Thursday, January 22, 2009

Paying It Forward

Over the past few years, a number of people have asked me how to become an artist – or, rather, a successful artist. Even non-artists have asked me how they might go about having a different career (and income) doing what they enjoy, what they find most fulfilling.
I offer encouragement but never advice. During the early years of my career, all the advice I was given was counter-productive – if not downright wrong. In the end, each person, whether they're an artist or not, has to figure out what works for themselves, in a way that suits their individual ambitions and needs.
I did OK for a while working things out as I went. My paintings were exhibited in commercial and curated exhibitions and most sold. I earned a meagre amount of money from the sales: it barely covered the debt I'd accumulated buying materials. I continued to live at home because I couldn't afford to rent my own bedroom, let alone a studio. I drew and painted up to eighteen hour days, seven days a week. Somehow, I still managed to hold down a McJob.
There's a common myth that if you work hard enough, long enough, you'll achieve your dreams. I don't agree. Sometimes it can just grind you down.
Trying to imitate someone else's career doesn't work, either. There's no magic formula for what I've done that will help someone else succeed.
However, I do think that everyone, at some point, needs some outside help.
The core of what eventually enabled me to take control of my career and turn it into something that not only supported me financially but also become the stuff of my wildest dreams, was a period of inspirational mentoring. This took the form of a series of serious, practical discourses that broke down my inhibitions – or, more precisely, the prejudices I had about how things were supposed to be done – and challenged my long-held assumptions and beliefs. They also enabled me to see who I really wanted to become – as opposed to who others had told me I was supposed to be.
I began to realise just how much had been holding me back from what I wanted to achieve. And even though I thought I knew what I wanted, I didn't know how to go about getting it. As I learned about who I really wanted to be, what I really wanted, and what my needs were, I also learned how to go about making them real. I don't think this could have been done alone.
With a different perception, a different approach was possible. A new strategy for my life and career was designed. I learned the emotional and business skills I needed to execute it.
It's not about a specific set of questions or a single, one-size-fits-all approach. I've seen the person who mentored me take completely different approaches with others – approaches that respond to each individual's different circumstances and aspirations. That's why it works. It's not an easy process. I was pushed harder and further than I thought I could bear. Deep thinking was demanded and no excuses or self-pity were accepted. I lost count of the times I was called out when I was bullshitting myself or him. I learned to be braver than I thought I could be.
It was confronting. It required commitment and hard work and compelled me to step way outside my comfort zone. For these reasons, I hesitated to recommend it to others, even when they asked about it. However, lately, I've been thinking that it's an experience that should be shared, especially in these hard times when so many people are having to revise their lives and career plans.
Anyway, I'm thinking of asking the rather extraordinary person who mentored me to host a workshop at my studio in Sydney. If you're interested interested in attending, email me your contact details. This is one experience that could change your life.
It changed mine. Totally.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think when you said this...

This took the form of a series of serious, practical discourses that broke down my inhibitions – or, more precisely, the prejudices I had about how things were supposed to be done – and challenged my long-held assumptions and beliefs.

I think that is exactly where I am at right now... challenging the pre-set assumptions and beliefs - why are we limited to galleries? I came to realise that having galleries isn't a bad thing if you use them to your advantage, my issue was that I felt out of control because I was waiting for the gallery to do the work for me when in reality I can just pick it all up and forge on ahead without her anyway. I'm feeling a lot better now as I've realised I'm in control of my own art, and not the other way around.

I agree in not giving artists "how to" tips.. sometimes its just about getting through your own issues I think.

Lauren.

Anonymous said...

Creativity is Freedom of expression in all of us ...
During our living life we try to express and translate our unique vision of this world.
In my personal experience i'm still considering myself as a free human being...I had always sale or trade my different works without to integrate the system...Mainly because
i can't stay in a precise category and i consider than all the art appliqués take a certain amount of technic...before you can express yourself...Amateurs are not so interested by the technique ...
I choose to learn myself technically art through my life ...

I have lot respect for artist who do one thing of their life and achieve...But i have a different perception of the gallerist ,householder of art,dealer,negotiator,auctioneer...
In our world of today ....i can't still believe we have to pay so much to live our life...
the only profit than an artist should be proud of it ...is the real value of his work and not estimation on speculation ...
Yes on these Hard times so many people learn how they gonna live their life instead of the others...
but it's true than we all need at some point someone to help you...Friendship is not negociable and that the best value of the human being.
Everyday i bought myself instead of paying it forward.
PACE LOVE RESPECT 2009

Cathy said...

Thanks for sharing your story. I've always been curious how successful artist start out. And you are right when you said that we have to find our own way of expressing ourselves.

I feel I'm in at the crossroads where I want to pursue something purely artistic but a part of me won't let me do that completely. And you couldn't have said it better,

"This took the form of a series of serious, practical discourses that broke down my inhibitions – or, more precisely, the prejudices I had about how things were supposed to be done – and challenged my long-held assumptions and beliefs."

Great entry!

Amanda said...

For the out of towners, what about a virtual event?

Jason Barre said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, feelings on these experiences.

It reflects a current change in my life as I confront attitudes and behaviors that no longer serve me.

Bella said...

What an excellent idea.

Is there any chance you can film the event or host it live online please? Tempting as it is, I won't be able to fly from London to Sydney for it.

Mike Wood said...

"There's a common myth that if you work hard enough, long enough, you'll achieve your dreams. I don't agree. Sometimes it can just grind you down."

Finally someone says it like it is. Lately I have been feeling that all the people who spew the positive love all the time have been drinking the Koolaid too much. It sometimes just doesn't work for everyone and I guess thats OK too.


Being positive is one thing. Being ignorant of reality is another. It is also good to realize its OK to ask for help. Good advice, Hazel.


And it would have been interesting to see a videotaped workshop.

joverine said...

please please offer a virtual or recorded version...I can't afford to fly from Canada (hoping to change that this year but...yeah for now it's not happening)

I'm sick of barely surviving! I'd love to live the dream-and day by day I'm more and more ready to break down the barriers-but something's in the way!

I'm hoping something like this could help