth as an artist and to build up my own business. It can sometimes take a few sources to put it all together and sometimes the resulting action may take a while to come together in my head. When I did my management course last year the tutor told me that I was very good in this area.
  • developing solutions for complex design challenges
    I probably need more practice for fine art in this area. I have applied the same principles in Graphic Design for various employers  and have built up data bases using some creative techniques as well as for the school year books I designed and produced for a few years.
  • balancing potential conflicting needs
    Writing things down to get priorities sorted out helps me a lot plus talking things over with someone who I trust to have a good logical and methodical way of thinking helps. Given the opportunity to think things out and sort though what needs doing and when I can usually get needs attended to in an orderly and well organised manner. I was second in charge of two art departments because I could handle things like this.
  • evaluating the effectiveness of solutions
    Apart from learning this in my management course, I have run projects for previous jobs where I have reported back to senior management as to the progress and outcomes. We are running our own business in a similar manner and have Director’s meetings when awe go through the same process. I also go over the results from various projects, artworks and exhibitions as well as processes that are implemented for my division. I still like input in these areas as I feel I still have a lot to learn.

Initiative and Enterprise

  • working creatively with an art form
    I am really happy to be learning how to make up my own canvasses and boards. The addition of these skills and experience using textures under the paint is exciting. I have used my graphic art training to try some new ideas for how paintings are mounted in the last couple of years and have used vinyl and painted boards to create more 3 dimensional wall art which was fun and a few have sold.
  • developing ideas from historical and contemporary research
    I love applying bits from my interest in archeology for example into my art. I will look at previous art trends and styles, artists that I admire, even from films or books to build up an idea. Sometimes it takes months of building up bits from over the place to come up with a finished idea, at other times a flash of inspiration comes from just one quick glance at something. As soon was I know I need to build up another collection for a coming season, I begin research.
  • achieving own individual style of creative expression
    I don’t know if I have a particular style yet. I like to try different mediums and methods and tend to let a subject tell me how it wants to be done. This means I may have a subject but end up doing it in pastel rather than oils, or try it in acrylics as the colour is so vivid and it seems to tell me to do it that way. I have overheard people saying that I am rather eclectic in may methods of painting etc. I look at it as being versatile.
    I am working on narrowing down what I put out on sale and exhibition in the future so that I become more recognisable and that may be in oils and pastels in a cross of impressionist/realist with a bit of a modern twist, but I need to look at the market a bit more and see how my skills progress over the next couple of years.

Planning and Organising

  • planning a creative project
    I don’t do very large projects. I don’t have a huge amount of room yet for big anything. I am still recovering from the illness I had a few years ago as well so I don’t take on more than I know I can handle. I do, however like to have something on the go all the time. Even if it is just a planning for the next guild meeting or planning works for the next season to go out on exhibition. My next exhibition projects will be Winter for AGRA and Chelsea. I am also using my submissions for TAFE assessment as a project as well, creatively making up blogs and artworks I think is a creative project as well.
  • monitoring own work and introducing strategies to improve skills and knowledge
    I think the answers for the section below answer a lot of this. My plans at TAFE, further education, as well as membership to art guilds and attending demonstrations and workshops and all the other plans I have and am already doing I think cover the strategies for continued improvement and growth
  • conducting a range of research to inform work projects
    This can be done by just watching lots of documentaries for a start as I love ancient history, archeology, art programs as well as science and astronomy subjects. I have and still like drawing inspiration from all of these interests. As well as these I like to take day trips to do a research trip and build up my iPhoto library, my husband also take photos to pass on for me to use. I also network with other artists and we sometimes come up with ideas by just chatting. There is also browsing on the web as there is a lot out there to spark an idea.
  • planning work tasks in a logical sequence
    I have absolutely no problem with this, it is something that I have excelled at for many years. I keep diaries, I have lists, a calendar on my phone and a white board for upcoming exhibitions. I also have a file on my desk with current projects in it. We try to have weekly meetings and go over my projects so that Stephen knows how and when I may need his assistance or input and he also is aware of future payments that will come in through courier fees, entry fees etc
  • setting work and practical goals
    It is really easy to overwhelm yourself and it can sneak up on me so I work very hard to make sure in advance that I am maintaining a reasonable load of work and not trying to do too much. That is why I am only planning 2 exhibitions for Winter this year as that is when we are presenting out work for TAFE. I don’t want to do one at the expense of the other. It is also why I am taking the growth of my business slowly for the next three years apart from the economy having a part in that. It is also why I have turned down participating as a trainer in demonstrations and art courses at 2 guilds for this year.
  • planning for a sustainable professional practice
    I have had a lot of help with this. My husband has built a studio on our property which we are attempting to complete. It is useable for us but not for students or clients yet. I have a web site and clients can give feedback and receive a newsletter from me by signing up on the site. We have instigated a portable EFTPOS unit for ease of payments by clients as well as email payments and phone payments and lay-by.
    We have a dedicated accounting system and the business as registered for GST. I am an employee of my division and any income pays me via a wage with superannuation, sick leave and holiday pay set up. I have my own studio which will be enlarged as the next part of the building is completed so that I have one area for fine art and storage and another for the computer, graphic art and administration. Another room is being set aside for training and meetings. As we own the property we have less overheads and are in a growth corridor so it is anticipated that as the economy improves over the next few years the business will be in a position to take full advantage of it.

