Open Letter for All Artists
Almost every artist I speak to these days has a profound tale of woe to spin. The common complaint: bad economy = lack of sales = "Whaa happened?" For those of us who make our living and put food on our family table, it doesn't really matter what happened so much as what we can do to adjust. In our moments of panic, rash and destructive choices are made to turn a buck... we diminish ourselves and often do untold damage to careers which have taken a long time to build.
For so very long galleries were the way: the omniscient ones, and for a very long time most of them did a fine job with it. But in the end they are only merchants. No one knows better than you when you are on the right path. Rainer Maria Rilke says, "A work of art is good if it has sprung from necessity." The need to say something is a far cry from the need to be heard. There is art and there is product and they are rarely the same thing.
Walking out of the final Harry Potter movie last week I was struck by something much larger than the film. It was the fact that Ms. Rowling built this thing, this idea from thin air, moved words around in a personal way, created a world, which had not existed and turned it into a very real thing.
That is what we get to do everyday — create. We can construct what has never existed, bring something to the world and shape it with our own hearts and hands. It's a gift we have which is easy to lose sight of.
What to do about it?
Innovation, Resilience, Perseverance and Faith.
• Change your plan; create your own opportunities to teach or sell your own work.
• A good website which represents you elegantly and truthfully with new content on a monthly basis.
• More is not better; better is better. Make an effort to improve on both vision and your craft.
• If you want to be remarked about — be remarkable.
• Quality is a habit.
If you haven't already, learn to take a hit and get back up. Nothing works like it used to, and when it does change, it will be different from before. Get used to the idea and turn to yourself. It's your life, make better choices — don't be a victim.
Like Karma, the artist's life has it's own organic path if you let it unfold naturally. Work ethic, love of the job, proximity and opportunity all play a role in developing a life in art. Be clear about these and adjust your life to maximize your gifts.
Now for the most important and, ironically, counter-intuitive part of it all: Belief in yourself. Read your art history — every artist has wrestled with this one. I have always believed that humility and hubris must walk hand-in-hand; you must have humility to receive the world, yet have the ego to face a blank canvas and believe that you can add something to it.
Make a conscious choice to surround yourself with authentic words, music and art to remind you of what is possible. Above all surround yourself with those who love and believe in you and are willing to hold up a mirror. In every weak moment my wife Natalie has been there to hand my words back to me.
Growth is always on the edge of uncomfortably.
Be grateful, be humble, be open and create without fear,
— Joe Paquet
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