“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”-Pablo Picasso
At some point in life, many of us aspired to be some kind of an artist — a painter, a writer, a musician, a dancer, etc.
However, life may have beaten that dream out of us. Some of us lose determination over time while others may focus more on other aspects in life and lose interest.
Some of us listen to bad advice, like how impractical certain desires are, and allow the naysayers to crush dreams before our very eyes.
However, some of us still uphold the dream and fight the good fight. The path of an artist is different for each person, and along my path, I’ve been lucky enough to meet many wonderful artists of various media.
From their advice, navigating adversity and embracing self-discovery, I was able to become a professional of sorts, and now, young aspiring artists often ask me for advice.
Usually, I offer the following tips that I’ve gleaned from my mentors and learned myself along the way:
1. Never speak negatively about your art.
Many artists will admit that this is a constant element of self-doubt present throughout the artistic process.
However, there’s also a business side to art: you are trying to sell your product or your services. Believe in what you’re selling if you expect any customer to do the same!
2. Be yourself rather than whatever’s popular.
Nobody understands you more than you understand yourself. Use your art to express who you are instead of what’s trending. Too often, I see artists swing from a popular art trend to another popular art trend.
For the love of God, be original! You have a voice and you should use it. Stop trying to mimic other people’s voices. Trends end — they always do. Would you rather swing from trend to trend or have your own sturdy, timeless style?
3. Don’t compete.
Around every corner, there’s another art competition. But for me, art is a lot like love in terms of it not being a competition at all.
Everybody’s different, so be yourself and let what happens happen. Just love what you do and don’t compare it to what others do.
4. Nothing’s free.
You will often hear, “I can’t pay you, but it will be great exposure!” You must value yourself and not give into these offensive offers.
If the customer doesn’t have money, that’s fine. But in this case, barter for something if cash is off the table. I’ve received a custom guitar, made specially for me, by bartering.
5. Be encouraging.
Artists need a network of other creative types to help motivate and inspire them. At any level in one’s career, kind and encouraging words are helpful.
If you are an artist and you try to eliminate “competition” by telling someone he or she is a sh*tty artist, then you are just a trash bag full of horsesh*t.
There’s a huge difference between destructive and constructive criticism — always aim to be helpful.
6. Learn the damn fundamentals.
You don’t have to go to art school to grab a book and educate yourself on some basics. For example, if you are going to draw people, then try to get the proportions right.
I have seen way too many great pieces ruined by T-Rex arms or too short of a torso. There are plenty of books and websites available that can help you. No excuses.
7. Never stop learning.
You think you mastered your art? You’re wrong. You will never stop learning or developing your art. As you grow and mature, your craft should as well.
8. Watch your ego.
Just don’t be one of those pretentious douchebags. It’s perfectly fine to love and be proud of what you do, but there’s definitely a line.
9. Don’t give up.
You’ve dedicated years, dollars and countless hours into developing your skill. So if you’ve gotten knocked down, get back up and keep moving forward. Why would you give up? Why put in all that time, blood, sweat and tears to just throw it all away?
A common reason why artists fail is that they get caught up in other aspects of their lives, put their artwork on hold and, eventually, the creativity starves and dies.
The people who don’t give up, no matter what life throws at them, are more likely to make a name for themselves in whichever creative vocation they choose.
It’s likely that your network will help you more than your college degree will. “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is a very true sentiment in the art world.
Go out, meet other artists and stretch your network as far and wide as you possibly can.