“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
I often think the same analogy can be applied to a piece of art - if no one sees it, is it still valuable? Someone asked me yesterday why I wanted exhibit my work and I was quite confused by his question. It seems obvious to me that I would want people to view my art, hence art is something very visual that needs to be appreciated or critiqued. ‘But is that what gives it it’s value?’ He said. This got me thinking about why I really do art and how valuable it is (and not necessarily in a monetary sense). I have a vision of where I want to go with my work and I have dreams and aspirations – they’re all good, but what if those dreams were never realised, would it make my present work fit for the compost? Would it mean that I would’ve wasted time trying?
If you’re a creative and you’re trying to get your work seen by people it can be very degrading. It can feel a little awkward constantly self-promoting and selling your work. People may not always like what you do, they may hate it. Will that stop you working and expressing yourself?
So today I’m thinking about ways to encourage artists (particularly ones who get easily dismayed) to feel positive about the work they produce and not to be too easily swayed by people’s opinions. Constructive feedback is good, but rejections and opinions do not necessarily mean your work is rubbish. You need to take a step back and be realistic. Here are some of the things that help me to do so:
1). Look at how far you’ve come.
List the successes you’ve had so far, from school, to the commissions you’ve had, or any positive feedback. Write it down. Be realistic about your achievements and think what has worked for you in the past and feel good :)
2). Write your goals
If often you find yourself getting frustrated that you can’t reach your goals (you didn’t get that commission you wanted or your illustrations are not yet in the Guardian…), then write them down too on a separate bit of paper. Write the things you want to achieve with your art in 10 years time, the sort of work you want to be doing, and base your current decisions around it. Ask yourself if your next piece of work will bring you closer or further away to your goals?
3). Focus on the now. What is your next piece of work about? If it’s a commission then you need to feel positive that someone has faith in your work, but if it’s not then that should not determine whether the piece has 'value’. Experiment. Have fun. Play. You may discover something new that will help you to develop your work further.
4). Do not consider a lack of encouragement as failure or underachievement.
People are busy, they may not have time to go see your latest work. That doesn’t mean they don’t like it. You may have posted something on Facebook and it only got a couple of 'likes’, that does not mean it isn’t any good. Be wary of social media - it is a great way to promote your wok and engage with other artists but it is in no way a means to discover how talented you are.
5). Deal with 'failure’.
If someone does say they don’t like your work, ask them why. Take on board criticism but don’t let it define you. If you’re approaching professionals for commissions, don’t pester for a response. Great if you get feedback, but understand that people are busy - to them you are just another artist asking for work so don’t think them rude if they don’t respond. How you respond to failure will determine how you will succeed.
That’s right, pat yourself on the back. It’s important to note when you have accomplished something and not just rush on to the next project. You’d buy your mate a drink if they got the commission they wanted, right? You need to be kind to yourself so that your work motivates you. You need to look after and cultivate your talent.
6). Have fun.
Don’t just look ahead but enjoy the moment. If a project seems hard or laborious, think about what you can learn from it and ways in which you can make it more interesting. If the process of doing your work doesn’t make you happy then maybe you should think twice about it.
7). Value what you do.
Give yourself respect for pursuing something that doesn't give you an easy route to success. Appreciate the here and now and don't be too obsessed with getting recognition for what you do. Doing work that you are passionate about shows (and if you're not passionate that shows too!), so make sure you're doing it for the right reasons. If your work makes you happy then it has value - yes, even if no one sees it (Just like that falling tree will make a noise even when no one’s around).