I thought it might be a good time to have a candid chat about worries, and how I am guessing a lot of people who are involved in art creation (all kinds … this certainly doesn’t seem to be a problem just for visual artists) probably end up angsting themselves into a hole and thus not getting anything done.
This has all come to mind because my postcards finally arrived yesterday afternoon. Super excited about this as I’ve never actually done a proper, full-on mailshot before, but I’ve heard from other blogs and a couple of books that I’ve read that they can help raise awareness of what you do and drum up a certain amount of business in their own right.
Okay, great. I’m writing out a bunch of addresses right now and have decided to make sure this is actually going to work*. But this sort of task always gets me to thinking about all the things I am insecure about in my work. Stupid stuff. Unhelpful little thoughts that get me no where. Usually the spiral of thought goes something like this:
“Am I an artist or just an illustrator?” “Does it matter?” “Can I be both? Is that even possible?” “What if someone tells me it isn’t?” “I use lots of different methods to create work … it doesn’t always look the same! Oh GOD, the blogs on the interwebs say no one will ever buy anything I create if I work like that! I’m a failure before I’ve even begun!” “How will anyone ever take me seriously if I create work on the one hand that’s stupid and fun, and on the other want to make serious stuff?!” “I’ll never be able to sell work that looks like X if I’ve already started to get known for work that looks like Y” “No one will like it anyway, it isn’t fashionable” “No one will like it anyway, it looks too much like some other person’s work” “No one’s going to like it, are they?” “I’m not good enough” “I never will be” “doomed to obscurity for all eternity” “I should be an accountant instead, shouldn’t I?” “accountancy is a safe option, oh why didn’t I listen at school, this art thing is a crazy idea, etc etc etc”
It goes on. Round and round and round. It refuses to shut up. You’d think it would go away after you start actually earning income from what you do, or when you start to get some recognition for your work, but nooo. I find it very disheartening that my own brain is probably my own worst enemy when it comes to finding artistic success and financial stability. I am pretty sure I am not the only one out there who falls into worry holes like this one, so I am going to give us all some advice. Take it or leave it, but this is how I am currently trying to battle the Worry Wart Monster:
BEATING THE WORRY:
1. If you don’t want to, don’t pigeon-hole yourself. Okay, first with all this “Artist? Illustrator?” stuff that’s going on in my head. First of all I am a human being and defining myself as anything lesser than that is bound to lead to trouble at this point. If you need a label, go for the title you prefer. I think of myself as an artist, because I create for myself first and foremost, and I pick medium to suit message, rather than get messages assigned to me because I am good with a certain medium. I write. I paint. I make films from time to time. I make a substantial amount of my (small) income from illustrating, which, for me, is an application of the skills I have learnt through visual exploration and the cultivation of a visual language which, personally, I like to be fluid enough to suit the mood of different stories and situations.
2. Creative fluidity is vital to keeping your brain fresh, so stop worrying about that That ability to break apart and remould what you do is what allows you to grow and develop as an artist. This is a classic. It’s easier to market your “brand” if you have a kind of signature look, or a signature musical sound or writing style, but get too stuck into that groove and you’re going to rot. If you have one particular mode of working, that’s fine, but you should always allow yourself to grow and evolve. That, of course, isn’t hugely helpful when, like me, you’re still just establishing yourself and you want to be recognised for SOMETHING in the first place, but it’s creatively healthy to experiment.
3. Just create! Create, and get it out there and show it to people. Going around in circles in your head isn’t going to help anything. If you’re at a stage where you feel you need to try lots of different things, then do it. Keep doing all the different things until you find a good reason not to (something clicks, say, and you find a way of working that really suits you … that also doesn’t have to last forever. Just look at Picasso and his Blue Period, or Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust era work). From my initial experience, btw, there doesn’t seem to be any reason not to try and get your work seen or sold at this point and people who tell you otherwise are unhelpful. It’s not as easy having an experimental identity, but it can be managed. Your body of work will amass. Just let it come naturally.
I think that last point is the main one, really. Less worrying, more getting out there and doing. Get over yourself; your life is not a chess match. You can make mistakes. “Wrong” moves are part of the process. Learning in public is important. Your work can evolve. Don’t be ashamed of that. You can paint huge, serious fresco-style murals about political struggle and still make stupid comic books about llamas if that’s what your practice needs. Writers do it all the time (extreme example, but look at Shakespeare. One of the main things we admire in him was his ability to deal with both epic tragedy and farcical comedy), so why shouldn’t other artists? You are not doomed to obscurity as long as you keep plugging away at it.
On that note, I am going to go and deliver a whole pile of postcards to a bunch of art directors. Because I can do this, dammit. I’m far better with paintbrushes than I am with spreadsheets. I’ll leave the accountancy jobs to the people who actually want to do them.
*In case anyone’s reading this but doesn’t know me, I am an early-career artist who gets a fair amount of work illustrating comic books and coming up with packaging concept designs, but my main passions are movement, body-language and colour (can probably save all my chat about reasons behind my work and all of that for another post though). I don’t have everything figured out. I am not the voice of authority on these things, just someone trying to work stuff out as she goes along. Probably much like yourself.