As a person involved in creating art for the past many years, the opportunities and revelations keep coming.
Mary Ahern – Outdoor Art Show with the Floral Park Art League 1975
The art world has changed but so have I. I’m more self-assured about my work than I was at the beginning. Through a lifetime of hard work, bumps, skids, rashes, pain, zigs and zags I’ve developed the thick skin needed to have confidence in my skills as an artist and as a person running a small business selling and showing my art.
We all know the tremendous changes that the internet and social media have introduced into the careers of artists. We are now independent enough to take our careers into our own hands rather than rely on galleries as the only outlet to selling or placing our work. I’m sure that for some artists, galleries are the central force in placing their work in prestigious collections and museums. For most of us though, galleries are not the only answer any longer.
Gallery representation isn’t for everyone
One of the obstacles for me is that I have 3 distinct bodies of work in which I like to create & promote. One is digital, one is in traditional mediums and the third is a combination of both. Even though they all focus on the same subject matter, flower and gardens, they all have very distinctive looks. I love the freedom that being independent affords me so I can create in whichever medium I choose.
As a lifetime entrepreneur the thought of having a gallery owner tell me what they want and when they want it is abhorrent to me. There is a benefit to being a working artist for many, many decades. I have the emotional and financial security to remain an independent artist. Having spent my former career in sales and marketing and also having had my own graphic design business for decades, I have the skills that many artists don’t possess.
I’m committed to creating my own art styles, exploring new mediums, enjoying the process of experimentation. But I’m just as committed to running my art business. Because of the tools now available through technology, the internet and social media I can do that myself at an affordable price. It’s a game-changer.
Recently I was asked what advice would I would give to my 21-year-old self on how to get started and keep motivated?
I can’t speak to my 21-year-old self since I was married and the mother of a baby boy by then. I didn’t put myself through college until my youngest went to nursery school. By the time I graduated from art school I was a 32-year-old single parent. A career was foremost on my mind in order to support my sons but I knew that I needed to focus on the arts in some way to follow my calling. By creative thinking & sheer guts, I got myself into the nascent computer graphics industry in the early 1980’s as a salesperson who had to use and demonstrate graphic devices and electronic paint systems. This gave me a toe-hold into the conversation of creative arts.
Critical as well was that I always maintained a working studio in my home, even sitting in it & studying art history books when I was too stressed to pick up a brush. Because I kept my focus on the artist part of me more than the technologist part of me I was able to transition into creating my own art more often as my sons grew up and life became easier. Maintaining this tangential association with the creative arts was the reason I’ve been able to now focus 100% of my effort into my artwork.
Keeping motivated isn’t difficult when you’ve burned with the desire to create your whole life. What does help however is having artist friends and mentors who understand the struggles to carve out the time to express yourself in an ever-busy world. Accountability partners help me to keep the balance needed to make room for the creation of art and the running of an art business. Either one of those activities is all-consuming but without one you don’t need the other.
Mary Ahern giving an Artist Talk at The Firefly Artists Gallery in December 2019.