Self portrait - 1975
Hindsight is 20:20 and wouldn't it be nice to be able to mentor your younger self and provide the sage advice that time and experience provides?
From the artist's view point if I could advise my younger self here are some things I'd say:
- Get a thick skin quickly. There will always be critics and they will wound you to the core. Get over it. As you move up the art ladder, there will be people who try to knock you off. This will come in a variety of forms, from blatant plagerism and copyright theft down to the jabs and remarks spurred on by the green gods of jealousy and hatred. Ignore your critics and those intent on trying to hurt you. Keep your vision strong and your belief in yourself and your art stronger. But never be afraid to fight for what is right and what is yours.
- Become identifiable. Perfect your technique and find your style and medium. Nothing gets you more rejections than poorly executed art, art that encompasses a dozen different styles and mediums or art that looks identical to 20 other artists. Your style belongs to you. You work hard to achieve it, so guard it like a dog does its bone.
- Practice your art. Work in your studio daily, no matter what. Practice equals beautiful art and it inspires creative work. As Chuck Close said, "Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work." Create a body of work of 15 - 20 pieces. Then create another. And another...
- Learn the art of marketing yourself. No one else will do it for you. Not unless you pay them a lot of money. Promote yourself and your work constantly. Exposure to eyes is what makes art visible. Keeping it in a studio collecting dust will not benefit you, or the world.
- Share your knowledge. No, don't sell the farm and reveal everything, but share your knowledge of technique to other artists coming after you. After all, technique doesn't belong to you, you are only a medium through which it is passed down from artist to artist as it has for hundreds of years. It is your duty as an artist to show others artistic techniques.
- Create what you love. Don't be swayed by what subject sells in a gallery, what a best selling artist paints or what the current trend is in art. Create the art that resonates within you. It will sell if you want it to. Be patient and wait for the right person to claim it.
- Nurture yourself. Surround yourself with beautiful things, beautiful surroundings, beautiful people. It need not be beauty in the traditional sense of pleasing to look at, though that is always pleasant, but more the people and objects that are pleasing to the soul. Artists create best when their soul is satisfied.
- Ring the bell. Leonard Cohen once wrote "Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." Don't strive for perfection. Real beauty lies in imperfection and uniqueness.