An Artist in Business, How-To, Successful Actions

Tips for Success from Master Wood Carver, Frank P. Devine

Frank P. Devine has a career as an artist of 30 years. He started as a professional artist at the age of 14 as a painter. As his career progressed, he developed skills in sculpting and construction to become a globally recognized artist. He is also an award winning “green” artist – many of his sculptures are created from recycled or cast off items made into beautiful works of art.

In recent interviews, he was generous enough to share his experiences with other artists, giving tips on what has been successful and what has not been successful.

He says, “I have a love for Victorian period, I’m a sentimental, romantic type guy. I get really passionate about things – especially my art.” There are not a lot of handmade things anymore, but that is what Mr. Devine does. Some people say he should have been born a hundred years ago.

As a child, it was obvious to everyone he was going to be an artist. He first thought he was going to become a painter of birds. But his long career has primarily been as a sculptor and he is most famous for Victorian wood carving.

To achieve success in that field Mr. Devine hit the road. He entered competition after competition and traveled extensively to win prizes in his field. Travel and show fees and other expenses are not cheap, but instead of enjoying spending the money for a new car, Mr. Devine invested in PR and marketing. He hired people to do this work for him. He sought out places to compete in sculpture, and then let people know about his success.

He says, “Self-promotion is very important. If you’re winning prizes and doing well, it’s important to let people know what you did. If you wait around for someone to discover you, you’re going to wait around for a hundred years after you’re dead and gone.”

He advises artists embarking on their careers to forgo the frills, cut back on unnecessary expenditures and instead pay for marketing and public relations people. They are worth their weight in gold. Go out and self-promote to reporters and radio and television people.

Things got tough when the economy got tough, and a lot of competitors dropped out. Not so with Mr. Devine. He hung in there, continued to promote and as things improved, so did his career. When other artists gave up and went off to do something else, Mr. Devine was still sculpting and painting. The remarkable benefit was that as the economy got better, he did not have to start over. His career just continued.

There are always nay-sayers along the way in any successful career – unfortunately there are a lot of people like that. Perhaps they are jealous or perhaps they just do not wish others to do well. They throw roadblocks in your way. Mr. Devine advises you just have to keep focused on the goal and keep on the plan to achieve that goal. One of the things in his plan is to navigate around these kinds of people. You delete them from your social circle, you avoid them. If they were officials, you just wouldn’t do those shows. You have to do that – it is self-defense.

Mr. Devine admits he feels just as vulnerable as anyone, and sometimes it gets to him. But you have to dust yourself off and move on. You can’t dwell on it.

The best encouragement is someone who buys the product you are producing. Art buyers are the best validation an artist could wish for.

But there can also be luck. A local newspaper reporter helped with Mr. Devine’s career. He did the first newspaper article on Frank P. Devine and covered his rise – he was fascinated that Mr. Devine was winning so many prizes. That may be just a bit of luck to have someone chronicling your career, but be appreciative and thankful when it happens.

When asked what attributes he may have that contributed to his success as an artist, Mr. Devine said, “My inner strength, my dedication to complete the job that I started and my attention to details. I still have goals I’ve yet to achieve. But you haven’t failed until you quit. As long as you keep striving, your lucky break is right around the corner. When I’m at my darkest hour, something always comes along.”

He reiterates that his most successful action in addition to opening up to the media, the public, as much as he could, was not compromising his standards. When some public would say, “I don’t need a museum piece, I just need something pretty,” Mr. Devine would say, “but that’s not what I do. I provide the highest quality possible.” He says he doesn’t know how to go back and cut corners and make it cheesy. He tells people if you want something more affordable, let’s keep it simple, but you still keep the high quality. Deliver uncompromising quality is definitely a most important successful aciton.

As regards unsuccessful actions, Mr. Devine advises other artists to not be too unspoken about things – political, religious, philosophical. Just shut your trap and do your work. If you want to be treated fairly in a competition just be generic, don’t talk about things that offend 50 percent of the people. Speak about your art, your journey as an artist, your creative process, not your viewpoints on unrelated subjects.

Mr. Devine mentioned another unsuccessful action which may derail a career. Spending a lot of time working on “other” projects not related to forwarding your art career can be something that lands you in the soup. Mr. Devine gave an example; “I am addicted to driftwood construction. It has a very limited following. I build furniture, sculptures, mobiles, you name it. I live at the beach. I grab the most beautiful pieces of driftwood. Making art with it feeds my soul. I have to do a very precise treatment of it, otherwise you risk bringing critters into the house. I spend way too much time on it for the return – I should be doing what I’m known for which is Victorian carving.”

In recent years Mr. Devine has switched his promotion from stellar performances at shows, and press releases generated by a publicist in favor of the internet. He’s on social networks and websites, and still maintains a mailing list and mails brochures. A website is crucial nowadays.

Another promotional activity he recently established is seminars, but he warns that they don’t pay off immediately. When you become an instructor, people respect your ability and the fees for seminars and workshops do pay a bit. But the real payoff from such activities comes later when commissions come in from people who attended or from word of mouth from those attendees.

You have to be dedicated, keep your nose to the grindstone, and never give up. Everyone’s career is different. You have to keep things fresh and change with the newer availability of promotion. These things never change for an artist or for anyone hoping to make a successful career.

You can find Frank P. Devine on Facebook.

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