Good and Bad News: Your Work Is Never Done

Newsflash! You’re just getting started.

Whether you think this is good news or bad news depends on your disposition. Some people feel fulfilled and complete every day. I envy them.

I want more. Not more “stuff,” but more out of life. More experiences, more love, more friends, more cats. (Only kidding about that last one!)

I know it’s not fashionable these days to want more. “They” say I should be content where I am and live in the moment.

Can’t I want more and appreciate the present?

I have come to realize and accept that I will never be complete. I am just getting started.

My work is never done.

I will never feel like I’ve arrived. There will always be something more to look forward to, and new goals and dreams to pursue that are optimistic about the future.

This is different than being unsatisfied. People who are unsatisfied are negative, unhappy, and, often, annoying.

I’m satisfied because for me, satisfaction comes from a job well done: getting some exercise, cleaning out the garden, or ironing napkins for dinner guests (I know … ironing … weird, but true).

There is great satisfaction in taking the steps toward your vision and seeing each project to completion.

But the vision may shift, and the dreams will get bigger, which brings the next set of projects.

This is how I’m wired. I’ve been this way … um … forever.

I have come to embrace this part of my nature, and I’m happy and positive because I’m enjoying the journey. I can’t imagine a different perspective than the one ingrained in me.

This brings me to your life as an artist.

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The Career Journey of Growth-Minded Artists

Sky Pape Art

One of the most-used business metaphors is the ladder of success.

With this metaphor it’s assumed that you start at the bottom and work your way to the top rung in a predictable, progressive fashion. Wouldn’t it be easy if you always knew your next steps?

But this isn’t how your business works.

Think about it. What’s at the bottom of the ladder of success? What is the progression of steps? And, most importantly, what in the world happens when you get to the top?

When you get to the top, are you finished? Is it all over?

I have never heard of a single artist – visual, performing, or otherwise – who thinks they’ve attained the highest level possible in their career.

I think that’s why, even though I use it, I have a problem with the word “success.” Growth-minded artists keep moving the target for success. They’re never quite satisfied.

You will keep going for as long as you breathe.

You’re creative, after all. You want to learn more, improve your art, and flourish from accepting new challenges.

You want your art to be seen by more people, to be acquired by ever-prestigious collectors and institutions, and to leave a legacy.

Artists don’t reach the top and say that’s it. They keep going!

Your Art Biz Career Circle

Rather than the using the metaphor of a ladder, I use the circle to explain how art businesses and careers expand. Here’s how it works.

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How to Feel More Abundant in Your Life and Art

Margaret Warfield painting

In this blog post I encouraged you to consider how your frugality might be hurting your art business by sending the wrong message to potential collectors.

At the end of that article, I posed 3 questions for you to think about, which we will now look at in depth. The intention is to ensure that you are not only living with an abundant heart, but that you are projecting that way of being into the world.

1. How do others treat you?

Perhaps a better question is this: How do you allow others to treat you?

For example … If you’re a member of an artist organization, what is the room like at your artists’ meetings? Is it dark, gray, and lifeless?

Do something to combat the drudgery and nurture abundance throughout the organization. Ask members to bring snacks on beautiful trays – preferably handmade by an artist – instead of paper plates.

Assign alternating people to arrive early at each meeting to clean the room and serve as welcoming hosts.

You can be the catalyst for change within any organization to which you belong.

We teach people how to treat us by

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Are You Too Frugal?

I am tired of watching artists and arts organizations live on leftover scraps.

Mind you, the organizations and agencies aren’t cheap with the patrons and board members with the big bank accounts. They are cheap with the artists, without whom their passionate interest would not exist.

Artists, in turn, grow to feel they are not worthy of more.

Don’t get me wrong. Frugality isn’t inherently bad. In fact, it can be good.

I don’t believe in spending for spending’s sake or in extravagance.

But frugality becomes detrimental when it feeds the notion that we are not worthy of more.

Many of my clients develop this sense of unworthiness that is perpetuated by the very organizations that were created to serve them.

I confess that I behaved similarly in the past.

For years I have been writing about how artists can show that their work has value. But I continued to allow the organizers who hired me for workshops to do things “on the cheap,” and I was doing the same with the workshops and events I organized myself.

How can I save money? was my modus operandi.

My first workshop, in 2003, was held at an office building that a friend managed. I recall my parents (!) picking up and delivering boxed lunches to the group.

At a much later workshop, I ran my team ragged making coffee all day long – trekking repeatedly to the kitchen on the other end of the building. Coffee! Because I didn’t pay for a venue that had food service.

No more. I began attending

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Dwell In the Love Not On the Rejection

Plenty of people denounce Valentine’s Day as one that was invented by the greeting card industry, but put me in the column for wanting more love, more hearts, and more sappy cards.

Send away!

Recognize the romantic love between you and your partner.

Celebrate familial love with your parents, children, and extended family.

Commemorate the special love between you and your friends.

And don’t forget to honor the love you have for your buyers, collectors, patrons, and students.

Send cards, flowers, and chocolates. If it’s too late to pop something in the mail, start typing your email messages.

While you’re at it, stock up on the love for yourself because you’re gonna need it.

Ouch!

The artist’s life is full of rejection and criticism.

