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The Art of Collaboration – How can letting go help you grow?

Defined by Merriam Webster, to Collaborate means: to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor.

Collaboration in art takes the idea to a new level. It is the opportunity for artists to contribute to one piece or to a multitude of pieces in a particular project that may or may not have the same theme. Sound confusing? It can be if there is not some kind of leadership involved; someone to grab the reins so to speak. However, once a group of artists decides on a project there is no stopping the energy that builds when these groups get together; when one idea is presented often times many new ideas spring from this one.

I have involved myself in several collaborative efforts—most notably through mail art groups. These groups can be local, national and international. Usually one person comes up with an idea and posts their Call to Art–artists from all over contribute a piece to the group. Sometimes the art is returned but more often than not, it is gone for good. I actually like that part because now my art is in the hands of another who may love the piece or discover something in it that I didn’t. The act of sharing is vital to collaborative art and you must be able to let go. Artists can get so stuck in doing things their own way – especially when one works alone in a studio, but don’t we learn more by be inspired by others? This is what collaborative art projects truly are…an opportunity to share and learn in the presence of like-minded individuals.

One project that made a huge impression on me was the 1001 Journals project. The website explains it best, “The 1000 Journals Project is an ongoing collaborative experiment attempting to follow 1000 journals throughout their travels. The goal is to provide a method for interaction and shared creativity among friends and strangers.” These journals traveled all over the world and individuals wrote, illustrated, painted and collaged their art inside it. Then they sent it on to the next person. Most of the journals were returned back to the individual who began the project. Some did not. Launched in 2000, “The project officially launched in August of 2000, with the release of the first 100 journals in San Francisco. I gave them to friends, and left them at bars, cafes, and on park benches. Shortly thereafter, people began emailing me, asking if they could participate. So I started sending journals to folks, allowing them to share with friends, or strangers. It’s been a roller coaster ever since.” This is a timeless story told through art where individuals unselfishly shared their talent, and many times their soul.

A Northern California collaborative art group, Kunstanke embarked on an artistic journey inspired by the works of the 17th century artist, Claude Lorrain. A book containing his drawings was cut up and the drawings in the book were distributed among the artists. The artists were to combine the original book page and their art to recreate the image into something new. It was a composition of sorts with the new and the old. 45 pieces were completed. While there were actually more, the group felt that not all of the images succeeded and it came down to this number. The final pieces went into an exhibit where “The result is a diverse and nuanced conversation about ideas, subject matter and materials.” For more about this project please visit the Kunstanke web site.

And just today I came across a collaborative project by the online publisher, Society6. The final project will be a limited edition Zine called “Us and Them”. The rules are simple…create an inspired piece using the theme Us and Them and set the image up as a print on Society6. Society6 will curate the collection and notify the artists if their piece has been selected for the limited edition Zine.

An enjoyable aspect of the idea of collaborative art is the freedom of expression and free flowing ideas that are conveyed. Anyone can start a project, anyone can join a project. And you do not need to be an artist to join. The 1001 Journals project was less about art and more about expression. The last collaborative art project I started consisted of three 11×14 pieces of white paper sent out with a list of instructions. Draw anything, anywhere on the 11×14 sheet then send it off to the next person. The 10th person should return the completed sheet back to my address where I will scan it and have it made into a poster. I love the idea. However, it’s been three years and I haven’t gotten it back. This may be one of those times where we learn to let go.

Copyright 2011 Jan Weiss

Artist Bio – Jan Weiss

Jan Weiss, a northern California native is a freelance writer and artist specializing in home decor. With a strong background in art publishing and art trends, Jan shares this knowledge with the trade as well as individual artists.

Weiss has just completed her first eBook for artists, titled: The Coexistence of Art and Money; interested buyers can find this book as well as her art through several on-line galleries such as Artist Rising, Image Kind and Etsy.  Jan’s style is a mixed of collage, digital creations and abstract landscapes that will appeal to the hospitality buyer. She lives with her husband, cat and dog in the Bay Area and enjoys organic gardening, cooking, reading and making stuff.

