I have probably made every mistake there is to make as an artist. Let me clarify this. I used to view a mistake as not doing “it” correctly by someone else’s standards. Well, that was a mistake. Probably the biggest. I realized that I had to stand by my own standards, no matter what, for the work I make, how it lives in the world and how I choose to spend my time making it.
I learned awhile back that you can accomplish a goal and feel extremely disheartened in doing so. Why was that? Why was this great thing happening and I felt miserable. Looking back, I realize that I had let got, just a bit, of my own standards in order to accommodate the standards of others. Was it worth it? Well, I have no regrets and I relish learning from my experiences. And what I discovered in the process was to never relinquish, even just a bit, what I know to be the right way for my work and myself.
Owning this decision was revolutionary and freeing. A feeling of deep satisfaction that I am the expert of my “world” and it is up to me to set the standards for it. I was reminded of this when I read a recent article in Artsy: “Jacob Lawrence on How to be an Artist”, by Allexa Gotthardt.
Lawrence stated this about being influenced by trends, particularly the commercial art scene:
The act of being self-assured can come instantly for some or it comes over time, a learned response from how you feel when you don’t fully trust your own instincts. As artists there is a long established way of doing things that can often feel impenetrable. It seems natural to follow someone else’s guidelines for how to get “it” right.
As artists there is a moment, or two or three, when you know you have struck on something wonderful. A nugget you breath life into. Your work has to become your own, fully. Something that your willing to commit your time and energy to regardless. Just as the work needs to veer away from those whose work you admire and learn from, your way of putting that work into the world should also come from a place of self-assuredness. It has to feel right.
Strategy is great, but how does it sit with your gut? Is it your strategy or a template that you are following? Learning how to be an artist is an expansive, ever-changing and evolving phenomenon. The possibilities are endless and one can get distracted by someone else’s agenda.
It is an innate sense of knowing that has become my single guide. I pay attention to it, even when I don’t have the words to articulate it. That inner sense is there for a reason and I abide by it faithfully.
Did you enjoy reading this?
Subscribe to be notified when new articles are posted.