Advice for Artists – New, Young, Seasoned, “Aspiring” or Established

This was just a FB brainspill that got a good response. People asked me to put it up, so here it is. This artwork below is by Android Jones, and it’s just there because I like it.

Android Jones

1- Keep your word, hold your commitments. If you cannot, give fair notice.

2- Professionalism is a form of currency you can sometimes use instead of actual money. When you use it wisely it gains interest in the form of true respect and a solid reputation, which are worth more than actual money.

3- The idea that you only have a certain “window of time” in order to “make it happen” is a myth perpetuated by an industry and an economy that was built to prey on both young consumers and young creators. It is always looking for fresh blood to exploit, so it passes down the pathos that the only things of worth are those concerning children. I could write about vampirism and youth worship all day. My point is, anything can happen at any moment in life, given focus and intention. “I’m not getting any younger” is something I hear artists say when life as an artist is starting to look scary and uncomfortable ….getting older is not a reason to stop being a creative. If you suck or you have no purpose, or you’re running out of ideas and not evolving creatively…those are good reasons to hang it up. Not getting older. Because our society is vampiric doesn’t mean you have to be.

4- Focus on cultural impact, rather than fame or numbers.

5- Finish what you start. Be consistent. (See #1)

6- Give people more in value than they are paying for in time and/or money. Time is the thing most of us have the least of; why should we spend it on you?

7- Do not set impossible standards, they will never be reached (that’s why they’re impossible), and you will never get anything truly accomplished. Do the work, put it out, then move on. There’s no such thing as perfect, and the history of the arts shows us that imperfection is sometimes the best thing ever. A body of work is often more important than a masterpiece.

8- Stay current. Stay competitive. Stay a fan of the new (whatever it is you do). Stay ahead of the waves. If you get jaded and bored with what’s out there, it’s your own fault. If you want to be a leader in your field, stay abreast of the trends, the trendsetters, new techniques, what’s popular and what’s not. Pay attention to other artists work who are not well known. Just because you don’t know about something doesn’t mean it’s not worth knowing about. Leaders cannot lead from behind.

8.5- You cannot expect people to support you if you don’t support other people. You cannot expect support from your fellow artists if you do not support them.

8.5.5- If you don’t like being on the receiving end of radio silence, don’t dish it out. Respond to people who reach out to you. Come up with a system for it if you’re overwhelmed.

9- You are only “aspiring” as long as you view yourself that way. The outside world cannot be allowed to define for you what you’ve accomplished. Only history can do that. In the meantime, consider viewing yourself as “working”, it has more grit. “Aspiring” is a word that has been handed down to us, and we’ve accepted it. It might not be accurate. Question it’s use.

10- Never forget to create for creation’s sake. It will be easy to get caught up in the “I have to make a career out of this” grind, and everything you do might be tied to a project or some kind of work. Always keep something going that has nothing to do with anyone but you. A private creative laboratory, safe from aspirations, goals, deadlines and outside opinions.

11- Learn how to take and give feedback. Also, learn when… 95% of it is about timing.

12- Stop it with the 100 balls in the air thing. It might look and feel impressive, but really no one cares about all the shit you have going on. When somebody asks what you’re working on, you should be able to tell them in three sentences or less, and in less than 20 seconds or the span of 7 breaths. Focus.

13 – Stop it with the wild goose chases. I’ve seen many an artist walk away from a good thing because something else came along that looked more promising, or they got tired….and the new thing ended up not being that….so they move to the next…and so on. Building something requires focused, sustained effort over an expanse of time. Moving around between projects without having fully built something before leaving is the mark of an artist who is fearful of commitment to anything but a sure shot. (See #1)

14- Be easy on your heroes. They’re human. One day you might be someone’s hero, and you might need them to be easy on you. It’s a cycle.

15- Be careful in conversations with non-artists about your career, or those who cannot relate. It’s no fault of theirs, but they can often only see things in a “you’re either famous or your striving to be rich and famous” dichotomy kind of way. It’s tough for them to understand anything but fame being the mark of success, because that’s what they’ve been presented in this “aspirational” society. I say be careful because that perspective can rub off on you, and it’s detrimental.

16- Luck is a huge part of everything. Never take it for granted, give thanks when it comes. As an artist you’ll need all you can get. And when your luck is down and nothing is looking up, whether you can keep going and hold your commitments (see #1) is the true test of what you’re made of.

Good luck.


One thought on “Advice for Artists – New, Young, Seasoned, “Aspiring” or Established

  1. #10 is truly resonating with me at this very moment. Thank you for sharing such an eloquently written “mode of living” for those who ‘work’ beyond the vision that has been constructed for them.

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