August 19, 2022

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How to Handle Expectations, Being Crazy, and Art Business Success

10 min read

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If you follow me, you probably know about my AMTP membership program that advises artists on using marketing to help them live their best artist lives. I made it affordable for all artists, no matter who they are or where they live.

I believe how you market your art has everything to do with how you live your life as an artist. The goal is to help AMTP members to enjoy their best artists’ lives by assisting them in knowing what is possible and how to create a plan to turn dreams into reality.

I’m a month older than my cousin. We started kindergarten together and are still good friends decades later and well into retirement. She is an AMTP member and, as with many others in the group, leads a busy life in which making art is essential but not her only interest. She wrote me recently to say:

“Your dedication and work to help artists astound me. I apologize most sincerely that I haven’t been taking your workshops. It is my loss, I am sure. 

The Guide to Art-related Careers
Learn about art-related Careers.

I know you are wise, so you don’t hold a grudge, but surely you must feel like I am a bit crazy. I do.” 

I replied to her this way with additional thoughts:

Hey Cuz,

Thanks for your email. You’ve been on your mind; we need to get together soon. And no worries about your participation in the AMTP group. I get why you haven’t spent much time with it – more than you may realize – and I pass no judgment because it serves no purpose. 

An Early Lesson in Rejection.

After I wrote my first book, How to Profit from the Art Print Market, in 2005, I found only a few people would ever read it cover to cover. That hurt until I realized I was a victim of my self-imposed unrealistic expectations. Awakening to the reality that I could and should shed that self-inflicted negative mentality was a valuable lesson I never forgot.

Now I put out my best info hoping some of it makes a difference but without sweating to what degree it does. Even with that laissez-faire attitude, I get enough feedback to know my work helps. And I pick up a few bucks for my effort, which is also validating and motivating. So I find that is an overall pretty good result. It is enough to inspire me to keep moving onward to the next project.

The Guide to Art-related Careers
Learn about art-related Careers.

You’re Crazy; I’m Crazy, We’re All Crazy.

Do I think you’re crazy? Of course, but so is everyone else, including me. We all have a unique brand of crazy. But I don’t think you are crazy for being interested in knowing a little about art marketing, but not enough to work on it regularly.

You’re busy with other things, and marketing is boring and not fun. Plus, it’s hard and takes dedication and time to make it pay off. So instead, you primarily get your work into the world through your connections and word-of-mouth. And that’s how most artists in some form or other market today. 

Selling Art on All Levels is a Connections Business.

I’ve covered the concept of connections a lot in recent months and continue to promote the idea. We all make connections in our lives, and as a result, you naturally find a few patrons along the way. I find it less complicated for most artists to think of a marketing plan as working on making friends rather than finding buyers. The context of connections is compelling. 

I believe success in life as an artist starts with honestly evaluating yourself. What makes you happy, and what realistic dreams do you have for getting your art into the world? I recommend taking everyone out of the equation to make it about you. If you know the answers, you can use the insights to determine how many connections and how much marketing you need to hit your goal. For example, you can create a roadmap that keeps you on track while helping you ignore anything not valuable to your plan. 

Your Current Marketing Plan Might Be All You Need.

You might already be there with a de facto marketing plan, and I guess you are. You are doing about the amount of business that is comfortable for you. I also suspect your conscious brain sees other artists having success, and you know you are more talented than them, which means you know you could compete with them if you wish. So, your conscious mind receives streams with advice to do this or do that to get your career in gear. It’s like attaching yourself to a built-in stress inducer. Who needs that?

Why Your Subconscious Mind Is Hitting the Brakes.

However, in the meantime, your subconscious mind is running the show. It knows you could do that but also knows that doing that won’t make you happy. So there is always a price to pay to attain success, and your subconscious brain is pumping the brakes to keep you from committing to a complex program with a scant chance for success.   

I see you as a talented fine artist, just as my sister is an exceptional singer-songwriter. You both could have pushed your artistry into the world of business but chose other sensible, accommodating paths. I believe both of you decided long ago – perhaps unconsciously – that just because you could take your art far, it wasn’t your only option to pursue making art as a primary business, and you went another way.

What Truly Works Best for You.

It’s a safe bet you subconsciously decided not to let business ruin your joy in making art. That’s not saying you can’t or don’t do business; you do it the way that works for you.

When you get your conscious and subconscious on the same wavelength, it opens you to the opportunity to live your best artist’s life. It allows you to release guilt and anxiety over any “What if” emotions regarding your art career. Life gets better when you feel good about your choices and permit yourself to ignore the advice and opinions of those who don’t contribute to your support.

The Guide to Art-related Careers
Learn about art-related Careers.

You Can Live Your Dream for Reals!

You can use your insights to develop a sensible strategy and appropriate marketing tools, if you even need them, to fulfill your dream as you determine it. I like to point out, “It’s not a dream if you’re living it.” 