You can find Jan at
www.theartplanet.com
www.etsy.co
You can buy Jan’s beautiful work here

Have you worked on a collaborative project or in a group? How did it work out? Please tell us in the comments…

Post image by Jan Weiss

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The Revolution Will Not Be Televised | How Can Artists Survive & Thrive in the New Economy?

How can artists and creatives survive in the current whirlwind of economic meltdown?

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Lessons in selling art from my weird obsession with camper vans.

I think I’m having a midlife crisis! Over the past few weeks I have developed an unhealthy and possibly slightly weird obsession with getting a camper van.

It all started with a retro turquoise VW camper which one of my favourite galleries uses to advertise their business. It is parked outside with the gallery name on and gives out a jaunty air of summer happiness.

Since seeing this vintage Volkswagen beauty, my campervan obsession spread like wildfire through 70’s Scooby Doo style Toyota Hiace motorhomes, VW T25’s and the “clearly named by a lunatic” Mazda Bongo. I can be found on the Internet at 4am comparing mileage or in the corner of a carpark pawing at camper bodywork and interrogating the owners on miles per gallon economy.

To be honest it’s all got a bit sad…

 

Mr Artonomy has taken on a resigned look and has taken to disowning me when I dash off to look at my latest find. He has more sense than to get in the way of one of my obsessions.

But where he sees a rusty money pit and possible dangerous descent into being a middle aged couple with a flask of tea, I see a life of wild adventure on the open road. I see Friday night spontaneous escape. Sleep under the stars cushioned from the elements by German efficiency. I see waking up on a beach to the roar of the ocean and running joyfully across the sand with my tousel haired children for an early morning dip. I see festivals and sun. I see magical childhood memories being made and I WANT A CAMPERVAN.

So “what on earth has this got to do with selling my art you sad middle aged woman” I hear you cry.

 

Well it’s all to do with “features” versus “benefits” which is an important marketing concept to get your head around and one which very much applies when you are selling your art in a gallery or online.

What I would ACTUALLY physically be buying (features) would be a rusty old van which drinks petrol like a fish, has a weird tent instead of a roof, contains more Formica than is natural and probably has an onboard potty.

However, what I am REALLY BUYING IN MY HEAD (benefits) is a romantic notion of freedom, escape and being at one with nature.

Painting the picture in your collectors head.

 

If a camper van sales man comes up to me at this point and starts telling me about engine size I won’t be too interested in an immediate sale, but if he paints a picture to me of the free and magical campervan lifestyle in my head and how his vehicle will help me achieve it I will be handing over my hard earned cash to him quicker than you can say “split screen VW”

And that, my friends, is the secret of selling anything, be it sprockets, cars, t shirts, jewellery or paintings. You have to discover the deep personal magical inner desires of the buyer and show how your painting can meet that desire.

Collectors  buying an escape.

 

A great example of this is the gallery I talked about who own the gorgeous blue campervan that started this whole blooming thing off. They are located in a beautiful Welsh seaside town and sell a lovely selection of work, a lot of which is based around the sea or countryside. Their customers aren’t just buying a painting. They are buying a memory of being relaxed on holiday, of picnics on the beach, pub lunches, an escape from work and getting on better with their husband. The bottom line is they buy the painting to capture this feeling and FEEL BETTER ABOUT THEMSELVES. They are buying an escape.

So when you are considering where or how to sell your paintings, remember the magical dialogue that will go on in your buyers heads. Try to imagine what it will be and promote your work accordingly.

Me? I’m off to check AutoTrader for a pre-loved VW.

