- by Barney Davey
You Can Choose to Be a Happy Artist. Then Choose to Make Sure You Are.
Over the years of reading forums and comments on sites and blogs for artists, I have noticed a trend. There are unhappy artists who are more than willing to offer their opinions. I find most are either:
- Bitter about struggling to make a go of it selling their art.
- Confused about how the art business works, or how to manage a small business.
- Just sourpusses.
Sometimes you hit a trifecta and find someone who fits in all three categories. When I see that, I am sad for whatever circumstances have given them such a negative outlook. That’s because I know they are victimized to a degree by themselves. To be on balance, I must say I know many more happy artists than I know unhappy ones.
You Can Choose — Be Proactive.
Stephen Covey in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, tells us in Habit One to be proactive. It was eye-opening for me to hear him talk about how this works. He explains that a unique quality of being human is ability to choose.
We don’t always get to choose our circumstances. Being born in poverty, or suffering from living in an abusive family, or being handicapped or disabled are all things you had no choice in. It is what has happened to you.
You can, however, choose how you react to your circumstances. Covey found inspiration in Viktor Frankl’s book recounting of being in four Nazi death camps in a Man’s Search for Meaning. He lost his parents, siblings and pregnant wife in the camps. Frankl’s belief was while we cannot avoid suffering, we can choose how we will deal with it. His personal example and later as a psychiatrist was to look for meaning in suffering. Then use it to get on with your life with renewed intentions.
Jon Morrow Inspires Me and Millions More.
I have written before about the remarkable story of Jon Morrow. He was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy as a child. It takes the life of most children by age two. He is still very much alive. Until 2006, he got around in a van that allowed him to drive as a paraplegic. Then tragedy struck again and made him a quadriplegic.
Do like more than one million others have. Read this incredible account of what happened when he was hit head-on in a crash: How to Quit Your Job, Move to Paradise and Get Paid to Change the World. That post has gone one to be viewed by more than a million people. He’s gone on to build a profitable, successful career and has helped thousands of people learn how to make blogging into a career.
Tanner Gers Is a Fearless Inspirational Leader.
I recently met another awe-inspiring person. Tanner Gers also almost died in an auto accident eleven years ago. He survived but was made blind as a result. He ran the 100-meter dash in the London Paralympics in 2012. Until earlier this year, he was a personal trainer in a gym.
Tanner has now launched a new career as a podcaster and event organizer. His The Athlete Summit program just concluded. He got dozens of top names to provide programming for it. Even if they have never heard of Viktor Frankl, Jon and Tanner follow his advice. They are exemplars for how to live a life with passion and purpose despite crushing setbacks.
Let’s Get Back to Our Unhappy Artists.
If you are bitter about the state of your career, you need to turn your negativity around. Life is too short to be unnecessarily unhappy about your career or your life. We don’t all get the same skills and starting point. We do all have the same options to choose to make the best of what we have.
Buying Art Is Not Out of Vogue — It Never Was.
If you are struggling in your art career, it is under your control to fix it. You can find an unending list of reasons why things suck. Technology, geography, and apathy are biggies for many. Here’s the thing. People have never stopped buying art. Let me repeat. People have never stopped buying art.
I have known artists, art publishers and gallery owners who have stayed in business through thick and thin. Buying habits change. Some years are better than others. Nevertheless, art continues to sell. Always has, always will.
Why Is Your Art Not Selling?
Okay, maybe they aren’t buying your art. If that is the case, you need to figure out why. The usual reasons are either you are making work that is hard to sell. That is, it has limited appeal to most buyers. Or, you have work people will buy when they see it often enough, but you are not efficient in getting it seen by the right prospects often enough.
If your work is a problem, you can keep making work like that, but you should lower your expectations about how well it will sell. Happiness is about meeting expectations. If yours are out of line with the reality of what you are making, you are making yourself unhappy.
You can also choose to make art with more appeal. Even though it is a creative endeavor, it is also a product that needs commercial appeal if you want to build a successful business around selling it. Otherwise, accept you have created a pleasant pastime where you occasionally get rewarded with sales.
If It’s Not Your Artwork, Then It’s Your Other Work.
If you know your art sells when enough people see it, and you are not moving your work, you have a marketing problem. Making art is part of your art business. The other part is finding customers and prospects and selling your work to them. That takes marketing first and selling second. Marketing and selling your work is your other job. One you cannot let lapse without risking your career.
Marketing creates interest and intrigue. It drives actions that lead to sales. You get sales with a well-designed website, strong traffic, excellent conversions with powerful calls to action. You might also get sales because you drive traffic to an e-commerce site such as FineArtAmerica.com, XanaduGallery.com or SaatchiGallery.com.
