The beginning of the year is an interesting time. Interesting because we are all faced with a challenge. For our children this may be starting a new grade or college. For adults it seems that many are facing a financial challenge after the Christmas indulgence. Perhaps it is facing the same old job. These challenges teach us to persist. Without persistence we cannot get stronger.
For artists I hear a lot of anguish over the economy. For some the blame is internalised as they question their talent. Enough with the negative thoughts folks. Here are a five common negatives dismissed:
1) It is tough to survive on making art alone: Yes it can be, but this changes with time. We all know many others who have regular jobs with decent salaries yet are in constant fear of financial meltdown. There is no guarantee that any job or profession will keep the wolf from the door. All that counts is our attitude. Do we push on through or give in to fear? It is a choice. There is no shame in moonlighting to get by. Do what must be done, but never give up on your art!
2) Art is hard work. It would be easier to do something else: If you really believe this then that is your reality. The truth is that any work we do for a living can get boring or difficult at times. Then it is up to us to shake it up a bit. Recently I had some work done on our property. Watching the labourers digging a trench in the summer heat, made me appreciate once again how lucky I was. Would you want to trade places with those workers?
3) My Talent has run out! This is a common mental game we play with ourselves. When this self-pity crops up we can be sure that we are wasting our time at that moment. We need to get to work! We can only do one thing properly at any point in time. Take action and the doubts disappear. I recently watched the movie Rush about the Niki Lauda - James Hunt rivalry. Great movie. I marveled at the tenacity of Niki Lauda. He never doubted his talent, but he was also logical too. When a course of action was needed he pursued it fully. When caution was required he adapted where necessary. It was not about talent - it was all about common sense and total self-belief. Use both all the time.
4) My Paintings are not what people want: Says who? I am always amazed at the variety of art out there. Truly humans are capable of such amazing and transformational art. At the same time it is frustrating that artists disempower themselves by relying on the droves of fickle critics for validation. Sales too are not about whether one's art is good or bad. Sales is about selling. Either you are doing a good job at selling or not. If not then study marketing and sales techniques.
5) If only I …(fill in the blank space): Ever caught yourself saying these words? Maybe it was:" If only I landed a gallery deal then my finances would be secure." Gallery owners would disagree on that right now! Maybe you secretly believe that "If only I could paint like _________ then I would sell many more paintings." Not so fast. Well known artists may sell paintings, but they have worked many years to get to that point. The art market is vast and can accommodate different price points and artists at various skill levels. What counts is persistence and passion to paint regulary and study your art. Also to study the business of art. I believe that the artist who follows this path will produce art worthy of a collector's attention.
I hope that these self-defeating beliefs are not going to stalk artists out there. Unfortunately some will always crop up when we let our guard down. Such is life. Try to laugh and carry on doing good work. All will be okay.
Painting's always a challenge. Sometimes my brush sings its wonderful song, sometimes I wade through quicksand, but always I persevere in gratitude.