art

7 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Become an Artist

I’m writing this more for myself. It seems like the more I pursue my art career, the more opportunities open up, and the more daunting it becomes. As I’ve said in the past, I’m personally struggling with a very odd Fear of Success (versus the fear of failure. Only instead of not trying because you’re afraid of failing, you don’t want to try because you’re afraid you’ll succeed and can’t handle it). but if you guys think this list is helpful to you too, then that makes me happy! Let’s all go through this journey together!

1. The Internet

Today is probably the best time ever in the history of art to become an artist and make money and recognition in your lifetime! Back in the olden days, you had to be lucky and make friends with a rich person who really really REALLY believed in your work enough to pay you a full salary to sponsor your work. Otherwise, in the less recent time, you had to push to get your art exhibited in galleries (I highly recommend you still go this route for reasons I will explain in a future blog post, but for now, let’s be excited about the internet) where you have to pay a fee for them to show your work and if you are lucky enough to sell any, most of that money will just go back to the gallery. Putting your art in galleries may actually LOSE you more money than you gain.

Now, you can post your art for free, and if you keep at fostering your social media presence, you will eventually gain a following which will put you in contact with people who want to buy your art. Yes, you do have to compete with other artists, but you may forget that this is not a zero-sum gain. Just because one artist gets a commission doesn’t mean you don’t get that commission. You can also make passive income by selling digital prints, eBooks, Patreon, and numerous other places. With the internet, it’s difficult to put all your eggs in one basket, and that’s a good thing!

2. Whatever You Love Doing: There’s a Niche for It

Art is one of the most frustrating things to go into as a profession because what’s “In” in the art world changes so drastically. When I brought my sketchbook to a Portland gallery, the gallery owner noted I did a lot of figure drawings, and those just weren’t “in” right now.

Read my previous point. If you build a following on the internet, it doesn’t matter. Someone will like what you’re doing.

Not only that, but there are infinite numbers of communities for what you’re doing. Even if what you’re doing is purely original, which is unlikely because humans are bad at being original, you will find a niche.

If you like painting waterscapes and fish, fishermen will probably want your art, if your faith is important to you, you automatically have an audience of people in your faith who are probably DYING for the kind of things you create, if you love painting cats and dogs, you have a lot of people out there who love their pets and would be delighted to have you paint a portrait of their beloved Sir Colonel Fluffikins III.

So Fluffy

And yes, I know I sound like a broken record when I say “Do What You Love” but I mean it. If you’re working on something because you think that’s what’s “in” right now, you’re not going to care that much about it. When you try to sell it, you’re not going to have that same enthusiasm and conviction that makes people want to buy it (if you don’t care, why should I?), and you’re just going to be frustrated.

So, do what you love. It’s not as hard to find people interested as you might think.

3. You Don’t Even Need to Be Good- At Least, Not Right Away

I believed that before I had any business pursuing a career as an artist, I thought I had to be good. I don’t even know why I thought this, because there are many teenagers out there on the internet who are already making a living making videos of their art and pride themselves on how they’re learning, and simply want to be an amazing artist when they grow up- as they should!

The truth is, a good artist should always be learning. As a general rule of thumb, I found that no artist believes they’re really “good.”

Not only that, but look back at history. The most remembered artists of the 20th century didn’t create the most beautiful, realistic artwork, their expertise lay with creating a strong message behind the artwork, shaking hands with the right people, and marketing.

So, it doesn’t matter if you’re good, as long as you keep at it, love what you’re doing, and do the necessary research along the way, you’ll be fine. You may not get rich, but that’s not the goal, the goal is to be an artist and make enough to get by.

4. There’s Parts of it That Might Suck… Just Like the Job You’re Currently Working Now!

You’re smart enough to know that once someone becomes an artist, there’s a whole lot of challenges to face along the way and after the fact: keeping a business going, deadlines, customer relations, taxes, and there even might be viscous and jealous competing artists. This may be what’s keeping you from pursuing your dream as an artist, that these may be things you don’t want to deal with.

