How to be an Artist — According to a Man?

Sep 14, 2020

This is the first article in a series of articles that ask, "Why is art dominated by men and can we not?".

Skim through most of the popular artist-philosophical how-to lists out there, from "How to be an Artist," to "So You Want to be an Artist?", and all the similar approaches in between since time immemorial. Do you spot a trend?

Go  ahead, search and see for yourself— it does not matter whether it is old advice from a book, a relatively recent article, or even a list of stuff tweeted by some rando art sensation. When you discover these little guides, posts, or tweets you'll note that most of them are authored by men.

We cannot help but wonder if there are so many awesome women artists, then why is it usually a male voice presenting their opinions on what makes for a successful artist?

Unfortunately there are numerous examples to illustrate the point of this phenomenon, and not nearly as many being amplified by female voices.

It is really worth noting that this traditionalist bullshit— art associated with machismo and "men's rules" and where a male artist's is the only interesting voice in the room, is also filling our emerging spaces. The real threat is that these exciting new art spaces will ultimately end up completely resembling the broken systems (which historically favor men) of the traditional art world all over again.

Bear with us as we demonstrate both how it has been, and how it can be.

33 Rules from The Saltz

Right off the bat, one can merely Google "how to be an artist," and meet with this charming and seasoned traditional art world dude. He explains quite seriously and based on his own life experience, how one can become an artist.  (In case you are unaware, the dude won a Pulitzer prize so you know it's real.)

Jerry Saltz’s 33 Rules for Being an Artist
How to go from clueless amateur to generational talent (or at least live life a little more creatively).

The advice is useful and sincere— and it's just this one older whimsical and popular art-dude dispensing such advice, right? No, actually as you can learn yourself, there is quite a collection of dudes formally dispesning artistic career advice all over these here series of tubes and beyond.

A Wild 61-Item Checklist Appears

Perhaps the best example for crypto artists is this article, "Artists Checklist for Success" by the artist Trevor Jones from his personal blog.

artist checklist for success
An artist asked on the SuperRare Telegram channel how to become a more successful artist in the digital art world and NFT ( non fungible token ) marketplace. Although I’ve only been creating artwork...
Apologies for the noise at right; it seems not all websites produce nice card images.

Mr. Jones' list boasts a generous 61 items, almost doubling that of traditional art guy Saltz, including such bangers as numbers 18: "Drink wine.",  54: "Be nice to people but a little bit of controversy can go a long way.", and 60: "Drink wine often."

As many regulars in the crypto art scene will attest, there's plenty of controversy to go around, so tip number 54 is probably being taken to heart by almost everyone. 😂

When it comes to the teen-aged aspiring crypto artist reading Jones' checklist for inspiration, her parents are not going to be too thrilled about points 18 or 60, either. Perhaps when giving out advice as if one were some kind of old crypto art wizard, one might consider their audience a bit more first before recommending potentially illegal actitivites to crypto artists who are not old dudes like yourself.

Hackatao. "Happy-END," [detail] 2020 (SuperRare)

This next bit of advice is almost different, because it is dispensed by an artist that consists of a partnership or synergy of  both a cis male and female. However, the male half of this artistic duo typically controls what is written through the Twitter account and is essentially the voice of the artist. It is not clear if this is art advice being dispensed by a dude or if it is indeed collaborative advice, because from the perspective of a critic and collector, the female voice has always felt absent in the words of this artist.

They are an artistic duo consisting of a man and woman, but is it him who does all the talking?

If only the other half of the artistic partnership were given more a voice, indeed if we knew that the female half was tweeting this list, it would add some balance.

Let's hope the response is not some trite "is is the voice is both" type sentiment, as it is quite clear who has been the helm at all times with respect to the Hackatao Twitter account. The precise sentiments from the tweet are recorded here for historical purposes.

The Artist base pack to install to become a good #cryptoartist

1 - Be humble and sensitive.
2 - Be constant and persevering
3 - Cultivate awareness
4 - Do not envy your colleagues, admire them and learn from them
5 - Participate in the community

These are just 5 simple rules, and seem to be applicable to almost any human crypto artist. In this regard, this list could possibly represent the only exception to the others since the artist is dualistic in nature and includes both male and female members.

However, if you are an artistic duo featuring a male human and a female human, but it looks like the male is the boss or otherwise dominates the persona and controls the social accounts and so on, then I am not buying your persona's art until it gets its equality sorted out...

Pak, Murat. "Cloud Monument Dark," 2020 (SuperRare)

Let's take a look at more advice dispensed solely by a dude (who most certainly is not IBM Watson disguised as a designer and artist, no way!) who also conveniently thinks that art is not about "likes, feelings or expressing the self."

What does good ol "the nothing" have to say on being an artist a creator?

