Growing as an artist involves knowing what we don’t know

blissful gallery openThere is a lot of preconceived notions about artists; a major one is: Artists are not business people.
Most of the time with the exception of a few, artists are not interested in the business part of their craft and that is widely and deeply supported by the popular notion above.
Self verifying concept… We tend to stick to who we think we are.

Meanwhile, every artist pursuing a passion and practicing their skills wishes to be able to do their art without having to worry about bills to pay and retirement plans… ( one doesn’t want to retire from one’s true love in the first place anyway).
I saw it again and again: talk about projected sales, overhead costs, profit margin and other specifics of earning money with most artists and their eyes glaze over; worn out platitudes are uttered such as ” I am not a business person”, “I don’t do Art for money and I don’t want to spoil it”, “I don’t like selling”, “it’s too hard”, “I don’t have a mind for numbers”… etc… etc… (I should know, because I deluded myself with this kind of flapdoodle for many years).

The truth is, every artist I met, who was not highly successful, had a DESIRE to earn a good living with their art.
They dreamed of it. They wished it could be done. They told me: “You are so lucky to have your own gallery!”.

Yes I am, indeed. I am lucky to have been inspired enough to decide one day to create what I dreamed about.
I am lucky the right place showed up after I tried about 5 or 6 other ones in one year.
I am lucky key people believed in my potential when I signed my lease.
But most of all I am lucky because I usually refuse to believe and live by the limiting rules of common thinking.

Because you see, selling your art when you are a productive artist is where the rubber meets the road.
Selling is the second leg you stand on. The first being of course, the particular skills and talents that you keep honing.

There is a mind blowing absurdity in neglecting to integrate business knowledge as a key of being a full blown artist!

Let me break the news to you:
~chances to be “discovered” out of the blue are very thin, even if you are very good at what you do.
~getting into one or several galleries AND generate enough revenue to live comfortably means you’d have to slave away, in most cases.
~if you don’t really learn the mechanics of business, you are going to struggle to grow. I know I did.
~when you don’t want to sell, you either deprive the world of your work or you limit the amount of work you can do (worrying about bills or keeping a 9-5 day job WILL limit you).
~an artist who does art on the side is a hobbyist.
~being financially rewarded won’t kill your creativity, at the contrary, it will free you. (Do you think O’Keeffe, Dali, Michelangelo, or Adams were less creative because they sold?)
~what you should know and don’t know is what limits you.

The bohemian label tagged upon artistry is a huge curse in itself.
There is NO advantage at struggling. There is NO glory at verifying the “starving artist” myth.
And there is definitely NO antagonism between being a fully passionate artist AND a successful entrepreneur.

Actually it is where the biggest successes are made, at the cross between unlimited artistic exploration and self-worthy claim of one’s retribution for a work well done.
I went into Art by choice, by love, by desire. I knew I was “an Artist” when I was but just a kid.
And guess what? I did not give much thought about learning business guide lines… for many years.
I was still thinking along the line of “being” an artist versus delivering art to the world in a sustainable way.

Being an Artist is a cool concept about oneself. It is self centered.
Making Art and making it available to the world, were it belongs, is a profession, it is outbound. And it is a business.

If you know in your heart that Art is what you do best and want to do most, stop using excuses to stay stuck.

Unless you are already well off and on your way to stardom or comfortably earning enough for a good life, give yourself the gift of hard cold truth and make a decision.
Truth: you need to learn things you don’t know to succeed.
Decision: find what you need to know and start LEARNING, then APPLY it.

I am once again at this point myself: what I learned so far brought me were I am today and I wish to grow further, to give myself the comfort of a more reliable income, of more freedom to go and travel the world, to create more, to help others more, to innovate more and take more risks in what I do.
So I am on a mission, again. I am taking stock of what I don’t know, so I can focus and learn it.
To go further.
Would I prefer to be sponsored, gifted, protected, pampered, and do only Art? Sure!
When it comes my way, I’ll be grateful and accept all the support I get.
Meanwhile, if I pull up my sleeves, start learning verified rules and implementing my new knowledge, I’ll get new results in as short a time as it will take me to graduate to my new level of self.

That’s the thing: at any level I find myself to be stuck is where I stopped growing.
It doesn’t matter what is the specific bit involved.
If I want to grow as an artist, I have to become a more evolved, more skillful, more efficient version of me.
I just need to keep on growing up.
The first step is knowing what I don’t know and go learn it; the good news is: you can do that too.

To your own growth!

Emmeline


Comments

Growing as an artist involves knowing what we don’t know — 2 Comments

  1. flapdoodle – Not heard that before!
    Good essay Emmeline. It does, can, all come together if we face it. I don’t know why that is or why the struggle doesn’t seem to end. I think they, art, enterprise and that business of life are woven together and need each other.
    Hope you are feeling a bit better now.

  2. Aggie… I love unusual words… flapdoodle is a cool one isn’t it? And yes, it all interwoven, the tapestry of Life, unfolding…

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