Self Management

  • developing goals for professional practice
  1. I believe in having goals. If you don’t have a goal or target, what are you supposed to aim at? Some are long term, some medium and some longer term. None really go past about five years into the future other than being ideas in the back of my head as a kind of wish list.
  2. My first goal after losing my full time job was to get well so gave myself six months – DONE
  3. My second goal was to start building my fine art business and do some contracting – DONE the next year
  4. My third goal was to begin winning award at my local art guilds to build up credentials as an artist and behind exhibiting – DONE that year and years since
  5. During the third year since ceasing full time employment the goal was to gain management training and a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment and to plan for entering approximately 5 exhibitions in every season of the year and try for more awards – DONE
  6. During my fourth and fifth year the plan is to complete a Diploma of Visual Arts, enter about 5 or more exhibitions in Autumn and Spring with a couple mid year, continue contending for artist of the year at guilds I am a member of and to continue actively pushing promotion of my fine art business through the web and networking. I am also being published in a couple of guild newsletters and hope that this will also build my name as a reputable and knowledgeable artist (these editorials are also published from my web site).
  7. The tentative plan for the sixth year is to stay studying for an Advanced Diploma in Visual Arts and to get my studio completed so that I can give art classes from it and have part of it as a gallery possibly for myself and local artists and start promoting that, I hope to be exhibiting in at least a few major exhibitions each season as well. If I am invited to give short art coarses and workshops at various guilds or colleges I can work that into the mix as well.
  • taking responsibility for own professional development
    Even though I talk over everything with my husband the final decision as to how and where I take my career is up to me. No one else is going to do it for me, I have to put in the hard work and the make the time. If I sit back and do nothing, nothing will happen. The old saying those who fail to plan will plan to fail to me is true. I may fail anyway but it won’t be because I didn’t try.
  • monitoring own work and introducing strategies to improve performance
    During the Certificate IV course last year we had a phrase called “continuous improvement” which was aimed at continually looking at the courses we write and updating them, gaining feedback from students and fellow trainers,  staying up to date with changed is legislation and courses with government departments and a lot more. This added to the need to keep improving because of my career in the print industry which was changing at a great rate over that past twenty years has imbedded the practice of always looking for better ways to do things. By just talking to people you can often get great ideas for improvement and seminars, webinars, newsletters, demonstrations and continued study all help.
  • using knowledge of industry and legal frameworks within own practice
    I have my own division of the business that we run. It is called CreArtive. I did the management course last year to learn how to better manage it. Part of that were OHS and project management as well as learning about copyright issues and other legal issue of running a business. As the Creative Manager of CreArtive I have to keep up with industry trends so get a newsletter from VECCI on a regular basis. I also watch Behind Business on Sunday mornings. Stephen and I try to have regular Director’s meetings to discuss management issues and what we are doing and planning. This is an opportunity to talk about any issues or industry news.