Ahh yes, tools. To whit:

I generally avoid answering ‘tool’ related questions for created value.
–Murat Pak

Tools, but don't talk about tools! Also "try new things", "experiment", and "make mistakes" as a cryptocreator because as Pak also says in his recent inteview 'Who is Pak', "it’s important to avoid using cryptoartist."

Here is a guy with a list on become a better creator who also would like it to be important to avoid using the term cryptoartist.

One cannot help but to wonder if he is just in the space to cast some certain kind of shadow, to help fulfill the controvery aspect of Jones' Tip #54, or if he has some other agenda in suggesting that it is import to cease using the community's own self-expressive terminology...

Why is it that so much of the advice about becoming an artist or creator is mainly dispensed by men?

What about the simplest advice at all, dispensed by what Alpacawhal knows to be a jolly good bloke (Queens English for 'yet another cis man') from the UK— Mr. Animated Doom himself, XCOPY?

🙌 This is universal advice and your creative self should heed it.

XCOPY has always come off as minimalistic to our artistic eye, and so it is no surprise that he is a dude who is able to distill all of the bullshit from other dudes down to a single deeply philosophical point, and for that we congratulate and thank you, XCOPY!

You can do it!

Be an artist. RESIST!

XCOPY. "RESIST," 2019 (KnownOrigin)


Dudes have had their chance to bogart the art scene long enough, and frankly it's just tiring listening to the same old theater from dudes attempting to espouse their wizard knowledge in the scene.

Shine a light on the female voices expressing ideas for becoming successful in the art world. We recommend amplifying the voices of those who are unheard and underrepresented instead of retweeting the latest dude who just happens to have the best sales statistics at the time.

Let the Women be Your Guide

We want to highlight what is a popular symptom of the larger issue in art (and now certainly in crypto art too) around giving equal voice to equal talent, and representing others fairly in the space.

We were able to find at least some content about becoming a great woman artist. For example, this article in Vice, "How to Become a Great Woman Artist".

How to Become a Great Woman Artist
The art world has always been a male-dominated one, so how can women break in?

This list is as follows:

  1. Stop whining.
  2. Keep track of the numbers.
  3. Hold galleries accountable.
  4. Self-promote.
  5. Write reviews for art shows by other women.
  6. Consider not becoming a woman.

This is a deep and staggering list when you take it all in. Obviously the last point it is super extreme and speaks of the current unfortunate disparity in both the current traditional and emerging art scenes.

We tend to think of art as a socially progressive arena to champion liberating ideologies, but there's never been much proof of that. Sure, you can wear whatever you want to art world parties, but that doesn't mean anyone will buy your work or add you to a history book.
Jessica Bloom in "How to Become a Great Woman Artist"

Some of the other points are really interesting and worth applying in the crypto art space, particularly keep track of the numbers and hold galleries accountable.

In a future article as part of the "Why is art dominated by men and can we not?" series, Alpacawhal will explore these two points and specifically how they relate to the crypto art space.

There is also this great article on artnet news from 2016, "18 Female Artists Give Advice to Women Starting Out in the Art World." While there are no enumerated lists, these women lay down some inspirational guidance that is not to be missed.

Here are a few choice quotes...

Being an artist is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Give yourself time; be patient. Maintain commitment and critical engagement in your practice. Work hard and work even harder when you are not satisfied. In those moments of displeasure you must allow the love of making to propel you forward.

–Ebony G. Patterson

Sound and wise advise for progress as a great artist.

Here is a fantastic quote from a woman artist that speaks specifically to the balance we need among artists of all genders in the crypto art and wider art space.

Don’t get competitive with other women artists!

Those who feel the most insecure tend to get competitive with other artists that they identify with or feel similar to. Competitiveness born from insecurity holds so many people back. I truly believe in collaboration with other artists, especially the ones that intimidate you the most. We need artists of all genders to work together!

–Emma Sulkowicz

and finally, more about competitiveness, which is a super common theme in the art world in general.

Never compare your career with other artists. Concentrate on developing your work and believe in yourself. The necessary path to grow as an artist is all different and unique. Trust in your path as every moment is a gift to strengthen your creativity.

–Mariko Mori
XCOPY. "Last Selfie," 2018 (KnownOrigin)

Short Attention Span?

If you only have a moment in your busy scheduled, you can also learn more about becoming an artist from this awesome and quick video by powerSurge!

powerSurge is a gift of reportage to the crypto art community and provides daily updates on the space that are worth a watch.

Check out the folks mentioned in this article to learn more and donate to Alpacawhal.

Tell them Alpacawhal sent you...

Jerry Saltz

Trevor Jones


Murat Pak


Jessica Bloom

Ebony G. Patterson

Emma Sulkowicz

Mariko Mori


Senem de Kroon

I am a passionate writer and consumer of art. The cryptoart space is exciting and breathing fresh air into the tired art world's life support system. My first collected NFT artwork is by XCOPY. 🖼🎉

Great! You've successfully subscribed.
Great! Next, complete checkout for full access.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.