Do you want to spend your life doing what you love? Of course, who does not want a life like this? Most sane people would love to spend their time doing work they enjoy. But it is safe to say that we associate enjoyable work with work that does not pay the bills. Why is this? Because most people hate their work, but are more afraid of not paying the bills. It is as desperate as that.
Now there are many ways to live and make money … and have fun doing it. What about being an artist? In this article you will learn about three essential qualities that, if followed, may change your life as an artist.
Money is Not a Goal
First off we need to agree that making money is not, of itself, the goal of life. If you disagree then carry on with the hateful job you are in. They will keep paying you each month. If you do agree that life is about living an enriching experience emotionally, physically and spiritually then you are on to something. Money is simply a tool to help certain things happen.
If your lifestyle demands a large sum of money then why not make it doing what you love? If your lifestyle requires a modest sum of money then the same question applies. Good. So what about art? A difficult career with which to make tons of dosh?
Yes, it does seem that way. But I am not writing about making money a goal. This article is about making your art practice excellent. Making money is about how to monetize your art practice appropriately. There is more on business to be learned too. The first step is to focus on your art practice. You will find that these tips will overlap with good business practice.
What is an Art Practice?
This simply means whatever is relevant to you. Are you painting to make beautiful paintings? Are you an art teacher? Are you trying to sell art through galleries? Is your goal to have your work in an important museum? Are you learning the fundamentals of painting?
Your pursuit of these objectives becomes your art practice. It makes sense that you want to achieve excellence, which will make success achievable.
Why do Artist’s Fail?
Those who are biased against art careers will say that art is not a viable way to make money. Supply and demand, the economy and who needs more luxuries anyway? This argument is backed up with much anecdotal evidence involving starving artists. Oddly I have never met a starving artist. Curious that.
Artists fail for the same reasons that most people fail at an activity. They do not believe in themselves sufficiently. Self-esteem is at the root of it all. You see if your self esteem is strong you will back yourself in the face of the most awful attacks. With this unwavering self belief you will take the bold and necessary steps to make your career work. You will adapt, fall and get up again and again until you are established. Then you will keep working towards the next stage and onwards until the glorious end. For such people retirement is meaningless. Why retire when you keep reinventing yourself.
What You Say Matters
When it comes to self esteem you have two battlefronts. What others say to you and what you say to yourself. Can you survive on two fronts? Not easy as any military commander will tell you. I suspect that in a battle a commander dreads a surprise flank attack. Morale can break easily and before you know it your army is in full retreat.
Now use that analogy in your art practice. You have to fend off negative people and society's negative messages. Then you outflank yourself and think, what if I am really delusional about my art? Look at all those great artists out there? Who am I kidding?
You must be able to boost your own morale all the time. You must understand that you are talented. That your work is brilliant. That your art is valued and so are you. No more self sabotage.
Right I did mention three important qualities. There may be more, but these three cover a lot of ground. So here goes:
Number one: Paint More!
Assuming your thing is painting. It could be music in which case play more - you get the idea. Anyway do more of it. There is no substitute for hours of intentional creating in your chosen field. Not thinking about it. Not visualizing. Not repeating mantras. You have to do the actual work and produce the goods. Your results improve the more you work.
Sounds simple and it is. But so many artists make this into a living hell. Excuses becomes rationalisations and these turn into circumstances beyond their control. Sadly the artist ends up blaming everyone else. Society, the government, the economy, their parents and so on.
Not enough time to paint! There is enough time. The most deceitful excuse is the one about not having enough time. This excuse is a form of self abuse. It is the single biggest lie that artists tell themselves. Say it enough and you could harm yourself irreparably. One reason is that this lie forces you to defend it. Why would you want to defend a lie and make it stronger. You emerge weaker and the lie gets stronger. Awful.
My wish is that all artists who are tempted to use this excuse rather tell the truth instead. Admit that your art practice is not as important right now as whatever else it is you are doing. Be honest.
On the other hand if making excellent art is important then there will always be enough time. Always.
Number Two: Ask for Help
Pride is no good if it stops you asking for help. No matter who you are you will need help one day. Is it to paint better? To market better? To start a collaboration? To ask a favour that results in a referral? To get to a new resource of knowledge?
All of these connections lead to opportunity. Will you forsake them and live in isolation instead? Then you will remain in one place and that is a pity. In truth pride is disguised fear and comes back to that issue of self-esteem. If you are humble and open to asking for help then doors open.
Ask and you shall receive. Knock and the door shall be opened. Seek and you will find. The scriptures in Matthew 7:7 confirm these age old truths. Ancient wisdom that govern our lives at fundamental levels.
Have the courage to ask for help. Then act on the help you receive in a spirit of gratitude.
Number Three: Give Value
Do you want to see your life as an artist grow in leaps and bounds? Do you want opportunities to keep crossing your path? If this happens do you think you will be able to make a living as an artist? Even thrive? Yes indeed - this is an important step to take. Give value back to others.
Every successful life and business involves giving value to others. In point Number Two I mentioned having the courage to ask for help. Not as a beggar without self-respect. Instead as someone who will use the help to grow and help others in turn. Everything is linked in this way.
When you create work with this idea foremost in your mind then the world becomes receptive to it. It may be beautiful paintings that delight a collector. Art that adds energy to a workplace or brings a book to life. Or music that transforms a moment. You apply your hard work in the studio, using all the help you have received, to create your best work. Then you give this to the world. It also means that your work has value and will be respected accordingly.
If you teach then your lessons will be filled with generosity and love for the subject. Imagine it inspiring others to create their best work. How valuable do you think your teaching will be to others when viewed in this light?
If you approach your art practice this way you will find many opportunities to give and share your knowledge. Never hide your skills or fear your trade “secrets” being used against you. This is fear based thinking and will trap you into a poverty filled existence. For example, I have seen an artist threaten legal action because she believed another artist’s work slightly resembled hers. The artist making these threats is living in fear of losing out and consequently will remain trapped.
Be resilient and Apply these Truths
Nobody said living this life would be easy. But if you enjoy the life you have chosen then the question of easy or hard is not relevant. You are on the right path.
It is about persisting and taking a long view when the doubts creep in. Believe me they will. I do believe that taking action and putting in the time to grow your skills is vital. Then getting all the help I need to make informed decisions. Giving back my best efforts, knowledge and positive ideas to those who need them makes me happy too.
A lot of work needs to be done still and perfection is not realistic. It is about moving forwards and this gives purpose to my art practice. What will it mean to you?
Ready to take your art practice further?
If you are looking for one-to-one help with your painting then check out my coaching program.
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