I was responding to a comment on my blog when I realized just how long ago I wrote my last post! *Blog Shame*. I sit before you with my head hung low as my big toe draws circles in the carpet. I don’t know where the time went, well, I do, but I can’t believe how quickly it has gone! Trust me, I thought of writing many, many times but always managed to get sidetracked with all those ‘things’ that need doing. Believe me-all of them good-some of them are even great!
I teach Professional Practices-which means I am helping young artists take the first step to growing their careers after art school. I. LOVE. MY. JOB. I am keenly aware of what it is to not love what you do so I feel incredibly grateful to look forward to every aspect of my work.
After two semesters I am beginning to see certain patterns develop when it comes to attitudes. Some are influenced by the ‘idea’ of being an artist as opposed to the REALITY of being an artist and this creates a bit of conflict. In some cases, a lot of conflict. I remember the philosophy/ideology that permeated my education and it left me confused and frustrated at times. I recall a conversation that went a little something like this:
‘I have to say, this is a nice painting’
‘I mean, you really have something here.’
(anticipatory silence on my part)
‘I hate to say this, but you might actually be able to sell this painting’
One thing I never thought going into art school was that I was doing it for any other reason than than improving what I do in order to have a career. Now, correct me if I am wrong here….Career=$$ to make a living.
One caveat-there are those that make work from a place that is separate from the commercial drive and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that-so, no hate mail please. I respect this. I just happen not to be one of those-I love creating art and I love being paid for it and that isn’t wrong either.
Here’s the rub-often (too often in my opinion) young artist’s are taught that there is something wrong with making money off of your work. Do we educate lawyers and expect them to practice without remuneration? Uh, I don’t think that it works that way. Now passion-that is a different story-whether an artist or lawyer-if you have passion for what you do, then that is all the better AND if your passion leads you to do it pro-bono, then that is a calling and you can’t argue with that. Go for it. If, however, your passion leads you to do it to pay your bill,s then the same goes for you-Go for it.
I try to prompt my students to not settle into waiting for their careers, the galleries (that is a whole ‘nother conversation), the commissions and the offers to come to them. I encourage them to figure out what ‘success’ looks like and then take the steps to get there…here is my ‘last day’ pep talk…
Everyone defines success in different ways. That doesn’t mean that one way is better than another, just different. The way you define success and how you go about getting there is entirely up to you. Make the choice-because it is a choice every single day-to be the best at what you do-whether a visual artist or a designer. Don’t fall victim to the voices that tell you you are ‘less than’ anything. Only you can do what you do and it is ONLY YOU that can make it amazing. DO THAT. Period.Figure out what works for you. Do you want to teach? Then work towards that. Do you want to find that dream job? Then do the hard work to get there. Do you want to ____________________? You fill in the blank and then take the steps to get there. You will get out of life exactly what you put into it-kind of like school. Don’t show up? Don’t do the work? Don’t stick with it? Get hung up on the wrong things? Don’t give it all you’ve got? Make excuses instead of progress? Then don’t be surprised when you don’t make the cut, don’t make the grade and don’t get very far.Remember this though-the path that gets you to where you want to be will not always be the path you think it should be!! Seldom does a career follow a strait line or even a simple arc-it is usually circuitous or up and down, filled with blind corners and unexpected turns. Be open to the possibilities that come from unplanned opportunities. Make the best of these because, ultimately, they are what make you better along the way.So, make the choices that will make you the best at what you do: Take care of yourself. Be healthy. Never stop learning. Never stop caring. Make eye contact. Move forward. Do the work. Do the work. Do the work. Find good. Be the good. Make a difference. Give. Receive. Work hard. Enjoy. Laugh and never, EVER, give up.I will end with the words of e. e. cummings–and one of my favorite quotes-
“To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”