A Pessimist’s Guide to Becoming an “Artist” in San Francisco

With the Art Institute, Academy of Art, and CCA making their homes here, the Bay Area is rife with young “artists,” the local galleries teeming with amateurish art shows.  (There, I said it. And I’ll warn you now that if you’re already offended, you probably should not read any further.) Aside from the prerequisites of poor draftsmanship, oversized plaid shirts “accidentally” splattered with dried paint, and a cursory knowledge of Photoshop to make your digital snapshots look old-timey, there are a few other things you should know how to do if you’re going to call yourself an artist.  Thankfully, the Bay offers up plenty of FREE and affordable ways to learn these invaluable skills.  Here are just a few to get you started.

Stretch your own canvas! It might take an army of old white men to turn you into an artist. They're called Student Loan Officers.

1. Know the basic skills associated with your medium. Don’t be the writer who doesn’t read, the cyclist that can’t change their tire, the painter who can’t paint (well, it looks like that one just might be unavoidable).  Blick: “If you’ve always wondered how to stretch canvas, then this is the demo for you!” Me: If you’ve always wondered how to stretch canvas, then you’re probably not a legitimate painter.

FREE Canvas Stretching Demonstration @ Blick
Saturday, April 10th, 1-3pm
1414 Van Ness Ave. btwn. Pine & Bush
Cost: FREE (call or stop by the store to reserve your spot)

Suck at art? Just say your baby did it.

2. If you don’t have any novel ideas for photography subjects swimming around in that pretty head yours, just resort to cheap tricks. Lucky for you, the vapidly titillating, navel-gazing photographs you took of your drunk friends are popular right now (god knows why). Just go to pretty much any amateur photography show and you’ll see how you can remain complacently self-absorbed and still call yourself a “photo documentarian.” If all else fails, pretend you’re younger than you are or, better yet, tell everyone that your kid did it. People love a prodigy, even if their photos are blurry.

3-year old’s Photography Exhibit
On display through April @Moshi Moshi
(yep, a Japanese restaurant, not exactly the MOMA)
2092 Third St. @ 18th [Dogpatch]
Cost: that of a cup of miso soup, perhaps?

3. Try to get your art displayed at a reputable gallery.  As nice and touchy-feely as it might be to show your art at the cooperative where you live, along with a bunch of other hungover residents who have as little money as you do, try to remember that you’re in the business of actually selling your art. It’s time to hustle. In this helpful piece, the Bold Italic‘s Nicole Grant explores just what it takes to get onto the most coveted walls in San Francisco. Go see what you’re up against so you don’t get “weeded out.” (Either that or continue bumming around at your art co-op and spend all day getting weeded out, but I can assure you that the munchies won’t help further your already improbable career.)

Hang Art Gallery
567 Sutter St. @ Mason [Union Square]
Mon-Sat 10am to 6pm
Sun 12 to 5pm
Cost: FREE

Demi Moore was such a bad ceramicist in Ghost, her boyfriend had himself murdered, then came back as a ghost to haunt her while she made vases.

4. If you’re finally ready to admit defeat, tell your parents they were right (they wanted you to be a lawyer) or wrong (they told you your art was “fabulous” but it turned out they were just being parents—you could have defecated on a piece of paper and they would have gushed over its “maturity”), and abandon your misguided dreams, at least you can still make t-shirts.  I’m pretty sure Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley exists simply to show you that a failed artist can still sit on the street all day and sell graphic tees to tourists. If you don’t know how because you’re just that bad at art, or spent your art school years sitting at a pottery wheel (waiting for the ghost of good art…get it? Because good art is dead?), don’t fret. You can always take another art class.

Beginning Silkscreening
Tuesday, April 6, 6-9pm
Rock Paper Scissors Collective
2278 Telegraph Ave. @ 23rd
Cost: $25 (all materials will be provided)

In the end, it’s a huge gamble to dedicate your life to art. Many great artists have died broke and in complete obscurity. Just try not to be one of those and you’ll be ahead of the curve.

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Chloe - Pennywise Reporter

Chloe's youth was split between California and Kauai, frolicking on a macadamia nut farm in the tropics and landing finally in the Bay Area. Raised by super-Jew hippies, and the youngest of three sisters, Chloe learned early the virtues of thrift, economy, and green living. To the chagrin of her parents (who hoped, of course, for a Jewish doctor or lawyer), Chloe has put her degree from UC Berkeley to great use by becoming a folk singer. As "Chloe Makes Music" she plays shows throughout SF and beyond, donning vintage frocks, selling handmade merch, and pinching pennies as she sings for her supper. Calling Berkeley home for the last six years, you can think of Chloe as the website's East Bay Correspondent, opening your eyes to the hippie-filled, tree-hugging, organic-loving, vegan-eating, but way-overlooked and awesome assets of Berkeley, Oakland, and beyond.

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