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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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Don’t run aground on the rocky shore of fate: {or how to build your own lifeboat and survive the art world}

I’m a great believer that you can shape your own destiny to a large extent. Often it’s the energy you put out into the world that carves the trajectory of your path into the future.

Think about the people you know. There are always some “lucky” buggers that seem to be in the right place at the right time, land the lucky break and deal with things successfully whereas others always seem to miss the opportunity and generally flounder around, getting nowhere.

Is it that the fates look more favourably on the “lucky” person and send a never ending torrent of bad luck on the other? No. Generally and with the exception of uncontrollable circumstances such as illness, bereavement and accident etc, much of our good luck is created by ourselves, by being in the right place at the right time and making the most of the hand that we are dealt.

As in life it is the same in the world of art. You can create your own destiny.

One common and dangerous idea that persists in the art world is that somehow a gallery will discover your art, create your reputation and do all your marketing for you. You don’t have to do anything other than concentrate on making great art.

This myth tells you that you don’t have to bother with all the timesucking marketing business and promotions stuff because one day a gallery will wade in and sort it all out for you. As long as you make great art you don’t need to bother with anything else.

The {fairly annoying} truth

The sad truth is that it’s not all about the art. There are some wonderful painters and artists who never get any kind of recognition and some terrible ones who rise to the upper eshahlons of the art stratosphere. {We can probably all personally think of at least one hugely famous artists who we think “hmmm” when we see their work, right?} So you can spend all your time creating amazing art but it doesn’t guarantee that a gallery will want to represent you or you will achieve the success you want.

A gallery is looking for an artist who already has paid their dues and built their reputation and who they can work with to take on to greater things. They don’t want to have to start from scratch and they will not save you if are floundering in the water.

A gallery will not build your reputation for you. They will only enhance it

Being tossed around on the sea of fate waiting for someone to come to your rescue at some unspecified time in the future is not a great survival plan. However, it is a popular plan that many artists believe is the one which will deliver them safely to the shore of artistic success. This is just TOO IMPORTANT to leave to chance…

Galleries will not throw you a life ring. In other words you have to build your own lifeboat

Isn’t it a much better idea to start building your own lifeboat now, by working to establish your own artistic reputation? That way you are much better equipped to get gallery representation in the future if you want it and to control your own art if you don’t.

So what steps do you need to build on to start your reputation building survival strategy?

Start building

Present yourself and your work professionally.
Invest time {and probably money} in ensuring that yourself and your work are presented in the best way possible. Ensure that photographs of your work are high quality and show it off to its best advantage. It’s no use thinking “people will like the work even if the photos are rubbish”. They won’t be able to see beyond the poor photography.

Make sure your website looks professional. This is many peoples first point of contact with you and your work. They may see your work or hear your name at an event and want to find out more. If they find an unprofessional website {or can’t find your website at all} then that’s it, opportunity missed.

Make sure all your materials {emails, website, business cards etc} present a consistent message. Keep the colours and typefaces the same across everything and establish your brand.

Extend this to yourself. When you attend an art event, make sure you “dress the part”. It may sound silly but choose clothes that convey success rather than “struggling artist”

Network and build connections.
Go to every art event you can find in your local community. Get to know the “faces” that crop up all the time and become involved in the “goings on”. This way you will find out about opportunities for shows and ways to get involved in art projects. This will all help your CV and reputation to grow.

Behave in a professional and businesslike way.
Always remember that a gallery is a business. They aren’t doing it out of the goodness of their hearts to create somewhere nice for people to visit on a Sunday afternoon and drink some wine and look at some nice stuff. Like you they need to make money to survive so they want to deal with artists that they can trust to come up with the goods. They won’t want to have to deal with an artistic temperament or inconsistent reliability. Always deal with galleries in a organised business like manner and convey to them that you take the business of art seriously. This will enhance your reputation as a serious artist.

Build your cv.
Show your work as much as possible to as many people as possible. Both online and offline. Don’t be shy and hide your light under a bushel. Get it out there and see what opportunities arise. This way you are building your CV, line by line, until you have an impressive track record which conveys consistency to a gallery.

Launch your lifeboat

So start building your OWN Reputation now. Don’t wait for someone else to do it for you. Then you will be in a strong position to work with any gallery in the future on an equal footing in a mutually fulfilling manner. You will also be much better positioned to approach galleries for representation and will have the connections to help you do it.

And what if no gallery shows up? It doesn’t matter. You are fully in control of your own lifeboat and confidently steering your own artistic destiny.

Do you believe in taking control yourself or think a gallery should deal with everthing? Tell us what you think in the comments.

Image courtesy of Freddy The Boy under Creative Commons Licence

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