I was listening today to a podcast called Art Juice which, if you haven’t listened to it, you really should. The fabulous Alice Sheridan and the equally fabulous Louise Fletcher produce this weekly podcast and talk about all sort of art stuff and have really interesting guests on, too. Well worth a listen.
Anyway, this was one of their older episodes and they were talking about the artist’s ‘why’; the reason artists do what they do. The bits that I picked up on and found interesting were ‘the reason behind why artists produce the work they do’ and ‘why some artists don’t want anyone to see their work’. I would imagine a high percentage of people making art are just doing it for themselves but the idea of not showing it to anyone bothered me.
I thought long and hard about this. Why are some people only interested in making art for themselves which no one else will ever see? What is it that drives other artists to get their work seen and why do they love the whole process of selling their art?
Sharing your art with others means taking a huge risk. You risk being laughed at, ridiculed or rejected, and you will feel exposed by this. But does that mean you shouldn’t try?
I know that sharing your art is hard as you could be criticised and sometimes unfairly. There are some very mean people out there, but if someone is so mean spirited that they are unkind about what you are producing it is probably because they are either not an artist themselves – so have no idea about the struggle artists go through about sharing their work – or, if they are an artist, and I’ve met a few of these, they feel threatened by and jealous of the work you have produced. Either way, it says far more about them than it does about you and your work.
Most artists will be supportive and encouraging because we have all been on the bottom rung of the ladder and know how it feels to put work out there for the first time. You must learn to not be afraid of other people’s viewpoints. Not everyone will like your work and that’s ok. Think about it, not everyone likes the same food, books, clothes, holiday destinations etc. It is what makes us incredible human beings. We are all so wonderfully different, I doubt you like all the art you see around you so you cannot expect everyone to like yours.
For those people who don’t want to share their art I would say, if fear is holding you back, what is the worst that can happen? To get past that fear, open an Instagram account. You don’t even have to put your name on it – you can give it a name which only means something to you – and post your work in there. Daily if possible, but post. See what responses you start to get. If you want your art to be meaningful you must share it. You can’t be afraid, and you mustn’t worry about what people think.
It is easier to stay safely hidden away in the shadows, but your art has the potential to change things and if you never share it, it is as if it never existed, and it can never have an effect on anyone else. By having the strength and courage to share you give others courage too.
I have a number of teenagers who follow my Instagram feed. Some are more prolific than others but whenever I see their work I ‘like’ it and from time to time I comment. By giving them recognition for publishing their work I am, I hope, helping them to feel more confident about what they are producing.
Once you are over the fear of sharing your artwork on Instagram you could start sharing on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. Once this crazy virus situation has calmed down and exhibitions start up again, you can take part in local shows. Joining a local art group is a great way to dip your toe in the water, with the safely of the group behind you.
Is sharing your artwork worth the risk? Hell, yes. If you don’t share your work, both you and the world miss out on the opportunity to connect with each other and you don’t get to share how unique and wonderful you are.
The flip side is this. Are artists who show their work in need of something? Are they looking for affirmation and validation? Are they simply needy people wanting the world to tell them how brilliant they are? Well, no.
As I said before, showing your art involves risk and, as I know only too well, people can be really unpleasant, so why do it?
Firstly, like me, artists have learned how to ignore the unpleasant remarks and to be honest ignore the flattery too. Both can be just as toxic, particularly if you are still fairly new to exhibiting. Being an artist is not about pleasing the world but rather communicating your innermost thoughts to the world and, hopefully, connecting with people. Their work is therefore personal and universal at the same time.
What inspires each artist is as different as every human being in the world is. No two artists bring the same life story to their work or have the same things they want to say. For some artists this can be intensely personal and expressive for others it could be about experimenting with tone, colour, texture and so on.
Most artists are pretty sensitive creatures. Whilst the general population tends to block out their emotions, artists simply feel and then channel that emotion into their work. I have seen people weep when a piece of artwork really speaks to them. I have come close myself on one occasion with a lady who bought my work. She was so enthralled, and at that point as an artist I/we have done my/our job, and all is well with the world.
Speaking personally, it is not about wanting glory or validation. I want every piece of my artwork to be bought because someone fell in love with it and couldn’t go home without it. The feeling of joy at having ‘sold’ is momentary. It is lovely but that feeling simply doesn’t last. The knowledge that someone ‘loved’ my work, that feeling lasts. That I have made someone happy is priceless.
Sharing our art and our process is all part of being an artist. Yes, there are prima donnas in our community; there are in every walk of life, but on the whole artists are also generous and sharing people. We share with each other; we teach others less experienced and we continue to take classes from those more experienced.
In general we recognise that being an artist is a responsibility, quite a heavy one for those who choose to reflect current societal changes and behaviours as well as for those who teach our youth but we are able to (and do) help to pull communities together through our work.
So, to those of you who are not sharing, please think again. Don’t allow the opinions of others to affect your feelings of self-worth. Smile sweetly when someone makes a comment, be it good or bad. If those comments help you to learn and grow, that’s great but if they just flatter or criticise ignore them.