Let me know what you think in the comments…

Image by Barkaw under Creative Commons licence

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Kissing Lots of Frogs | Coping With & Reducing Knockbacks From Art Venues

“You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince”

This is one of my favourite sayings. It’s one I got from my Mum who would console me with it whenever I had my heart broken by some pasty faced spotty no-hoper boy as a teenager. It always makes me smile…

I love the sentiment behind the saying… Basically, don’t expect to score the bullseye with your first shot. Be prepared for the knock backs that come as a part of life and just keep going… You will find the right person/thing/place in the end…

This is extremely relevant to your life as an artist. You have to consistently keep putting your work out there in different venues so that people can get to see how fab it is. This means that as an artist you need to keep approaching others with a view to getting them to show your work, whether it be a gallery, a cafe where your work would look good, a shop, an exhibition curator or an art fair manager.

The likelyhood is that many of the approaches you make to galleries, sales outlets or agents will result in rejection.

This can be really hard to cope with mentally. It’s really important that you don’t let this knock your confidence in your work or drag you down, preventing you trying again in the future.

How can you deal mentally with these knockbacks and also improve your strike rate so they happen less frequently?

Remember, you need to kiss a lot of frogs!

 

You have to keep in mind that this is just the way stuff is.

Rejection by an art venue is not necessarily a personal indictment of your work.

  • Your work may not be the right kind of work for the venue .
  • They may not be taking any new artists on at the moment.
  • They may be oversubscribed.
  • They may be overwhelmed.
  • They may have finished exhibiting art for the season.
  • They may just be too busy to take a look…

It can even be something totally random that you have no control over.

  • They may be hacked off with artists because their wife ran off with one.
  • They may have a personal and irrational hatred of the medium which you work in.
  • They may be in financial trouble and unable to take on anything.

All these problems/reasons/issues are theirs, not yours.

Finding representation and venues takes time and patience and probably a lot of false starts.

You may need to kiss 50 frogs to find 1 prince

 

So it’s really vitally important that you don’t take the knockbacks to heart. Realise that there can be a million reasons that someone doesn’t get back to you or says no. 99% of those reasons will have nothing to do with the quality of your work.

You just need to shrug it off, be proud that you tried and move on to the next opportunity.

You need to kiss the RIGHT frogs!

 

There are however, some simple things to help you in your quest to find the prince and they are as follows.

The number one thing that you can do to help yourself is KISS THE RIGHT FROGS!

It’s no good going around kissing common or garden frogs. You need to kiss the ones that have a CHANCE of turning into a prince…

When looking for a gallery or venue for your work, the crucial thing is to do your research and find the ones who are a good fit for your work. There is no point in trying to get a gallery that specialises in modern urban abstract art to look at your work if you produce delicate landscape watercolours. That is a waste of everyones time and will result in a confidence sapping knockback. Instead, focus on the galleries and venues that are right for your work.

How to FIND the right frogs.

 

Visit as many galleries or art venues where you would like to see your work as possible.

  • Get yourself on their mailing list and visit the exhibitions they put on.
  • Familiarise yourself with the kind of artists and genres they exhibit or work with.
  • Chat to the owners {without trying to sell anything or mentioning your work} and get a feel for the ideals of the venue.
  • Do you get on with the owner/manager/curator too? This is really important if you are going to have a commercial relationship with them.

Once you have got a feel for a group of galleries you will begin to understand the kind of artists each one works with.

You will then be able to narrow down your focus to a few venues that are a good fit for your work. There is no point wasting your time {or the venue owners} if your work isn’t a good fit. You want to find places that you can have a good relationship with.

Get to KNOW the frogs better before you kiss ’em…

 

Once you have a possible shortlist of a few “good fit” venues, it is time to approach the owners.
Rather than going in “all-guns-blazing” trying to sell your stuff to them, you really need to concentrate on building a relationship first.

This strategy takes time but will result in good relationships which can help you move your art career forward {and you will probably get to meet some nice people too – bonus}.

You can do this by visiting exhibitions they are currently showing, chatting to the owners and generally getting involved without being pushy.
Only when you have established a relationship is it a good time to broach the subject of your work and that you would like to show it with them.

