When I decided to write this blog for artists, I took some time to reflect and ponder what my audience would get from reading it - did it have purpose? After much reflection, I realized I had something to share - an insight that would be invaluable to the artist struggling with either giving up or living each day confused and emotionally battered. The art world is a scary place - it can collapse even the strongest person. After all my struggles, I wanted to assuage the fears of those who felt lost without any valuable guidance or direction and this intention motivated me to reach out to you.
As a young artist, all I ever wanted was sound advice and direction. I spent years looking around, getting tips, gathering advice and information and attempting to forge a career and eventually a good reputation. I was thirsty for information because I felt completely alone and confused. But eventually, I had an epiphany. I realized that I needed to listen to my heart, assimilate all that information and make it my own. I had to be me and the only pure way to achieve that was to ignore all the white noise and forge ahead without fear. The choice to form your own identity and leave your mark is entirely yours.
When I was just starting out in this profession I was working for a corporation under a few executive artists that were calling the shots as supervisors. One woman in particular had been in the profession well over ten years and seemed completely competent and in control. Eventually, I came to realize she was a complete, unconfident mess and didn't have the confidence to leave academia and pursue an art career on her own. She was almost fifteen years out of college but in order to feel comfortable she would ask her old college professor to give her art assignments to truly feel alive as a painter. Though I understand we are all students in some ways, I feel that hiding under the umbrella of academic comfort is dangerous and damning to the artist. Brushing up on techniques, learning a new way to paint or draw is healthy - I'm certainly not judging that. I'm simply trying to point out that this particular woman suffered from such a lack of confidence and identity, that she was unable to cut the cord, so to speak. She was more comfortable being given assignments from her former professor and doing copies of art work than actually going out on her own. She craved an identity and expressed this to me but she never mustered the courage to do it. It was easier to work for someone and have confidence than for her to claim it for herself.
Only you can decide when the time is right to be a professional artist. No one is going to bestow some title on you at the right time. Being a professional artist doesn't follow some systematic set of rules and perhaps, this is why we are so uncomfortable with it. From the time you enter elementary school teachers are programming you to be good little worker bees. They want you subordinate, task driven, to have good behavior and to eventually accept that your cubicle is actually a nice place to spend the rest of your employed life. And sadly, most of us embrace this future as long as we get two weeks paid vacation and donuts on casual Fridays. But truthfully, for an artist, it's a slow painful death.
As artists, WE ARE DIFFERENT. Look to the artists of the past - what clues have they left behind? They were fearless. They made bold statements. It doesn't mean they were always right or always made the right decisions. What we do know is they discovered who they were and they went with it - full throttle. It didn't matter if what they did was accepted, they made it accepted. Greatness isn't something your born with and certainly isn't achieved by easing your way into it. If anything, I hope to get that point across in every message I post on this blog for artists. If you want to truly be a great artist you have to make your own rules.
The moment you can be truly authentic and completely honest with your audience is the moment you achieve absolute confidence as an artist. Have the courage to listen to your heart. Sign each work with much more than your name. Sign it with your entire being, your soul, every secret and fear inside you and then, everyone will truly know who you are - they will feel it. That self-truth will over-flow and excite your audience - there is nothing more contagious than confidence.
What are the benefits to taking this brave move? You’ll be remembered. But sadly, people will discourage you along the way. Expect it and learn to ignore their attempts to topple you. Your dreams are too big for them to even conceptualize. You don’t have to follow their rules -you are an artist. So write your own rules and design your life with as much creativity and heart as you put into your artwork.
In conclusion - learn all you can and develop your technical skills but realize you have the power inside of you to become much more than just a student. Be bold, do what you feel inside and respond to that with great talent. Make your own rules - be the artist you were born to be.