Technology, social media and clever marketing dictate the success of many of our modern day artists. While stars like Justin Bieber, Banksy and Beyoncé shine on our international stages....where does this leave the rest of us?
What is the role of the serious artist trying to make a living from our art?
What role do we play in the world today? Is being an artist a real job?
In this second episode of this two part series I will show you how certain myths and misconceptions concerning artists are still influencing us today.
Here are 5 artist myths I want to unravel, maybe you have heard them in your own life and possibly they are keeping you from following your artist dream.
A few weeks ago I met an artist at an exhibition where we were both exhibiting our art. I could see he was struggling. He looked as if he had not slept in weeks and later I heard that he was living on instant soup in order to have money to buy paint. His paintings are truly beautiful, expressing life, love and hope. I can’t imagine the torment in his artist heart. Having the ability to express such beauty while he lived in such despair.
This myth is probably reason number 1 why parents advice their kids not to study art. They have seen bad examples of artists struggling financially or living in poor conditions as a result of pursuing their art.
The starving artist was a typical figure of the Romanticism in the late 18th century and early 19th century artistic expressions. The starving artist has been portrayed in many a paintings, works of literature and theatre.
Now this may work well in novels but in reality is a different story. Being poor is no fun at all
Willem de Kooning, a Dutch artist from the early 19 C is to have said… ‘The trouble about being poor is that it takes up all your time.’
I can’t agree more. Money or the lack of it can take up so much of our energy and time. It actually does not improve your art it hinders it.
Poor does not only mean a lack of finances but generally living in inferior standards or lacking quality of life.
The opposite should be true. As artists we are life givers, we invigorate, we inspire, we share, we give. No inferior life here!!!!
If being successful as an artist is not about being lucky or having a super talent, then why do so many artists live this inferior, sub-standard life?
I believe that success starts with a plan and about making your art intentional. Our passions need to be supported by a good well thought out plan. Many artists I have spoken to feel that a plan and structure will stifle and suffocate their creativity. We want to think out the box, keep our options open and not have to adhere to to-do lists and sticking to a plan. But the reverse is true.
A plan and structure will give you a firm basis to grow and express your creativity while generating a healthy income. Making a plan will challenge you to make hard choices or even make concessions and it will give you the freedom you need.
I have often wondered why they did not teach me economics or writing a good business plan at the art academy. Luckily this is changing in many schools and there are resources and courses available.
In future podcasts I will be sharing more about writing your artist statement, setting up a budget, implementing systems to help you in taking steps to build a stable financial basis for your art and your art business.
Suffering now there is an artistic word.
Many artists say that they cannot make art unless they are suffering.
Sounds like something Plato would say…remember him from my previous podcast…he stated that artists need to be in a state of ‘delirium’ in order to create.
When I was studying art at the art academy we were forbidden to draw anything beautiful, anything involving children and definitely not animals. It had to be dark to be art! It you are not hurting you can’t be working.
The media actually believes and promotes that art is not actually important or interesting unless there is a lot of blood, or at least one suicide attempt or somebody battling their demons. The motto…’Good news does not sell’… sets art on a dark road..
Galleries, concerts, songs, poems, novels, cartoon strips, museums and T-shirt designs emanate and glorify doom and destruction. Doom is apparently fascinating but when was the last time you were inspired by spending time with people who are heartbroken and/or depressed. Did you find them stimulating, generous and emotionally supportive? I don’t think so!!!!!
I get the creative arch and that we need tension in order to tell a good story or make a good painting or sing a great song… But it is simply not true that the uglier and more morbid art gets the better the art becomes.
I was recently floored by a brutal flu, it took a good three weeks to regain my strength. I felt sick, weak and miserable. Not the most inspiring place to be, not for me or my surroundings.
When you suffer you are not functioning in your strength. You need to be in your strength to be productive and be creative! It is this strength that will help us when the hard times come, which they will…this is a fact of life… but this is not a place where we permanently want to live and it certainly will not help us make inspiring art. Instead it will weaken and muffle you… just like it would anybody else.
Instead we can use our art and creativity to transform our life's pains and loss and fears into something communicative and alive.
This will be a generous and uplifting thing for our audiences and will produce healing, hope and life! Just as anyone's triumph over adversity can.
We must stop torturing ourselves and we need to treat our artist hearts with great care and precision and respect.
We need to recognize our sensitivity and learn to embrace and nurture it.
If you would ask my brother to describe me in 3 words I am convinced the first would be creative but with words like melodramatic and intense running at a close 2 and 3rd.
I feel atmospheres and moods with intensity and sensitivity I have leant (and am still learning) to not let these feelings overshadow my mood. As artist we need to be acutely self-aware and we need to get to know and discern our feelings and emotions, separating them from the feelings we are absorbing from the people and situations around us.
