In March of last year, 2017, I decided to embark on a creative journey to see what I could really do if I gave myself the opportunity to create professionally. Ripping that band-aid off was the start of something I’d only imagined, proceeding down the colorful rabbit hole of self-discovering and paint. I pushed myself, 32 years worth of suppressed creativity. Ideas began to overflow and my hands struggled to keep up. A style began to emerge and a body of work grew, and so did the expectations I had for my work.
In my first year as an artist, I had created 70 new pieces. I'd finish one, collect all of the lessons learned and apply them to the next piece. Each painting stemming from the very thing I struggled with in the painting before. Progression became more of a battle within myself. I’d try to raise the bar, reach a goal, only to see another area that needed more work. At this level of madness, shock value dissipates when an improvement is made for any audience. And pretty soon the planet you started on becomes a small island. And when you look around, it’s just you out there. This is where it becomes real.
Progression is slow and steady. I feel like a lot of people throw the towel in here. The last two months I've heavily shifted my efforts into the business aspects instead of actual studio time. There's a ton that people don't tell you, such as being solicited by marketing agency capitalists, vanity galleries and art magazines are a thing. Rejection is something I had prepared for. I'd spend an hour filling out one tedious application for an exhibition, for 2.5 seconds later to receive an automated email response with the first line reading "Thank you, unfortunately..." With any business, learning how to balance time effectively and efficiently is important for success. When you're an artist, your career is dependent on the idea that people will like what you're doing. And when they don't, you have to put that rejection somewhere.
That puts me on the topic of what defines success. How far do you go? When do you quit? Being an artist means being vulnerable. You put yourself out there completely, for all eyes to see. When I produce a new piece and place it on display for the first time, a part of me is hanging from the wall...and that part is naked and someone left the lights on in a big, unfamiliar place. If a thousand people walk by without spending a second to see what's there then it's because of 3 things....1. I'm displaying my work to the wrong crowd. 2. How I'm presenting my work sucks. Or 3. My work sucks.
So how far do you go? How long do you push? The answer should be pretty simple....And it's as far as you can. Until the train comes off the tracks, derails and crashes into the side of a mountain. And if your legs still work, then you can climb the mountain. And if your arms don't work when you get there, you paint with your toes. The art of being an artist is a piece that will never be finished. An artist themselves is their most valuable piece of work. Using criticism as a tool for learning and allowing room for continuous growth is the key to being a successful human, and it's probably the same for art. Either way, I'll let you know when I get there.