…And pucker up

 

At this point a good professional approach can work wonders.

  • Choose a good time to approach the owner/curator {not when they are busy/hassled/hungover etc}and suggest that your work may be a good match for them and you would like to show with them.
  • Choose your time wisely or you may undo all the goodwill you have built up so far.
  • Send a polite follow up email chatting about your previous conversations or their exhibitions you have enjoyed to remind them that you are interested in what they do and not just being pushy. Attach a couple of images of your work and a link to your website.

Unfortunately there is no shortcut to the basic fact that you need to build up a good relationship with the venue first. Cold calling with all your artwork in tow seldom works.


But if you follow this approach, the chances of hurtful knockbacks are diminished.

5 quick tips on approaching art venues

 

  • Make sure you always know the name of the person you need to speak to. No sending things to “whom it may concern” You should have already built up a relationship with them.
  • Make sure that your approach is professional. If sending items through the post ensure everything is nicely packaged and presented in a crisp manner.
  • The same applies if sending emails, make sure you address it to the right person. Send from a professional email address {no flowerfairies@hotmail.com – this matters more than you think}. Attach only 2 or 3 jpeg images and make sure they aren’t too large that they will clog up someone’s email.
  • Make sure your website is finished {I get sent so many links to “Under Construction” websites} and professional looking.
  • Make sure you actually LIKE the person you are approaching. Remember you are looking to work commercially with them. If you don’t fit personally this is never a good idea.

So keep your faith and confidence when approaching art venues. With a little prior research and work, much of the uncertainty and damaging rejection can be reduced.

Just make sure you choose your frogs carefully… that way you will find the perfect frog for you and your art. A fabulous frog with POTENTIAL…

Let me know how you get on in the comments…

Image courtesy of Jacki-Dee under Creative Commons Licence

 

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Show It, Don’t Blow It: 7 Tips to Keep the Art Exhibition Blues at Bay

As artists, showing our work can often be a trigger for creative block. In this guest post, artist and blogger at DialogVisual, Cherry Jeffs, offers 7 tips for ensuring that your next exhibition doesn’t cause a dry spell in your art-making!

A few years ago I began showing my art after a long hiatus. Exhibiting my work previously had resulted in long bouts of creative block and I was determined not to let this happen again!

Since lack of self-confidence is frequently at the root of artist’s block, here I share some straightforward strategies I used to boost my morale and make the whole process less stressful and more enjoyable.

If you are new to showing or returning to it after a long break, these 7 tips are a great way to ease yourself painlessly onto the gallery circuit.

1. Control the Show

In his book, Fearless Creating (Tarcher/Putnam, 1995) creativity guru, Eric Maisel warns against ‘impulsive showing’ whereby the artist shows,
‘…without preparing the work or preparing herself, without considering who the right audience might be or what she wants from the experience of showing…’
Maisel advises consciously planning for showing: Deciding to whom we want to show our work, why we want to show it and whether there is anything else the work needs before we do so.
To ease yourself (back) into showing, choose a situation that allows you to determine what work to show, and when and how you you show it. Organising your own show means you can carefully control the whole process.

Pick the most sympathetic environment possible – i.e. somewhere where you feel comfortable and that’s easily accessible so your pals can come and support you!

2. Like a Scout – Be Prepared!

Preparing for your show well in advance, reduces last minute panics! Complete your work well before the start of the exhibition so you have plenty of time to plan how you are going to hang it. Spend some time in the gallery beforehand picturing how to place the work.

Arrive early on the day of the hanging to make the most of the time available.

Hanging the exhibition

3. Spread The Word

If the venue doesn’t provide invitations, get your own printed and distribute them as many widely as possible. This will help make sure you get a great turn out – another morale booster!

Send out some press releases to local media as well. There’s nothing like a live interview to make you feel important 😉

Local Press

4. Feel Good!

Opening night is your night so do everything possible to optimize your morale so that you will shine.

