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Interview with artist Philip Hartigan

After publishing a series of interviews with other artists on this blog, here is the text of an interview that I gave to an educational website a few months ago. The link was just sent to me yesterday. The focus of the interview was on advice from a working artist to students and recent graduates from college.

Artist Interview

Philip Hartigan has worked as an artist for 16 years, including running his own studio, exhibiting his artwork, and studying art in Spain. He currently teaches a class at Columbia College of Chicago.
Artist Career Path
Philip had a flare for art throughout his life. “I always had some talent for drawing and painting, and felt that visual art satisfied me more than writing,” he says. This is what drove him to following an art career path.
Experiences of a Professional Artist
Starting in 1994, Philip spent six years working in the art studio and exhibiting his work, as well as doing freelance IT work for an additional income. After those six year, though, he’s been able to rely solely on art-related pursuits.
Philip earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in English and American Literature in Cambridge University in England, but veered toward art because he knew it was in his blood. He then went to the Winchester School of Art in the UK for a Master of Arts degree in fine art, which is a “small but highly-regarded program.” During this time, Philip worked in a studio in Barcelona Spain, where he worked on his craft.
“In addition to having studio visits from many well-known artists,” says Philip, “I was also able to study and work in a city that is itself a work of art. The main experience of doing the MA is that when people asked me ‘What do you do?’, I felt able to reply ‘I am an artist.’”
Artist Degree Programs
According to Philip, the level of education necessary for an art career has changed drastically over time.
“Until the last century, of course no one really needed to have academic training to become an artist. You learned by being apprenticed, or you had natural talent that you developed however you could,” he says.
But talent isn’t everything; an artist isn’t just born overnight.
“Everyone can learn something from being in an environment surrounded by their peers and people with more experience than you,” says Philip. “So I would say that you are doing yourself a disservice if you don’t consider taking undergraduate or graduate courses in art.”
Artist Job Description
In the last few years, Philip has worked several jobs, including doing freelance editorial work for a magazine, teaching printmaking workshops during the summer, and teaching a class called Journal + Sketchbook at Columbia College Chicago. Besides that, Philip can be found in his art studio or updating his blogs.
Artist Daily Routine
“On studio days, I pick up any materials I need,” says Philip, “and I go to my studio in Wicker Park and work through until the late afternoon. I try to manage my time so that one day a week is spent on a specific project, and the other days I spend on continuing projects.” Philip also takes every opportunity to attend art openings in the Chicago area, and updates his blogs quite regularly.
Artist Career: Steps to Success
“Your skills are related to the kind of art that you make,” says Philip, “and they should be as highly developed as you can make them.” Philip suggests that an artist shouldn’t stop learning if he or she wants to be successful.
“Even if you’ve already been to college,” he says, “are there new techniques you can learn about? Are there change in your own field that you should know?” Philip also says that an artists needs to be determined, able to concentrate for long periods, able to overcome discouragement and setbacks, and to even be able to enjoy your own successes.
Artist Job Opportunities
Becoming a successful artist isn’t the pretty picture that most people paint; it takes more than talent and going to school.
“The career path that most people imagine for an artist is: have talent, go to art college, exhibit and get noticed by a commercial gallery, graduate college, and then become rich from sales of your art. Only a few will truly follow that path, and success of that sort is really only partly about the work and is more about having a combination of superb schmoozing skills and what advertisers used to call a ‘unique selling proposition,’” he says
According to Philip, a practical artist has to figure out what their ultimate goals are and how they want to obtain them. “Everybody has to define what they mean by success, and then plan realistic steps to achieve it. Sample definitions of success as an artist can include earning a specific dollar amount from sales or teaching, getting into a certain number of juried shows per year, or spending a set number of hours making work.”
Favorite Part About an Art Career
As any artist should, Philip loves to see his work come together. He says, “there is nothing like that feeling of working for a long time on a piece, to the point where you think that the idea is never going to work or the materials will never cooperate, and then suddenly you stand back and you are surprised to see that something has worked – a combination of colors or shapes, or one element balanced against another.” Philip also enjoys the people he gets to work with. “I mix with and meet extremely interesting and talented people,” he says.
An Artist’s Future Ambitions
“My dream job would actually be to run my own public-access printmaking workshop, equipped with the best tools and presses that money could buy,” says Philip. “Then I would also love to have the time to work on public art pieces and exhibit my own work.”
Advice for Art Students
As Philip has said, anyone interested in art should take classes before they try to enter the field. After that, Philip says, “My advice to art students is get a studio as quickly as possible after graduating, and then buy a book by Alyson Stanfield called ‘I’d Rather Be in The Studio: The Artist’s No-Excuse Guide to Self-Promotion.’ I’ve been professionally active for 16 years now, yet I found this book to be packed with all kinds of useful advice.”


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