I have in recent days been reminded of just how important attitude is to anyone working in the Arts.
Sure you can claim that ego and attitude are the same and sometimes you’d be right, but now every time. In fact the attitude I want to talk about is not the “King of the World” stuff, but the quiet, inner self-confidence which supports the creative person working alone.
You have to have IT.
No, silly not that IT, that’s for keeping your network running which can be important to your attitude but it isn’t the It I want you to focus on, it’s the It which makes you keep working on what you know is right even if everyone else says, “You’re nuts!”
I’ve said before that this is the only business where one’s value is measured by someone else. That’s true but it cannot be allowed to damage your self-worth. Sure, selling is a hard rough, mean part of the business of art, but keeping your head together is just as important.
There are at least two components of every artist’s life, the part where you can’t fall asleep or get out of bed fast enough, where there aren’t enough hours in the day, where the thought of taking time to eat, sleep or bathe is just too petty to interrupt your work and the part where you have to suck up to some Philistine and make them like you so that you can sell them your work.
And it is hard to keep the two parts apart.
See I’d rather be working on the pictures I’ve taken, twisting and turning and manipulating them, making ordinary things into fantastic dream images, but oddly enough, most people don’t want that in their kitchen. They want nice cats or still life or boats. Boy, talk about strange, remember where I come from a boat is what you take to Hubbard on Saturday to drag the skiers around and hope like hell one of them is a girl in a tiny bikini. But a working boat? Nope, you just can’t catch much fish in the Trinity.
That’s the river which used to run by Dallas. It has been used as a filtration system for raw sewage for so many years that the smell on a warm summer day can take down an Apache attack helicopter at two miles and the only things which still live in it are turtles and alligator gar, fish so mean and ugly they’d make Godzilla yank his toes out of the water. Course no danger of that cause no human would stick his toes in that green/gray sludge which oozes by Dallas. Yeppers, working on a boat is not something I have much understanding of, but I know around these parts folks get positively weepy about boats, sleek boats, fast boats, old, rusty, dead, sunken boats.
So I know that if I want to finance my manipulations there are boats in my future.
And I do go looking for images of boats and the water which I can make into selling art.
Then there’s the part when I get to play.
I find something which catches my eye and the idea comes and before you know it I have a memory card full and am sitting in a darkened room staring at a computer screen making the images change before my bleary eyes. Fun, fun, fun…
But oddly enough not so many folks want to pay for my fun. They think I ought to do something they like.
So there you have it, the sad story of art from the dawn of time, fun or money?
Fun can’t win that one. You have to do what the client wants and make it work for their eye or they just don’t pay and then you can’t get out to recess and do that thing you do.
How do you survive working for someone else’s taste when what you want to do is make your own stuff? Painters have always had this problem. They get commissions from clucks who want to look better than they are and you have to make them or they just don’t come across with the clams.
It’s that attitude I want you to think about. That little voice which says, “I’m right and everyone else can go to…”
But while you are saying this artist’s mantra keep one eye on your image, cause it is so easy to slip from confidence to arrogance.
The opposite is true too; you can loose your attitude and never venture out for fear that you just aren’t good enough.
Remember what I said at the beginning of this tale, art is ultimately judged by someone else. You may be right, you may not be good enough to satisfy yourself, but maybe the buyer doesn’t have such exacting standards?
You just have to get out of the cave and take your art with you. You don’t want to be like the Cro-Magnon kids, you paint wonderful images on cave walls and then have to wait two hundred and eighty-seven thousand years for someone to find it?
Maybe the Gen X and Y’ers don’t do the cave thing, ever think about that? If you aren’t going to stick up for your own art nobody else will.
So here we are, back where we started, ego or attitude? Probably you need some of both. Enough self-confidence to keep working on what you believe in and yet enough self-awareness to know when you are joining the lemmings, guys we live too close to the sea to be lemmings!