Have your hair cut/styled the day before the exhibition if it helps you feel more confident and wear the kind of clothes that you can forget about as soon as you put them on!

I don’t suggest you wear your track suit with egg stains on but jettison that trendy-but-uncomfortable outfit in favour of something you’ve worn before and you know makes you feel good.

5. Stay Straight

Don’t drink anything alcoholic on the night! It’s tempting to get stuck into the free drinks at the private view but I’ve seen even very experienced artists getting more than a little tipsy with pre-exhibition nerves and its not a pretty sight!

Keeping a clear head whilst all around you lose theirs will give you an advantage when it comes to haggling over the price of your work (yes, it happens) and keep you sweet-talking those prospective buyers all the way to the bank to withdraw some cash 😉

The Private View

6. Separate the Work from the Show

This is the most important tip of all to avoid creative block after a show: You have to mentally separate the making of the work from the exhibiting and selling of it.

Think of it as creating two boxes. In one, put your experience of the process of creating the work; Then mentally seal that box.

Leave the second box ‘empty’ to be filled by the exhibition experience. Whatever this box ends up being filled with, don’t allow its contents to spill over into the first box!

Making the work is making the work, exhibiting it is something else. You’ve enjoyed the experience of making the work so don’t let anything or anyone detract from that.

7. Keep Your Creative Juices Cooking

Spending time in the studio on new work while the exhibition is running keeps you grounded and in the flow; it stops the feeling that your whole artistic life hangs by the one thread that is The Show.

Also consider booking yourself onto an artist’s retreat to reward and replenish yourself after the exhibition comes down.

You could even organise another show shortly after the first one! This provides a second opportunity for selling anything that remains unsold and a chance to correct any glitches that occurred the first time round 🙂

Following these strategies helps to give you a feel-good experience about showing your work and stave off a confidence crisis that can lead to Artist’s Block.

Do leave a comment if you’ve got any tips of your own that you’d like to share.

If it’s too late and the Blight of Block has already Bitten you, you might want to sign up for my Blast Your Blocks e-course starting 16th June!

 

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The Secret of Staying Creative | 11 great ways to beat creative art block

I get blocked sometimes. I’m sure most people in a creative industry do. Sometimes I’m simply not inspired and no matter how much chocolate or caffeine I consume it just isn’t happening. So I ask myself – how can I stay creative? How can I be in the moment all the time or at least avoid this suspension in creative energy? Looking back I need to think about what inspires me instead of what I am feeling when I am simply not feeling anything. What makes it work and makes me tick? What do other artists use for inspiration? The best way to do this is to simply throw out thoughts and ideas and see where this takes me.

     

  1. I will often peruse catalogues and online galleries to see what others are creating. While I am not interested in doing something just like them, I might be hoping this artist’s work will inspire something in me that I forgot about and I will soon be creating.
  2.  

  3. I am learning to take risks. Why just the other day I painted and it was messy and I didn’t know where it was taking me. I am so afraid of ruining a piece that often I will not let it reach the full potential that it has. And…what is the worst that could happen? Will the painting fail? Will people not like it? What’s so bad about this? Just paint it over again and make it better.
  4.  

  5. Work with others. I love to meet up with artists and talk art. Anything about art. I want to hear about their work and what drives them to paint or create what they do. As artists we can get so stuck in our studios – away from other people that we forget about all the life that is happening out there in this great big world. So my advice…open the door and walk through. Make a coffee date with a friend and take notes.
  6.  

  7. Write down what inspires you. Sometimes I will be traveling, on a plane or in a car and something pops into my head so I write it down. Be clear when you write these ideas down because what is perfectly clear right now may be nothing but a hazy thought in a week or two.
  8.  

  9. Use colors you normally wouldn’t use and paint something that you don’t plan to show anyone. This one is fun because it truly is just for fun. Don’t think about selling it or publishing it. Simply enjoy the process and see what you learn.
  10.  

