Since choosing to dedicate my life full time to becoming an artist, I have anxiously sought after inspiration, guidance and insight from everyone and anyone. I have unlocked a term that all artists seem to use in order to define this crazy life and process. The Journey. So after having (what I now know is common for artists to have) a complete frustration meltdown, I began to reflect on this “Journey” and what it means for me. One thing is for sure, the journey itself is art, and like my artwork, I want to share it with the world.
Below are key takeaways that I have gathered from my learnings, other artists, books and blogs…
1. Your ego is a nasty, bullying bitch. Ego isn’t interested in embracing any kind of journey. Ego is trying to convince you that you are not where you ought to be. The reality is, you are probably exactly where you need to be. Whether you are exploring techniques, picking up a paint brush for the second time, or waiting (not so) patiently for your first piece to sell. Your ego will compare you to others, make you feel like your not getting there fast enough, or that you are not good enough. The truth is, everyone has their own timeline, and you are doing something so incredibly unique that it isn’t even possible to compare it with others. This is your journey, embrace each step as it comes because where you are right now should be most important.
2. Know when it’s time to focus on the business stuff. Always be networking, always be talking about your art. But know when you are ready to devote the time and energy to start pitching galleries, planning exhibits, and putting your work up for sale. You should be at a point where you have a recognisable style, a firm grasp on your target, and money to invest. This part of being an artist, is a full time job in itself. Do bit by bit at the beginning. Sign up to vendor at an art fair, it’s a great opportunity to get feedback, donate a piece to a charity, but hold off on the big stuff until you are confident you are ready (YOU, not that bitch, Ego!)
3. Be an Artist. In everything that you do, in how you present yourself, and introduce yourself. If you want to be an artist, be an artist! Attend local events, be a part of the community. It all became real to me after I quit my full time job, and someone asked “So what is it you do?” Never have I been so proud, felt so right in replying “I’m an artist!” (I nearly shouted it at the guy!). Identifying yourself as such, contributes substantially in your confidence, credibility and how you present yourself to others. So be proud!
4. Always say YES! There is no clear roadmap on how to become a successful artist. Opportunities can present themselves in so many different and unexpected ways. You want to be sure you are opening yourself to as many as possible. So whether you are an atheist being asked to donate to a church fundraiser, or the stranger with bad breath at a house party requests a commissioned piece, entertain the idea, as you never know who you will meet, or what other doors it can open for you.
5. Just keep going. There will be times where you don’t sell pieces for months, or where you will think you are not good enough. Frustration can easily feel like a heavy weight, causing you to question and doubt. It is however, also a sign that you still care. You don’t get angry or frustrated about things that are not important to you. Take this as a sign you should keep going, it’s that passion and drive that remind you, you are where you need to be. Write about how it makes you feel, and dedicate an art piece to it.
6. There are and always will be those who admire what you are doing. Let’s be honest, there are loads of people who think anyone who isn’t working a cushy job, sitting in an office of some sorts playing it safe working for someone else, is absolutely crazy! However, most actors people admire so greatly on TV, most artists whose artwork is hanging in the museum’s they frequent have started right where you are. Have felt the same frustrations you have, and have had to battle the same nasty bitch Ego. At the end of the day, you have chosen to pursue your passion, and share it with the world which is one of the most admirable qualities about you.
7. Not everyone is going to like your work- and that’s what you want. I absolutely love how I can have two people with complete opposite opinions on one piece of art. That’s what makes art, art! It should be personal to the buyer. Just like clothing, everyone has their different style, but the outfit they choose is in fact, an extension of who they are. This is the same with art. So next time someone gives you negative feedback on one of your pieces, remind yourself that art is completely subjective, and there is something for everyone, and it makes it that more special to the person that ends up being drawn to it.
8. Be careful how you validate yourself. It is easy to seek validation through your close friends, family, and critics. In my experience, my greatest validation of being an artist has come from those who know nothing else about me, but my art. They are the ones who show greatest admiration for what you do. So remember to be proud of being an artist, and don’t just turn to those closest to you.
9. Don’t bubble wrap yourself. It’s all about taking risks. Just like raising a baby, sometimes you need to let him trip on himself so he knows how bad it can hurt. Playing it safe, never got anyone worth admiring, anywhere. No one is equipped to teach you right or wrong in your unique journey. Being an artist means its all on you. Learn your own lessons, use them towards your next project, share them with the world and let it define you.
10. Take time to think about what you have accomplished. It may not seem like a big deal to you, but chances are you have already accomplished many things worthy to be proud of. We are more often than not focused on where we want to be, but taking the time to think about what has led you to where you are in this moment, reminds you that it truly is a journey, one worth embracing.
Being an artist is not easy. It is filled with challenges and headache. Find the beauty in your journey. Know there are still many pages left unwritten, and where you are right now is the most important place you need to be.
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