Since I purchased my first easel, I’ve had the words “What Matters?” written on them somewhere where I can see them right in front of my face. It’s to remind me of the obvious, but so much more…
I’m not always the best at keeping my eye on the prize, or the tiger, or whatever the saying is. While Instagram has been a great place of discovery and inspiration, it’s also been the bane of my existence in times of weakness. It’s been a place where I have mistakenly compared myself to other artists. I never did this while looking at art magazines. It’s specifically Instagram because of the “likes” and followers. It’s a bit of a mind fuck.
So, why don’t I put the “What Matters?” message on a post-it note on my computer monitor? Well, I think I will now. Thanks for the tip!
The What Matters? message derived from years of navigating an art practice and learning the art scene as I went. I don’t believe this is something that’s taught in art school, not that I have gleaned from my friends who have attended anyway.
The message is also part of a philosophy—a policy-building if you will—that teachers and professors have asked me to address in lectures. Not to toot my horn, but I’ve done a few of these at universities and private schools, but I’m very reluctant about public speaking. I rarely do these because of anxiety.
As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, I do like helping artists and have wanted to develop a kind of curriculum on how I created my art career. If not to teach, then for others to learn from and to be encouraged that, if I can do it, then you can too! Maybe I can help give others something to build on.
I wouldn’t call it a problem so much, but I’ve not organized a series for all the things I can speak on because I wonder how other artists see my credentials. Obviously, I’m not formally educated, I do not have a large following on Instagram, and I purposely do not announce (most of) my sales. However, I wouldn’t be a full-time artist if I wasn’t making some kind of living. I usually understate and underplay my position. Honestly, I rarely even enjoy my accomplishments, which, listen, that’s a personality flaw, not evidence of my overall success. And I have reasons (many) for not disclosing financial matters.
But I’ve learned a lot in my life from a multitude of resources: other artists (like you and you), as well as mentors, art consultants, therapists, workshops, books, trial and error, life lessons, research, studying (tons of) psychology, and philosophy. And then there’s my experience. Doesn’t that count for something? I know some shit despite not having thousands of people knowing shit about me.
And perhaps I should start by speaking on the importance of quality over quantity. To be a successful artist, you don’t need thousands of followers. You don’t need to be popular, hip, clever, or trendy. You don’t even need thousands of collectors. You only need a loyal audience and key collectors.
Many artists struggle to find their audience because there’s more to it than casting out a line and hoping for the best. There are some things to know about what you can control and what you can’t. And I can speak on these things in some depth; where to begin and how I’ve been working it all myself. I have juggled my plates in the air while riding on a unicycle through the art world and somehow managed to make some semblance of something.
I’m not perfect, but if you are a reader of my blog, you’ve at least learned that I’m pretty candid. It wouldn’t be a far stretch for me to be a bit more transparent about how I have done things over the last thirty-plus years and what I’ve learned from doing it. If I can be so bold as to teach you, I would like that. No, I would love that.
If you’re starting to get the idea that this would be some get-rich scheme on how to be a successful art star, then my words wouldn’t be for you. I am not wealthy by any stretch of the word. And if you became a fine artist to get rich, I’ll be honest; you’ve probably chosen the wrong field. You might want to look into business, finance, the stock market, or Bitcoin (a few years ago!).
This is about adopting a philosophy on building an art career over a period of time. For me, it was about accumulating a long resume of grants and awards, exhibitions, gallery representation, etc., not churning out a commercial art career. There’s a big difference. And I have things to say about that too. So stay tuned if you’re interested in what matters regarding all these things. I’ve got a lot to say, the windbag I am.