Top Five Lessons I Have Learned in My First Year As A Full-Time Artist
- Be Nice. This is a great rule for life in general, but it’s very important in an art career. I have always tried to be nice and cordial even in the face of critique and rejection. Early in 2015 I submitted work for a juried show and was devastated when I didn’t get a single piece in the show. I vented to my wife about it and kept my composure when out in public. About a month later I was hosting a reception for one of my installations and met the director of the venue for the show my work was rejected. We totally hit it off and even found out that we were both alumni from the same art college. I could have easily gone down the dark path and bitched and moaned about how I didn’t get into the show, etc. We ended up talking for a while and about a month later the director invited me to be a part of two shows she was curating. Months after this, I had a booth at an art festival and more times than not, viewers recognized my work from those two shows and purchased something from me. So it definitely pays to be nice, plus it feels much better than being a jackass.
- Work Smarter, Not Harder. I worked hard in 2015. Extremely hard. I was busy left and right and I kept piling on projects. I think this was due to 15 years of backed up ideas and wanting to tackle it all at once. I booked a string of solo shows whenever and wherever I could. It was very rewarding, but there were times I overexerted myself and the payoff (either financially or the recognition) left a lot to be desired. Around this time last year I spent almost a month on a grand idea for an installation/time-lapse project that never panned out. It required some engineering, formulae and a lot of trial and error. I eventually scrapped it and put it on the indefinite back-burner. A month! What a waste! Not only did my grand idea not come to fruition but now I was a month behind on bills and other tried and true “secure” art-making endeavors. Organization is key. I started a spreadsheet for 2016 which is broken down into months. I have categorized and prioritized my ideas. This way I know what I’m concentrating on and marketing for that month. I have a category labeled “Side Projects” and these are the projects I work on a little at a time on the weekend or in the evenings after my main work is done. That grand idea of mine would definitely be put into the Side Projects label!
- Take Breaks. When working, I get into the zone and I am one to forget about lunch, maybe even dinner and work into the night, burning the midnight oil. Sometimes when a deadline is just around the corner, this kind of work ethic is required. However, on a regular day-to-day basis this approach is at best, creatively damaging and at worse, extremely unhealthy. Breaks are so important for your body, mind and artistic soul. Breaks can relieve eye strain, back pain and general muscle tightness. Breaks can relieve creative blocks and limited perspective. Eat an apple, get outside the studio. Go for a short walk with your dog. Take those breaks and don’t feel guilty. Breaks are a must.
- Don’t Compare Yourself to Others. Futile and pointless. Everybody has their own path and that is what makes us all unique. We’ve all been dealt different hands, chosen paths and had life throw us curve-balls. Find your own path and enjoy the ride!
- Inspiration is a pipe dream. Don’t wait for inspiration. I’m going to borrow from the amazing Chuck Close: “Inspiration is for amateurs – the rest of us just show up and get to work.” Get out there everyday, don’t wait. If you can’t think of anything to draw, paint, sculpt or photograph, go back to the basics. Go back to still-lifes, Go back to portraiture or figure models. Go back to landscapes or gesture drawing. Art is not a race and their is no finish line. It is a journey. Now go enjoy the journey.
oil on wood
© 2016 Will L. Eskridge