Do you think you are meant to be an artist, but doubt your sanity? Your talent? Is art simply a hobby that must be put aside for everything else? Do you feel empty and jaded after another weekend at the shopping mall? Is creativity selfish?
If you have these questions and doubts then this article is for you. Let’s dig in and see what we can find out.
The Creative Species
There are wonderful creatures in this world that make staggering things. Take the nests of weaver birds. Beautiful. The mother-of-pearl interior decorating in an oyster. Staggering. The list is endless. But it is only humans that create art for the sheer sake of it. It is not intrinsically for survival or procreation of the species. It may help with those at times, but you know what I mean.
This makes us humans unique. We can come up with ideas, make things that serve no purpose other than to feed our souls. Without these works of art we would be utterly bereft and life would be hellish. Tooth and claw or just unbearably dull. Either way it would be grim.
Fulfill Your True Calling
I do believe that we went horribly off track as humans under the “corporate ladder” idea. Yes, the industrial revolution was awful, often cruel, but necessary to give us electricity, reliable transport and the internet.
The corporate ladder idea was something like:
Art was for hippy-dippy types. Paintings? Well who needed them when you had a colour television? In general terms then art and creativity was for a tiny few and pointless.
Creativity is Back
Have I generalised a bit too much? Maybe. The point is we are appreciating art and creativity again. More people are turning to what makes them happier and in sync. Even if this means leaving the cubicle and entering the studio. The corporate ladder idea is finally exposed for the lie and soul-trap that it is.
The alternative idea can be hard though. Coming up with concepts and visualising a work of art is difficult. Overcoming procrastination and doing the work is a whole new challenge too. Then making a living from it all is another angst filled adventure reserved for hardy spirits.
What is important though is that artists are finding their voice and credibility. Successful artists are savvy, well educated and good at business. Not in the MBA sense, but in practical skills learned the hard way. Doing what needs to be done and making a respectable income.
Shackles of Gatekeepers
One of the benefits of the awful economic collapse of 2008 was that artists had to make their own way. Galleries (the badly run ones) collapsed quicker than failed soufflés. For too long have artists been shackled to the idea that gallery representation is the holy grail of art careers. There are a few excellent galleries. They do the work and have passion for their businesses. But most were lazy and feckless. Exploiting artists by taking free stock and sitting back. Good riddance.
Now out of necessity artists had to learn how to sell their work. There was no option. Out of this shift has developed the idea that artists have power over their destinies once again. With an abundance of easy to use tools online, cameras that take fab photos and tons of learning materials artists have no excuses. Learn, sell, create and be awesome!
Have you heard of this one? You are so intimidated by the fabulous art out there that you think your work is irrelevant. How can you call yourself an artist? Just look at Instagram and see the jaw dropping work of others. So you give it up before you make a fool of yourself.
If you are brave enough to push on you find that you do not know what direction to go. What is the right thing to do next? This is the key moment.
Simplicity in All Things
Instead of claiming to be tired, busy, not having enough time, saying things like “selling is not for me” and “the economy sucks” take another approach. Be a grown up about it and take action. Do one simple thing a day that advances your art and business. One thing. Now you need to figure out what that thing is.
For a start divide your list of ideas between Needs and Wants. The needs are the important things that mean the difference between success and failure. You need to pay the electricity bill or the power gets cut off. I want to get a second camera, but the one I have works fine. That is the difference stated simply.
Important needs include working at improving your art. Sure we have talent, but are the skills honed to professional level? Remember that none of us are entitled to fame or fortune or anything professionally. We must put in the work and earn our living. What happens then is up to you. Find your happy place and express gratitude instead of resorting to the blame game.
Put it Out There
Now improving your work is one thing. Waiting until it is perfect before showing your work is not wise. It is fear pure and simple. Our work will never be perfect and it does not have to be. There is no such thing. Complete your work and display it physically and digitally. Be proud of it even if you are shaking like a leaf inside.
Pride is a fear too. Displaying your art in the coffee shop is too lame for you? Ya big sissy! Do it because one thing leads to another. The rolling stone … yadda yadda.
Now is the Time
A New Year beckons and soon we will be making resolutions. Starting in January, you promise to begin. Start now. Right now (after you have read this article and shared it to your social media).
Still not sure? Take a look at my business resources page. There are tools and things I use that help me. Then there are many painting lessons that may help you with ideas or techniques. Need to know something? Ask me a question.
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Malcolm Dewey: Artist. Country: South Africa