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THE WORST PART ABOUT BEING AN ARTIST

June 08, 2021 4:50 PM | Dan Nelson

I’m reminded of the old country song, “Mama, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.” Do you really want your children to grow up to become artists? Lots and lots of people really don’t! Why do we have such a bad rep? A couple weeks ago, I wrote a blog called “The Best Part About Being An Artist.” It’s only fair that I should opine in the opposite direction, so here are a few thoughts in the negative column:

PERFECTIONISM

We’re skilled, we’re hard working, we’re conscientious . . . So we’re sitting ducks for the dark virus of perfectionism. 

     Let's get one thing straight— Many people conflate perfectionism with excellence. Anybody who does excellent work looks like a perfectionist in a culture filled with mediocrity, but a perfectionist is someone who is never satisfied with their work

     It's easy to fall into this trap. Perfectionism often hits when we look at the work of a “better artist” (and there are always plenty of those!) In fact, job growth for us pretty much requires that we look at artists who are better than us. So there are two ways we can respond to this: get inspired or get depressed. The healthy response is obvious . . . but not always so easy to do. We have to train ourselves to use other people's work as an inspiration, but NOT as a comparison, in the strict sense of the word. We have to keep reminding ourselves that every one of us is as unique as a fingerprint. Our job is to fill our little slot in the cosmos the best we can.  And learn to enjoy the process. 

HYPER-SENSITIVITY

Artists are universally characterized as “sensitive.” I resisted this idea for many years, simply because I hated the thought of being a wimp . . . or worse, yet — a cry-baby! But I finally had to admit that it is true: artists ARE more sensitive than non-artists . . .  because we LITERALLY SEE what others DON’T! (Good news! Authors are worse than us!!) Artists are simply more attuned to the outside world. Better artists are even more attuned! Alas, that means we are usually sensitive in other ways, too. I think it has helped me just to admit that I’m sensitive . . . and ask myself if I’d rather be one of the “blind” ones? Heck, no! So I’ll take to bad with the good . . . (and try to do all my crying in private!)

BAD WITH BUSINESS and MONEY

     Okay . . . this blog just went from interesting to mean! How do you get the artist off your front porch? Yeah— pay for the dang pizza! (Actually, that is an old musician joke, so, see? We’re not the only ones with this reputation!) I’ve heard several successful artists say “If you want to be a good artist, major in business!” But, frankly, I’m not sure even that would do the job. We are ALL so different. I think a lot of this has to do with coming to peace with “the way God made you,” if I can use that traditional terminology. Many years ago I had a friend who said “Nobody’s everybody!” and that has really stuck with me— and more and more as I get older. 

I’m sure there are other “bad” things about being an artist, but I can’t think of any at the moment. Go ahead and share with us some that you think about.

In the meantime, 

Happy Painting!

Dan


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