  11. Try a medium you have never used. What about gel medium?
  12.  

  13. Use a substrate you have never tried before then see how much abuse it can take. My advice: wood. It takes a lot of abuse and always forgives me.
  14.  

  15. Go out and pick weeds. Many of my best ideas are discovered while pulling weeds. Doing something mindless frees up brain space to create.
  16.  

  17. Visit a gallery. Nothing gets my creative energy flowing more than going to galleries. Strike up a conversation with the artist or the gallery owner. Ask about your favorite pieces and what inspired the artist. Do not talk about your work—you are in a gallery that is spending money to showcase the work of other artists. Allow that time to learn about someone else.
  18.  

  19. Don’t try to be another artist. Just be yourself. You’re much better that way.
  20.  

  21. Be patient and realize some days are good for art and others are good for other things.

 

© 2011 Jan Weiss

Artist Bio – Jan Weiss

Jan Weiss, a northern California native is a freelance writer and artist specializing in home decor. With a strong background in art publishing and art trends, Jan shares this knowledge with the trade as well as individual artists.

Weiss has just completed her first eBook for artists, titled: The Coexistence of Art and Money; interested buyers can find this book as well as her art through several on-line galleries such as Artist Rising, Image Kind and Etsy.  Jan’s style is a mixed of collage, digital creations and abstract landscapes that will appeal to the hospitality buyer. She lives with her husband, cat and dog in the Bay Area and enjoys organic gardening, cooking, reading and making stuff.

You can find Jan at
www.theartplanet.com
www.etsy.co

Photocredit : Watercolour Girl image by Lorra Elena

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The Secret of Weaving Art Marketing Magic: How not to break the spell…

I have of late, due to my upcoming nuptials to Mr Artonomy, by necessity acquired more than a passing interest in wedding paraphernalia {which is all a bit weird for a girl more used to wearing Doc Martin boots than any kind of fairy princess palaver}.

The other day I found myself behind the beautifully liveried van of a wedding cake maker. As I am in the market for a wedding cake I took more notice than usual, noting that the company was local and thinking in my mind that I would check them out. The van was beautifully designed, adorned with photos of towering cakes and decals of fluttering birds, butterfly’s and confetti. I drifted in to a reverie, imagining one of their beautiful cakes at my wedding and possibly a cloud of tiny Disney style bluebirds chirruping in harmony above it…

And then I pulled alongside the van at the lights…

Driving the van was a scraggly man in a dirty white bakers coat that looked like it had never seen the inside of a washing machine. Dangling from his craggy lips was a fag with an impressively long layer of ash on the end and as I stared in my shock at the mismatch, he gave me an aggressive look and burned off as the lights changed leaving my rather pathetic Disney bluebirds day dream to evaporate in a sulphurous cloud of exhaust smoke…

I think I may bake my own cupcakes or something.

And herein lies the danger… a mismatch between your creative work and what your marketing says about you can mean the difference between sales and never selling anything at all.

What goes on in a customers head?

 

When someone thinks about buying one of your paintings, they are physically considering say a canvas 50x50cm with a landscape painting in blues and greens in oils, but in their heads there is a whole other conversation going on.

It may go something like this…

This landscape takes me back to being 8 again and running in the fields outside my Grannies house in Ireland. It makes me feel free and young”

or

When I look into the depths of this painting I see another world where I can escape the stress and sadness that encompasses my life at present”

or even

If I place this painting just over the fireplace, opposite the door, when Mr and Mrs Armitage, the dentist couple over the road with social pretensions who always makes me feel uncomfortable and small, visit my house for our bi-monthly cheese and wine evening, they can’t fail to notice it and will understand that far from being a dull businessman with a wife who is having an affair with the milkman I am in fact a man of exquisite culture and taste…”

They are buying a dream, fantasy or escape. Something magical…

 

Potential buyers of your work will weave their own magical story around your work in their mind. It becomes personal to them and their life.

