What being an Artist has taught me

I am an Artist.  Like most Artists, I do a whole bunch of different things in my daily life other than directly ‘making’ art.   The basis for most of this other activity is economic,some Artists resent this, but I enjoy being engaged in organisations and having a source of income separate from my art.

what being an artist has taught me 2However, no matter my ‘professional’ title I still describe myself as an Artist …who works as [insert job title].  The growth of creative industries has made some changes to how the title of Artist is perceived but entrenched negative stereotypes persist. You know the ones; that Artists are flakey, lazy and temperamental.  In reality alot of professional Artists work tirelessly towards their vision, creating exceptional work with often incredibly limited resources.  And our world is richer for their efforts.

I am not going to be a hater and reserve ‘Artist’ for a privileged few who I see fit to carry the title.  If you want to have a three month binge in Berlin and legitimise it by saying you’re an Artist, fine (for all I know that is an art in itself).  The Perception of what an Artist is, or is not, is negotiable, just as much as the term ‘art’ is itself.  At the same time, I believe it is important to be proud of your professional training and practice.  Being an Artist is a legitimate occupation and the skills I continue to learn as an Artist inform everything else that I do.  

So here goes on a not definitive list of what being an Artist has taught me:
Take risks and stop trying to control the outcome
Years of making drawings and installations has taught me the best and most enjoyable work comes when you allow yourself to be surprised.  Have faith in your skills and discipline and you will find your work by doing.  In collaborative projects control kills, why bother collaborating if you are just seeking a division of labour? 
Discipline and creativity are not in opposition: as Woody Allen says “80% of success is showing up”.

Being disciplined and having structure, is different from controlling. It is said that creativity cannot be taught – that it just comes.  But if you happen to be sitting in your studio, or with the tools around you to capture it when it does – then you are on your way! One studio teacher at art school said “some days the best thing you can do is just go to your studio and read a book”.  This applies to everything – even when you are not inspired– show up and be prepared – you will be surprised what will happen.

Courage in the face of adversity: Vision building
“Why do you spend all your time making something that ‘noone’ is going to see?”
“Why do you want to be an artist, they all end up on the dole (social security) anyway?”
“Only 1% of Artists ‘make it’.”
“Unfortunately we have chosen not to exhibit your work this time.”
“I think your drawings are holding you back, I see you more as conceptual artist (read: I don’t think you can draw)”
“Why don’t you get a ‘real’ job?”
“last transaction cancelled: insufficient funds”

Sound familiar? I am sure just about every Artist has had to defend their work/vision at some time.  Artists create a vision, make something ware nothing was before and get people on board. These are exactly the same skills as those required by entrepreneurs.  The plight of the founder/entrepreneur is continually celebrated in the media for their ability to face adversity, build a vision and despite the odds, succeed.  Artists do this everyday.

How to make something out of nothing:  the farts and sticky-tape principle*
From a blank piece of paper, to an empty bank account or an empty room, Artists are pretty damn good at coming up with ways to make cool shit happen out of nothing. This is not to justify the terrible pay and conditions most artists endure but to highlight this unique skill.With no budget or support – just a vision – Artists continually re-think their economic and physical realities, I believe this is what they call ‘thinking outside of the box’.
*thanks Andrea Tu

what being an artist has taught me 1

How to make myself relevant to other people
The reality of being an Artist is that no one is sitting around thinking to themselves, I really need another Artist or there really needs to be another exhibition this year.  Well not in the same way as someone needs an Engineer or when there is a skills shortage of Electricians or good Developers.   Making yourself relevant is therefore a survival skill. Artists have unique and transferable skills, organisations and industries need us, matching these together I have had the opportunity to work with some inspiring people and organisations.

As an Artist I have done all of the following: had creative thoughts that were transformed into physical reality,communicated ideas, organised events, marketed, worked independently and as a collaborator and managed projects. I have also become really good at painting walls white ;)  Beyond creating professional opportunities, making other people understand that you/your product/your skills are vital for any industry because what they represent is creative innovation.  What about you? I am up for extending this list!

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