Monday, February 25, 2013

Defining an Artist's Success

As much as I might like to talk, I also like to listen and sometimes when artists talk about their work, my work, other work. much is said and even more is left unsaid. Strangely, it doesn't seem to matter whether you  play the guitar, write poetry , compose music or paint, there is so often an quiet undercurrent spoken ever so softly of, "How did you do...(insert here-at the show, at the event, at the competition, this month for sales, with your classes, when you went out to paint, sing, dance...?????????.....) An innocent question.
It's a much harder question to answer than one would think.
First, the answer shouldn't matter, but it does. If you have been doing well in terms of sales, do you say something? If sales have been terrible, do you bemoan this and whine? What does it matter?
If you have been focused on things other than sales, must you justify this and explain yourself away? OR, do you remember that you have a business, have bills to pay and must work diligently every day at meeting your  commitments thereby seeing your labors pay off financially?
And then (as if it's not sticky enough) ...if you are selling consistently, what happens when you hear that phrase, "She sold out..." or "Too commercial" or "Her work isn't SAYING anything..." so, OF COURSE her stuff sells....
Damned if you do, damned if you don't.
I know that I have said this before, but artists really need to define what "success" means in every endeavor they pursue with their art. If learning to be a better painter is your goal and you see that you are progressing and are diligently working at this, then it is easier to feel successful. As long as your goals are progressive and reevaluated often, your definition of success is something that comes from within and is determined by you alone.
Alas, though, we artists are such a sensitive group...and we are constantly judging and being judged by others.  Surely, just hanging your work on a wall and placing a price tag on it is asking for judgement. So let's not pretend that the evaluative nature of what we do isn't there. We want someone to connect to what we have created. We want them to connect so much so that they are willing to plop some money down and carry our work home with them to live.  It's the nature of what we do.
Every artist has their own distinct path. It's harder than it looks and requires more than you sometimes feel you can give. At the end of the day, it is still just you and the canvas (or the guitar, or the computer, or the piano..)and the work to be done. But you have to do the time and work and not just talk about it.


Tamara said...

Great question for discussion! Wouldn't we all be better to remain humble at whatever our successes? Wouldn't we all be better off to work very hard NOT to grumble (look at the Israelites in OT, whew)? Can't we be honest in both areas and not dwell on it whichever way is truth at that moment?
Whether your 'field' is in the arts, engineering, education, stay-at-home, or medicine, everyone must define what is success. We all seem to ooh and ahh over somebody's kid who is a doctor, especially if that person is pulling in big bucks or discovering the cure for what's hurt me. But what if the kid is a doctor delivering free health care in some backwoods place as a GP (what? he couldn't be a specialist?)? Not so many oohs or ahhs. So that kid and that family - and each one of us - must define our success and live into it as God-given work and success.
Maybe I'm saying 'to hell with what they think'!!! As long as we are firm in our life's plan and GRACIOUS with others . . . let them deal with their problems!
Note: easier said than done!
Love ya!

Laura Dietrick said...

Right on, Tamara! To hell with what others think!

Joanne Cotten said...

Hi Laura, this is my first introduction to your blog. I love your words!

Exactly - took them right out of my mouth!

Of course, Love your Paintings!

Things are great on this end! Hope the same for you!


Laura Dietrick said...

Thanks for dropping by and for your kind words!