Since the dawn of time, people have had the compulsion to organize and be artistic. I’ve stood in front of pieces and wept unexpectedly. I’ve stood in front of others and had a purely joyful reaction or abstract sense of wellness, or coziness from others. And yes, sometimes I stand and feel nothing.
By Thimgan Hayden
I was talking to an artist currently living on an island in Alaska. A small island. They were struggling with feeling alone artistically and bemoaning the fact that, with so few people, there was little support for building a career there.
If you find yourself in a space like this, let me encourage you. You have a unique opportunity to own your niche! You are “the artist.” If you are one of a few artists, you are still the only one expressing yourself the way you do and you’re poised for a place of confidence.
If you are independently wealthy and an artist, that’s fantastic.
For the rest of us, I’m going to give us some tough love.
Are you blaming yourself for not being a “better” painter? sculptor, singer?
Let’s assume you’ve gotten some honest feedback and you know you’ve got something special. If that’s the case, stop blaming yourself. Your skill is probably not what’s holding you back. Everybody knows of some Grandma Moses or expressionist painter (I’m a painter so I mostly know about other painters) that became famous in spite of their unpolished art. There are lots of them! Breathe deeply! You can do this!
There are two ways that I can think of to stay alive and be an artist starting out:
Be financially supported by someone or something else.
Be willing to have at least part of your income come from some other venture/s other than your art.
Either one of these choices comes with a mindset that may take cultivating.
Your successful creative mindset is going to look like this:
*Relax and let your art be what it is and stand on its own. Don’t force it to bear all of the financial pressure.
*Most art comes from a place of plenty in yourself; physically, spiritually, or emotionally. If you force it to bear financial pressure, it puts unrealistic expectations on your fans and yourself.
*Be willing to understand that being an artist, to the public, is like you being a story, a theme, a collectible, in their life’s narrative! You, and your story, and your art bring them something that resonates with them and helps them tell their story!
Because of this last point, I have come to accept and even love the “B” word- Branding.
In a small town, there is no one better at being you than you.
As long as your work/your story resonates with a group of people, you have the opportunity to take center stage easier than you would anywhere else.
If there is a distinct, unifying character to your town and the people that live there-even better! Try to tap into the subjects, the colors, the interests that pull a town together. If you’re a desert dweller, you’ve got sand, muted greens and bright sunsets. By waterways, you have blues and greens.
Most art consumers don’t go into the market with a check sheet of technical criteria.
Initially, your buyers or fans are drawn by your art combined with what you represent to them, then comes your increasing exposure and more people seeing or hearing your story, then come the credentials, the press, further exposure, etc. At some point, those scorecards may come out, but they tend to be judging your popularity, which may come from how you wield your technique, but a large part of that equation is the authentic you.
I hope you find this helpful in your journey. Peace.
Love, love, love.
In addition to painting, I love reading and growing plants. I used to read
when I was young. My backup career ideas as a teen were Library Science and English Literature. Like some of you may have, I quit reading fiction when I got BUSY. A few years ago, my mom gave me a hardcover copy of “I Capture the Castle” by Dodie Smith (who also wrote the original 101 Dalmatians story and hit plays for the
stage), and I got re-hooked!
I like romantic stories and classics and some poetry, and that overflows into my painting life and always has. One important piece of being an artist is BEING an artist; that is living life as a story. The things I can control-doing my best to make them beautiful- and the things I can’t control- doing my best to make the most good out of them.
I’ve always loved reading artist’s biographies and journals. I’m fascinated by the connections between what they painted with how they lived. The more I know of their lives, the more emotion I pull from the work. If I have a real life encounter with an exhibition of paintings by Manet or Cezanne, for example, I am powerfully moved-even if their work hadn't been of noted interest to me before. There is something about connecting the story of their lives with their original work that I find so moving.
I do a lot of thinking about "why buy art? Why watch art? Why make it?"
There is much I could say about this topic and I’m interested in what
have to say about it, and today I’ll just share this thought: Art and the making of it and the living of it is part of a story, the story of the maker
the story of the person who collects it. At that point our stories meet and mingle. The art expresses something of the buyer’s taste and experience that the painter shares with them. The artist’s accomplishments become part of the collector’s personal story. I LOVE this tapestry. Story is so beautifully human.
I got home a few days ago from a road trip with my husband, Joseph, to visit a big antique, art, and jewelry show in Baltimore. I wanted to see if there were a lot of potential Thimgan collectors there, and I think there were. I may tweak my plans a bit, but I think I got some excellent feedback and met some really interesting art and antique dealers form all over the world.
Inside three days, I whisked through hundreds of booths of amazing art, saw some favorite pieces in the Cleveland Museum of Art, and visited the Brandywine River Museum, as well as an a tour of Andrew Wyeth’s studio which he used until his death in 2009, if I understood correctly. The Brandywine River setting alone was breathtaking…some pastorals will come out of what I saw there.
I’ve never been a huge fan of Andrew Wyeth’s exactly. I’ve read biographies on him and his dad, N.C. (Nowell Convers) and don’t deny the incredible force they possessed. I’m partial to N.C. and Andrew’s son, Jamie Wyeth’s work as I mentioned in a blog entry a few years ago. Again, Andrew’s work is utter genius, some of it is just darker than I…enjoy.. for lack of a better word. I saw the Helga exhibit in Maine when I was about 20 years old and I remember the emotional force of it today.
Cleveland Museum of Art, a stunner by one of may favorite painters, Henri Fantin-Latour
I went to the Cleveland Art Museum to see works by Chardin like this one, and Fantin-Latour.
I can never see too many Corot's!
A booth at the Antique Show in Baltimore
The N.C.Wyeth room at the Wyeth Museum in PA
Taking in last moments outside Andrew Wyeth's studio
The lovely Brandywine River from a window in the Wyeth Museum