Taking Myself Seriously as an Artist
Every year seems to be some sort of tribulation, but I learn a lot about myself as an artist, a husband and a person; and what I want for my life and my art career.
It’s a slow process for a people-pleasing person like myself, but every year I’m taking myself more seriously as an artist.
I realised it’s more important to be authentic as an artist (and in one’s personal life) and to be brave enough to say what you want to than to tiptoe around being worried about how you’re labelled or what people think of your work or your words.
I’m tired of that. And frankly, I don’t think I’m that important that people actually care about what I say or what I paint. I’m tired of listening to advice.
In short, I don’t care so much that I’m not perfect or that I don’t have things sussed.
Being an artist means putting yourself out there. It means being vulnerable. There’s no time for being a wuss.
We live in a world of fakes anyway. Being an artist, I believe it’s part of your job to be authentic and honest. And to listen to your heart.
That’s when you achieve confidence as an artist.
You have to paint from your guts.
Believe in what you say, even when you know people are judging you. A real artist is too busy to give a damn.
I also think facing your failures as a person somehow builds more character. Not always immediately, but further down the road.
But receiving really stupid criticism from people can be quite damaging if you don’t know how to deal with it.
I had to write about Dealing with Criticism as an Artist (and Slapping Idiots!) as a way to overcome quite a tough process I was going through.
Cultivating calmness when you’re out of sorts
Despite our beautiful surroundings and the beginnings of a new married life, I’ve had bouts of heavy depression and low confidence this year. Broke, burnt out and adrift, it’s taken time to turn the darkness into calmness.
I think cultivating that calmness is the most sobering place to be mentally when everyone and everything is just so hyper and out of control. I guess you can’t control anything. Somehow it’s taken me long to realise that.
So painting is important for me.
At least I’m living my passion. There are many who have it way worse than me. And at least I’m not painting on cardboard. Not yet anyway.
I’m NOT giving away paintings ever again!
I’ve been experimenting a lot with different marketing strategies and I came to the realization that giving away artworks is not doing me any good.
There was a trend in email marketing where every Thomas, Richard and Harold was giving away free stuff or a free E-book or whatever, in the hopes of getting more signups or engagement with their newsletters or websites.
But now we are so bombarded with the word ‘Free’ or ‘Discount’ that we don’t even notice it anymore.
Not a single person was interested in my art giveaway. Free. Not a single click. Did I say free? Free art.
So I live and learn.
Maybe the quality of my artwork needs major improvement. And it always should continue to improve. But rather than get all depro about it, I realised I should invest my energies more wisely.
Also, I think giving away stuff totally screws up the perceived value of artworks. I know we live in tough economic times and people can’t really afford art, but I need to just maintain what I took so long to build up.
I need to take myself and my art more seriously.
If I lose fans because I’m not giving away stuff, then I never really had their interest to begin with anyway.
On being vulnerable as an artist
I thought a lot about why I like writing about art and my process. And I think it’s because I like to read about other people — especially artists — and see their processes and struggles.
I learn a lot of technical aspects of painting from following other artists. And gain inspiration and food for thought from blogs and articles every day.
It’s refreshing to read writers who are brave enough to share their guts; be controversial without trying hard to be so obviously shocking, and not care about how unpopular they might seem.
Because to them, being honest in their creativity and in tune with their inner life is everything.
I like people who are real and still have the gumption to keep on being inspired.
I’m getting a little tired of the constantly positive and fake personalities of internet celebs these days.
But that’s just my personal take.
It happens to me so many times: I spend months working on a painting I’m incredibly proud of for a competition. Or spend a weekend crafting a really deep and exposing essay for my email list readers.
Only to have zero response, a few unsubscribes, or even bewilderment at how ‘weird’ I am.
Then I just feel like taking a long break from ever revealing myself to anyone again.
These times can often lead to bouts of depression, but also times of really deep inner growth and creative productivity. I shut out the world. ‘They don’t get me anyway’, I think.
So I draw and paint even more weird shit because that’s what I feel is living inside me and wants to come out.
Then I look back at my drawings and paintings and think some of them are pretty cool! This is before I reveal them to anyone.
The trick is to hold onto that feeling when my artwork is being dissed or ignored.
That’s the moment I start taking myself seriously as an artist because I know in my heart what I’ve done is authentic.
Thanks for reading. Please lemme know your thoughts below.
Check out my latest series of works The Sirens