I agree that as artists need certain sensitivity in order to create but this is not the same as suffering. We should stop punishing ourselves. We have the gift to embrace and express life. Not only for ourselves but also for those around us.
However thousands of artists experience this. They feel that in their torment they can create. Adopting a hero-like status, proud to announce that we are willing to give it all up for our art. Giving up their sleep, their relationships, their joy and even their sanity for their art. Stop it already.
Your art is a gift, one that gives you life but art is not your life. Your life is your own and it is wonderfully precious and should not be squandered.
For the most part we need our bodies, our hand, our eyes, ours feet, our voice to make our art. And since we only have one body it would be wisdom to take care of it.
I believe that it is only when we are successful in life we are truly successful in our art. Not only will your audience be touched but also you will live a happier, healthier and fulfilled life.
If you are struggling in this area, then find help or join an artist support group or find a mentor to help you in your creative process.
As artists we generally need solitude in order to create. Whether this is in a literal sense or a place we go to in our mind or imagination. I love spending hours in my studio dreaming and creating. But this is different than loneliness. Loneliness can be such a terrible companion.
We are not created to live isolated from others but we need healthy, lasting relationships. This is true especially artists. Being an artist is extremely vulnerable. We need to deal with rejections, accusations and people judgements of us and of our work on a daily basis.
Whether it is at an exhibition or through a post on social media or sharing your vision with family our audiences are often very generous with their opinions of our work and choices. The not so nice response’s or even the voice of our own inner critic can sometimes leave a deep mark in our artist heart.
We need to be able to vent this with somebody we trust and that understands us. It really gets to me how many artist are misunderstood by their surroundings. Leaving artists feeling alone and unsupported. This is not a good place to produce your art. You need support. Invest in good friendships, maybe a fellow artist, or somebody from your church or living in your street. Or find a mentor or join an art group. Find your cheerleaders.
When you overcome the fear of rejection, standing in the strength of your vulnerability you will not only liberate your artist heart but also touch the hearts around you.
In my podcast Overcoming Perfectionism, I shared that I could never really paint when other people were around. I was too afraid of the frowns or disapproval's that I withdrew into my own space and would paint or design until it was perfect. I have since learnt that I actually need people around during my creative process and now I often go into public spaces to draw or paint.
Outside my studio I find a different energy to create and I have met so many inspiring people who were touched by what I was doing. I don’t want to be the hero of my own loneliness. I was born to create and bring life and I cannot do this by myself.
I discovered that the opinions of people might hurt but they are not fatal and that I will never be to everybody’s liking. Learning to connect with your audience and developing a fascination with your followers and turning this into a fuel for your next piece can be very exhilarating. Making it more about others than only about yourself.
When I started out in my art career my accountant would often give me a firm talking too and he would regularly advise me to consider to get a real source of solid income and keep my art as a hobby. In other words: ‘When are you going to get a real job?’
I must admit that when I started out my budget and the bank balance were quite appalling so I get the point but his tone and preconceived ideas that artist can not make a living with their art is quite short-sighted.
Depending on where you live in the world, this might ring true for you. For me it was more that I had to adjust my own perception and my attitude towards my art. I had to start to take myself and my art seriously.
I could not expect that others would take me seriously if I was not taking myself seriously to start off with. To be absolutely honest…Deep down I actually believed this myth to be true and I was acting accordingly and so I needed a change of heart. I needed to believe that art was valuable and that it is very much a real job. I had to deal with the feeling of guilt that would pinch me every time I wanted to painted or do something creative as opposed to doing something sensible.
I had to own my talents, develop my skills and turn my art into a viable source of income.
I am pleased that art and artists are getting more and more recognition and appreciation through social media and other platforms. The stories of artists studio’s and process behind created works are getting greater exposure.
I once read a Forbes study of the 10 most wealthy and influential people of our time. I forget the exact number, but a large percentage of the people on that list were artists, musicians or those working in the creative industry.
Fortunately I now believe that art and being an artist is a serious profession one that adds real value to our culture. In my podcast episode 004 DOES ART REALLY MATTER? I share stories about the importance and impact of art on individuals, communities and even nations.
When I was a student at the art academy, money was a taboo word – it was not to be used in the same sentence as art. Money is the topic least addressed by artists, yet it is their biggest stumbling block.
We need to adopt a different mind-set! It simply is not true that being an artist and being in business is not synonymous.
Many artists find it hard to think like entrepreneurs and don’t just want to work for money or to make a profit. Let me burst that bubble right now. If you don’t have money you will NOT be able to make your art. It is simple as that. Paint, clay or instruments will not mysteriously appear on your doorstep. ..You need money!
You have to decide if this is something that you want to do. Not every artist wants to live from his or her art. That is fine too. If your art is just for yourself, for fun or as relaxation then that is fine too. But then you need to decide this and find a source of income elsewhere. But if you want to be an artist that wants to live, breathe and support yourself from your art then you need to take bold steps. You need to embrace the mind-set of an entrepreneur. Being an entrepreneur is key to your success!!!! What is success? Do what you love to do and make a living from it.