As opposed to be the job you might be working at now, you’re working for someone else, they may be malevolent and send you home every day with this feeling like you’re not worth anything, the work you’re doing is soul-killing and not doing any good for the world, maybe even making it worse, and it may be affecting your attitude, your family may find you unpleasant every time you come home from work, and things will only continue to get worse.

As opposed to working for yourself- you may not make as much money- but you’ll at least have the chance to do something you know is meaningful. You will come to the end of your life not having regretted doing what you really love.

5. Even If You Don’t Make it As an Artist, You Will STILL Pick Up Skills that Job Seekers Like

I do not advocate dropping everything and starving yourself to be an artist. It’s good to have a fallback plan. Take comfort in knowing that not only do you have one, but by following your dream, you will be even more equipped, proficient… and desired, in said fall back plan.

I actually want to write more on this topic, but one of the things that keeps me going, even though I’m still new, is all the skills I’m learning along the way to reaching my dream of being a stay-at-home artist.

I thought of the skills I was learning that jobs seekers wanted: utilizing social media through a business perspective, waking at 5 am to work on my art career before going to my 9-5 job, customer relations, setting and keeping deadlines, sales, photo editing, marketing, website development, etc. Many of these were not skills that I learned how to do in school or at other jobs, but they were skills that I learned while pursuing my own art career.

It’s easy to think that it may not be worth it in the end to become an artist professionally, that you’ll be spending so much time and money on art, no one will want to buy it, and it will all amount to nothing.

Not so.

Even if you make art that nobody buys, you will learn many other skills and develop habits that will be attractive for future job seekers.

6. You Will Fail… A Lot

The reason why I personally don’t have a fear of failure anymore is because I I know I will fail… many many times.

You will fail to make the masterpiece you want, you will fail to make online sales, you will fail to get the number of followers/subscribers you want, you will enter that Call for Artists, and you will fail to get in. You will fail many many MANY times. And that’s okay. I know, it’s still discouraging when something doesn’t work out, but that’s part of the journey of becoming an artist.

With every failure, you will learn something, the next time you try something, you will approach it a wiser person.

It’s also satisfying to know that you are not a quitter. That the world is out to get you, and knocked you down so many times. Just to spite it, you got back up and kept going. Nothing will keep you down!

Pictured: You.

You are a warrior! You’re a lion! You’re a Viking!

You’re not afraid.

That tingling feeling in your nerves… that’s excitement. You’re going to go back out there and fight! Everyone will see how impassioned you are, and they will either cheer loudly with you and follow you to victory… or out of fear, they will get out of your way.

7. It Takes Time, but It’s So Worth It. And Fulfilling

Becoming an artist is not something that happens overnight. It takes a lot of time. You’ll find shortcuts along the way, but for now, what you have is a cute little baby snowball.

You keep packing a little snow here and there, and it’ll get bigger. You roll it down a hill, and it will start to spiral and get so big you don’t know what to do with it (which is why I’m writing this blog post right now).

I know that ever since I decided to dedicate a minimum of 30 minutes every day to my art, I go to my day job feeling happier and more fulfilled. I have a sense of purpose and understanding of who I am because of my ambitions and goals that I dedicate a little time every day too. I am more resilient, less anxious, and stronger because of the habits that I spent the last several months accumulating. Because I actively look for things in other peoples’ art that I like- and used my art to build a philosophy of focusing more on creating the world you love instead of tearing down the one you hate- I am much less introverted and enjoy being around people more.

I like the person I am. Especially since I decided that I was no longer going to be afraid to be the artist I want to be.

Now go out and be the artist you want to be!

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Fear of Success

So, we all know about the fear of failure. I feel like too many of us are too afraid to put the work in to whatever our dream is- not because we’re lazy, exactly, well, maybe that’s part of it, but there’s this crippling fear of failure, rejection, essentially that you won’t succeed in whatever you’re doing. I can’t tell you how many Calls for Artists I didn’t participate in because I thought, “Oh, they won’t accept me anyway.”

But what about the opposite?

The fear of success?

What about the fear of achieving your goal only to find that you can’t handle it?

Personally, I’ve had a couple of instances where my art was accepted for exhibition, but I didn’t tell anybody about it. I’m not even sure why. I just didn’t.