The gallery doesn’t want your work. That couple praised your recent piece, but didn’t buy it. The residency you want so badly won’t consider your application.

To add insult to injury, nobody commented on your recent blog or social media post. You’re beginning to wonder what the point of all this is.

It’s amazing that any artist thrives at all. It’s a testament to your resilience that you persevere despite the roadblocks you encounter.

You do it because you have an unwavering commitment in the work you do. You can’t imagine doing anything else.

Still, because you are human, the criticism and rejection hurt.

And those voices are louder than any chorus of praise you might receive. The default for so many of us is to dwell on the negative comments and rejections and ignore all of the nice things that people say about our work.

Do this instead:

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Ways of BE-ing

Goals are about action and achievement. They’re about DO-ing. Consider these examples:

You identify challenging goals to move closer to the vision you have for your art career (and life).

And … because you don’t want your vision to get lost in the busy-ness of working toward individual goals, it’s important to remember how you want to feel as you’re striving toward those goals.

With that in mind, I asked my Art Biz Inner Circle members how they wanted to BE in 2017.

Many artists chose a word-of-the-year to answer the question. I thought it would be fun to share with you the wide range of be-ing words, which I’ve grouped into seven categories in this article.

I hope you’ll take a look at this list of ways of be-ing for artists and see if any of them ring true for you.

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Entrepreneurs R Us (Curious Monday)

Pastel of palm by Susan Klinger

The world loves labels. And, yet, many artists would walk a mile out of the way to avoid a label.

Just for fun, though, try on the label “entrepreneur.”

I am an entrepreneur.

I think you, too, are an entrepreneur, but I’m not sure what you think about that word. Let’s find out.

Are You An Entrepreneur?

Without getting into the official definition of the word, do you relate to the word “entrepreneur”?

What comes up for you if I called you an artist-entrepreneur?

Do you describe yourself as an entrepreneur?

What would it take for you to feel more like an entrepreneur? Is that desirable?

Do you buy products, classes, books, and programs for entrepreneurs?

Can’t wait to hear what you have to say. Just leave a comment below.

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Looking for a Breakthrough? Keep Working

The history of art is a history of artistic breakthroughs. Consider these significant achievements:

– Scientific perspective

– Oil painting, and then acrylics

– Abstraction (Gasp! Art doesn’t have to be a window on the world?)

– Photography

– Collage (Huh? Glue paper on top of paper??)

– Constructed sculpture (rather than carved or modeled)

My Breakthroughs

My first artistic breakthrough came in 1974 when I rendered a blue jay and cardinal in oil pastel. I’m an artist, I thought.

I wasn’t looking for a breakthrough. I didn’t even know what one was at that young age. I was just trying to make a pretty picture that my grandmother would like.

I had another breakthrough in college when I realized that I liked my art history classes better than my painting classes. Again, I wasn’t looking for a breakthrough or to change my major. I was merely trying to make it through another semester.

My biggest breakthrough came in 2001-02 when I listened to artists who were looking for help with their careers. I could never have imagined this line of work that has been so rewarding.

What Needs to Break?

The dictionary defines a breakthrough as …

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Own Your Ambition

Geri deGruy's Equanimity

“Ambitious artists hire me because they want more recognition for their art and support as they get their art out of the studio and into the world.”

I strung together these words during a small group discussion at a conference. One of my Inner Circle members happened to be sitting next to me and flinched at the word choice: ambitious. (You should have seen her face!)

Then she challenged me on it. The word just didn’t sound right, she thought.

I said, “You’re ambitious. Don’t you think?” She thought a bit, and agreed with a little hesitation, “Yes, I probably am. It’s just the word I have problems with.”

Ambitious Artists

Definitions of ambition include:

– A strong desire to do or to achieve something, typically requiring determination and hard work.

-A desire and determination to achieve success.

– An earnest desire for some type of achievement or distinction, as power, honor, fame, or wealth, and the willingness to strive for its attainment.

If you don’t see yourself in any of these definitions, you might want to rethink your path as an artist-entrepreneur (all successful artists are also entrepreneurs).

Without the desire, there’s no

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Empower Yourself By Taking 100% Responsibility

©Jean Reece Wilkey, Mango on Silver Creamer. Oil on panel, 14 x 11 inches. Used with permission.

External factors do not determine how you live. YOU are in complete control of the quality of your life, by either creating or allowing the circumstances you experience.

Jack Canfield

It was in Jack Canfield’s seminal book, The Success Principles, where I first read about the necessity of taking 100% responsibility for your life. In fact, it’s no lower on the list than Principle #1 in the book of 64 principles.

He’s pretty clear. It’s not 100% responsibility for this or that. It’s 100% responsibility for EVERYTHING. This means:

  • You have to give up all of your excuses.
  • You have to give up blaming.
  • You have to give up complaining.

Here’s the thing about taking 100% responsibility: It puts you in charge.

I understand that this amount of control can be daunting for a new business owner, but wouldn’t you rather have control than to cede it to others?

Embrace this power!

If you’re frustrated by your results, or lack thereof, don’t blame the economy, the online platform, the weather, other artists/people, or the venue.

Instead, consider the things you can control. This is taking responsibility and being a savvy businessperson and more enlightened human being.

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