Thursday, August 15, 2013

Why are artists depressed?

I came across the above list last week at Jerry's Artarama and thought that I would add my comments to it. In answer to the title of this post, I don't know that they are. But this was one of the first few searches that came up when typing the phrase "Why are artists..."

Anyway, to the list:

1. Constantly Compare Yourself To Other Artists.

This is one that I am guilty of, and yes it can make you crazy miserable. This is a difficult one for me because I dislike most contemporary art. Many of the recognized and "hot" artists of today are conceptual artists, installation artists, performance artists, video artists, or artists who are otherwise working in non-traditional media. These artists are focused on an idea and are presenting work about that idea. It often seems that they  are less concerned with how their work appears visually, and more concerned with making their idea tangible. Because these artists win the awards, and garner the recognition, and advance in the art world it can be frustrating for a more traditional artist like myself. I have found myself comparing my work to theirs and wondering if I should be more like them.  It's important to remember that we are all artists and we all have a different way of working. There is a place for their work and a place for mine. The challenge is to stay focused on what you want to do.

2. Talk To Your Family About What You Do And Expect Them To Cheer You On.

I think this one applies to life in general. Nobody really understands your life and what you are doing better than you yourself. Sure, you will find encouragement but not to the level that you need to be motivated as an artist. You have to have the independent drive and desire to want to make art. Despite the support or lack thereof from others.

3. Base The Success Of Your Career On One Project.

I can see how this would make an artist miserable. But I can say that I have never done this. I typically move from one idea/project to the next. I take what I have learned from that project into the next, but I have not dwelt on any one particular success or idea.

4. Stick With What You Know.

This is interesting to me, and I'm not sure what it is in reference to. Does it mean the content of your work? Does it mean the style you work in? Does it refer to the media you use? Maybe a little of all these things. I don't know. It seems a tad out of place on this list, and certainly doesn't apply to me and my artwork.

5. Undervalue your expertise.

Like number two, I think this applies to life in general. It seems to me that people frequently pass on opportunities and experiences simply because they believe they are not good enough, smart enough, etc, etc. To me this is defeatist. Apply for those shows! Seek out those artist residencies! Do what interests you! The people making these selections will have to choose somebody, and they certainly won't choose you if you don't try out.

6. Let Money Dictate What You Do.

I'm not entirely sure why this is on the list. I have found that if you have a serious interest in art, you are going to pursue that interest regardless of the money. When I went to college I wasn't sure what I wanted to study. After a semester or two, I finally selected art as my major. So many people told me this was a bad idea and that I would be poor. However, I did not let that dissuade me and most other artists I have met have also not let money determine what they are going to do.

7. Bow To Societal Pressures

I sort of think this is partially why artists are frequently viewed as outside the mainstream. Artists generally don't fall in line, especially when it comes to his/her work. Most of my work is pretty mundane, but on occasion I have created imagery that could be controversial. For me, and probably for most artists, I don't have a wide audience and so this hasn't been an issue. Once I get to the point where everyone (i.e society) is criticizing my work, and telling me I need to change my ways, I will know I have succeeded in a major way.

8. Only Do Work That Your Family Would Love.  

I have not done this, so I can't really speak to it. But this comes down to thinking about who your audience is. I want my work to be viewed by a broad audience so I try to think about how John Q Public would interpret my imagery. If you are only making art for your family then this would not apply to you.

9. Do Whatever The Client/Costumer/Gallery Owner/Patron Investor Asks.

This is a good one, and something that I have only just begun to grasp. I have not done that many commissions, mostly because I don't want to do what others tell me to do. I want to make my own art. However, after speaking with other artists who have done commission work, I have learned that these artists never do what was requested. Patrons are very please just to have an original work of art specifically created for him/her. Most often they don't remember what they said to the artist anyway. This reminds me of something a restaurant manager once told me. People would make an order, and then when it came out to them they had already forgotten what it was that they ordered! If the public cannot even remember what they requested when ordering lunch, they are certainly not going to recall what they have requested of an artist.
10. Goals, blah blah blah. I hate goals. So I'm not even going to address this one.
So anyway, that's my take on this list. Share your thoughts in the comments!