That is my message for you and every artist that follows me. Put in the work to get on your wavelength and get in tune with yourself. Self-realization is the greatest gift artists can give them. Enjoy what you have and live life as you like it.  

Endless Choices.

You can be an all that hotshot if you want. Or you can lay about and only create when the muse strikes. Those and every other iteration are legitimate choices to manage your art business and life as an artist.

If you know you are in tune with yourself, your art, your art business, and your life in general, you are blessed. You’ve attained what I call Art-Life Dream-Work Balance. Of course, you will always have tensions and wobbles, but life is good if you are primarily stable and balanced. And there is no reason you can’t work things to live your best artist’s life in balance. 

A Lesson 30 Years in the Making.

It took 30 years for me to realize for every sharpshooter artist who would follow my advice that, there were tens of thousands more highly talented artists who were never that keen on making a full-time business from their art.

My tribe likes to know my advice and writings because they can pick up pointers that help without going all-in or even participating, so they come around and stick around. Some buy my offerings, even become friends, and others use my advice anonymously. I’m okay with however the word gets out there.

Finding Myself Looking Like Artists.

Looking at how I do things, you can see patterns to those of many artists in my choices. Like them, there is more I could have done, mountains I could have climbed, but my subconscious held me back. Now I’m conscious of my actions and am happier than ever, knowing I’m doing things my way, and indeed that is all that matters.

Ever since this realization dawned on me, I’ve changed how I try to help artists. It’s all about getting them tuned into themselves. I hope this is helpful to you. Learning how to think differently about what I’ve done with my life is one of the best things I ever did for myself.

Self-Realization Changes How You Live Your Life and Enjoy Being a Creator.

Because I stopped worrying about all those things over which I have no control, I now enjoy what I do more than ever, and I rarely stress over anything in my business or life. That’s not to say I don’t get my hair on fire under certain circumstances, but they are rare and only in response to legitimate threats.  

Art and Anxiety.

Whenever creative people start turning ideas into artworks, anxiety is ready to exploit their doubts. I don’t need to explain how it feels to fret over details that nearly no one will notice because I know you have thought about them too. I’ve found that most such anxiety is self-induced and useless when one thinks through the consequences.

We are all out here trying to live our lives in the best ways we can. We want the best for ourselves, our families, and our careers. And those feelings can make us feel like every artwork we create must be a masterpiece worthy of the top dollar in the marketplace, which is a self-made anxiety-producing situation. You can insist every piece you make is the best work you’ve done, but I don’t advise it because it’s not realistic and is detrimental to your mental health.

You Are Only Human.  

We’re human and can only do the best we can with all we have to give now, which is not always the same. So you’re going to have some bad days and make some art that is less than your utmost best. A key to living a happy, well-balanced artist’s life is learning to let go and be okay with how things unfold. Besides, what you think is not your best may not be accurate when seen through the eyes of others.

Your rational brain may understand you are worked up over something trivial in the end. But that doesn’t stop the head trash from making you experience doubt over your choice or an action you took.

There is a difference between being careless and not letting go. I can safely bet that some anxiety results from other underlying factors. The fear of failure and fear of success are the same problem, just manifested differently. They might mask more profound issues that they should explore with professional help.

A Checkup From the Neck Up.

But most often, most of us need an attitude adjustment. If you recall from above, I mentioned the improvement in the quality of my life after I had the self-realization that it was okay not to go after everything possible for me. Learning that being okay was what worked for me allowed me to let go of the nonsense that was relentlessly nagging me about the missed opportunities and “would’ve,” “should’ve,” and “could’ve” meandering mind trash that was rattling around in my brain.

When Okay Is Pretty Good.

I want all creative people to learn it’s okay to be okay, and you don’t have to be all that. So if you’re going to go full-on toward a thriving art career, I’m here to help you. But if you want to make art on your timeline and sell it your way when and how you can, I’m here for you.

Go forth and make your art business into what you want it to be. When you take an honest assessment of your talent level and get clear on what you want to do with making a business of your art, you are well on your way to enjoying your life as an artist.

Disappointments Are Turning Points.

Free yourself of your misconceptions about your art career and let go of worrying about what others think about your choices. It’s your life to live your way. You don’t need a shield from disappointments because they are part of life. So often, our biggest disappointments are turning points toward new opportunities that make a better fit for our personalities and lifestyles than hitting the big time because you come to realize what you give up getting there is too much.

When Success Is Not All It’s Cracked Up to Be.

I love watching TV talent shows. You can call it mind rubbish, but what I see are real artists who are investing everything they have into winning the contest. The drama and their backstories are compelling, and I love rooting for them no matter how good I think they are.

What’s so interesting about these shows is they are steppingstones and platforms for those who don’t win. The international exposure propels them past the opportunity winning gave them. Or, they realize the intensity of the spotlight and showbusiness business practices and ethics are things they can’t handle. As a result, they live in relative anonymity but are happy by not being part of the bigger picture.

The Guide to Art-related Careers
Learn about art-related Careers.

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