Professionals offer advice to senior art majors
By Cheryl Anderson Brown
(Above) Linda McCulloch (left) and Jay Silvestrini took time to review some of student Vivian Lai's work.
(Below, from left) John Slemp, Linda McCulloch and Jerry Silvestrini.
Photos by Patrick Bowling
Students in Carole Maugé-Lewis' Senior Portfolio and Project class and Will Hipps' Senior Exhibition class received a welcome visit from a trio of professional artists on March 26. Led of Linda McCulloch, president and creative director, of Design That Works Communications Inc., the panel also included photographer John Slemp and illustrator Jerry Silvestrini, president of the Freelance Forum. They responded to a list of questions the students had previously submitted, including "What was your starting salary when you first started?" and "What's important to emphasize on your resume?"
The discussion was lighthearted in tone but the conversation was serious as the seniors in the class sought advice on job seeking, price setting and professional behavior. The speakers offered realistic but reassuring advice.
"Most people in our position remember what it was like just starting out," McCulloch said, adding that this makes her keep an open mind about new designers and artists, but she still expects professional behavior. "When people come to me just getting out of school, I will ask them point blank, 'What are you charging per hour?'"
Tips for students and new grads from McCulloch, Silvestrini and Slemp
Join a professional organization like the Freelance Forum to use for support and advice.
Be prepared to pay your dues; everyone starts out schlepping and running for coffee.
Remember that your career and your skills will evolve; you will not be the same artist ten years from now.
Be a sponge. Learn everything you can from the people you work for.
Listen, but realize you have the skills and talent to deliver what the client needs, and to do it better than they can conceive of the project.
Don't undervalue yourself or undercut your competitors; do research to set your prices.
Have a great portfolio. Front-load it with relevant work for the client or gallery.
Experience is the most important thing on your resume.
Take out your extra piercings and cover tatoos on job interviews.
Don't take your portfolio to gallery openings; return with it during regular business hours.
Be prepared for the fluctuating workflow of the business; plan for the lean times
If you're a fine artist, don't overlook the revenue you can make from prints
The speakers also told the students to be realistic about the unpredictable nature of the business.
"There were days when everything was good, and the phone rang three or four times. You'd get one or two jobs," Slemp said. "Then, there would be long stretches when nothing happened."
They also reiterated that the students need to be aware of the business side of their chosen careers.
"My biggest surprise was the business," Silvestrini said. "They did not teach me how to fill out an invoice in art school. I got my first job and was like, 'What do I do now?'"
McCulloch elaborated, "A lot of the administrative stuff. You have costs, and you have to get paid. My biggest shock was how hard the work was."
Overall, the students responded really well to the frank talk. "I feel like they gave us a good heads-up on what to research and what to plan on before we go on an interview," April Petty said.
Fellow student Vivian Lai agreed. "Some of this stuff we have gone over in one of our classes, but to hear it from professionals who are in the business for however many years – it is good to hear."