As an alternative, you might network online and offline and generate direct sales to collectors. This scenario, selling direct to collectors, is the best for artists and collectors. It is what I teach and preach about. Selling through galleries works. There just are too few to go around.
Without the Right Insights, It Is Easy to Miss the Big Picture.
Some artists are confused about how things work. I saw a comment the other day on a blog post on The Abundant Artist. The post offered some useful ideas on how to sell more art. An artist commenter was bitter that there was also included an offer to buy an in-depth program to learn even more ways to sell art.
I’m not sure if the comments were just plain whining, coming from a misguided sense of entitlement, or utter frustration at making work, but not getting sales. It could have been another trifecta with all three of the options mentioned above in play. I alternately reacted by thinking I’m sorry you had such a terrible career going, but another part wanted to scream out about taking responsibility and starting to do the things necessary to make something happen.
The Amount of Free and Useful Info about Art Marketing Is Astounding.
Cory Huff, owner of The Abundant Artist, is a generous person. He devotes lots of time and effort to create free content for artists. He’s not alone, so do I and Jason Horejs, Alyson Stanfield, Owen Garratt, Carolyn Edlund, Aletta de Val, Lori McNee, Gary Bolyer, and many others. There is a ton of great free stuff out there. You just need to do the research to find it.
This artist has the misconception that everything art marketing gurus do ought to be free. What a concept?!! I don’t know him from a rock, but I bet a dollar to a donut he is not making any money. He has no concept of what an abundance perspective is. Instead of being grateful to find some useful free information he is griping that he can’t get more information for free.
Becoming a Sourpuss Is Not that Hard to Do.
He may just also fall into that latter category of a sourpuss. It starts when you look at how life has been rough for you. Then it gets worse with the misguided belief the art industry is skewed and screwed up so no one makes money, especially artists. From there, it’s easy to slide further downhill into a black pit of negativity and self-pity. No one can fix this for someone else. You gotta slug your way out of the quagmire.
Someone can give you a buck so you can buy a clue, but you have to be ready to use it – to embrace the knowledge. Life’s not fair. Business is hard. Only the strong survive. These things are all true. None of them means you can’t have great success. When you realize what is really holding you back is you, you can have a breakthrough. You can come into the light and bask in its glow.
There Is No Free Lunch.
You have to make your own way. When you begin to move in the right direction, you will find there are those who want to help you. Start making little victories. Each one makes you a winner. We love winners. We want the best for them.
Work for the day when it is you helping an up and comer. Give back. Pay it forward. Shrug off your negativity and get moving. Your career is waiting. You, yes YOU, can achieve great things. Start to believe. Aim high. Aim higher. Be restless. Most of all, get going.
Get Your Happy Quotient Going! Even the Worst Miserable Curmudgeon Named Scrooge Did It!
It is a whole lot easier to do these things if you have a happy quotient going on in your life. Here are ten things to help you boost yours to new highs and lock in being a happy artist.
- Don’t’ Get Your Knickers in a Knot over Trivial Stuff – Come on now. Next time, before you react in anger or disgust, take a deep breath. Decide if you can just let what’s bugging you go. The chemical reaction to anger and fear stays in your body much longer and is detrimental to your health, unlike those released when you are happy or ecstatic. Feeding the angst and anger just makes it harder to get back to even keel and happy.
- Givers Gain – It’s not just about being altruistic. For sure, it’s a good thing to give with no strings attached. If you have no expectation, you cannot be disappointed. Next time you do good, do it so only you know you did it. Make that knowing good enough. It’s also good to give knowing there is a quid pro quo with your gift. I scratch your back, you got mine. Happy people are givers. They’re getting back all the time because they fill the emotional bank accounts of those around them. It’s the reverse of “Paybacks are a bitch!”
- Don’t Make It about the Dough – You already know this in some way, right? Ever notice the word miser is the root word of miserable? Focus on achievement, not money. The money will follow your success. It’s advisable to be thrifty and frugal. Those are good traits. Being all about the money throws up a wall against being joyous. Be not a Scrooge.
- Don’t Make It about the Stuff – We live in a material age. We surround ourselves with doodads and shiny objects that don’t bring us happiness or joy. Every cord in your home represents a repair waiting to happen. The less stuff you have, the less stuff you have to set up, calibrate, use, insure, repair and let sit there to remind you what a dumb purchase that was. With stuff, less is better.
- Don’t Make It about Others – Envy will eat you up; make you bitter; run you dry and leave you worse off because of it. Besides, you can’t have someone else’s life. That’s a good thing.
Be yourself, everybody else is already taken. – Oscar Wilde.
It is senseless to measure yourself against other people. There is always, always going to be someone taller, shorter, slimmer, with more hair and with better hair. There are those with more brains, more talent, more money, great teeth, and a spouse you still can’t figure out how they are with them, and so on. Accept who you are and what you are without comparing it to anyone else. At least, unlike Jon Morrow, you can pinch a nice butt when the occasion arises.
