Striving, surviving and succeeding as an artist

Friday November 9, 2012

MANCHESTER -- When Paul Dorrell revised and updated his book "Living the Artist’s Life: A Guide to Growing, Preserving, and Succeeding in the Art World," he made pretty significant changes, adding 65 pages to the previous edition’s 170. The new additions to the book include updates on email, social media, and the current state of the economy.

"Discussions in 2005 (when the last edition of the book was released), are vastly different today," Dorrell, who has owned and operated Leopold Gallery in Kansas City, M.O. since 1991 and in that time he has put together what he believes to be a process for making it as an artist in a constantly evolving world, "to make sense of how to go about step by step putting a career together," he said.

Dorrell will speak Saturday, Nov. 10 at 4 p.m. at the Southern Vermont Art Center in Manchester. He will be reading from his book, giving advice and discussing what its like to be an artist and a gallery manager in an increasingly competitive market.

Dorrell said his book combines all of the aspects of being a successful artist and addressing them directly, the practical, the philosophical, and emotional in a way that is intended to be entertaining. The book’s pages are populated by stories, anecdotes and pieces of social commentary.

For practical advice, Dorrell looks to his experience as a gallery owner, which began when he decided that it would be a good way to make a significant amount of money.

"(It was) naïveté, I assumed I could make a ton of money of doing it," he said.

Soon after opening he realized that he had entered a very difficult business, and would have to learn to adapt or accept failure, a choice which he said most gallery owners will have to make when the reality of owning a gallery hits them.

"They go ‘wow, what did I get myself into’ and then they give up," Dorrell said.

Their gallery was struggling and he realized that in order to be success he would need to "re-write the rules for running a gallery." He decided to keep fighting, and the result was a business now in its 21st year with clients such as H&R Block, the Kansas City Chiefs and Warner Brothers.

When Dorrell is hired by a large corporation it is usually to help them decorate a new building with art. Some of his favorite clients will typically set a certain amount of money they want to spend, give Dorrell and his artists a theme (in the case of H&R Block the theme was numbers), and give them freedom to do what they like.

"My staff and I work hard to make sure we have a positive relationship with everyone, he said, "We take them on this crazy adventure called art. I’ve watched them become more open to the art and the process, and especially contemporary art."

The philosophical aspects of his book look at the concepts of society and the non-conformist’s role in it, as well as the wealth gap and the behavior of large corporations. While Dorrell thinks highly of many corporations and their CEOs he believes that we live in a new era of "robber barons."

Dorrell himself is not a visual artist, but is a fiction author in addition to his work with "Living the Artist’s Life."

"I couldn’t draw flies with my shoes off," he said.

He is currently developing a screenplay about an Iraq War veteran losing his grip on reality.

His talk at the Southern Vermont Art Center will focus primarily on the practical aspects of being an artist, not his political views.


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