Showing Up

Creativity is only a day dream without action. Lots of talented, sensitive people have great imaginations and are regularly unlocking hidden, undiscovered thoughts and ideas that lie within, and without.

What separates the artist, and the entrepreneur, from the rest is the ability to innovate, to take the idea and make it work in practice. This, of course, is why it is such a great struggle to be a successful artist or entrepreneur:  Life isn’t fair.

The tough news is it’s hard to break down barriers.  Innovative concepts and radical ideas are never easy to sell.  Indeed, the more innovative, daring and new, the more obstacles the status quo will erect in your way.  Artists, just like entrepreneurs, have to show up every day and persevere in markets where acceptance comes slowly.  Seeing something through to the end and not being satisfied until all of it is accomplished takes discipline, expertise, and great will.

Sole Proprietor

If you are a visual artist, you are most likely, the sole proprietor of your business.

Whether it’s a sideline gig or a full time concern, an artist who provides goods or services in exchange for payment, is running a business.  If they started that enterprise themselves, whether operating from a giant studio or the corner of their bedroom, they are also an entrepreneur.

Put another way, as a visual artist, the primary intent of one’s business is to “employ” themselves by transforming their talents into income-producing activity.

Success at this business depends on the artist’s ability to sustain and nourish a continuous cycle of creativity, even more than the artist’s ability to sell their work or services.

There will always be good periods and better periods when it comes to income flow; a career as an artist does not have a singular trajectory forward or up.

Opportunities do not come knocking. They must be pursued.  It is the entrepreneur in this mix that learns strategies which secure, direct, apply and adapt the artist’s creative best to each new endeavor.  And then you move on, again.

You also wear many hats as an artist, from “talent” to Marketing Director to CEO and Chief Strategist.  Doing all these things well is not so overwhelming a proposition as most artists envision.  The can actually be observed at work in the logic and order the artist already brings to the table  The demands most artists set for themselves as artists, as masters of a growing discipline make business strategies seem obvious.  You just need to look at it all from a much more pedestrian frame of reference: art is made by people who know how to show up each day and work, want to do better than they did the last time, and believe that control of their work and their legacy matters.

The better an artist becomes at identifying their creative “realities” and developing a flexible set of cross-functional strategies, the more they succeed with their business and their artistic challenges.

Moby-Dick

Moby Dick
Herman Melville

Moby Dick is at once a thrilling adventure tale, a timeless allegory, and an epic saga of heroic determination and conflict.  At its heart is the powerful, unknowable sea— and Captain Ahab, a brooding, one-legged fanatic who has sworn vengeance on the mammoth white whale that crippled him. Narrated by Ishmael, a wayfarer who joins the crew of Ahab’s whaling ship, this is the story of a hair-raising voyage, and of the men who embraced hardship and nameless horrors as they dared to challenge God’s most dreaded creation and death itself for a chance at immortality.

This is a novel that delves with astonishing vigor into the complex souls of men. Moby-Dick is an impassioned drama of the ultimate human struggle and both the greatest of American novels and perhaps, the finest work of fiction ever written in the English language.  It should be on the must read list of every artist.

Un-formalizing Innovation

OUR FIRST TEACHERS OF PHILOSOPHY ARE OUR FEET, OUR HANDS, AND OUR EYES.  – Johann Pestalozzi

Friedrich Froebel invented Kindergarten about 200 years ago in the 19th Century.   As a boy, Froebel apprenticed to a woodsman and spent years walking the still-primal and deeply Romantic German landscapes of Wagnerian opera fame.  Froebel says that during period of his life he became aware of vast levels of inter-connected structures at the center of all his visual explorations.  He experienced these moments as intellectually freeing and physically balanced.

He recognized a unity of purpose between the pleasant natural harmony he felt when making these visual connections and his increased ability to comprehend concepts that had previously evaded his more practical mind.  Together with his inclination toward self-education, observation and introspection he spent the next decades interacting with thousands of examples of what he called living geometry and working his way through what was to be the theoretical framework for his life.

Froebel discovered a true faith in his work and experiments, and developed a principle of unity which depended on embracing the spiritual potential within a person, the relations between people in a free society, and the place of the individual in relation to the nature that surrounds and includes him.  Froebel worked to turn these conceptual ideas about a life force that controls growth in all things into functional lessons and environmental conditions.  and the life force that controls growth in all things, had already become Froebel’s true faith.

THOU GIVEST MAN BREAD; LET MY AIM BE TO GIVE MAN HIMSELF.  – Froebel

Froebel, like all inventors of new systems of thought and observation, can be sourced to others who came before him.  As early as 1762, Rousseau published Emile, his attack on conventional French education and child-rearing. and in the latter part of the 18th century, Johann Pestalozzi appeared as the first true revolutionary carrying the banner for natural education, where the innate desire to be curious and know more about our environment should be unfettered.

In essence, because true learning begins, as it did for Froebel, Pestalozzi and Rousseau, when a virgin consciousness erupts, formal education and its lessons and lectures, should not impede that human excellence during the earliest years of this natural and spiritual drive.

 

 

 

It is easy to feel overwhelmed

Being an Artist, is part passion, part vision, part necessity, part love, and a very hard and lonely job nearly all the remaining times.

Every day, an artist needs to search for change, respond to it, and see it as healthy.  Doing new things, or doing old things in new ways, are how artists exploit change as an opening for new beginnings and a different creative outcome.

Despite these learned or self-taught lessons artists still have a a difficult time jump starting what can be a temperamental artistic engine.  Too many artists waste time just trying to figure out how to begin a day of work and where to focus their efforts and energies.

Instead of fighting what feels like a battle between creative and rational personalities, successful artists learn to work in partnership with the moodiness of their muse.

Instead of exerting energy looking to solve all the possible problems that arise from this mix they choose to build something of recognized value around the opportunities they perceive.

 

The Great Artist Myth

Artists today get it:  If you’re not taking care of your business, your business is not being taken care of.

The great 19th and 20th century myth was that artists didn’t know how to take care of their business and needed help and guidance.  Accordingly, artists were best served “just focusing on their art”.  The myth implied that the business of art was a corruptible interruption to the artist’s more refined gifts and those artists who engaged in selling their own work would end up “selling out” and seeing an end to their artistic freedom.

Artists in the 21st century, understand, accept and welcome a different reality.  Unlike their predecessors of past eras, artists today have a diverse number of markets they can reach and far-reaching, low cost methods of staying present in those markets.  They are living witnesses to a radical business and economic revolution, and their intuitive measure of which changes have value in the “big picture” health, growth and effectiveness of their creativity is an asset few outside sales specialists could hand them.

Rather than being “despoiled” by the work of setting strategic and tactical goals for themselves, artists nowadays know that the most efficient way to secure a consistent and serious creative environment is to set and achieve the goals that are unique and meaningful to them.

 

Artists are Gazers

Artists are barrier breakers, unhindered by boundaries, explorers of the unknown and the unsaid.

Artists are curious about all things “outside of art” and all things inside of themselves.

Artists actively seek out new knowledge and nontraditional methods of learning and information.

Artists are good observers of nature, visually perceptive, and viscerally wired.

Although artists make up an infinitely small percentage of the world’s population they represent an abundant place among the “gazers”, high up in the tree tops soaking up a first-hand view of the brand new world ahead and an equally profound view of the past that got us here.