What it Takes
First of all, let me say WOW! I have had so many questions submitted that I cannot possibly answer all of them this month. Keep reading, I'll try to get to all of them as soon as I can. Now, on with the party...
My name is Barbara and I’m an oil painter. Always having a passion for art and wanting to go to art school. I quit my job and followed my dreams, I never looked back because I am loving what I do and not wanting to do anything else. I do need to learn the whole art business. What an inspiration you are! I am ready to take action NOW. Any advice would be much appreciated.
My niece, who is young and just starting college art classes, sent me this text. I gave her my advice, but when I saw the theme of your blog party, thought I would ask you.
Here it is:
“Last week I had an art critique and I was one of the last people showing their work. They commented that the drawings were innocent and sweet. But when I looked around at the other people in class, they looked as though they weren’t even interested in my work. It made me feel like I wasn’t good enough. How do I get past that??”
What would you tell her?
Thank you, Kristine
These two questions intrigued me. They are different, yet somehow related. First, Barbara, this is a super email! Congratulations on your commitment and dedication to follow your dream. The thing that most artists miss, is that it takes even more commitment later on than it does now. It takes so much hard work, every day. I am a workaholic so that’s all fine with me. You have to be in a position that you won’t quit no matter what. It sounds like since you have quit your job (as I did) that you know what you want! Just know that it’s not a matter of a few ads and boom, you’re sailing home free for the rest of your days. Some days it is like floating on air, and you just wonder why and how it all happened. But here is where I want to give advice for BOTH you and Kristine's niece.
Every artist I know who has made a successful career for themselves STILL has days when they wonder if they should be doing this at all. EVERY artist. You wouldn’t even believe who if I told you. The roller coaster is awesome some days and some days not.
We put our enthusiasm and our necks on the chopping block every day. Some days, we just don't paint well. Sometimes weeks go by without a sale. Very often, someone says something that is really tough to hear about our work. But mostly, I would say, we are our own worst enemies. This life, it's wins and losses, are 99% a head game we play with ourselves. Whether we mean to or not, we seek affirmation and approval. Or, as is the case for Kristine's niece, at the very least we would like interest.
No matter where you are in life, what choices and sacrifices you may have made to do this, always be working on your confidence. I do not want to sound sexist, but especially for women this seems to be a huge problem. So, whether it is me or a trusted friend or whomever, when you feel that “What was I thinking?” "Am I good enough?" voice creeping in, allow yourself a small amount of time to think it (because I think it helps us stay humble), talk it out with someone, then pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.
Here's a good habit. Write down what the perfect scenario would be for you 5, 10, and 15 years down the road. Pin it close by and do not worry if someone else sees it or what they think of it. Read it often. Change it if needed.
Understand too that having a successful career as a painter brings with it a lot of other responsibilities that can get in the way (like computers, inventorying your work, making appearances, dealing with difficult people, etc.) You probably already know stuff like that and that you pack, ship, and clean your own toilets, ha. Still, it never hurts to mention it. The best way to get through those days, is to have a list of things that you ONLY do when it isn’t prime painting time for you (even if that is very early in the morning or very late at night). Some things have to be done at the most inconvenient of times, of course, but try to organize as much as you can so that painting time is indeed painting time.
I am not telling you all of this to discourage you! Just being honest. Barbara, you’re doing the right thing by telling someone (me) that you are going to do this. The accountability thing is a huge one. You only have to be accountable to yourself, really.
DETERMINATION and PASSION. If you have those two things, you’ll do just fine.