Sunday, April 18, 2010

Being a Professional Artist and the Blank Canvas

I think the best thing about being a professional artist is that every day you and you alone decide what to do and how to do it. I think the worst thing is that every day you and you alone have to decide what to do and how to do it. Aside from all the hats that you have to wear as a small business person,(which you are if you are a professional artist), is the simple idea that you have to make stuff from nothing every day. You have to take all the stuff, the studio gunk; paint, pastels, whatever and make something. It's both burdensome and wonderful. To concern yourself with color, line, paint, brushes for your job is sublime. I can imagine other work that is fulfilling and exciting, but I  know that if I didn't get to smell and touch and see paint, pastel, canvas, paper every day I would miss it sorely.

It's hard to take all the ideas you have swirling in your head and distill them into a body of work. It's hard to go in a direction a stay there for a while. This is the hardest. I have too many ideas for this, too many things to paint. But heading in a particular direction for a bit is good to do, for a lot of reasons both creative and commercial. My husband always tells me to just paint and not get too caught up in the "how" or "where" of it. This is good advice too, because good things always come to the surface if you just paint.

To be a professional artist you have to have a lot of trust in yourself; a lot of faith. You don't have to think you are the best, just that the work has merit. What does that really mean anyway? And aren't we all worthy and good enough for exactly where we are at at any given moment? I think so. So I just paint and all good things will follow. It's like going to the gym, you never regret going, but you regret not going.

A lot of doubt creeps in when you don't get that gallery show you were hoping for or get accepted into a show. You can't take these things personally. You have to take them like a professional, not a condemnation of the work. This is hard stuff when making art is such an intimate and personal experience and process. Thinking about making the work and selling it as two very separate entities has helped me.

Having faith in yourself also means that you have to invest in yourself. If you are a professional, you really have to look at yourself as a small business that you have to capitalize. Buy the things you need to make your  work and spend enough for a website, marketing etc. Don't live in a scarcity mentality about the work.

Being a professional artist means being kinda brave. Stepping up to the empty canvas each day and starting new, having unwavering faith,(well almost unwavering) in yourself and the work. Taking some risks both creatively and financially in support of the work. Working hard, really hard and finding a certain joy in that. You have to stay with the joy, because it's much easier to work for someone else!

7 comments:

Last Cup Of Coffee said...

I agree and thank you!

Sonya Johnson said...

Very sage advice; I should print this out and post it where I can read it from time-to-time again during those periods of mental/creative funk.

Thank you for sharing this!

Cathyann said...

Well said Marla, may I quote you? We have all thought this along the way and have to keep repeating it to ourselves in the quiet of our studios...but you nailed the main reason we keep painting: for the joy it brings.Thank you!

Jala Pfaff said...

Good words.

My hardest thing is to pick one direction and stay with it for very long. I just continually want to try new styles, techniques, media, etc.

Jill Stefani Wagner said...

Great thoughts for all artists. I tend to get very excited with a subject matter and then bored very quickly. Maybe just burn out. But I have been forcing myself to work on series so that I can learn more on each piece...

Jill Stefani Wagner
www.jillwagnerart.com

Marla Baggetta said...

Thanks all for following and your lovely comments!

Anita Stoll said...

Great post. It's easier to work for someone else but not near as much fun, excitment, freedom. Having worked for someone else I'll take this anyway.