>George Clooney is coming to town. More than 4000 people filled the shopping-mall-turned-art community this weekend, hoping to be cast as one of the extras in his new movie, to be filmed in St. Louis. My studio is in the old mall, and I got to watch the spectacle.
Since the casting call would bring so many people to this new art space, we were asked to have our studios open. I complied. And spent the day bursting dreams.
Well, I probably didn’t, but that’s what it felt like.
First, let me say that I am a believer in sharing information and encouraging people. There are so many people who helped me — are STILL helping me — and I want to return the favor.
What I cannot do is give someone a short cut. Sometimes folks don’t want to hear the truth.
There were no fewer than two dozen young people — under 30 — who walked into my studio on Saturday and wanted a job, wanted an intership, wanted to know the secret of success, wanted to know why they couldn’t sell their art, wanted to know — well, you get the idea.
Don’t be mistaken — I’m not a art guru and I certainly don’t look like I know the secrets of life. I was just there — and apparently approachable. I was certainly happy to stop what I was doing to talk to them.
I was shocked by a number of things:
- Not one of these people was prepared with any information about themselves. A couple seemed put off when I suggested that they email me their resume and samples of their work.
- There was a lot of negativity in their attitudes: it’s hard to break in, I don’t have any money, no one will give me a chance. Did they mistake me for their mother or their girlfriend?
- They really didn’t want to hear my answers.
- They wanted quick fixes.
I know times are tough. I haven’t forgotten that when you’re young and starting out, times are always tough. And I might be wrong, but I got the distinct impression that most of these people were used to be given what they wanted… until now.
Here’s what I told each one of them:
- There is no quick way to life as an artist. You have to work at it. All the time.
- Get the education you can afford. Learn from everyone. Learn from everything.
- Teach what you know.
- Be willing to take chances.
- Show only your BEST work.
- Enter your best work in juried exhibits. Find out if you’re really as good as you think you are.
- Don’t be afraid of competition. There’s always somebody who’s better than you. Learn from them.
- Achieve the excellence you admire.
- You might not be able to have everything right now. There are decisions to make: cable or art supplies?
- Don’t copy somebody’s else’s work or style. Find your own vision. Find your own voice.
- Come to grips with the fact that you might have to support yourself with other work while your art evolves.
- Don’t assume you the world owes you any recognition. There are LOTS of talented people out there.
- Be responsible for your own success.
- Be grateful to people who help you.
- Be generous to people who need your help.
- It’s ok to complain and gripe about how hard this is. My friends hear it from me all the time. But stop it there– with friends. That’s what they’re for! To the rest of the world, show your confidence, and your willingness to work hard and take risks.
- Failure looks like failure. Success looks like success.
There are no short cuts to a successful artist’s life. There are no short cuts to any successful life.
>As you probably know or have surmised, it’s the same story with people who want to be writers. They want to have their books (usually novels or screenplays) published or produced but they’re not interested in getting the education and skills they need to set themselves apart from others in the same boat. And they simply don’t listen to advice when that advice isn’t what they want to hear.The advice you offered in this post applies not only to artists but to anyone in almost any career. It’s great advice — I think the people who take it and run with it are the ones who will succeed.Thanks for a good post!
>Thanks, Maria. You’re right. Success isn’t rocket science. It’s hard work. Whining gets old, doesn’t it?
>HI Maria, Stopping by from our women in photography group. Great advice. thanks Sherrlyn Borkgren Photography
>Jeane,Great advice for any walk of life.What old mall in ST Louis? Robin
>Great post. It is so true. I’ve had the same thing happen. It’s important to discern who to give info to and who not to. You are wise to have a prepared response.There is no cut-out way to succeed, and no easy path to it.
>Jeane, you are absolutely right on! Kids today expect everything to be handed to them on a silver platter. I have a 20 year old Son who doesn’t understand why he can’t find a job that will allow him to have the lifestyle I worked 35 years to give my family. He thinks he should have all the luxuries he had living at home, now that he is on his own. I tried to explain how his Mother and I started out with nothing and worked our way to where we are today. Kids today want it all now and I guess it’s our fault for making it too easy for them growing up. Also, I don’t think schools are adequately preparing them for life, as they did in the past.
