Imagine the ideal artist. What is he like? What does he care about?
The ideal artist, in my mind, cares about internal things. He’s more interested in expression than interpretation. His heart is in the process of creating, not in the response to his creation.
He’s slightly eccentric, seeming to give little notice to the whims or attitudes of others in regards to his artwork. He doesn’t need outside approval to fuel his passion to create. He needs only the space and time to look inside.
His art is never finished, only abandoned when it no longer suits his purpose.
Some people love his work. Others find it foolish. It doesn’t matter to him. His work is oxygen.
Bad art doesn’t make him a bad person any more than good art makes him a good person. He is an artist. An artist creates.
Sometimes he creates with a plan. Sometimes with reckless abandon.
He is not a genius. He is not a perfectionist. He is flawed.
His flaws find their way into his artwork. Some flaws can be covered up, others can be worked around. Some leave empty spaces where his mind sees a masterpiece. None of them are worth quitting over, even if they stop his work. Stopping is only temporary because his inner desire is to create.
He creates original art. Distinctive art. Not perfect art.
When I imagine the ideal artist, this is what I see. Yet, when I think about myself as an artist, I expect perfection, acceptance, and praise.
The truth about being an artist is that there is no good reason for anyone to really care about the work you do. It matters to you because it’s your conception of an idea, birthed through your hands and sculpted by your virtues and talents. There is no way to possibly convey that depth of meaning to a general viewer. They only see the final product. Not the late nights, the calloused hands, the mad frustrations, or the inner turmoil.
The expression of one’s self is the core reason to create art. But if this was truly believed by artists en masse, then there would be fewer artists quitting their vocation.
When there is a lull in praise and admiration of an artist’s work, you feel it must be caused by your lack of talent. Suddenly your work is irrelevant and unwanted. This quickly translates into a personal interpretation. You are irrelevant. You are unwanted. (Artists are always looking for a reason to beat themselves up.)
This happens often when an artist graduates, concludes their gallery show, or concludes a series of works. The climactic end has a dangerous drop off on the other side. You’ve worked like mad and met every deadline and expectation and then, suddenly, the audience is gone.
Artists call it “drying up.”
If you’ve stopped creating because suddenly there is no audience to praise your work, remember that YOU are not dried up. Neither are your talent or your abilities dried up. Only your audience of praise.
Your job as an artist is to continue to create artwork that teaches you how to create artwork. Most of what you create doesn’t mean anything to anyone but you. But something at some time will.
The key is to NEVER quit. And if you’ve stopped creating for whatever reason, remember that stopping isn’t quitting unless you never start again.