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Major: Fine Arts

Ali Basye is a freelance fashion editor and Director of Fashion at The Art Institute of Seattle. She is the author of The Long (and Short) of It: The Madcap History of the Skirt (Harpers, 2007).

  • Informational Interviews. Nothing else has been as beneficial to my finding meaningful, creative, well-paying, and exciting work than going on informational interviews. I’m more than two decades out of college and still schedule several informational interviews a year with people I admire or have always wanted to meet. People are incredibly generous and are often happy to share expertise and valuable advice and sometimes they will recommend you for some kind of work. If nothing else, you are now on their radar. (When you become a big success, don't forget to pay it forward and grant informational interviews to new, hungry artists and share your own tips and advice.)
  • Keep learning. After college, take classes and workshops, attend lectures, collaborate with others and continually challenge yourself. If the technology progresses beyond your skill set, take a class so you can keep up with your field. Continue to do this even if you're not currently working in that medium. You never know when you’ll need to change jobs.
  • It’s all about color. Keep studying and practicing the infinite possibilities of the color wheel. Mastering balance of color is everything in all forms of visual art.
  • Stay expressive. Draw something, anything, every day. Even if I doodle during a meeting I feel like I'm expressing a small part of my vision.
  • Avoid Pinterest. Don't look at other people’s work for ideas. It’s a time-suck during which you could be developing your own voice. Look to yourself, nature, objects, and colors—whatever your source of inspiration is—and surround yourself with that.
  • Know your worth and ask for it. Never undersell your work or undercut another artist’s rate/salary just to get your foot in the door. You’ll only cheapen the impression of yourself and lower the bar of your industry. Haggling is a part of business and you’ll be surprised how often someone says yes.
  • It’s OK to work for free…sometimes. If you're going to do free work for a charitable non-profit, be selective and be sure to let them know what you usually charge for that work so that they know your worth. Women do not need to feel like they should work for free or share their work just because someone asks them to.
  • Be open-minded about your skills. Don't be quick to pigeonhole yourself as an artist who could never perfect a certain medium or will never like a particular technique or style. Try it again some day and see if you feel differently. You'll be surprised as you grow as a professional to learn how things you thought you were bad at or that you disliked become your new favorite thing.
  • Networking is everything. Everything. Only 15% of jobs are listed so you need to rely on a network. Read How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. It was written a century ago and still holds all the basic rules for networking and succeeding in business.
  • Travel and create. Save up for foreign travel and make plans to join a workshop with a local artist, take an art class, or participate in some kind of art-making event after you get there. Schedule your travel so you can go on art walks, industry events, or art fairs in other cities around the world.
  • Stay ahead of trends or avoid them entirely. Successful artists are not followers. They are forecasters. This means reading and looking at everything and making note of patterns instead of jumping on an established bandwagon. This kind of thinking is important even if your primary employment is chasing trends.
  • Listen, listen, listen. Clients and employers are like romantic partners: They want to be heard and respected. Listen to what they say very, very carefully and never assume you know what they mean. Ask lots of questions and always get clarification.
  • Be competitive. After college you might find it difficult to be creative without a peer group. Enter contests and calls for work and participate in various challenges that force you to acknowledge deadlines.