You can never know what this story is but the important thing is DO NOT BREAK THIS SPELL with a marketing mismatch.

Suddenly coming up against a marketing mismatch will jolt them back to reality and make them feel less inclined to buy the work and even make them feel a bit daft for thinking about it and they will sidle off embarrassed, never to return…

OK. I believe you. Give me some examples.

 

  • You sell expensive and beautiful handmade jewellery for brides but your website is poorly built and contains spelling mistakes and badly photographed images of the pieces on sale.
  • You create exquisite hand made stationery and invitations but hand out a flyer advertising your services which is poorly photocopied on thin quality paper.
  • Your paintings are highly priced but anyone making an enquiry is given the contact email sexysimon@redhotlovemachine.com

Hmmmm. All these will succeed in breaking the spell…

So, take 5 minutes today to consider the marketing of your work, your website, and any marketing materials that you have. Are all your ducks in a row? Does it all communicate the message you want people to pick up about your work? If not, what can you do to improve it? Often some small improvements will bring everything into line.

Let me know how you get on, or about any glaring marketing mismatches you have seen {they don’t have to be art related}, in the comments.

 

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Best of the web | April 2011 | Don’t miss these

Nothing is Original - Austin Kleon

HOW TO STEAL LIKE AN ARTIST (AND 9 OTHER THINGS NOBODY TOLD ME)

How to steal like an artist {and 9 other things nobody told me}

This amazing post by Austin Kleon is based on a talk he did in New York. It is a list of 10 things he wished he was told in college. Brilliantly sage advice for artists everywhere. An absolute must read for all creative folks.

The Importance of Being an Artist in Today’s Modern World

Sometimes. with the economy the way it is, it’s difficult to see where the future of art is heading. Artist Lori McNee shares some thoughts.

Artomat Art Vending Machines

A lovely idea. Art-o-mat machines are retired cigarette vending machines that have been converted to vend art. There are over 90 active machines in various locations across America. You can submit art to be sold. Just wish there were some in the UK.

Where the feeling of overwhelm comes from (and how to destroy it)

We have been talking about overwhelm on Artonomy this month. Peter Shallard offers psychological advice to entrepreneurs and offers another and interesting angle on the best way to deal with it..

A Brief Guide To Life

Continuing the theme {I have gone a little existential this month – I think it’s due to the long Easter break!} Leo Babauta over at Zen Habits has a wise and simple manifesto for a simplified and more stress free life.

Heres To The Crazy Ones…

The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently…

 

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Are you intimidated by successful artists? : You are not alone…

Many many moons ago, when we were young, footloose and fancy free, before the kids/mortgage reality check, me and my bloke used to spend all our time {and money} going to see live bands.

One evening found us in a smoky jazz club in the heart of Leeds in the North of England watching a particularly virtuoso band rattling through some jazz-funk numbers.

I have to point out now that my bloke plays jazz funk bass [which is pretty complex] and he’s no slouch. He’s good enough to play in 4 bands one of which is semi professional and he actually gets paid for, pretty good going as any musician will tell you. As bassists go he’s pretty damn good {I know I’m biased ;-)}

Introducing… THE GOD OF BASS!

 

Well the bassist in the band we were watching that night was amazingly incredible. Combining perfect technique with awesome coolness that exuded from his every pore, he OWNED the stage, blowing the audience away with his funky vibes and stage presence.

I started to notice my other half slumping lower and lower in his seat and staring miserably into his beer. I squeezed his hand. “Are you OK?”

He gestured weakly in the direction of the GOD OF BASS onstage.

“Look at that guy. He’s amazing!!!. Just listen to him!. I’ll never be that good even if I practice 24 hours a day for the rest of my life! Bloody Hell!!”

And so a phrase was coined…

To be “BLOODY HELLED” – To be so intimidated by the god like majesty of another artist that you believe your work is the worst thing on the planet and just give up there and then.