Learning

  • developing strong artistic technique
    I have a couple of directions that I am particularly interested in pursuing.  I have skills in pastel and oil painting and my seascapes have sold well as well as commissions for animal portraits. I don’t think these are enough to run a business on but can be the foundation. Like Viktor Cebergs said today about his business, it’s not a good idea to turn away work. He will do nearly anything. I have a lot of experience in many parts of the graphic arts industry which can be equally useful for fine art application. I have accepted commissions for still life which I had no idea I had skills for and have branched out in subject and medium for a new client. I can’t see going into abstract art styles or too much sculpture work – especially larger pieces, but if I am able to do it and the client pays I feel I need to be ready to make an effort and not restrict myself.
  • identifying opportunities to maintain and enhance industry knowledge
    I get regular email newsletters from NAVA and other organisations about industry changes and events. I also attend product demonstrations and launches, including colour printers, computers, software etc. Guild newsletters often have information about  products and trends. The AGRA newsletter is especially good for this. I am open to any new sources that anyone may suggest.
  • seeking feedback from colleagues and mentors
    Teachers are there to pass on their experience and knowledge so I like to receive it. Colleagues and mentors similarly can have a wealth of knowledge to pass on given a chance. Since I am the first to admit that much of my art training has been “self taught”, I have no doubts that there may be glaring holes in my understanding or technique which can be improved by feedback from others.
  • exploring and testing new approaches
    Anyone who looks at my web site or paintings in an exhibition will note that I have an eclectic style. I call it all over the place. Even at the Little Landscapes exhibition one of the purchasers of one of my paintings remarked “the one on the other side of the room is different, unless there are two Janice Mills’ in entered” . I have heard this sort of thing before. I like to try different mediums, methods and styles. Sometimes I let the subject tell me “how to paint it” and in what medium. Then at other times I just get an idea and decide to go with it and see what it looks like. It’s fun and creative, it stops boredom and I figure that it may lead to something unique that may be a good business decision as well.
  • participating in industry networks and professional developments opportunities
    I have had the opportunity to start building up on this over the past three years. It began by going some local art guilds, and then as I decided on the two main mediums I like to use, it included the Pastel Society and AGRA. I am hoping to refine these in the next year or so and apply for membership in the Victorian Artists Society and possibly drop one of the less productive memberships. This is in an endeavour to keep improving my  skills to a more professional level and also for the exposure of exhibiting and attending SIGs at a very established society nearer Melbourne CBD. I have already spoken to the membership secretary and have been given tentative approval when I am ready.
    I am a student member of NAVA which will be changed to a full membership after I finish studying. I have also been accepted to volunteer at McClelland Gallery in the Educational Section which I hope will help introduce me to people and help with my experience and exposure. I am in several web forums and contribute to a few fine art specific one regularly. I am also exhibiting on international free art web galleries. One has already brought me a sale in the UK.
    When I have the time I participate in webinars which can increase my knowledge in marketing, business management, project management, advertising, sales and a lot of other business related subjects. These are not specific to art but can be applied to an art based business.
    I am being published through a couple of art society newsletters when I have the time to attend meetings to take notes, which are also published through my web site and news about these is pushed through Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. I have also joined the City of Casey Arts Group which I am listed in for community groups looking for an artist to come and do a demo or give a workshop. They send out a regular newsletter which I can contribute to and hopefully be published.
    At least a couple of times a year I also attend workshops with established professional artists that I admire. This is a good time to hone skills and network with these artists who happily pass on information and encourage my growth.
    Other opportunities include talking to people, such as the framers I use, the art courier, other artists, committee members of guilds and owners of galleries just to keep up with things that they may be doing or know about that may be of interest to me.

Technology

  • using an extended range of materials and technologies relevant to specific creative practice
    Over the past few years after leaving full time work, I have had a chance to use both photography and the computer as aids in the creative process of fine art. It has been so good to get away from the “sausage factory” of getting out graphic art to deadlines that call on you to produce sometimes nearly one hundred final jobs in a day to being able to use both software and computer in a creative manner in production of my own work and some great contracts for new personal clients. I am now using the Mac, scanner, colour printer, iPhone, camera and the web for my own practice and training which is just great. It doesn’t hurt that I have good skills in using this equipment from over thirty years in the graphic arts industry either – all that time was not wasted. I also have the help of my husband who is an IT Consultant, so I am learning new things from him as well.
  • proactively using the internet as a research tool
    Google is my friend. I was told that my research skills were “terrifying” by on employer who had me researching on the web at one stage. He was also staggered by my report writing skills, which I hadn’t really emphasised when hired. We had to use research and report writing for both the management course and Certificate IV TAE last year so I had a chance to even further my skills in this area. It is an area that I feel very comfortable about as I can always find information when I need it.
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