This morning was another of those mornings that I wake up and discover an e-mail in my inbox from a frustrated and confused fledgling artist, who wants to know...
"How do I make it in this industry?"
Man, I wish I knew. I wish I had a magical, one word response, that would make it so everyone who wants to be an artist can succeed and make a comfortable living at it. But I don't think there is such a word.
Maybe some mixture of "all of the above"? I can't even tell you how frustrated I have been at times. I have questioned whether I really found my calling, or if I was just kidding myself. At times it feels like I have been lunging at the same hurdle for the past 7 years, trying to figure out why I couldn't get over the dang thing.
My personal hurdle is responsibility. I was never really taught to be responsible, although my parents often complained that I wasn't, and my irresponsibility has plagued me my entire life. Well, until recently, anyway. Once I figured out what was getting in my way and decided to deal with it, it's been surprisingly easy to overcome.
See, I really did think I was a responsible adult. I didn't realize that I wasn't, because I didn't really understand what responsibility means to me. I knew what it meant to other people, and I exhausted myself trying to live up to that ideal of responsibility, but I never felt satisfied.
Responsibility to me means eating better, exercising every day like I should be doing, answering every last e-mail I get every day even if it almost kills me, getting time-sensitive work done on-time (and ahead of time if possible!), and cleaning up my studio every. single. day.
I know, boring, right? But there are other personal hurdles that many of us have to overcome. Fear of success. It sounds stupid, because the thing you want the most is success, right? But do you really? It means a lot more work than you're doing now, more attention, more rejection. All of that can be very scary, especially for someone who isn't used to it and can't just shrug off rejections.
Once you learn to get out of your own way, it's a lot of trial and error and the things I mentioned before. You can't give up because you get a rejection, or because you only have four fans on Facebook. You have to keep telling everyone about yourself and your artwork. Be active in art communities, post on art-related forums, make up postcards of your art and have the guts to send it to shops and try to get wholesale orders. Grab every opportunity that you see, and don't be afraid to ask questions.
As you go along you will learn all kinds of tricks of the trade. I look back at some of the stuff I've learned over the years and laugh at the thought of what it would look like to a normal person, let's call them non-art folks muggles, inside of my brain. Probably a lot of nonsense and way too many ideas of what you can do to save a painting with a cotton swab.
Sometimes you will have to flip burgers on the weekends, sometimes you won't be able to buy the expensive paper you really want. But if you keep trying and never take "no" for an answer, you will eventually make it.
Besides, who wants to give up completely and wonder for the rest of their lives what might have been?