Let me show you my best painting secret!
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In this article I want to share a few important lessons that might help you if you are struggling to get your art business off the ground. We can all agree that economics right now are a complete mess. We have zero faith in leaders to solve things too. Complaining will not help because that has been going on for a long time. If you are working on your art business then you need to get one thing clear. It is called focus. Only you can get it.
Here is how to get your focus back.
The moment I saw the picture I knew she would have to become part of the family. My wife was excited too. About the getting the puppy I mean. I have always loved pointers and here was a beautiful German Pointer for sale. A few days later our puppy arrived. We called her Poppy.
Within days of arrival her natural hunting instincts amazed us. I recalled an exercise used by the Dog Whisperer. You attach a toy to a fishing rod and line. This makes an excellent system for exercising a dog. Especially one like a pointer.
Cast the toy out on the lawn and reel it in slowly. Poppy did not charge after it. Instead she instantly went on point. Absolute focus. Paw up. Nose pointed at her prey. This could go on for ages. I could walk away and come back to find her still pointing.
Eventually I would reel the toy in a bit. She would step closer. At the signal she would pounce. Success. Poppy would not get bored or frustrated. Nothing would distract her. Come what may that critter was getting caught using her stealth mode focus.
What I needed most of all was to focus on what mattered. Identify what produced results, repeat and carry on. This takes discipline. Complete grit-your-teeth focus. But first I had to get a strategy. Visualise exactly what I wanted to achieve and do the work.
With time I improved and so did my business. Plenty of lessons learned along the way. But the one thing that mattered the most was to keep my focus. Without it life becomes an aimless meander.
Sadly none of us are born with Poppy's natural instincts. For her these qualities are hardwired to ensure survival. We humans have to learn by our mistakes. But we can make the learning process easier. Here are five ways that will just that.
Here are Five Tips that work for me:
One: Visualise - What does success feel and look like? Whatever the goal we can picture ourselves there already. Please do not think visualisation is artsy-fartsy New Age nonsense. Imagine you want to build a house for your family. Do you just think “house” and leave it at that? Or do you see the rooms, the colours, the flooring, the furniture, the kitchen counters and on and on. I’m sure you have the design and all the many images in your mind that make it compelling.
If not then that house is not something you want badly enough. Chances are you are not going to make it happen. Not until you get some focus and visualise it first.
Now I said this is not New Age stuff. You cannot think about a picture in your mind then sit back and Hey presto! it arrives. If you visualise properly you will find it easier to take action. Your mental plan leads to physical plans and you get momentum. Like an unstoppable force your vision becomes reality. Not sure? Everything worthwhile in our lives started as a vision before it became real. Believe it.
Two: Write it Down
When your vision has grown and you want to take action start by writing it all down. These ideas have now become goals. Truth is you must be able to describe what it is you want. The clarity of mind to turn vague ideas into proper goals is half the job done.
As an artist you need to set out your goals before you can achieve anything of note. Sorry if that sounds harsh. If you are a self-described scatter brain then you need this task even more.
Start with the goals of the week. Maybe it is to write out your artist’s statement. Maybe you need to decide on starting your website. Or write a blog article if you have a website already. Or photograph your paintings for a marketing effort.
Then goals for that day. One of your weekly goals can be completed that day. Tick it off the written list tapes to your wall. I must mention that actual written lists are more powerful than digital ones. True.
If you have a moment, think about goals for that year or even the next six months. This may be hard to do if you are not a planner by nature. So think of one thing. Try to be specific. Maybe you want to enter an art show by October. What is the name of the show or market? How many paintings do you want on the show?
Write that number down. You see how this leads on to real goals? Stuff that you can take action on.
Three: Set a Deadline
This is hard. But necessary. We artists live on the edge and leaving things to the last minute is typical. Also deadly for success. Why take chances like this? Because we are experts in sabotaging ourselves! Procrastination, fear and even delusion stalk us artists ready to trip us up. Read Steven Pressfield’s book The War of Art for an excellent take on this topic.
A deadline can help to keep us accountable. Let others know about your plans. Friends and family may help. But when I tell the world that something will happen by a fixed date I feel accountable. I must make it happen and I do. You may feel the same way too. After all we may disappoint ourselves now and then, but we hate to disappoint others.
Of course there are many digital reminders to keep you aware of the deadline. Use a whole bunch of them so that you get reminders often. But remember to use the written reminder in red on your calendar.
Four: Know Yourself
First you need to be honest with yourself. What are your weaknesses and strengths? Do you work best at 5am or 10pm? Schedule accordingly. Do you browse social media needlessly? What are your favorite excuses? You know the ones that trip off your tongue the moment you fall short of a goal. No time? Not enough money? Not enough support? The economy? The politics? The kids? And on and on.
Any of those can become a crutch and it is sad and pathetic to use them all the time. Stop! I say this with love and self awareness. We must be strong.
We must make a decision. Are you going to succeed at achieving your goal for the day, the week and the month? Decide and be darn well mean it. We are all rooting for you.
You tried it and it did not work out. Damn it all! What a waste of time! Waste of money and embarrassing too. Never again. It was not meant to be. I suck! The Universe has spoken.
Any of that sorry-for-myself schtick sound familiar? Sure it does. We have all been there. When it gets tough and we do not have instant success we give up. Hell, why wait for it to fail. Let us anticipate failure and give up before it happens. That way we avoid the pain. Right?
Never starting or giving up guarantees failure. Success is to be found at the end of the job. So persist and get the work done. Then you are successful. You cannot control other people’s reactions. Only your own persistence to see it through.
Personally I faced the most difficult decision about closing one successful career so that I could pursue art full time. Back then it seemed like I was behaving like an ungrateful brat. Throw out the golden egg laying goose to chase after painting? Nuts!
I had sleepless nights. Lots of them. But with hindsight I wish I did it sooner. Fortunately I built up my art practice on the side and transitioned into the new business gradually. That was a plan and it worked. Yes I took many safety precautions, but that is my nature. I knew I had to be cautious to a fault. Be true to yourself. Do what it takes, but get it done. Persist.
One more Tip
It is never too late to learn something new. Keep reading, learning and doing stuff that makes you feel good about yourself. You never know where it may lead. We stop learning when we stop permanently. Until then we must keep learning. Enjoy this journey. Keep the focus.
Take time to focus on your art!
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