Supporting the recently graduated and emerging artist

They’ve worn their fingers to the bone putting together the art work of their life – so far anyway – and their parents, siblings, Aunties and Granddads have grinned with justified smiles of pride, but what comes next in the world of the art graduate? It can be a daunting time in an artist’s life as they shut the door on their much loved University studio and now embark on their ‘grown-up’ life, trying to find their way into the temperamental and confusing art world.

For most, being an artist isn’t all about earning, however it can feel like it when your law-graduate-friend is high-flying it and you’re still on value gin, counting pennies for paintbrushes. Yet, it’s now more important than ever for artists to hang on in there and not give up on their artistic careers. One of the best ways is to keep busy; get back to enjoying creating, network and always feel involved in the art industry.

This time in an artist’s career is not for fading into the background and is a chance for them to furiously raise their profile, building up a network – of fans, buyers and galleries – and launching themselves into the industry in the best possible way. Graduate artists need to stand-out and promote themselves and their talent, getting their work out there and seen. Easier said than done right? In a way yes, but this is why new artists need support and a platform that can help them make their mark. For many it takes a lot of confidence to put their work out there and support can help ten-fold.

On one hand a buyer can see graduate work as a valuable investment. It is unique, original and is new talent on the art scene and in turn could be a profitable purchase. Art collectors have been known to keep an eye on graduate shows, with the possibility that they might spy the ‘next-big-thing’. Saatchi has been known to spend thousands snapping up graduate art exhibitions. However, you don’t have to spend a fortune to make a profit. The Telegraph reports on two such instances when Josie McCoy sold work in her graduate degree show back in 1999 for a mere £250 and it is now worth “ten times that amount”. Another example was Daisy Clarke, graduating in 2008 she parted with her pieces for £350 and only two years later they were up to £900 (this was back in 2010). But, remember it’s not all about the money and you should adore the art as well – of course, prices can decrease as much as they increase.

Art school has provided graduates with a whole host of abilities that they wouldn’t have previously had; they are given the opportunity to learn new skills, through the readily-available equipment and teaching, new ideas and inspirations are nurtured in a creative environment as they are encouraged to look at their work in new ways. Art students are always developing and evolving as they are challenged and pushed, alongside having a clear focus and direction. Their work in the degree show, as well as subsequent exhibitions, is their best work up to this point and is the pinnacle of their artistic efforts so far. You should be sure to look into the quality of the artist; their style should show character and be unique, displaying a committed and passionate individual.

Predictably moving away from the comfort of University graduates can find themselves left feeling a bit overwhelmed. The Degree Show is over and everything that they once had supplied – materials, guidance and even time – is taken away. However, although there is a lot of uncertainty the artistic community is one that wants to help out, promoting emerging talent and working to get it recognised.

That’s where Art Pistol recently stepped in. 15° is a show filled with – accordingly – 15 new graduates from the top four Art Schools from around Scotland. All the artists are talented and unique with interesting and intriguing pieces being put on display. This is also the first time that Art Pistol has shown jewellers and the two graduates chosen create some truly stunning pieces.

The standard on display is high and most who wander in to the little gallery, don’t question or notice a difference from the more established artists to the graduates. It is only when they have been told about the premise of the show that they know. It usually invites intrigued “oooohs” and “ahhhhs” and adds something extra to the art on the wall. They can feel like they are involved in something new and exciting, which they are.

Hannah Grace Ryan, one of our first jewellers, spoke to us about losing the support of the University studio, explaining that she’ll miss everyone working together, but in stepping out on her own she hopes that “the great unknown will inspire me to stay motivated and productive”. She also notes how these kinds of exhibitions can provide vital insight, with their feedback, and can help to lead them on where they want to go next. For Hannah this entails designing and making “a more wearable range of rings, brooches and neckpieces based on my degree show work. I hope that this more accessible range will inspire clients to look at my exhibition pieces and will enable me to make bigger and bolder work in the future”. Graduate exhibitions can act as stepping stones while emerging artists find their feet and what happens now can shape the future.

Graduate artist Romy Galloway sums it up saying: “Set-ups like Art Pistol, that are giving Scottish graduates a platform are a great thing to have, by making the art world accessible they are the type of people that make Scottish, and in particular Glasgow, art community so great”. Why thankyou.

Some more than others need a bit of extra support this year, as graduates from Glasgow School of Art faced a devastating incident. In May just weeks before the Degree Show a fire tore through the iconic Mackintosh building, final year students were left with damaged work and entire pieces destroyed. This would be a shattering shock in itself, but it also meant that students faced the double blow of losing out on their launch into the art world and the chance to be ‘discovered’ – so to speak – in their final year Show. However, as artists do, they’ve found inspiration in the destruction and now their art has a unique, if not distressing story behind it and some bear the marks of a personal tragedy – meaning that buyers can have a little bit of history and become part of the story as it takes a positive turn.

Priscilia Kheng, a Glasgow School of Art graduate now has work with us – including damaged pieces – and she remains positive as life moves own stating she’s now gained an “artistic maturity” and is looking forward to stepping into the big wide world. From here she can only grow and expand and she hopes to further her artistic network by trying out new things, including residencies and exhibitions.

After the victory of graduation what’s next for these artists and for many there’s definitely an anxiety in stepping-out on their own. But, the rewards for those that take the plunge can be extraordinary, humbling and guaranteed to put a smile back on their faces. It must be a triumphant feeling when a complete stranger buys your work of art, appreciating what you’ve created and commending your efforts. It’s important, as well as a little bit lovely, for the artists to know that there are other people – who aren’t students, professors, tutors or their mum – who are enjoying and admiring their art. They need this support and confidence boost in the early days, so that they can go on and paint every day.

This all means that brand new and emerging artists can carry on doing something that they love. They are all putting themselves out there in the hope that they’ll be appreciated and one of their first buyers can become part of a special relationship – an early supporter and someone who championed them to keep going. So we can all revel in that warm, fuzzy feeling that you’ve helped a Bambi-eyed graduate on their road to success, helping them to continue to their artistic career.

We can’t predict the future – the Magic 8 ball broke – but come down to Cresswell Lane and see what you make of the graduates work. Also keep an eye out on the blog for the full interviews with a selection of the ex-students, all about their inspiration and aspirations.