My bloke stopped practising and even for a while seemed to stop enjoying playing so much. I suspect that whenever he picked up his instrument, all he could see in his head was the GOD OF BASS pointing at him and laughing.

The fragile confidence of the artist.

 

As artists it’s INCREDIBLY EASY to be “bloody helled”

We have to put the inner workings of our hearts, soul and mind out in our work for everyone to see, which puts us in a very vulnerable position. We therefore tend to have fragile ego’s and low levels of confidence in our own abilities. It’s very easy for this confidence to be shattered either by negative criticism {which people LOVE to do} or by judging ourselves unfairly against the abilities of others… and we always judge ourselves too harshly.

At it’s worst, this harsh judgement can actually prevent us moving forward in our career and making the most of the opportunities that are presented. At it’s best it just makes us feel really crap about what we do…

Everyone else is NOT a Picasso

 

When I was an art student I went for interviews for art courses and whilst waiting with the other interviewees I was convinced that the contents of their black art portfolios were probably on a par with Picasso whilst mine contained only badly drawn student life drawings.

I went into the interviews with such an incredibly negative and apologetic attitude to my own work that I’m surprised anyone offered me a place. It was only years later, when the boot was on the other foot and I was working in an art college looking at students portfolios that I saw the incredibly varied quality range of applicants. Amazingly they weren’t all Picassos! Who’d a thought it!

I had been “BLOODY HELLED”

Whilst working as a designer there were many jobs I would have loved to apply for but didn’t dare as I imagined the interviewers looking at my portfolio and and pointing at me and laughing me out of the building. Again, it was only when I later ended up interviewing designers applying for a job in the place that I worked and saw their portfolios that I realised they weren’t all brilliant designers and I really should have taken some of those opportunities.

Bloody Helled” again. Damn!

Remember… You are FAR FAR better than you give yourself credit for…

 

So how can you stop being BLOODY HELLED and have the confidence to move ahead and grasp some of the opportunities that are out there?

  • First of all you have to realise that there will always be artists better or worse than you. IT REALLY DOESNT MATTER. YOUR work is what matters. Be happy and enjoy and cherish it.
  • You also have to realise that your brain will generally always talk you down and you are far better than you think you are.

Ignore the negative inner voices.

 

Realise that your own brain is a bit of a traitor and will disparage you and your work at any opportunity with negative self talk. You know what brains are like…

You can’t paint… you will never be as good as X… your mum was right you know, you will never be a “proper” artist… X has so many more collectors than you, no one likes your work… etc etc etc ad infinitum.

Sound familiar?

There are many techniques that you can use to combat the natural negativity of your own brain.

My favourite one is a bit of NLP {Neuro Linguistic Programming} which works wonders in stopping your brains negative talk undermining your confidence.

Next time you get BLOODY HELLED and you get the negative inner voice telling you “ you will never be that good!” here’s what to do.

  • Listen to the inner voice {for the last time} Is it your voice or someone else’s? Get a clear picture.
  • Now that you know whose voice it is, you can control it.
  • In your head, change the voice. Try giving it a comedy voice like Homer Simpson or Daffy Duck. Make it sound like it has inhaled helium or slow it down to a standstill. Remember, you control the voice now.
  • Can you take the voice and its sill negativity seriously now? No.
  • If it’s STILL undermining you, imagine the voice out of your head and into a little bubble. In your imagination, place the bubble with the voice in on the floor in front of you.
  • Let it sit there whinging and undermining for a few seconds. Then STOMP on it and pop it! Imagine the satisfying “POP” {or “squelch” if you’re a bit more sadistic}and then the blissful silence. Hooray.

Every time you look at another artists work and feel self doubt just repeat the steps above to stop the mental tyrant of your brain undermining you.

You are SO much better than you think you are…

 

So the important thing with all this is to recognise when you are being “bloody helled” and stop it in it’s tracks. Give yourself some credit and stop that negative self talk. That way you will never be “bloody helled” again.

Are you easily “bloody helled”? Share with us in the comments.

 

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