What I Learned: A Year of Arting
I recently did a quick Instagram post reflecting on what I was doing artistically last October compared to now. I got a pretty positive response to that (literally, the most likes I have ever gotten to be honest, haha) so I decided to write my first ever blog post going more in depth about what I learned as an emerging artist.
My artistic style is what I love to paint, not what I think I should be painting.
I started out painting these triangular, geometric abstract forms that vaguely resembled landscapes and icebergs circa 2016 - 2018. I thought they were cool, I enjoyed painting them and they were not like anything I have ever seen. I started posting these on Instagram in 2016 not with the intent to sell but just to put my work out there. Seeing, connecting with and following a ton of other artists and seeing their art was both amazing and deflating. I would see the coolest artwork that was both abstract and hyper real and wonder if that's what I should be doing to get more followers/attention. I thought that a "real artist" should also be good at painting realistic subjects like people, figures and still life. So I would paint and draw (not very good, at least by my standards) people and faces if only to post these to show that, I too, was an artist that can make these things. After a while I realized that I actually hated drawing and painting anything other than what I'm doing now. Now, I'm sure I can improve my drawing and portrait painting, maybe take some figure drawing classes. But I have to admit that I really don't want to, I'm not interested in it...and that's okay.
This is not to say that I don't love hyperreal and realistic artwork. If I had tons of money I would probably buy out all of CJ Henry's work.
If I have not received any opportunities, I will make my own.
I'm not really a "woo-woo" type person (you know, with the crystals and manifesting goals, etc) but being a podcast/YouTube junkie I came across the idea of putting your goals or wishes out to the universe and something like the universe having your back and making it happen for you. For me I think this happened when I started telling friends, family, coworkers, etc. that I am an artist and wanted to be a professional artist. It was almost as if saying it out loud made it true and in a way made me accountable for making it happen, so I started dedicating more time to painting and creating a series of work.
So I was making art and posting it on Instagram and on my personal Facebook page. I would have positive responses from mostly friends and family (of course) and some internet strangers and when my following grew a bit I would be happy. BUT. It was something I couldn't really control other than the usual advice of "be consistent" and post at this time every Tuesday or something like that. I knew I wanted to grow more but all of the professional artist advice I heard was to seek out galleries and apply to juried shows and that was something I knew I just wasn't ready for.
Then I came across Rafi and Klee, a married fine artist and jewelry artist on YouTube. I decided to take their advice of trying to be "local famous" instead of world famous when starting out. Luckily, my hometown of Peekskill, NY is pretty art focused. I had always thought it would be so cool to have my artwork in the Peekskill Coffee Shop and one day I finally had the guts to inquire about it. The owner said they would love to have my work and I got to have my work solo featured all over the shop for the month of March 2019. Having my work out in public, in the flesh, with actual people sitting under it drinking coffee and seeing it in person and getting positive feedback from actual people standing in front of me, was the coolest thing I have ever experienced. Plus, it was free and the shop gets a lot of foot traffic. I didn't even care if any of it sold because it was such a major step for me to get out in public and tell people "I'm the artist" instead of seeing a comment written out on a screen. After that I got a couple more opportunities (and sales, woo hoo!) to show my work in public and the experiences and awesome people I have met have only served to keep me going and feel like I'm part of a community. Check out the Bott Shoppe (they run the Mamaroneck Art Walk every year) the Peekskill Coffee Shop and Kurzhal's Coffee for exhibiting opportunities in New York.
If I can't quit my day job, I can at least get it to work for me.
With the help of my husband (my part-time photographer, unofficial sketchy manager and all around employee of the month) I cut down my day job hours to part time to begin fueling my full-time artist dream. Working in fashion retail actually fulfills my fashion junkie tendencies and since it's not an actual job that requires me to be artistic I get to save all of my artistic energies for when I'm actually painting. I do more on the visual merchandising side, so I also take note of all the interesting colors, patterns and trends of the moment, saving that for when I need the inspiration.
An important mindset switch I also made was to stop thinking of my day job as wasted time I could be painting but as an investment towards my artwork. Having a main steady stream of income definitely helps me to focus on making the work, putting it out there and being myself in the process. I'm able to make decisions without constantly worrying about making an income and turning into a pushy salesperson.
With that being said, I have also had to be wary of Shiny Things Syndrome. You know, when you get distracted by something that seems great now but not really sustainable? Take it from me, it's a dream killer. I have done this time and again in the past expecting a different outcome and it's never worked for me. An example is when I took promotions from past jobs thinking that, yes, I'll use all the extra money I'll be making to buy more art supplies (which I already had) and guess what - I bought more art supplies but had no time or energy at the end of the day to make anything, so I never did and ended up devoting all my time and mental energy to my day job. If anyone out there has ever been a fashion retail manager, they will know that it takes a mental and physical toll. I had extra money but it felt empty because I earned it doing something I didn't care about. Now, disclaimer, because I know there are people out there who don't have the luxury to turn down the opportunity to make more money, this is just something that I am making work for me at the moment. I have to remind myself that "I am an artist first" and decide if anything else is an investment towards my goal or not.
Don't worry about the gatekeepers.
The last thing I'll write about is how I stopped worrying about the "gatekeepers" aka art snobs. Impostor syndrome is a thing and from what I have learned even famous illustrators like Lisa Congdon had to get over it. In a nutshell, whatever kind of art you like to paint, draw, sculpt, etc., someone somewhere is going to think it's awesome. I have learned that someone somewhere will resonate with your work and hand you money to have it. If you're worried that someone out there will look at your work and say "but that's not art" you only have to look through Instagram and see every artist making the most amazing and sometimes questionable things who are out there and absolutely killing it to know that that statement is bull. I have learned that you don't need to be in a fancy gallery for people to see, appreciate and buy your work. That being said, I knew that I had to start at the bottom. With the experience I had, there was no way I was going apply to some blue chip gallery for representation. For now, exhibiting at local places and doing it for the 'gram is working out. Plus, with social media these days, artists have more control over how they sell and exhibit their work. So don't worry about people that don't like your work. They are not your people and that's okay. You don't like every artwork you see so you can't expect everyone to love your work. Like they say in marketing, if you cater to everyone, you cater to no one.....or something like that.
Thank you so much for reading this first blog post! I'm sure I have more to learn and I will definitely be posting about it. Please comment below and let me know what you think and what I can do better.