A different set of rules applies when you want to earn a good healthy and happy income from your art.
Let’s define the word Entrepreneur. It is a French word that originates from the 13 century and means “somebody that undertakes”. Later the word developed into somebody that ‘undertakes business’. Yes as artists we undertake business, you are the CEO of your company, your art business.
Statistics show that only one out of every five educated artists can make a living from their art.
It’s a fact….and so I need to be really honest with you…
Being an artist is probably the most difficult careers or business’s to be successful in.
In order to be successful you need to be realistic about our expectations.
As artists we are driven by an inner need of self-expression and this is far more important and valuable to us than to make money. Money has rarely got anything to do with it. To artists it is more of a stumbling block than anything else really.
But in order to succeed in this extremely difficult market we need to have a better understanding of how the art market works and what art business looks like today!
For starters, we have an over-saturated art market. It’s true… There are just too many artists making art in proportion to the amount of art bought by art consumers.
Challenge number 2: To make matters worse art consumers are ill informed and don’t seem to understand or value quality art.
Consumers spend more money on mobile phones and other gadgets than on any art products. Through lack of education and exposure in the arts the consumer has lost a sense of what constitutes good art. Are you beginning to see the problem?
Loud marketing campaigns and social influence's steer the ‘would be’ art consumers in a predetermined direction, while artists with small marketing budgets struggle to get their voice heard.
If we were to look at it economically…. (how is that for a non artistic word)….we would find in the case of art and art business that there is NO market correction. Nothing to keep the balance.
Supply (saturated art market, too many artists making art) and comparison to the demand (the ill-informed art consumer) are economically is out of whack, causing an unstable, unpredictable market.
In this difficult (yet not impossible) market we need to be creative in making and selling our art. The challenge lies on both sides of the scale. Artists need to make quality art, developing and growing in their skills and on the other hand we need to inform the consumer.
This is where I believe the challenge lies for the artist.
I hear many artists say, but I just want to paint. I hate to break it to you but if you want to be a successful artist you will have to do more than just paint, or sing or dance. As an artist you are your own CEO, you are the marketer, you are the content manager, you are your own social media expert.
In business there is a rule in business called the 80/20 rule. The rule of Pareto, you may have heard of it. In order to work successfully and nuture a better informed and interested consumer you need to invest 80 % of your time on non-art things like marketing, sales, accounting, communication, relationships and 20 % of your time on your art. Of course you need art to sell but in order to sell you need to set the other things in motion. You can’t just make your art…remember the imbalance…. an over-saturated art market…you will have to get your audience informed about your work.
Your art career won’t spring up over night. It will take time to grow. It is your job to teach people how to see, how to treat you and it is only when you take yourself seriously that your audience will take you seriously.
Lets face it…As Artists we want to make everything artistic, we can’t help ourselves– we love to be intentionally vague or to be mysterious, as wonderful as this may sound we breaking the first rule of successful marketing… communicate a clear message….
Be clear in what you communicate, and learn to articulate your art. In future resources I will help you define and write your artist statement, a valuable document that encapsulates your vision and your intentions.
As artists we need to nurture a healthy relationship with finances. We need money to sustain our art careers.
I know very few artists with a good business sense, simply because this has not been taught, encouraged or developed. Getting your finances and marketing sorted may seem daunting, but you can always ask for help! Find people in your area who can help you or look for resources online.
When I cycle past the Rijksmuseum (our national museum) in Amsterdam I am always impressed by the rows of people patiently waiting to get a glimpse of the old masters. The father of these masters is without doubt Rembrandt van Rijn. His Night Watch is one of the most visited paintings in the world. Did you know that Rembrandt chose to join the trade men’s guild instead of the artisans’ guild? Rembrandt understood that his art had commercial value and that without seeing his art as a business he would never be successful!
This is the attitude we need as artists. Once we realize that it’s a tough market and being an artist is a challenging profession we can position ourselves and align ourselves correctly.
An art career is challenging and making a living from it is hard but not impossible.
I hope you are starting to see that as an artist you don’t have to be poor, unhappy or lonely in order to make your art. But that it is possible to live a successful happy, healthy life doing the things you love. That having an art career is a real job and if you adopt an entrepreneurial mind-set you can actually get paid for your art.
Once you realize that being an artist is not some romantic notion but by thinking like an entrepreneur and setting systems in place you can shine and steer yourself and your art business towards health and wholeness.
I hope this blog will help you discern between your beliefs and the truth and that they are totally different things. There is a big difference about the myths we believe and the truth of the matter. It’s time to expose those artists’ myths clouding your judgement and holding you back from creating.
To help do this I have made a worksheet for you to download.
Be inspired, be creative and set your world on fire!
See you next time
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