When we look at our art practice, are we bogged down with how we think we should be doing it?
I went through the first dip last year. Aside from feeling like I was way too close to the edge, I was seriously considering getting a basic job to cover the bills so I could stop the money stress. I could save all that energy for the true artist in me…It was a dip in what is a steady and reasonable income. That’s not to say I ever felt completely safe, who does? No, I’ve always had to push; marketing, advertising, revisiting old clients, changing website, PR, accounts, new approaches…24/7, and yes I feel tired but you know what, even in those darkest hours I knew I would never give up. The real question that came out of that time was this: Can I sustain it psychologically and emotionally, never mind the money, because even when times were tight financially, money always came in the end. What hasn’t come so regularly is the reassurance that I won’t fail.
Failure; that’s it isn’t it? And it’s the fear that’s exhausting.
Words about failure bang an old drum, but how many of us can talk openly about it? I know that working as an artist full time looks like the ideal from the outside, but as from my last post you can see that is not necessarily so. Both approaches to ones practice have their advantages and disadvantages. We make the best choices we can within a fairly unaccommodating environment. In my case I chose portraits, which I enjoyed and happened to be reasonably good at. I approached it like a business. I knew I had to find a niche, offer something slightly different. I avoided googling it to see what the competition was like (a very long row of page numbers). Yes the Brits like representational art, they buy it, is this the advantage? Not really, competition is hot, it’s your drive and where you put it that works. The first portrait I painted was when I was travelling in the US, penniless.
But the art game is hard. It’s not like anything else. We have to wear ALL the hats. The creative journey itself is one big emotional rollercoaster never mind the day to day stuff. The highs are magnificent, the lows are hell. We have to make sacrifices, like it or not. This thing called time, I’m about as hungry for it as any other artist can be because now I want my journey as an artist to find its truer meaning. I’ve got stuff to say and now I find I haven’t got the time to let it all free flow. But I will find time. I realise now what I have to do is to sit down and get my brain working, be smart. I don’t want this pivotal point in my career to become a dichotomy when it really doesn’t need to be. Even if my new work becomes wildly different, this is nothing new in an artist’s journey. Read about Picasso’s life, read about them all, the same fears are all there. I love the work I do. I won’t resent the odd impossible painting I have to do. I’m learning to see all my commissioned work, which has trained me so well, in a new perspective. The leap into the unknown perhaps isn’t so big. I can find the steps that will guide me there if I look carefully. What I mustn’t do is panic about time. What I must do is be true.
So is the money factor just bad news for art? Does it mess it all up? I’m torn. I remember selling my first piece of art and being completely overjoyed. When the price tag goes up on your work, it does bring its own affirmation and confidence to you the artist. But, put a price on the moment that someone looks at your work and you see how visibly moved they are. This has to be the best feeling ever.
Motivation and drive. What is it and why do we do what we do?