What's the best way to find a career in historical preservation/art restoration from where I am now?
Basic info first:
I'm a recent graduate (2008) of a small art school in eastern Massachusetts. I have a BFA in illustration, and while I have a good deal of experience in digital art-making/vector graphics programs I'm mostly a traditional painter (acrylics, oils, gouache, etc). I've taken standard undergrad art history classes from prehistoric to modern, but nothing particularly focused. My artistic skill is very much in painting.
Illustration was a great field to major in, but even before graduating I realized that my level of self discipline just isn't enough for a sustainable freelance artist career, and during the course of going to school and in the period of time afterward I've definitely decided my heart lies in a field that's historically oriented. Until I was eighteen my family and I lived in the caretakers cottage of a historic home in Gloucester, MA (Beauport Museum
) so the idea of working with a piece of history and contributing to the growth and understanding of that history is incredibly attractive to me.
Right out of school I got an internship at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Mass in the graphic design department, which lasted for six months, and I now have two jobs, working at a small local gallery and working at a paint and decorating shop. Working at the museum and working at my current job at the paint shop are definitely responsible for rekindling of my love of decorative arts and history, and now more than anything else I want to find a way to get a job in some kind of preservation/restoration capacity, whether it be with paintings or architecture. The paint shop I work in is pretty high end, and I work primarily as a stain and color matcher and faux-finisher. My job requires me to replicate a lot of complex decorative arts processes and I have a very good eye when it comes to creating and matching color and texture with pigment. A lot of our clients are historical associations or design firms, and a good deal of the decorative finishes I make are historically oriented.
-BFA in illustration from a small but respected art school
-traditional and digital media knowledge, with a major focus on acrylic and oil painting
-museum experience (both personal history-wise and professionally)
-hands on experience in decorative and architectural finishes
-basic art history knowledge (though no particular expertise)
-extensive American and European historical knowledge, as well as respectable world history
-interests in film and cinema, architecture, literature
-I'm a fast learner and I have spunk (also, pep)
-And as relevant knowledge, I live in Northern Massachusetts, my traveling options are reasonably open, and I'm a 24 year-old male.
So I guess my overall questions are, what is the best way to narrow down what I want to do in this relatively expansive field? How specific do I need to be in my focus? What are the areas most likely to net me a livable income? What kind of experience do I need beyond an art history/museum studies/etc. degree? What books should I read and what places and people should I study? What kinds of jobs are available and what kind of jobs should I consider? Any and all information is welcome, I know this might be broad but I'm just looking for a lot of good ideas!