Dwayne “Dubelyoo” Wright is an Atlanta-based artist and curator, popularly known for his work in the art showcase “Art Beats + Lyrics.” VOX Media Cafe participants had the opportunity to talk to him over Zoom this summer. They asked him questions about his works, shows, and life.
“Art Beats + Lyrics” has been touring for over a decade in various cities, with over a hundred exhibitions hosted and counting. Dubelyoo frequently features African-Americans and other marginalized people in an urban style. “I believe the role of an artist and a curator is to create and to connect with people,” he says in his artist statement, featured on his website. Dubelyoo also mentioned on the VOX ATL call that when he was younger, he did not see people like him in the media around him, and that significantly put him behind in finding his love for art.
One of my questions to him, especially crucial for young people wanting to become artists, was how he supported himself in the industry and made a living. My sister loves to paint and just recently started selling her paintings. Although she is young, just starting middle school, the question awaiting her in the future is whether she will be able to make her passion into a career. Unfortunately, oftentimes, the answer for artists in rural communities or who are just getting started is no.
According to a survey done by the Creative Independent, with a total of 1,016 visual artists responding, “12% of respondents rated their level of financial stability as [not at all financially stable]. Comparatively, a total of only 3% of respondents rated their financial stability level as [completely financially stable].” There are many ways an artist can make money: commissions, artist galleries, and corporate design work. The problem is, these can be hard to come by in an increasingly competitive industry.
Dubelyoo’s response to my question was very helpful, and here I want to elaborate on his answer and hopefully help any young people who want to become artists in the future.
Utilizing Social Media
One of Dubelyoo’s main points was that it is easier to get your work out there in the age of social media and online marketplaces. When working as an artist was just starting to become a career, they had to hold physical art shows and advertise through word of mouth and newspapers. In contrast, now more than ever, online presence is important as an artist, designer, or in any job where you need to advertise your products or services.
The Importance of Diversifying Your Skill Set
Dubelyoo’s start to his career included jobs like illustrating for magazines, creating websites, and designing clothing lines. “I would say to young folks, hey, diversify your skill set,” he says. “Because the more skills you have and things you can do, turn into more ways you can get paid.” If you can paint, go out and campaign to businesses the benefits of supporting local arts and funding a mural.
Branding of Your Art
Earlier in the meeting, I also asked a question about his partnership with Jack Daniels for the “Art Beats + Lyrics” show and he said that the partnership allowed him and his colleague to explore and think outside of the box. Having a brand behind them gave room to adventure and try new things. This is the case with any artistic venture. Going to a brand, or a brand coming to you, is the best thing as an artist because it opens up many doors for future projects, with that company or others. The art show that Dubelyoo curates, which was once a one-night show in Atlanta, has now toured nationally because of sponsorships that give them the chance to do so.
Another way that artists are able to support themselves is through commissions. A commission is someone requesting the creation of a piece by a specific artist, usually for payment. This could be used commercially, such as in a campaign or advertisement, which is another side of it that Dubelyoo mentioned. If the piece is being used in something that will make the commissioner money, the artist can ask for a portion of the profits, or charge more for the piece itself. These pieces could be in the form of murals painted on the inside or outside of a business, animations, and many more.
Limited Editions and Working with Galleries
Dubelyoo, while not selling art in galleries or shows himself, suggests that limited editions and prints are a popular way to get started. Making a piece and only printing 10 of them, or only selling the original is common. This makes it more valuable to buyers and collectors because it is harder to get and more exclusive.
A common way artists share and display their work is through galleries. Art galleries are known to sponsor artists or display an exhibition of their work for a specified amount of time. Along with these shows comes merchandise sold in the gift shop, as the High Museum of Art does. Clothing, magnets, stationery, and more can have art printed on it, which can all benefit the artist and the gallery or museum.
According to Dubelyoo, you can make a living just as he has as an artist. There are many different ways people can sell their art and support themselves. They can paint murals, and sell commissions, prints, and limited editions. Although it’s going to be difficult, if you know you love art, you should try your best to make it your career. Put best by Dubelyoo, “Your journey is not a race, it’s a marathon.”