Artists Must Multi-Task

March 20, 2013

What do you think it takes to become a successful artist? Most people think it requires a vivid imagination plus excellence with composition and colour theory as well as the appropriate technical skills, but a truly successful visual arts career also involves having:

  • Enough financial security to pay your bills
  • A specialized space to work (temporarily or permanently)
  • Great photography skills and access to specialized equipment to support your sales and communications
  • Excellent writing skills for:
    • Artist statements
    • Applications and reporting to gatekeepers (curators, grant and residency officers, gallery owners, etc.)
    • Marketing communications
  • Compelling oral communication (and public speaking) skills for face-to-face interaction with gatekeepers, public programs, media and customers.
  • Strong administrative skills and an orientation to detail for inventory recording and bookkeeping
  • Competitive graphic design skills for branding, advertising and packaging
  • Excellent time management skills

Being a successful professional visual artist, no matter how you define those terms, means that you must excel at all of the above skills or you have to obtain those that you lack by trade or purchase. We all know we have to be good in the studio, but few of us are equally as skilled with spreadsheets and the communication skills required to support self-employment.

And because of that, we often are our own greatest obstacle. Too many of us think that we can do everything ourselves. Not only that, we think we can do it all well. But the truth is that few people can. I have many of the skills listed above, but when it comes to having a show, I have a lot of partner professionals. And speaking of having a show and multi-tasking… I’m doing just that.

Whereas I love working with pigments, textures and composition, I am far better with words. All my life, words have earned me all my advantages but they have virtually always been utilitarian. I never took risks: I couldn’t afford to. There were lots of technical writing jobs and they paid the bills. But then I “retired” from the rat race and decided to do some of the things I had been putting off all my life including a project I’ve alluded to in my past two columns.

I’ve written, produced, and will be “performing” in my show Knock Knock. I wrote nine songs and hired two of Vancouver’s best singers to sing them, Susan Anderson and Warren Kimmel to perform with me. Knock Knock chronicles the drive within me to find my fabulous birth mother who, it turned out, starred in movies with stars like Sophia Loren, Marcello Mastroiani, Jane Fonda and Ann Bancroft. It’s a great story of conviction rewarded, so you’re very happy at the end. My show happens at the pal Vancouver Studio Theatre April 18–21, 2013.

If you think you know me by these columns, you have no idea. But you will, after you see the show and I hope it will interest you to come if you live in Vancouver or are going to be here in April. It’s easy to get tickets online from Just type in the title of the show, Knock Knock, and choose which of the four performances you want to see and print the tickets on your computer.

I know writing about my show seems only self-serving, but it isn’t really. I will not earn a cent from the production. I am the production costs so that 100% of ticket revenue can go to a Vancouver charity that provides subsidized housing to veteran artists who need it.

There’s a lesson here for you too. At age 65, I am taking the biggest artistic risk of my life – and one I was afraid to take all my life. So please let my example inspire you – it’s never too late to take on even the most daring challenge. I hope I see you there and if you come, please say “hi” before or after the show. I’ll be easy to spot.

Gary Sim is a very gentle, talented and resourceful man. He impressed me once by partnering with a restaurant to organize an art auction of both his work, some pieces from his collection plus the work of some other artists and it went very well.

He has a job and he also maintains a productive secondary career as a creator. But not only that, he also takes on massive projects like the auction and his current magnum opus is his compendium of all past and present BC visual artists. It’s a hyperlinked inventory of every artist Gary has been able to identify on cd.

It’s a heavily annotated listing. It includes reviews, interviews, artist statements and other ephemera of many of the artists listed. And it is inclusive in nature; Gary has included every artist he can find who has been exhibited.

Gary’s British Columbia Artists might be a valuable resource for many communities, libraries and archives. It costs $175 and comes with incremental free upgrades. For more information please visit

Chris Tyrell Loranger is the author of Artist Survival Skills and Making It!, an arts writer and educator. His popular opinion pieces have appeared in our newsletter since its first issue in 1986. Visit his website, or his art marketing blog, to learn more.