Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Giving Up is for Quitters

Life can definitely be discouraging at times, especially when you're trying to be a professional artist. Now, not to say that other professions don't have as much personal investment, but when you are a visual artist, it is easy to get down on yourself and quit. I think a lot of it stems from the personal investment that you have in your art, especially as a fine artist. It's not like a car salesperson is going to take it personally when a customer asks for that Civic in blue, not red. The car salesperson doesn't care - they're still making a sale. For us artists, sometimes something as simple as that defeats the entire purpose of the piece. For designers, "just change the font" can completely ruin a piece. For artists, changing color schemes (besides potentially taking a huge amount of time) completely shifts the mood/symbolism/feel of a piece.

It's easy to take stuff like that personally. It's easy to feel like crap when you don't sell anything at a craft show. It's easy to feel down when you post a new painting on facebook and no one says anything about it. But you know what? It doesn't matter. There are so many billions of reasons why XY and Z happened, and I bet you that it has nothing to do with you as an artist. How do I know this? Because art is subjective. Yes, we have classical realism which is often touted as "good" art, but even if you draw like a two-year-old with no fingers, I guarantee you that someone out there is going to dig it. It may be hell trying to find that person, but someone out there is all about your art. The trick is finding that person, or those people.

Case in point: This was a painting I did in a class at the Academy. As 1/3 of my total grade, I did not do well, grade-wise. I was told to integrate my text into the image more. I ended up barely passing the class with a C-. Not the best feeling in the world, but when I made giclee prints out of these and took them to a craft fair, I sold out of the prints. Just because my instructors (who, granted, are trying to teach classical realism) weren't into my painting, doesn't mean that others won't be.

So, what I'm trying to say is: Don't give up. Maybe you won't be able to live solely off your art. Monkey + Seal both aren't able to do that. Right now, we have to work day jobs to support ourselves. This won't be the case forever, but it is a reality right this second. But we're not giving up. We're marking ourselves and doing what we can to get our art out there, so that people who are interested will buy. It's all about finding your audience.

But at the end of the day, it really isn't about sales. It's about knowing that you're doing the very best you can on every single piece, and doing it because you love to make art. Now, just because you could spend 50 hours on a painting doesn't mean that you should. If your best is 30 hours, then spend 30. If it's 5, then spend 5. Hell, if your best, for that given time, day, energy level, and general circumstance is a 5 minute sketch, then do that 5 minute sketch. Just make sure you're doing it for yourself, and buyers, and fans, and people into your art will definitely follow.


Carlyn Lim said...

Hey Eve...thanks for all your posts, i wish i found them earlier. Been in a slump of late, feeling lost and confused, and reading much of what you wrote help zap at the weight that is holding me down.

Thanks :)

Eve Skylar said...

;) Every artist must face the fear and weight of creating. They are so many chances to say "no" to the work. In the end, we can only do what we can do at this moment, right this minute. Even if it means catching up on rest first before getting out the paint brushes. It's okay to be in a slump, in fact, it's perfectly normal, the trick and hard part is getting out of it. The only way I've found so far, is to be kind to myself and doing the artwork anyways. Trust me, it feels better to create than not to create, even if it's painful at the beginning to start. Whatever is holding you back, imagine it at the palm of your hands, . . . now, let it go. Let it go. What's left is you and you have the power to create.

-Eve, Seal