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Grey Cross Studios
1920 4th St, New Orleans , LA 70113
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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Expectation & Legacy - When You Expected Your Art to Shit Rainbows and Pots of Gold

Every new artist experiences the same thing. That overwhelming sense of satisfaction the first time you make something and everyone around you says Wow, that's awesome! And right from the start you've been given a false expectation of your own work.

We've all thought, "damn I can sell this!" And you just might sell that first or second piece, usually to family or a close friend. And you think "damn that was easy! I'll make another". but then things start to change. That one didn't sell as easily or maybe not at all. "But wait!" you say to yourself "I'm a great artist" and that expectation drops down another notch.

The problem is, as the art begins piling up around you and gathers dust, your expectation level drops to the sub-basement. Its here where many just give up and go back to their day jobs. And its here that you should do exactly the opposite because in this place your no longer living a fantasy. Your about to start down the trail of a true and serious artist. If you let yourself do so. Most don't.

You enter an exclusive class now, where you realize the art is more important than the money. The joy of the creation outweighs the fact that you are filling up every room in your house with those creations.

As I said, most fail at this point. Its too hard to learn how to market yourself while learning how to truly be a professional artist. That's a dilemma a lot of us face. I wish I could say it gets easier as time goes by, but for many it doesn't. Many of us fight for our artistic existence every single day.

Like any thing worth doing though, you must bear the slings and arrows of growing your art. And with it your reputation as an artist. Its terribly hard to do both of these and keep them in balance. If you pass the first hurdle of taking your work seriously, then you will rush headlong towards the next hurdle which is the day when you are faced with taking the easy road and creating the same thing over and over again for your life as an artist because you found a niche where one particular type of thing sells over and over again.

In some ways I think this is a scarier hurdle than the first one is because you know you have a good thing. Painting that beach scene over and over again rakes you in that easy $200 per painting. Knitting those cat booties and selling them for a quick $80 is grand!

Here again your faced with expectations. But this one is different. This one makes you money and that is a great thing, but what are you giving up in exchange for it? Eventually your ability to learn new things comes to a slow halt because you've turned your art into a xerox machine (wow dating myself there, at least I didn't say a ditto machine).

Yes I can hear you arguing, isn't that the point of art to sell it and make money from it??? But I'm an idealist. I think that it halts the creative process in its path. Eventually you grow bored and your skills get stale. Your not progressing as an artist.

This is where the talent pool winnows down again. We lost some of you right at the start, we lose a whole lot more of you here in the middle. So where do I go from here? I can be an artist and make money now. But remember those two things I mentioned earlier, skills and reputation. To be a master artisan you must constantly keep those two things in balance with each other. Anything that throws those off will just mean your another crafts-person.

Now for some, many actually, that's OK. You've got a good thing going and I can't say I blame you for wanting to just stay at this plateau. Your creating stuff and your getting paid for it. This is indeed enough for a lot of folk and I can't blame them. In fact I am sort of envious. This is the stage in an artists career where you can really make your name. Look at Thomas Kinkade. His art was beautiful and worth thousands. But I'm sorry, every painting I ever saw the man do pretty much looked like every other one. He found his niche and he actively pursued turning it into a money maker for himself. But I honestly have to say I don't think very highly of the man. He was what he was I suppose and madly successful, but I do NOT consider him a Master Artist.

So what makes the master artist? There isn't a a formula (and no I'm not claiming to be one either). But I can see some trends that make a true master. The Master Artist never ever stops developing their skills. Geeze look at Picasso. The man made every kind of art possible. Heck I even have a set of plates that are replicas that he made. Plates! He was never afraid to try something different. How many of us can say the same?

Look at Michelangelo. The man created David AND the Sistine Chapel. What the hell do either of those have to do with each other? But that is the point isn't it? The only connection is that the man could do both because he allowed his skill level to get to that point. You don't do that by stopping and stagnating. And with that level of skill came a reputation that could not be matched.

Please don't get reputation confused with popularity. Both Picasso and Michelangelo were popular, but popularity doesn't always reflect skill.

In the Museo Nazionale della Magna Grecia in the southern Italian city of Reggio Calabria, Italy are the Riace Bronze sculptures. These were found buried in the sand off the coast of Italy. They are considered some of the most perfect statues every created. The artist is unknown, but his reputation goes on because of these amazing statues. I say again "Skills and Reputation are not popularity".

I suppose if there is a point to this, its to not allow life in any form, stop you from developing your skills to the highest level possible and eventually becoming that Master Artist. It won't happen right away and you probably won't even realize it happened at all. But the natural evolution of the artist is a slow and steady path. Don't get knocked off it or at least don't fool yourself into thinking your something your not.

Always approach your art with a warriors spirit and a saints heart.


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