I have learned a tremendous amount about life this past year. Some in business, some in personal. (You will be given the opportunity to view some lovely new work while to are reading my
preach long drawn out revelations)
I’m not normally a competitive person, however these past few years have been so good to me – I am in a competition with myself to push ahead even further this year. Artists don’t really talk about money much – so I have no idea where I fall among my peers, but my main goal is to keep creating (what I consider) good quality work that I am proud of – and still hope I still get paid. I realize I’m not cutting edge, or solving the world problems. Art is considered a luxury item, and most of my work is considered more “decorative” which some frown upon – but I don’t care. I’m having a blast, and I’m thankful for every second of it. I love it when people tell me my work makes them happy, brightens a space, or they frequently discover new things in my work…
Shedding negativity is so amaze-balls! Last year I ended a few professional relationships with people who are toxic, stagnant, negative, and holding me back. I don’t like it when people repeatedly waste my time, are late, or no-shows, avoid me, repeatedly don’t return email or phone calls. I don’t like it when people are unprofessional, constantly ask for discounts, are dishonest about prices, sales, where my art is (or isn’t,) and/or where my money is. I was starting to feel like a gangsta in a shakedown. Why can’t people just be mature, honest individuals? It is sooo much easier to be a person of integrity – you don’t have to keep up with as much stuff (lies). So – after I ended said “toxic” relationships with energy vampires – a HUGE weight was lifted off me and I felt this awe-inspiring surge enter my creative being. (Perhaps I was channeling my dead Mother?) So when I do find people to work with that are highly respectful, thankful, and professional; who are willing to invest time and money in me, and believe in me – I cherish those relationships. Unfortunately the learning lesson can be long and painful dirt road before you find the gold.
I had someone give me some valuable clarity: That all of your galleries will want you to be successful and succeed. The more accomplishments, and exposure you gain, adds to your overall popularity and credibility – and everyone wins across the board. If you have a gallery that is very competitive, trash talkin, greedy, pushy, passive aggressive, and/or territorial – those are red flags and you should consider other places/people/organizations that with nurture your career and stick with you for the long haul.
I have had several people/artists reach out to me asking advice about galleries, and business advice. For some reason I must give off this vibe that I’ve got it all under control, have a factory going in my studio, and know everything about the art business – but I’m not sure where that comes from. Most of the time I feel that I’m just winging it. My strength is that I not afraid to do anything, ask any questions, ask about opportunities, and jump in and get my hands dirty. I don’t wait around for things to happen to me – I try to make them happen; yet I still try to remain humble and accommodating. It’s a weird combination. I realize that things will not be handed to me without patience and hard work – success has to be earned, and relationships are cultivated. You can be the best artist out there, but if nobody knows who you are – it does not really count.
I have learned the importance of having artist friends – and the need to ask questions. Ask questions about potential galleries, art contacts, experiences, supplies, workshops, retreats, grants, etc. Don’t just assume the grass it always greener in the gallery over the fence. Don’t assume things about galleries (or artists) because so and so artist that you respect shows there. Don’t assume that an artist will not share information with you (maybe they will, maybe they won’t.) Ask questions! I have found most artists are very open and generous with their information, as long as you are thankful and respectful of their time.
Thanks to social media, I am able to observe and interact with many creative people who I would not normally meet. I live in such a small town with very few professional artists to bounce ideas off of; so it is nice to learn how other people work, how they live their lives creatively, and with such intent. I have been trying come out of my crusty, barbwire shell and be a little more friendly and less shy about my life. But social media also angers me a tad because I see so many artists that can’t seem to find their own style and that they tend to copy what they deem is successful – or rather – become “heavily influenced by others.” I have not really noticed others copying me per se – but I may be too self-absorbed to see this or even care. Copy cats are sad and annoying, and the galleries that represent them are even more disappointing.
I have learned to remain fluid. Over the course of the past year I have been looking for a new studio space. I have been where I am for over 12 years and have outgrown the space; I really need something larger. I have learned not to get too attached to any one place or idea. Am I going to buy the house behind me for studio space, a condo across the street, a different condo across the street, a warehouse, rent a new space, rent a storage space and secretly work there at night, become an investor in a new warehouse/artist collective, build a studio, build a new house with a large studio, etc? Seriously, the direction changes weekly as I am dealing with flaky sellers, indecisive people or shady parties. My point is – I’m just going to put it out in the universe and see what happens, and not become too inflexible. Sure, the thought of cleaning and moving out of my studio that I have had for over a decade seems daunting. Moving and confronting my
crap belongings is my least favorite activity in the universe…. I just need to remain fluid and open to new ideas. I’m sure I’m going to piss off some people here but – but one of my biggest pet peeves when people (artists) declare things. Such as, “I am no longer taking commissions – indefinitely“, “I am permanently dropping out of the gallery circuit in order to self-represent myself”, “I am no longer using traditional art supplies, and am strictly going digital from now on”, “I am exclusively represented by such and such gallery,” “I have found my niche, and I am going to exclusively paint dogs/pets.” I’m not exaggerating – I literally see/read or hear such statements all the time from people. Why? Why I ask? Why must people get so excited about their trivial change to declare such things, and with such definite adjectives ? Why can’t they just privately go about their business, and when they eventually change their mind later (and they always do) they won’t look like such an idiot douche bag? Social media has given us such a narcissistic platform that people think others actually give a rats-poo about their every waking moment (maybe people do care, who knows? I don’t – I’m too busy) Am I personally so afraid of commitment, that I hate such permanent statements? Maybe I am constantly playing the devils advocate to believe in anything with such conviction? I’m just trying to be a realist. I’m not that old – but I have been in the art business long enough to know that there are certain ebbs and flows with politics and/or the economy that directly affect art sales, the housing market, and businesses/galleries going under. I think artists need to float along and constantly search for new opportunities and collaborations when other doors close. If we declare such permanent statements (only to retract later) and/or be come so comfortable in the status quo , it seems closed-minded to new opportunities that may present themselves down the road. Just my two cents – take it for what it is worth.
“When you’re through changing, you’re through.” – Bruce Barton
So, on a lighter note – I’m off to an artist retreat for a week. I’m sofa king excited! Aside from one small (two-hour) printmaking class – I have not really taken any “continuing education” classes outside of college. This will be the first time that I will be working around other like-minded individuals for an extended period of time. I hope to create some juicy new work, and meet some cool people! I feel like I’m going to camp – I’ve been preparing/packing for weeks!