This question keeps rolling around in my mind, and I think this might be a great book idea, however, I'm getting ahead of myself. I'm going to start capturing my ideas here and see what happens.
If I'm an artist then:
Earning an income from what you create aside, how do I create the work that I imagine? It's so elusive. I have this idea, this imagining, and yet turning that into a tangible thing that even vaguely represents my idea is a huge leap. I have so many decisions to make, from materials to surface, size, and finish etc. These early decisions are a nice distraction and feel so very important, but they mask the actual moment when those decisions have been made and you are sitting in front of the blank, ready, surface. I never looked at this as difficult because my process moves smoothly into the first marks being made. Where the process stalls for me is 10% in, then 20% in, then 35% into the project. Almost every step of the way is an accessing, re-assessing moment. Fear, judgement, self-doubt come along on the journey, always. I read recently that artists who succeed, challenge these fears, those that fail, do not challenge the obstacles.
The other issue with creating art is that sometimes the idea or inspiration is actually a feeling, you feel something and want to create something that replicates that feeling. Is the feeling from a piece specific to the artist, or will the audience also feel similar things? Is it necessary that a viewer feel something from your art? Does it help to invoke a sale if the viewer can feel moved by it?
It's a risky venture to commit to bringing an idea to life when you have no guarantees that you will actually reach that destination, and more importantly be satisfied with it. Yet, the fact remains that you still feel full of ideas, brimming to release the expression onto some surface. Our backed up artistic ideas can feel somewhat like bloating in the body. Stifling that creative flow can literally look like overeating or drinking to many liquids from the anxiety of holding the creative flow back. When does this change, when you decide to take the risk. When you clear the schedule of distractions and get down to the business of creating your art. Just regular old art, not great art. Very few artistic geniuses have ever existed, yet many regular folk make really great art.
Artists are no longer restricted to creating works for the church or wealthy patron, but in the release from traditional relationships surrounding art making, there is so much unsupported freedom that the fear is the artist is not capable of holding themselves up and staying the course so that the art can live. I'm pretty resourceful and self sufficient so I rarely reach out to collaborate or join with other artists. Yet when I meet another artist, of like mind, ready to inquire about all these deep questions, it is magically. Those moments are absolutely priceless. They last from a few minutes to a few hours and man do they fuel the fire. Those are the moments worth creating memories with. Amazing. Being seen and heard for the struggle and the success of the artistic life, is priceless.
Let's bring the idea of selling your work back into this musing. The idea that an artist could make a living from the art that they make comes with a whole new set of mental questions. The nuts and bolts are that someone is willing to exchange money for the art that is produced. But in order for the exchange to happen, the buyer needs to feel a connection or desire for that piece of art. The artist knows intimately why they created the art. It's personal. It's a personal reflection on how the artists sees the world. Now is the goal to illuminate that viewpoint so the buyer can join in? Or is it an irrelevant detail? Is the art simply a commodity that is purchased because it's 'neat', or it matches the couch. Who knows why a buyer buys art. There are so many reasons. It could also be with the goal of an investment, the idea that the work will increase in value over time.
With all the artistic contributions on social media the arena is filled with art from all over the world, all different genres, several variations on the same genre of art, how does a buyer choose? How is it that one piece of art gets selected to be purchased over the next one? Does it boil down to the "Know, like and trust" idea from other areas of marketing?
What if the art doesn't sell? What does that mean? Is this simply another hurdle to get over, to stay the course in the face of a dry patch in sales? Or is it a time to turn away from the pursuit of art and get that 9-5 job, even though you are dreading that prospect, knowing it has been so stifling in the past.
I come across a lovely book recently titled "It's not your money." Literally meaning the wealth we have is not actually ours, it belongs to universal spirit, God, Lakshmi (the hindu god for prosperity) or who ever you identify with. That we are just purveyor of that wealth, investing it in our own lives and sharing it abundantly when we are called to.
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Ultimately, this whole discussion boils down to the individual. If you are an artist, what does that mean to you? I remember a line in Elizabeth Gilbert's Book "Big Magic". What shit sandwich are you willing to eat? The idea is that no career is going to be all roses all the time. Are you willing to put up with the challenges of this particular career you have chosen? It's a great question, and it calls up the quality of stamina, perseverance, and determination. Despite evidence are you willing to continue to show up and do your work? To show up and allow room for these creative idea of yours to bloom into something? Only the individual can decide. There is no outside person that bolster the creative, to hole them up, on an ongoing basis, if they are not willing to hold themselves up.
It comes down to love, self love, self respect and self awareness. This is super important when criticism comes, as it will. I think the criticism is just another form of block coming to test our determination. DO NOT take it personally and DO NOT stop doing what you are doing just because someone objects. They feel compelled to tell you about it, because there is something in them that needs to expressed. It is not about you or your work even though the words they are saying are laced with connections to what you have produced.
Keep going, be you, do it your way. If you need to get a job to make ends meet, do it with lightness and grace knowing that this is not your thing, just something that is helping to ease the artwork into the world. Most importantly do not change to impress another person. Rick Rubin in his book "The Creative Act" talks about the art not being for the viewer at all. It can't be. It has to be about the artist and what's good for the artist is ultimately good for the viewer too.
Onward..... Create your art. You are an artist if you say you are. Creating art is an unnecessary, necessity. (I read this in a book and can't recall where now.) We might fall into the trap of thinking that the dentist, nurse, accountant, school teacher are more valuable than the artist. Art is what makes everything possible. Art is in our everyday lives. Every beautiful thing has been conjured up by an artistic mind. Please find space to contribute your unique artistic voice to the mix. We need you.