- Be Grateful – Happy people have gratitude. They are conscious of what they have and have real feelings of gratefulness. Your tiny one bedroom apartment can be your castle. My wife, Mary, and I started married life living in a 700 square foot single apartment in West L.A. I worked from home. My office was the bedroom. Our bed was in the living space. We ate from a folding table. We were very happy. Still are. I think if we were unhappy back in the day in our tiny place, we had no chance for happiness later on. Happiness doesn’t just drop in on you once you start making more money. More money and more stuff don’t make you happy. You make you happy. Your choices in partners and spouses make you happy. To be grateful is to be happy. Mary and I were grateful then and are so today.
- Be Compassionate – It galls me no end to see someone take glee at the misery of others. It is the same thing with gossip. These traits have an addictive quality to them. The more you talk smack behind someone’s back or share those juicy tidbits of knowledge that are harmful to another, the more you want to do it. It’s bad karma to rejoice at the expense of someone who is suffering. Perhaps you feel they earned it. That does not mean you should blacken your heart by being happy for their downfall. You know actions like these will not help you lead a happier and healthier life. So don’t do them.
- Don’t Fly with the Turkeys – If you want to fly like an eagle, you can’t be hanging around with the turkeys. You get to choose who you have in your life. This includes your blood relatives. If someone is toxic to your life, you need to get them out of your life. Like Stephen Covey’s first habit, “Be Proactive.” This is sometimes harder to do than say. You can find yourself emotionally, financially or in some other way attached to the wrong person. It can take an enormous amount of courage and strength to break free. It can upset many people around you when you do find the conviction to make such a change. In the end, it’s your life, and you only get to live it once. Surround yourself with happy and uplifting people. Get rid of those who will bring you down. It’s your choice to make.
- Know What Happiness Looks Like for You – You can be dead serious about everything in your life. You can be tough and not suffer fools. You don’t have to smile and say, “Have a nice day” to everyone you meet. You don’t have to like everyone you meet. You can be unsatisfied with your current job, relationship, location or anything else. You just have to decide not to let any of those real things keep you from being happy. It usually means you have to make some changes once you have the full acknowledgment in your mind about how things are, or who people are. Lack of action is a cause of angst. You can make yourself unhappy with yourself. Say what? It happens when you have knowledge to do right and find yourself sitting on doing it. Maybe you need job counseling, mental health counseling, marriage counseling, addiction counseling or some other form of help. As long as you put off doing something you know needs to be done, you drive down your happiness quotient. Stop that. Get on with what you need to do now. Whatever is holding you back is not worth overcoming it. Be your own Dr. Phil. Ask yourself, “How is not doing the right thing working out for me?”
- Live Your Life in the Present – Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow may never get here. You cannot afford to have your awareness of your past stop you from taking positive action today. Historical knowledge is good in this respect. As someone said, “Experience is what lets you recognize a mistake when you make it again.” You have to have hope for the future. Living in the present without misery about what was, or fear about what will be is how to be happy now. You have to let what’s happened go. You can’t change anything that’s done. The more you dwell on how things were, or what you should have done, the more your misery kicks your happiness in the butt. Having a content perspective and outlook on the future is the best way to be. Choosing to live in the present means accepting and acknowledging your current circumstances as they are. Elect to see how the actions you are taking and plans you are making are going to improve your life and your career. If thinking about that does not make you happy, you need to revisit what you are doing and get on revising your plans for your future.
I am sure I could add dozens more examples and suggestions here. I could go on about how to live a satisfied life and enjoy a happy career, but I won’t. I will stop here and choose to be pleased that a select few readers will reach this last sentence and be inspired to go on and make changes that will lead them to their contented place as a happy artist. I hope you are one of them.
If you are that guy who complains he reads things, finds help, but wishes everything was free and came without a sales pitch. Stop reading now.
I Can Help You!
If you are looking for a way to get your career in the happy zone, I can help you. Join the Art Marketing Mastery Workshop. The workshop is a culmination of my best work — and I’ve been helping artists since 1988. I didn’t leave anything out. In fact, I’m busy putting lots more in. CLICK HERE to get on the list.
I get that for some reading this that all you can afford right now is what you glean free from the Internet.
Here’s a free webinar I did for Artists Network. It covers a lot of the same ground and theory you will learn in the Art Marketing Mastery Workshop.
Watching the webinar will give a blueprint for the Art Marketing Mastery Workshop offers value for you. Feel free to use it to model your successful art career. Or, if you can afford to make a relatively small investment into a lifetime program, please join me in the workshop. Either way, I’m going to be happy you looked me up. 🙂
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