It’s not easy being an artist today. First of all, there’s way too many critics out there. It can all but paralyze a sensitive artist—to the point where you fear creating anything knowing how your art (and you as an artist) will be judged, assessed, analyzed, critiqued, chewed up and spit out.
I’ve always felt art should be only be judged in one simple way, it either appeals to you or not. No further explanation necessary. You like it or you don’t. And if you don’t, chances are still quite good somebody else will. It may have no redeeming social value at all, it may even demean and devalue the rich heritage of artistic expression since the dawn of mankind, but to someone else it may still have value.
To the artist who is experimenting with their form, learning and honing their craft, it may be the very step that takes them to the next level. Why break an artist’s spirit when they’re just beginning to find their place in the field they’ve chosen?
For an artist, it’s like having a baby and then hearing that your baby is ugly, stupid, or has little redeeming value. Or worse, what if everyone praises your baby as the most beautiful, amazing child they’ve ever seen. You might bask in the glow of that glory, but really, how much did it have to do with YOU? A work of artistic expression, like a baby, is made up of a number of factors, many of which may be out of the artist’s hands. As well, what happens when you try to follow it up with a second, third, or fourth “child.” The pressure to continually improve upon the last is quite heavy, even overpowering.
Then there are those who long more to become a) famous and/or b) rich. Artists, real artists, shouldn’t focus on either. An artist should simply focus on their art. Express what you want to express and if anyone else likes it so much the better, if not, that shouldn’t be the point.
That’s where it would help every artist to have a manager.
Even an artist doesn’t necessarily have to starve. There should be someone in every artist’s corner to cheer them up when a show doesn’t go so well, or to bring them down to earth when things are going perhaps a little too well. So often, talented people aren’t the best promoters of their own work, because, let’s face it, self-promotion is a fine-line. An artist promoting their work is a little like a sideshow barker promoting himself. An artist needs someone to promote for them.
While we’re at, why not have someone do all your marketing for you, while you as an artist create?
With all the self-publishing going on these days online, many writers have had to become great marketers alongside being great writers. How can you do both well? Wouldn’t it be easier having someone else do your marketing for you—like publishing houses used to do for writers?
It’s a tough road for artists, writers, performers, producers, directors of all kinds, but it’s also a fascinating time right now. With online promotion you have all sorts of opportunities for pretty much free marketing of your art. However, the time you have to spend marketing and managing your artistic career takes away from the time you have to actually make…your…art.
For me, I’ve stalled many of my artistic endeavours because of the pressures an artist faces. I think I’m too sensitive to critics, and don’t yet feel entirely comfortable with self-promotion. I’m trying to toughen up, whilst finding the courage to put my work out there, but it’s a gradual process for me. Very gradual in fact. For decades I suffered from stage fright—couldn’t do any performing. Now at least I’m over that to a great degree, but it’s the other side of the artistic business that I still find difficult, that is managing and marketing myself as an artist.
I sometimes believe it’s why I seek out more teaching opportunities, because I’m not sure I can hack the artistic life. It’s a little like the old adage “those who can, do, those who can’t, teach.” I hate to think that relates to my struggles as a performer and writer, but sadly, I have to confess at this time, it probably does.
If you’re like me, out there still struggling to find your place in the artistic community, don’t give up. Keep trying. Do what you can, when you can. I hear it gets easier.