>Bravo! Great words of wisdom. I’m sending this to my wannabe musician son!Now, tell me where you found the captcha script….
>Thanks, everyone. I just I hit a nerve. I don’t want to come off as an old fogey who hates what the kids are doing. That’s not really it. I do hear the same whining from people my age who don’t want to work for their art either. Fine. Don’t blame me. I’m working my butt off. And I truly try to put that advice to use in my studio too.And Blogger manages the captcha script. It’s cool? Didn’t know!
>Jeane,I’m one of those confused twenty-somethings and I completely agree with you.Having seen most of my close friends from college drift away from their passions, some not even seeking to continue their art as a hobby, I’ve a very good idea of what you are talking about. 4 years working at a music store spoiled me to being able to sketch all day at my job. When I was preparing to leave the store in order to pursue work in the corporate world I had a conversation with the owner of a neighboring store that really woke me up. He asked me what my plans were for my artwork and I said I didn’t have any, he then smiled and asked what I was going to do and I told him I was going to get a “real” job and pursue my art on the side.”You’ll forget about your art soon enough…you’re not going to have time if you want to be successful in business.”Pretty ominous advice, but it made me determined to prove him wrong. The only thing holding me back was myself and not wanting to take the time to do what I had to in order to eat, pay rent, and pursue my artwork. Fortunately I’m pretty stubborn and despite the corporate jobs that I’ve held I continued to draw on the job. One would think that this takes away from my performance, but instead I’ve been awarded for my high performance and even gained the respect of my CEO’s and managing directors due to the fact that I’m not willing to give up on my creativity. Now I’m an independent consultant and it’s giving me the chance to do both the “real” job and pursue illustration, without feeling guilty for either. Having spent time in the corporate world I’ve learned more about sound business practices, having worked in marketing I know more about how to get my work where it needs to be, and overall I’ve learned more about life which has added depth to my work that wasn’t there before.At the moment I’m happy to have my little wordpress blog to display my art, once I get some more solid pieces together I’ve already spoken to comic stores in the area and there are always bars and galleries requesting works on Craigslist. All it takes is pursuing it, the rest comes naturally. Thanks for your advice,David
>I agree. There do seem to be a lot of people looking for shortcuts. There are a lot of reasons for this beyond laziness, though.Some people just don’t know any better. Some went to college and got a degree (or even multiple degrees) in art, music, theater, writing, etc. and still don’t know how to pursue it as a career.And others really are struggling to make ends meet. They are seeking whatever advice they can get, but they don’t even know how or what to ask. They don’t know where to start, let alone where to go from there. It’s not that they’re necessarily looking for a shortcut; they’re really just trying to find the road.And everyone needs to vent sometimes. I am one of those people that winds up gathering others’ life stories. I guess I just seem safe or harmless or non-judgmental. I am honored to be so trusted, though, weird and trying as it can be sometimes. You should consider it a compliment that others feel comfortable enough in your presence to gripe. Don’t get me wrong – some people are just plain whiny. But we all need to vent sometimes, and it can be hard to find someone who will listen or who even understands.Your advice is very good, though. I think that a lot of people are more inhibited by their attitudes than anything else.
>David,You’re an inspiration! You will make it. You believe in yourself and you know what have to do. You go!I’m proud to know you! Friend me on Facebook, if you’re there. I’d love to see your work! That goes for everybody.Jeane
>Well said. I am going to link up to this post (on my blog) if that’s ok with you.
>Very ok! Thanks.J.
>Jeane: GREAT post! And welcome to my world! This is why I wrote the “no-excuse guide to self-promotion.” Successful people don’t make excuses. to BlackSheep: Yes sometimes people need to vent, but (especially if you’re looking for work), don’t vent to someone you don’t know. The world is too small for that and it’s completely unprofessional. To them, I say: Suck it up, go home, and scream into the pillow.
