As artists, one of the most crippling obstacles to our advancement is self-deception and this can happen at any stage in our career.
Particularly though, it can set in quickly when we are just beginning. Family and friends will rarely tell us that our work is awful even if they think so. In fact, they will tell us how marvelous our work is and how talented we are, mainly to be encouraging and polite. It is here though that the rot can set in before we have barely started. It is so easy to start believing that we are great artists if we surround ourselves with comments from those we love – we need other eyes to see our work. More than this, we need to see our work together with other artists’ works. I believe it is only then we see our own work in context. It’s not a case of seeing where we are in the pecking order of the art world, it is a case of seeing we can improve on our own work and that we really want to go in that direction.
In reality, we often don’t want constructive criticism – it can often be hurtful even though we may bravely ask for it. We need to be able to do it ourselves and this happens when our art hangs with those of others. I have spoken to other artists and they agree, that what may seem pretty good at home, takes on a whole new view in a mixed art show! Even after 10 years of solid work and over 50 awards later, I still feel my work does not match what I thought of them at home – and this is good.
Acknowledging our work could be better is the first step to progress. Look at other art you think is better than yours and ask why and learn, but don’t be discouraged. Let other artist’s work be an encouragement and taking up the personal challenge of improving our paintings will enable us to grow. There are many artists who haven’t budged an inch in 10 years as far as quality goes – don’t be one of them.
Does your work connect?
The answer to this question is found when you exhibit. Asking your family, friends and painting buddies will not reveal whether your works really connect with the public. The only way is to put them in shows. Pick a place at a fair distance from one of your paintings and observe what people do when they get near it. They will either walk by or stop. If they stop to look and linger for a while on a regular basis, you will know you have succeeded in attracting their attention and engaged them. Not every one can buy, but everyone can show interest if it engages them. One of the great joys of being an artists is watching your art at work.
Exhibitions give us focus
Being involved in exhibitions of any size will give us focus. Without the goal of painting for an event, we can be lazy in our output and intent – it’s just human nature. What can be done at any time can languish in the land of never-got-done. Having a deadline and goal will help us along and blow away those studio cobwebs.
Show & sell
Exhibitions give us the opportunity to not only show, but sell. In the beginning, selling our works can be a problem as we like to keep hold of favorite paintings. Learn to let go of what you do. A painting sold is a painting that will live on and give other people joy and happiness. Selling completes the artistic cycle that started with a concept in the artists mind and ends up living on in someone else’s home and becoming a part of their life. One of the most rewarding parts of being an artist is avoiding complete self-absorption and reveling in the joy it brings to others.
+ You can view Mike’s original post here