As this year winds down, I’ve been thinking a lot about my plans and goals for the year ahead. I’m not really a goals-oriented person, per say – I find it hard to stick to them – but I am thinking about the directions I want to move in.
It seems that when I wasn’t looking, my brain made an executive decision – I don’t want a traditional art career.
No offense to any artists reading this, but sometimes I wonder if there’s a competition that no one told me about – the “How Boring Can Your Website Possibly Be” Contest.
I get it. It’s professional. It’s safe. It’s conventional. It’s what’s expected. We’re supposed to put up sites with long lists of our accomplishments, talk about all of the Important things we’ve done, and then tell everyone to go talk to our galleries if they want to know more about us and our art. I know I’m generalizing here, but it’s true for a lot of artists sites, even (especially) more famous artists.
And I know I sound kind of like an ass right now, but I’m only in jest. If that works for you, all the power to you. For some artists, that’s exactly how they want to do it. It’s the traditional path to artistic success and it’s working for them. Rock on.
I don’t want it.
Every time I think about trying to squish myself into that box, I rebel. Maybe that’s why I’ve struggled so much to define success for myself. I keep trying to fit it into these expected standards. I keep trying to make myself conventional. And let’s face it – I don’t really do conventional very well.
For me, my idea of success looks more like Hazel’s, or Hugh’s, or John’s. Naomi’s, or Havi’s or Chris’s. It looks more personal. It’s got a whole lot of me sticking out of it. It encompasses lots of things. It involves helping people. It involves connecting with people.
My art is about connection. I paint to connect to myself, but also to connect to others. It helps me to transform the painful parts of my life into something more useful, more hopeful.
For me, my art without my own personal story is nothing. It’s an exercise in pretty pictures. Some of my paintings may be beautiful, but it is absolutely never about a pretty picture.
Life is painful sometimes. I’ve been there, you’ve been there. We can’t wander around with our heads in the sand, pretending that stuff never happened. (Well, some of us try to.) That’s like cutting off a part of yourself – life without pain means you can never appreciate the joy. Not that pain is good. I’m not trying to be preachy.
But there is something to be said for embracing the pain and transforming it.
It’s what I do when I paint. I take my pain and I make it art. I put my pain in the paint. I’m not trying to paint painful things or scenes – although some people can only see that. I’m trying to help you transform your pain as well, right along with me.
What I’m trying to say is, I can’t just pretend that that isn’t a huge part of my art. I couldn’t just cut that out of my website, out of my blog, out of my newsletter. I can’t sanitize myself.
Which means that traditional goals aren’t going to work for me. I can’t get jazzed up about some day having a museum show. I don’t give two shits about New York City and its fancy pants galleries. I’m not even sure I care about galleries that much. I used to care. Now…I don’t know. The thing I hate about selling my art through a gallery is I don’t know who’s on the other side.
The problem with rejecting the typical ideas of artistic success is I’m not quite sure what my idea of success actually looks like. I think I’m headed in the right general direction though. I’m not entirely sure where this path is going to lead me, and that’s kind of exciting. It’s like an adventure! With sparkles! And joy! And cookies! I’m a five year old!
I don’t know what next year is going to look like yet, but I can promise you this – it’s going to have a whole lotta Me in it.