Building your art practice can be daunting yet full of fun and joy. Unlike constructing an actual domicile, there’s no one right way to do it since art is subjective, not exactly physical.
However, in learning how to begin such an adventure, it’s wise to look at the practicalities of the road ahead, starting with a few fundamental (though often tough) truths.
Reasonably speaking, I do feel the need to prepare new and young artists with a few facts. Most of this stuff falls under the subject of what artists can and can not control. Focusing on what you can control is all you can truly do, and obsessing about what you can’t is an utter waste of time.
Within the balance of this control is the acceptance of what is. Therefore, here’s what I have to say (from experience). Brace yourself. The following are the “secrets” of this path ahead and the beliefs demystified. These are just the simple facts…
You will experience rejection. Probably a lot of it. Chances are, it will be harsh at times. It will feel devastating and “unfair.” Oftentimes, it might feel never-ending, like you’re running your fucking ass off in the same place for an eternity, and just digging a hole into the ground.
You might want to quit trying altogether. You might want to quit trying several times. You might even quit several times (but most likely, this will be temporary).
You will witness other artists having an easier time than you. You might feel a lot of envy. Maybe even resentment. You might wonder what the hell you’re doing wrong. You’ll either learn to adjust what you’re doing wrong or learn or learn that you’re doing absolutely nothing wrong.
An excellent module to learn about here is the circle of control. <–This is a PDF worksheet. It’s best to focus your energy on what you can influence and control, and do your best to ignore all the stresses you have in your “circle of concern.” However, recognizing what each of these things are (for you personally) is important for you to recognize and be mindful of, hence the worksheet for doing this exercise. I really recommend doing it. Download it after reading the rest of this article, of course. 😉
Now, scientifically speaking, like how the earth’s environment formed after the Big Bang, it takes a perfect storm of events to happen for your achievements to transpire. Perhaps this fact can assist you in radically accepting how there are some things we just cannot control. But that doesn’t mean we can’t change our circumstances.
And that perfect storm? It’s a very particular set of factors. It’s a combination of a lot of know-how combined with who you know, a dash of luck, being in the right place at the right time, and how you choose to adapt. It’s all those things.
Adapting your beliefs and your mindset is a part of setting up shop. The belief that you have to be the best artist on earth in order to get ahead is false. In what world is the greatest art getting the most attention?
Again, you don’t need to do this full-time. You don’t even need to make money at it. Art can be your hobby; you’re still an artist. You can be an amateur; you’re still an artist. All “amateur” means is someone who is studying art and not doing it for money. It doesn’t mean you’re a “beginner” or that you suck at what they do. All “professional” means is someone who gets paid for their art, even if it’s a dollar.
By the way, I sold my first painting for six bucks and a Happy Meal at Macdonald’s. That was when I was sixteen—so that’s when I went “professional.”
Also, believing you have to “create” an audience is irrational. Every artist already has a built-in audience. It’s a matter of connecting with them and then gathering more of them over time—networking with who you already know and who you’ll know tomorrow.
Do I have more beliefs demystified? Why, yes!
Some people also believe that talent, skill, and creativity are all the same thing or that they are all needed equally in some kind of power triangle. Not true.
Talent is the natural ability or an inherent aptitude toward achievement, which some have more than others. You can’t help to what degree you already have this.
Skill is something you can practice and get better at, like being a draftsman, a craftsman, being able to bowl a perfect game or spin a quarter on its axis.
Creativity has the best definition of all: the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, and relationships, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods or interpretations, etc.
OMG, I love that! Don’t you? That’s my favorite.
Truly, you only need enough skill to transcend a meaningful, new idea. That’s what is going to make an impact on your audience. Not “talent” so much.
And I’m speaking with the fine art world in mind. Of course, if you needed to render a perfectly realistic horse for the sake of an advertising job, that’s different. But that’s also what I call “commercial art,” or what used to be considered “illustration.” Not anymore, because illustration is accepted as “fine art.” But for lack of better words, I’m just trying to differentiate what someone else dictates your art to look like and what you dictate it to be, where creativity holds no bounds. See the difference?
This is also where you get to decide the things within your circle of control. You can be any kind of artist you want to be, not only a fine artist, and still make all your own decisons when and where you want to. Your creative control is always up to you.
Ever wonder how to tap into your creativity? Well, we’ll get there sometime after Building Your House Part 2 and 3, because I have lots to spill! Before that, we can look at how to be disciplined in your art practice and build a body of work. Sound good?