Beatrice Hasell-McCosh offers some insight for those that are keen to navigate their way through the art world. For those interested, twenty-something Beatrice is part of a group show in Chelsea which is on until 17th January, showcasing portraits of strangers around London.
What I do in the art world
I am a painter working usually with oils on board. Having been brought up on the edge of the Lake District I am naturally drawn to landscapes and take paint wherever I go. I’ve become a master of light packing so all my painting stuff is compressed into one shoulder bag which can be taken everywhere! A year at The Royal Drawing School just doing drawing was a hugely useful introduction to London through exploring and I found that drawing has become more and more central to my practise.
When I decided I was going to pursue art full time
I did a degree in English and Classical Literature at Leeds. After that I was based in Edinburgh at Leith School of Art and then worked for a year in Cumbria and was part of a painting show about the rural community and the landscape relevant to them. Art school is an odd time because you’re totally absorbed in making but don’t really focus on what comes next i.e building a business out of your work. I lived with an artist I admire hugely when I first moved to London and was at art School. It was great seeing how her and her husband lived and worked together as a team. I have worked as an assistant to two artists for a year now but it was only when I had my first solo show in March though that I really realised I could paint for a living.
The challenges of the art world
Funnily enough it was easy after that, you go about it in the same way anyone building a Start-Up operates but you have to be marketing, accountant, press office, general admin and creative all at once and to a high standard. To my surprise I found that I was good at organisation and time management which is obviously incredibly helpful if you work for yourself. Traditional landscape painting is out of fashion and being a portrait painter is a saturated business but challenges are a good thing so this is something to embrace rather than be intimidated by. Working for two mid career artists who I admire and who are hugely successful in their field has made any challenges easier to deal with. They are very supportive of my work and generous with their time and advice.
An average day…
Is not average at all. My day to day is always completely different. Part time work in the form of an artist’s assistant is very random although I help teach which is always in the evenings a couple of times a week. I also sit for an artist but that is usually in the mornings. In the end I find that I work a lot at night, I have a huge daylight light which is my new favourite thing. I love not having to be anywhere or having to meet anyone, certainly I’m at my most productive from 11pm – 2am. Mornings are a disaster although I tend to get up and faff around from about 8.30. I try to get someone to come and sit for me at least once a week usually on a Monday morning. The greatest thing about working for yourself is being able to work whenever you like. I draw every day even if only for a few minutes on the bus and try to paint most days. Its lovely painting at weekends particularly. If I’m in London I usually have people coming and going for coffee, lunch or a drink. Painting in London can be gloriously sociable contrary to popular belief.
Tips I’d give to those thinking of pursuing the art world seriously
Do research. The art world is MASSIVE so you need to be clear on what you want to do as there are so many options. Tips for being a painter? Be a painter. So many people get stuck at art school doing course after course, MA after MA. In the end you have to just do it. Do life drawing as regularly as possible. Go to friends shows and friends of friends shows, it is so inspiring and more importantly fun having a strong group of people around you doing the same thing. Use social media and take advantage of useful connections without using people. Say yes to everything, some of it will be a pointless waste of time but others will be unexpectedly fruitful.
What no one tells you
Don’t connect yourself exclusively to a gallery until you’re ready, they take a large commission and it is reasonably easy to build up a name for yourself by doing shows in spaces you can hire and being part of group shows in a variety of spaces. Build up a mailing list. It’s really good not to begin by pricing yourself too high, it’s clearly better to have people buying your work rather than it sitting unsold in your studio!
Anything I wish I had done differently…
If I’d done anything differently I might not have been where I am now so I’m not sure. Perhaps I would have dropped out of Leeds and gone to art school properly for three years but I enjoyed my degree and I think it’s informed my work so who knows.
How I put myself out there
Get onto mailing lists for galleries that do group shows so you know when to enter. Instagram obviously. I sell work through the platform and it’s just as useful as a portfolio in your pocket if anyone asks what you do. It also reaches a surprisingly large range of people so those who you rarely see will still know what you’re working on. It is much easier to reach further now than artists could ever do pre-internet, so take advantage of it.
I am in a group show at the moment in Chelsea which is on until 17th January which is all portraits of strangers around London. Among other things I’m planning a joint show with a friend next year and will also be part of Sasha Galitzine’s show, Salon 63, drawing people from life on the no.63 bus to coincide with other artists doing site specific work in salons along the bus route. In the short term though I am heading to Cuba for January. It’s much warmer than England and it will be fantastic to work out there for a bit!
Find me on Instagram