Well, here I am at almost 4 am. I'm not complaining, quite the opposite, in fact. One of my favourite things to do is get up during the wee hours of the morning, grab coffee and get to work while the rest of the world are still quietly tucked into their beds and it's still and quiet. It's like for that small slice of time, I have the universe completely to myself. Today, I thought I'd share some of the mistakes I've made along the way as an artist and what I've learned from them. You don't spend over 20 years doing something without having a few flub ups. But before that, I do want to give a huge shout out to feedspot.com for adding me to their list of the 25 best art blogs in Canada. I was notified yesterday that I made the cut, debuting at number 16. Not too shabby for a guy who wasn't too sure he wanted to have a blog in the first place and had to be convinced to try it by a very persuasive and stubborn person who shall remain nameless (although I think we all know who I mean). The link to the list is blog.feedspot.com/canada_art_blogs/
With those preliminary comments out of the way, let's get to the main point of today's post, my screw-ups. We all have them and, really, they're good thing as long as you learn from them.
1. Trying to be "the artist who pleases": Of course, as an artist, I was like anyone else, I wanted approval, I wanted accolades, I wanted people to like my work and to collect it. Art is such a personal expression that when it's either accepted or rejected, it can sometimes feel as though the creator him or herself is being accepted or rejected. So, starting out, and for quite a while, I painted to please. I'd allow others to dictate, in some sense, my artistry. "No Carl, don't get to abstract, best stick with easy subjects.to understand." "No, Carl, don't use that much (insert colour here), use this instead, it's better." You get the idea. The problem is that while I was pleasing those around me, I wasn't pleasing me. I wasn't allowing my own artistic voice to be completely heard. The result was a frustrated, and somewhat resentful artist. As my confidence and comfort level grew, I became stronger in my ability to stand firmly in my artistic truth, and that's a great thing, for me, for my work and for my collectors. The lesson, always listen to your inner voice.
2. Not taking good advice: On the flip side of the above, while it's important to listen to and honour your inner voice, it's also important to know enough to know what you don't know. I spent years rejecting good advice, especially in terms of business and marketing. I'd be a millionaire if I had a nickel for every time I would say, "I painted them, so I know X, Y, or Z." The problem with that line of thinking was of course, it was completely false. What I know is painting, that's it, that's all. I know nothing about web design, running a business, accounting, marketing, or any other task even remotely associated with the business end of an rt career. And you know what? I shouldn't know them because I suck at those things. The lesson here is take the good advice and leave the bad, know what you don't know and surround yourself with people who do know those things. And when you find that person, or those people, listen to them. Case in point, I mentioned being reluctant to write a blog. Well, it turns out that it was probably the one thing that has expanded my art career more than anything. It gave me more of a presence, made me more visible and therefore enabled me to get more shows and let more people in the world see what I do. And, it's fun!
3. Getting carried away with success: I was very fortunate to have people begin to collect my work pretty much as soon as I picked up a brush. Of course at first, these collectors were friends, coworkers, family, and friends of friends. But they were still willing to pay cold hard cash for my work. I hate to admit it, but I got a little carried away with myself for a while, became a bit arrogant and was absolutely sure that these early successes were a clear sign that I was pretty much and art god, and I began behaving as such. You know, putting on over affected airs, being demanding, expecting my ill mannered behaviour to be excused as of right because, "hey, I'm an artist". Here's the problem, no one likes an arrogant jerk who walks around fancying himself a god, art or otherwise. The lesson in this one is pretty obvious, yes, I have a unique and wonderful talent, but it's just one wonderful talent in the millions that exist in the world. There are other talents I don't have, so this one doesn't make me super human. I'm just a guy who paints, painting is what I do, it's not who I am and it doesn't give me a licence to act like a big turkey.
4. Thinking size is everything: I went through a phase where I was absolutely convinced that for a piece to be powerful, it had to be huge. The bigger the canvas, the better the piece. I still like big canvases, they're super fun to paint on, but the power of a given piece of art is in the art itself, in what's on the canvas, whether it moves you, stirs emotion in you or makes you think. That can be done on any size canvas. The lesson here is size really doesn't matter so much.
That's enough for now. I'm sure I could go on, but I'm getting hungry.