If you could tell your younger self anything at all about art and being an artist, what would it be? What kind of advice would you give them? How would you help them? Would your younger self even listen to you? I know mine wouldn’t! I thought I knew everything. Ha ha.
This is the last article I’m writing in this “Learning Series” on this here blog. Just telling yas. I’d like to get back to my regular life now, but I thank you for reading all the stuff I’ve been writing about. I’ve covered a lot, I think. If you missed it, it all started with What Matters. I’ll get to what else we covered in a bit.
Until then, I thought, in this last post, it would be an interesting exercise (for me) to address my younger self as an artist to see what sorts of things I might want to say to me, Ayin. What would I tell myself as my younger (stupid) me? What would I warn them about, tell them to be aware of, other than not taking candy from strangers (depending on the candy)?
How could I best nurture them as they begin their life as an artist?
I would, of course, tell them they needed to believe in themselves. That’s first and foremost. And, to keep going in the face of rejection. I’d warn them that there’s going to be way, way more rejection and disappointment than they think. Maybe more than they could imagine. It comes from unexpected places. They would need to endure all of it and just keep trying despite all of that. “Chin up” and all that, which it not easy. It sucks! I’d give them all those warning signs: “REJECTION! REJECTION!” in bright, red lights. It’s coming your way. Brace yourself, for god sake.
I’d definitely tell them not to totally rely on money from their art, at least at first. At the same time, they should keep trying to make money from their art. It’s a little reality check/double-edged sword kind of thing. A parable of sorts. Or maybe the keywords there are “rely on.” That could potentially make you miserable and maybe even homeless. Just saying. Because that’s happened to me a couple of times. (Yikes!)
I’d also have to kick them (me) a little and say, “Recognize your strengths, but look at your weaknesses.” And this would mostly apply to my drawing skills. I could always be better at this. When I was younger, I acted like a rebellious teenager and kept thinking I could get away with drawing cartoons forever. I practiced realism very little (because I wasn’t very interested). But I’d tell myself to practice it a lot more frequently.
I’d also have to warn myself about being a kind of creep magnet. I don’t know why this is. Maybe it’s all artists, or maybe it was just me, but I have attracted more creeps than I can count! I probably knew deep in my gut (from the start) that these people were off, but I kept giving them the benefit of the doubt, continued to be nice to them, and then they stomped all over me. So I’d tell them to be on the lookout for the glomy creeps. They’re everywhere, trying to glom-glom-glom onto you and suck you dry.
I’d sternly say, “Don’t feel bad saying ‘No.’ You don’t owe anyone anything. Not for nothing.”
And I’d tell them not to be ashamed to be their authentic self. “Be yourself without apology,” I’d say. “Don’t ever be sorry for the art you make.”
However, I’d warn them of all the bad art that will be coming their way. They are going to make a lot of it. Sometimes, you have to make a lot of crappy shit before you make anything good. But that’s better than making no art. You have to make something. You must try and put in your best efforts, even if they suck balls.
“Slow down!” I’d say. God, I wish I had heard myself say that to myself and actually listened. I created everything like I was going to die at that very moment. No tomorrow, It was all so goddamn urgent. I didn’t slow down until I was in my 40s. It made all the difference, and I enjoyed the process more.
Here’s another: “Don’t be where you don’t want to be when you don’t want to be there.” Ha ha ha. I’d have to tell myself that for all the times I let fair-weathered friends drag me away from my work when I didn’t want to go with them. What a waste of time that was. When I did do that, it would take me days to recover. It exhausted me, and I’d regret it.
Lastly, I’d tell myself to stop worrying. I worried a lot. Needlessly. I probably had a lot to worry about, but worrying about it does not, and never did change the outcome. Of anything. (No shit, Sherlock!)
What about you? What would you tell your younger self if you could? I’d love to know. If you don’t want to disclose it all as I did (I did bear my soul to you here, how about some reciprocation?), maybe write it down in private and show it to your dog. It could be therapeutic.
I hope all my “lessons” were somewhat therapeutic. We’ve gone through quite the journey, like defining your Core Values, making a mission statement, and what else? Well…let’s go over the subjects, not the article titles:
How important it is to define fears before goals and radical acceptance.
Knowing your biggest dreams and setting S.M.A.R.T. Goals.
What you can and can not control.
Creating an ideal workspace.
Finding your artistic voice.
The importance of documenting your work.
How to price your art.
Writing your artist’s statement.
How important your website is.
Building your CV and an exhibition history.
An exercise you can try to spark your creativity.
My view on how drawing and looking is everything.
Why being versatile and inconsistent isn’t a bad thing.
That sure was a lot of information. And it was all free of charge, I might add. I didn’t even ask for a donation or candy.
So, anyway, this concludes all my windbaging noise and art advice. Hopefully, it was helpful, and you’re walking away with a sense of resonance—with me, at least. Maybe we are both vibrating together in some way. That would be something worthwhile.
Please know that I was only trying to be helpful (because I want you to succeed) and wasn’t trying to be preachy. If I came off that way, well then, oops! and oh well. Too late! It’s over now. Nothing you can do about it now.