>Probably the most interesting part of your post for me was the generation issue. I learned, long ago, to not accept young artists who wanted me to help them with my one-on-one artist statement writing service. Young women artists (20/30 something) always wanted their AS to be non-personal, third person, and “objective.” No matter how well I could explain all the reasons why this approach does not work in the marketplace of art, they just backed right off. I realized quickly that young women tended to be frightened about the juicier, personal aspects of a good artist statement. It was an emotional safety issue that made sense considering their younger relationship with the world at large.And young male artists were simply blindsided by a certain male hubris that comes with the developmental territory of maleness in our culture.Then there’s that invincible vest the young wear, which serves them well with idealism and integrity, but simply needs to wear down a little before they are developmentally ready to hear what it takes to succeed in life.And, of course, there are all the exceptions to this set of characteristics I’ve experienced in younger artists. To those exceptions, I salute you! And hope this post serves you well.
>Absolutely true, Jeane! Great advice for pretty much any profession. And even for those of us who aren’t so young anymore, it still helps to hear it.
>What a terrific post! I tweeted a couple of your points with a link back here.What I love most (in addition to your honesty and clarity) is that you speak as an artist to artists. As you say, there are obstacles to success as an artist, just as there are obstacles to success as a dentist or a chef. In any career very difficult choices to be made. The fact that we face these choices is not evidence of a cruel fate. It simply means we’ve reached a fork in the road we chose of our own free will.
>as someone who occasionally gives advice to people wanting to break in to the film business… ! I concur I concur !marywww.creativevoyage.co.uk
>Great post and advice Jeane! I think there is hope for the twenty-somethings though – or some of them at least. They need to mature and learn the determination (some would call it stubbornness) that comes with age. I think as a whole we protect our kids too much and don’t let them/make them struggle for anything and so they don’t learn how to cope when things get tough.I had to learn my determination the hard way, when my day job made me miserable and exhausted. It took many years to learn and I think it didn’t sink in until I ran a marathon. You learn a lot about knuckling down and pushing through with gritted teeth between miles 20 and 25.
>Well put. While I've been roundly ignored by most all the galleries in town as well as the press, it matters little- I have made and sold a lot of art in this town the last 11 yrs. If someone doesn't wanna know, forget 'em & press on. I have a full-time job AND a rock band that has made 5 albums with little or no help. While a lot of other folks are running out to make "the scene", I'm at home working on art and finding ways to promote it online or anywhere else. Additionally, I understand the idea of showing only your best work, but with my stuff, I show most all of it. I can't tell you how many times someone has called or e-mailed wanting a piece that I would consider "minor" among my works- Different folks seem to like vary in their opinion of what is my "best work", and they aren't shy about it.
>Hello, Yeas, I think you did hit a nerve. A very good post and true of so many things, not just art. Bravo!
>Jeane, to see more of this in action, just watch the auditions for American Idol. So many come to sing, never having been to one audition or taken any lessons. They are crushed when they realize that they are no good and nobody cares about their “passion” until they combine it with work.
>Hi Jeane,I agree with many of your comments and those who responded. I did have one thought, however; We’re saying that kids today want everything easy. Um, didn’t our parents and/or grandparents say the same thing about us or some portion of us?I agree that not all kids of any generation are in that mold (wanting everything easy and right away). I think with the arts some people see it as a romantic adventure (blame it on Hollywood?) Even I still like to daydream…and then I drag my butt back to the task at hand and get back to work.Great points all around. Thanks for sharing your experience.-Amy
>here here, and i raise my glass. My girlfriends think that since i work from home that i can just drop what i am doing and go have lunch or bs on the phone for 1/2 a day. they really have NO idea how much work it is being a full time artist. I have been in the jewelry business for 10 years and counting and really when you do something you love you really are always working. My brain never stops.love your commentary. it is right on.i will share it.thank you-Katy at south paw studios jewelry in toledo, ohio.
>Hi Jeane, Thank you for you great words of wisdom, for most artist that are out there doing this they know but it’s a great reminder to have hanging on the wall in my studio and that’s right were I’ll be copying and print this. I’ve also shared this on my blog with credits to you. thanks great inspiration. ~v~Laura
>This resonates with me more than ever right now, my goodness. After having a long talk with a friend she said she read your blog and sent me this way to read it…I totally get it. I just want to say that I thank you for writing all that I was feeling. Cheers, AK