For me, social media has become a large, telling window into the lives of many artists from around the world. For nearly a decade, I've silently observed the rise and fall of many talented and not so talented artists - they either damned their career by getting too personal or faded into obscurity after their 15 minutes ended. Some rode on the coattails of their more impressive peers while other made a boom with something clever or witty but failed to progress. Let's be clear, the art world is a strange and unusual place. Artists struggle to build an audience and collector base and some, rely on a persona instead of continually working on their craft. These individuals usually crash and burn quickly. If your social media persona is more impressive or amusing than your work, take some time to reflect because I promise you, it'll hinder your art career. You may be a star for a short period of time but that sort of shtick has no staying power. Becoming drunk on yourself is off-putting and soon, you're no longer the artist but the insufferable narcissist who sometimes gets creative. And yeah, I know we're wired differently and can't help standing out in a crowd even under the best circumstances but intentionally making a circus of yourself never appeals to collectors. They want to invest in you, not your sideshow. After watching so many promising careers fizzle out due to some sophomoric mistakes, I feel compelled to make a list to prevent further career suicides.
1. There are makers and takers.
If you're are a taker, you live to tear other's down. These individuals are animated primarily by jealousy. They troll the pages of fellow artists and make it a mission to be an insufferable jerk. They never have a nice comment or an uplifting word. Most times, they don't even need provocation - they're so miserable they just ooze jealousy. If they funneled that energy into making, they'd stop taking.
2. You spend more time on activism and politics than on your business.
Get it through your head, one is business and one is personal. I've touched on the subject NUMEROUS times and yet, I still see people alienating potential collectors and colleagues. I may offend some readers but there's no other way to touch on this subject without being a tad aggressive. I want you to succeed and I get it, your passionate but it's an epic turnoff. You'd be surprised at how many people roll their eyes when they see your militant political posts popping up in their newsfeed. And trust me, I've had many lengthy conversations with several influential figures in the art world who've echoed my disdain for the flood of aggressive political posts. These gallery owners, editors and prominent collectors all agree that the current social media environment lacks a certain level of decorum for fostering optimal business relations. So unless you're running for office, keep your opinions to yourself. If you need to vent your frustration, call a friend. If you can't help yourself, separate your social media accounts so those of us who want to see your latest work don't think less of you.
3. You are needy and unbearable.
No one wants to invest in someone that is a pathetic attention seeker. Again, I'm going to be raw and insensitive concerning this particular topic. You can scroll on or you can grin and bear it because I strongly believe, there is nothing more absurd and damning than a whiner. Listen, we all have hardships but making your trials and tribulations a public spectacle becomes taxing to your viewers. I've seen artists sink themselves into the bottomless pit of self-pity to the point of career oblivion. They never ask for real help because they're too busy balancing on their social media soapbox. They become drunk on the negative attention and become 'work' for those who feel obligated to sooth them. If your chaotic life is more interesting then what you're creating, you need to get yourself together and quick. Take a deep breath and realize that we all have depressing things going on in our lives - every person struggles with something. Some of us are just more dignified than others.
4. You're not investing in your career wisely.
Don't expect to make a career exhibiting in vanity galleries, shows in other countries where there is a huge "exhibition" fee or books that promise you'll be seen by many collectors for an exorbitant charge. The truth is, it's all one big lie. I've never known an artist who's made their career for falling for one of these vanity scams. In an age where we can easily connect with people from all over the world, you don't need to invest in one of these 'get rich quick' schemes. Build a strong, positive and non-offensive social media presence that doesn't alienate any potential clients or investors and I promise you, great things will happen.
5. You are refusing to progress.
Being content with yourself is one thing but being overconfident, especially early in your career, will destroy your future. No matter how talented you are, if you aren't progressing or challenging yourself, you'll become yesterday's news. This is another grave sin I've seen committed frequently. It's one thing to have a niche but another to beat it to death. The best way to prevent this from happening is to never, ever, get comfortable. When I feel comfortable or overly confident, I know I've hit a plateau and I work harder to challenge myself.
I know this advice may be harsh or unsettling but again, I'm not here to coddle you. I want to see you succeed and have a long, prosperous career. Holding back and conducting yourself as a professional really isn't that difficult. Understand that you need to separate your personal life from your business persona. Trust me, there is no other way of achieving success.
I wish you well in all of your artistic endeavors and I hope you will read and share this post with someone else that needs it. If you'd like to follow my artist motivational series "The Truth About Being an Artist" follow my youtube channel. Click the links for more information on my artist career consultations and painting and drawing lessons or my testimonials page. I work with artists around the world via online. Make huge strides in your career today by taking action now. Have a great day!