There are so many easy things I feel like I could do with this website to better present my artwork: clean it up, have a separate section where I show art I’ve sold/exhibited/gave as gifts, but I’m afraid of doing that too.

I think whenever you’re trying to start something new, learn a new skill, improve a skill or whatever, it’s just as important to consider why you don’t want to succeed instead of why you don’t want to fail.

When I was trying to improve my attention to detail for work, I found that I had this very subtle feeling of resistance. There was a part of me that didn’t want to improve. So, I more or less had a conservation with that part of my brain, it was like splitting myself in two people: The rational me, and the “inner child” me that didn’t like change or anything that would equate to growing up. So, I wrote a list of ten reasons I didn’t want to improve, then ten rebuttal answers. That made the process so much easier. I don’t know how much this exactly improved my attention to detail, but after that, I didn’t feel any resistance.

Yesterday evening, I found a new trick that would get more Instagram followers- which is essentially following more people who follow the pages you like. I added on to this strategy by liking five art pieces of other peoples’ stuff and commenting on at least one thing. I didn’t know how big of an impact that would make- just thought I’d try it out. I woke up this morning to find I had 15 new followers overnight- that’s about how many I get per week. I know 15 isn’t a big number, but it is compared to my usual weekly followers.

In that moment, I felt like a dog who was chasing a car then finally caught it.

I’ve thought about my art journey over the past year, and I’ve been told my whole life that being an artist, that it’s a hyper competitive field and that it would never go anywhere without a backup career- I don’t remember who in my life said that, but that’s what I believed. This past year though, I found that the opposite is true. The more I put myself out there, the more shows I sign up for, the more active I am on Instagram I get more and more successful- even if it’s just a little bit at a time.

I now have 200 followers on Instagram, I’ve been exhibited in four shows, and I’ve even sold artwork.

I’ve been trying to build my following to help my art business for a while, but this huge jump is making that “what if I succeed and can’t handle it” anxiety set in.

  1. What if I get a lot of followers who want to buy my artwork, see that there’s practically nothing in my Etsy shop, then leave?
  2. What if I get more requests for commissions than I can handle?
  3. What if the quality of my artwork falters due to increase in demand?
  4. I love art so much, what if doing this as a regular job causes burnout and I end up hating it?
  5. What if I’m successful for a while, but then suddenly stop?
  6. What if my tendency to work on something at full blast, then my tendency for complacency and burnout sets in that ruins everything I’ve worked so hard for?
  7. What if this causes me to only paint one specific thing? What if this prevents me from experimenting, or improving since people will want to buy only one type of art from me?

Well. As of now, I can only think of 7. Time for the rebuttal!

  1. Getting a lot of followers going to your Etsy shop will probably encourage you to post more listings and be more active on Etsy. Once you make a couple of a sales, that will build momentum to keep going.
  2. That’s silly. You can have a limited number of commissions. You also probably won’t get “more commissions than you can handle” for a long time.
  3. That’s a real possibility, another real possibility is the quality of your art will increase since you will have no choice but to keep working on art, practicing, and getting better.
  4. Again, another likely possibility. The reality is though that most people don’t like their jobs they didn’t go to school for or get passionate about. At least this would be a job that you know has a lot of meaning.
  5. Like you suddenly stop making money? Or your following stagnates? As long as you keep doing what you’re doing, that won’t happen.
  6. Yes, you have done that in the past: work on something at full blast, freak out, then burn everything, but you have been doing that less and less once you decided you were going to keep doing what you love instead of what’s “popular” and especially since you started competing with the person you were yesterday, AND especially since you adopted the “long game” philosophy where sometimes you’re ahead, and sometimes you’re behind.
  7. That would suck. But it would be very much like how your life is right now. You’re working a 9-5 job doing something that you didn’t go to school for, and you’re spending your mornings and free time building your art business and your following. If art did become your 9-5 job, then the time you would have spent trying to make that dream happen would instead be experimenting and working on other art.

Sometimes, we just need to treat ourselves as someone we’re caring for. We need to realize that the people most responsible for holding us back is ourselves- we then need to listen to ourselves: honestly listen to our fears, then in kind, give ourselves a little bit of encouragement and reassurance that no matter what, everything will be fine.