This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. She's blogged since 2002 about the business side--and the spiritual inside--of art. She says, "I share my experiences so you won't have to make ALL the same mistakes I did...." For ten years, Luann also wrote a column ("Craft Matters") for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explored the funnier side of her life in craft. She's a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines, and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer.
Maybe we can earn a living with it. Maybe we can’t. But it has to have a place in our lives.
Again with the art students visiting my studio! This one will be short, because I’ve written about this a lot already.
We would all like to make our art, all the time. We all wish we didn’t have to stop to go to school, or go to work (if we hate our job), or any other duties and chores that don’t fill our cup.
The reality is, some of us will be “successful” artists, and a lot of us won’t.
I talk a lot about how we measure our “success” as artists. Some make money at it. Some of us have to make money at it. Most of us wish we could make money at it, at least enough to pay its expenses. And some of us wish, someone, anyone, would at least say they like our art.
The reality is, wishing does not make it so. And there are good things about making money at it, and things that are not-so-good about making money at it. Fame is a tricky thing, something we all think we want, at least until we read about the issues really famous people deal with, every day, all the time.
Keep in mind this isn’t just about painting/drawing/sculpting, etc. Every creative person experiences this. I was complaining to a writer friend that I’d read two wonderful books in a series of three, each with a cliff-hanger. But when I tried to find the third, I found it was never published. Why would an author not want to finish their story??
My friend explained that the writer was probably offered a three-book publishing contract, but if the first two books didn’t sell well enough, the contract would be cancelled. How humiliating to finally get a chance to share our stories with the world, only to be told (in so many words) it wasn’t “good enough” to finish.
In fact, some of the world’s most famous artists never achieved fame nor fortune in their lifetimes. And some were notorious for making it all about the money. (Thomas Kinkade, for example.) And even Pablo Picasso famously paid a bill with a check and informed the recipient that his signature on the check was worth more than the actual amount of the check. Salvador Dali would draw on his checks, for the same reason.)
I didn’t know any artists, only the ones featured in The Book of Knowledge, my only source of information as a young person. (YAY, INTERNET!!!) As I grew up, it became clear that there were famous artists that focused entirely on their career.
It also became clear I would never be able to do that. For one, I wasn’t very good. (Another untruth I had absorbed: You either had talent, or not.) Because I wasn’t “good enough”, I quickly concluded there was no way I could support myself pursuing art as a career.
But after many years, I realized I had to make room for my creative self in my life.
A friend sent me this in the middle of a particularly tough year. Thank you, Amy Johnson!!
Because it kept me sane, and grounded.
So first we make it for ourselves, because it calls to us, and we must answer. We know the joy of something that intrigues us, excites us, something that tells us to bring it into the world no matter what.
And then we put it out into the world, to connect, and inspire, and perhaps support someone else to do their creative work.
In fact, isn’t that why these young people were in my studio? To see what it looked like to be an artist in this modern world? My job was to share with them the work of my heart, and then to encourage them to make theirs.
That is why I told my young visitors to keep art in their lives, in some form or other, to continue to make their work, whether it supports them, or not, whether they sell it, or not.
They got it.
Oh, I know they may forget. They have a long life ahead of them, with many twists and turns, many ups, downs, and sideways.
But my hope for them is that someday, when they are feeling “less than”, when it feels like the world doesn’t want what they do, that they remember this day.
I hope they always know there is plenty of room for more art in the world. That their art matters. That they matter.
Okay, done! Now go to your studio and make some art! And if you have a story about how your art saved you and/or someone else, please share. Because someone may need to hear your story, today.
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