Artists and the Eternal Need for Community

by Helen Aldous

Jimmykelly.ieCommunity or communion, take your pick: ultimately it’s what drives many of us to pick up a brush.We seek to connect, to answer questions or to begin to articulate those very questions.

All this points to one over-arching conclusion: we need other people.

If we didn’t, we wouldn’t paint in the first place, there would be no need to.

‘A sense of connection’ would be just a by-word you read in passing in some abstract book.

Sometimes we can’t go it alone. Whether we care to admit it or not, we need other people in our lives and a lot of artists forget this.

When we don’t achieve that connection we feel it, in a very deep place, and it can be hard to keep persisting when we get that feeling consistently.

We can push it down but it will still rise to the surface and we better be aware of that, because it can catch us off guard and make us fling our brushes in the fire and say ‘to hell with it’. “The whole enterprise is useless.”

But suffering is not compulsory.

So if a need for connection is at the heart of the artistic enterprise, the central question could roughly be summed up as “How do I get my work in front of people?” in order to experience that sense of connection.

And to get to that question you have to answer all the attendant ones as well. I’m sure some of this will resonate with you.

“How do I handle rejection?”

“Is it worth getting it out there and making myself vulnerable?”

“Who cares if I do or I don’t?”

“It’s all useless…isn’t it?”

These are deep-seated questions that go beyond our art-making, these reside at the core of our being, and art is merely a way that we are using to address these.

It’s our gift as well as our Achilles heel at the same time.

It’s our greatest ally while simultaneously giving the impression of being constantly out to undermine us.

So, welcome to life!

At the base of all doubt is fear. Fear in this form is an odious thing. It can bribe, it can mutate to look like courage, and it’s the greatest deceiver, assuming chameleon characteristics especially when threatened.

You have to spear it in the eye. Not just once or twice, but everyday at least a dozen times, if you want a number.

How do you do that?

By doing the things you fear of course. Pushing ahead and showing it up as the pea-sized grunt it really is.

Granted, it’s easier said than done – but still eminently doable.
A good first step is surrounding yourself with people who see it for what it is and who can help you.

That’s why teamwork is such a buzz word in industry, because we need people to make up for where we lack.

That can lift us when we don’t have the strength to lift ourselves.

To fill in the blanks and help us see our blind spots and make us confront them.

Books and cd’s can do this to a limited extent, but that one-to-one interaction can never be equaled.

A good mentor, a good coach, a good friend – preferably all three if you can get them – will help enormously.

They can help you get over that hump, break down that wall that you’ve been knocking your head on for years, so much so that the echo reverberates in your ears.

You’re still going to have to work, you’re still going to have to answer for yourself all the questions listed above, but now you won’t be talking to yourself: you’ll actually be getting answers back.

Possibly not the ones you want to hear, but when confronting fears you have to face them head on, and straight talking and straight walking are givens.

Working with Martin has showed me this. Ethical, straight talking and confrontational. Excellent mentorship, what more could you want?

Someone to do the work for me, perhaps. That would be nice.

Sorry, you’ll have to do it yourself, that’s just the way it works.

Like Clint Watson of Faso.com tweeted yesterday:

“We do what we can to help promote/educate artists. But every truly successful artist figures out their own marketing.”

And that’s the truth.

Jimmy Kelly



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