Thursday, June 23, 2016

5 Things I Wish Someone Would Have Told Me About Being an Artist

I have a Bachelors of Fine Art from a four-year university. I managed to graduate, but that whole experience didn't do much for me as an artist. Looking back, there are so many things I wish my teachers had said/done/offered to help me in my journey as an artist. I was shy and didn't feel comfortable reaching out to any of them so I didn't have any mentors. I didn't even know that finding mentors was a thing you could do! I think many of us are looking for someone to see something special in us and want to help us, especially when we're young and directionless, but I got the impression that most of my teachers were only teaching to have some sort of income so they could focus on their own artwork. I get that but it didn't help me, so as someone who teaches now too, it's really important to me to get to know my students and figure out the best way to help them meet their individual goals in art. If I had to do it all over again knowing I wanted and needed to have art in my life, I don't know that I'd go to college at all. So here, in no particular order, are five things I wish someone would have told me about being an artist:

1. Prepare to get naked. Being an artist means being brave enough to bare your soul through your work. When you create and share your work, you'll have to come to terms with how different people experience your work. They'll love it. They'll hate it. They'll think it's weird, wonderful, maybe not worth the price you ask. Some people have no problem with sharing their work; many of us find it difficult - at least in the beginning - but there's nothing more liberating (and nothing better for your creativity) than the day you accept that it doesn't matter what other people think.

2. Learn from others. No matter how good you are, you can always learn more. You can always get better. Find mentors whom you admire and who want to help you succeed. Keep your mind open to both new ideas and constructive criticism. And if you think you're completely original without influence from anyone else, you're probably just kidding yourself. Everyone and everything around us informs our work whether we use that information consciously or not. So in this sense, it does matter what people think - but only the people whose opinions and critiques will help you improve your work.

3. Discipline yourself. Develop an art routine and build strong habits. Don't rely on talent. Passion and dedication will take you further and bring you more personal satisfaction than natural talent ever will.

4. Perfection is a myth. Good enough is good enough. Telling yourself a piece is "good enough" and then moving on is totally legit. Working on a piece and making progress is one thing; getting hung up and stuck on it is completely different. And paralyzing. Give yourself permission to move on.

5. Don't ignore your urge to create. Choosing to live as an artist may be difficult, but choosing to ignore the pull of creativity is even harder. There are moments when I'm upset with myself because I'm not out there trying to eradicate diseases or eliminate poverty. Then I remember that what I do is what I was born to do, and it has its own sacred place in this crazy world. Artists feed the soul and inspire dreams. What's not important about that?

What else would you add?