So you want to be an artist? Or maybe you know an artist and damn, their life looks pretty sweet! I mean we just sleep till noon, then we crawl out of bed and play around with paint as and when we please and wait for the money to roll in, right? What a gig, sign me up! Yeah, I thought so too, but I was wrong, really, really wrong. So, here are 10 things you probably don't know about being an artist, and that I sure didn't know:
1. Art School Doesn't Make You an Artist: One of the most frequent questions I am asked is where did I go to art school. Well, I went to the finest, most prestigious university the world has to offer, it's called the School of Life and the only tuition was my own motivation, blood, sweat and tears. My ivory tower of learning was the local public library and my studio labs were held in my dining room. I'm not saying art school isn't for anybody, of course it offers value to those so inclined and it can teach you a lot about art history and technique. However, if you're thinking about art school, you likely already have the first and most important ingredient to becoming an artist, talent. That M.F.A. isn't going to make you any more talented. The letters behind your name are a great achievement and you can probably talk about your work using bigger words than I do, but it won't make your art any better. In fact, some of the best artists in the world were self taught, think van Gogh
2. Art is a Business, and a Really Tough One: When I first picked up a brush and discovered I was pretty darn good at this thing, I had visions of completing pieces and them just flying out the door as throngs of people clamoured to give me their money. Well, it isn't exactly like that. As it turns out, art is a really, really tough business. No one bothers to tell you that. No one bothers to tell you that you can paint your guts out and produce the most beautifully unique works and you can show them to as many people as you can possibly show them too and there they sit, on your wall. Nope, they left that part out of the recruitment brochure. Art, like any other commodity is a business and it must be marketed. There are no lazy days. And the days aren't filled with romantic notions of carefree painting by a sunny window. There is, of course, carefree painting by open windows, but before and after that there's never ending hard ass, work. There's marketing, constant marketing, networking, both in the real world and the virtual. There's research, seeking out opportunities to show and sell my work. And then there's accounting, number crunching, if you will, coming up with prices, calculating expenses. And unless you either are fortunate enough to be able to pay someone else or have a spouse or a pal that is willing to do that crap for you for free, guess who has to do it? Yup, that's right, you.
3. You'll Get ALOT More Dates: This one is kind of funny, but it's true. Since I started painting and become better known, my "marketability" on the proverbial "meat market" has gone way up! I'm not the worst looking guy in the world, actually, I'm probably decent enough looking, but seriously, I'm a chubby middle aged man. But somehow, being an artist gives a person extra sexy points. Maybe it's the romantic notion of the hot, brooding artist alone in an abandoned warehouse, painting with all this passion until the bored Manhattan housewife shows up to commission a piece, and a piece she gets (innuendo intended)! I have had women, and men, both in real life and online, proposition me, ask me out, follow me around, become absolutely besotted with me whatever. There's something about being an artist that other people find very interesting and sexy. But as you all know, I'm happily taken. I'll happily sell you a painting, if there's one you're interested in, but I'm not going on a date with you, I'm not hooking up with you, ever! I've got all I can handle right here at home. But hey, if you happen to be a single artist, well, this is a super fun and unexpected perk of the job.
4. As You Begin to Make It, You'll Have Lovers and Haters: I think this applies to anyone who becomes successful in their respective fields. People who hated your guts when you were just "Carl, the strange guy with a paintbrush", who were nothing but discouraging and downright mean, all of a sudden are lined up, lips puckered, to wish you well. Well, to those people, I say this, if you didn't like me before, you'll like me even less now, I'm the same strange person I was before, so keep those lips puckered, I know what you can kiss. Then there are those folks that you actually thought were your friends, or family, who you thought had your back, who you thought actually wished you well. But surprise, surprise, as your star begins to rise, these people scatter like rats, throwing accusations about how "you've changed" as they run from you. Those are the folks that can only handle you as long as they feel their life is superior to yours in comparison. As soon as you do well, it upsets the balance and they can't handle it. To them, I say, buh-bye. Thankfully, there are always that core handful of people that actually do wish you well and are there for you and for them, I'm grateful.
5. Success Can Be Hard On The Head: Of course as an artist, you dream every second about being successful. You pine for the day that you can paint and people will hand over hundreds or thousands of dollars to possess one of your works. When it beings to happen, it's exciting and wonderful! Here's the problem, it's a total head trip too. If you don't have someone to keep you grounded, or if you're at all prone to the pitfalls of ego, you can get a God complex and become an insufferable jerk real quick! Yes, you are a wonderful artist, you do something most others could never dream of doing, but keep it in perspective, as much beauty as you're bringing to the world through your art, you're not curing cancer or solving world hunger here.
6. Every Piece Is NOT a Masterpiece: You're an artist, and by now, a decent one with a pretty good collector base, and of course you want every piece to be a masterpiece. You want everything you do to be nothing but your absolute best. However, just like with any other profession, you aren't at your best all the time. There will be duds, those paintings that just aren't masterpieces, but may be the underlay for a masterpiece. It's okay, you're not Midas, everything you touch isn't golden and no one expects it to be. Cut yourself some slack, even artists are only human.