I had an exhibition and it went very well, pretty much as well as such a thing can go – it was sold out before opening night! I paid off some debt and still had enough to just focus on painting for another six months. Now that the initial euphoria has died down and my seemingly miraculous pile of money has eroded to something recognizably finite, the familiar question of ‘how can I do this in a sustainable manner?’ has arisen again.
I’ve subsequently chatted to gallerists and to other artists making a go of it and to other self-employed freelancing types.
Various points have occurred in these conversations with regularity. In no particular order:
- Work work work; that old adage of ‘Genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration’? Spot on. The only way to survive is to keep putting work out there – as a caveat, though, the work should naturally be of a standard that satisfies you, or you’ll just be devaluing yourself and your work.
- In counterpoint, I suspect it’s also important to take some time off when you’ve done something good so that you can recharge and refocus, otherwise you’re in danger of just becoming an output machine and your ability to judge the quality of what you’re doing will be fuzzy. It’s important to look at the world around us sometimes to remember why the hell we’re doing whatever it is we’re doing (in my case I want to bring beauty into the world, but I can’t do that if all I’m doing is sitting in my studio day after day after day – it’s important for me to find things out in the world that tickle my aesthetic sensibilities and develop my sense of beauty.)
- Take control of your career; other people or entities may have an interest vested in your success, but none more so than yourself – look at what needs to be done and do it. This includes your admin (emails, phone calls, domestic crap, ummmm blog entries), because the niggly little to-dos can become quite distracting and build up stress. (This post is being written on an admin day – it’s one of eighteen things on my to-do list for today.)
- Stay visible – get works into group shows, build a community of interesting people to discuss all of these issues with. Interesting possibilities will arise from such discussions.
- Set deadlines: another advantage of group shows in between big solo shows (I’ve only had one, but I’m looking forward). Deadlines provide structure and get your bum on your seat to work work work. It encourages productivity and limits thumb-twiddling kanoodling. The fear of public humiliation is a great motivator.
- That said, failure is ALWAYS an option and the fear of it should never put us off. Persevere at all times, because eventually you’ll get somewhere – even if it’s just to an understanding that that way doesn’t work and next time you’ll do it differently. My favourite quote of all time ever is this one, which is stuck up above the sink on my studio wall: