Surviving as an artist

 4 February 2011

Aideen Doran works across video sculpture, animation and drawing. She spoke to Choices about how she develops her business skills and finds support from other artists.

“My practice kind of responds to the project that I'm working on. I don't tend to work with one material for very long.”

Getting money as an artist

"Money's very difficult to come by as an artist, especially as I don't make things that you can sell, really. I make installation work, I make video, things like that that aren't really commodities.

“What's helped me is getting artist's fees from particular shows, that's quite helpful. Getting your expenses for work that you've made as part of a show, that's very helpful. But I do need to work part-time as well, which makes things quite difficult time management-wise.”

Business skills for artists

"Writing project descriptions, writing applications, submitting letters, paying £5 for postage to send off your portfolio, writing CDs of your work, making CD labels, things like that.

“That administrative side of things became really quite important, which was very different from art college when you spend most of your day being really creative and just making things and having lots of fun just playing about with materials.

“When I left, that business side of things became more apparent. It became much more important as well, because that's how you get that creative work out there.”

Support from other artists

“Belfast is a very cheap city to be an artist. It makes it a lot easier, but it does make it difficult to justify the amount of time that you spend on your practice if you can't make a lot of money from it.

“Administration is really quite important. Very different from art college, when you spend most of your day being really creative."

“It's not a city that's swimming in buyers, there's not a great market for art. But there is a really good community here, and there is a good body of artist-led organisations.

"Most of the stuff that exists here - galleries, studio groups - have all sprung from young artists getting together and saying 'We really need a space to show our work' or 'We really need a space to work, so let's do it'.

“There's quite a lot of enterprise and initiative, and there's always new exciting projects springing up. There's a good level of support, where people go see everyone's exhibitions and people will turn out to support events and things like that, and that's a good way to get to know people.”

“I really enjoy working as an artist in Belfast. It has its downfalls, but it's a small community, a pleasant community of artists to work in.”

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