Five Contradictory Thoughts on an Art Career

by Barney Davey

Five Contradictory Thoughts on an Art Career

By Barney Davey

The test of first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold contradictory thoughts in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless yet be determined to make them otherwise.

– F. Scott Fitzgerald

There will always be someone better than you because competition and pecking order is part of human nature. With apologies to F. Scott Fitzgerald, I offer this list of five competing viewpoints for your consideration, keeping in mind that no one can do it alone.

Every problem has multiple solutions. There is no good reason not to use any moral way to solve a problem. So, be resourceful and use what is available. Thinking through all sides of an issue is illuminating.

It takes strength to figure out what everyone is doing wrong, including yourself. And knowing that you are willing to admit your flaws and are determined to get past them is self-empowering. Insight yields options.

Five Contradictory Thoughts on an Art Career.

It’s easy to find yourself with opposing concepts affecting your artist’s life and business, starting with these examples.

#1 – It’s Never Too:

  • Late: don’t let anything—including your age or any other prospective setback—cloud your judgment, beginning right now.
  • Soon: If you are fortunate enough to glimpse your future and want it, don’t allow anything to stand in your way of getting there – go for it now.

#2 – You’re Not As:

  • Good as you think because no matter how special you feel or how much praise you reap, you are not near your potential. Coasting is the best way to get bested and become unintentionally marginalized.
  • Bad as you think, so on the days when it feels like you choose the wrong line of work, take a break, go for a walk, drive, hike, or go on a mini vacation—if just in the backyard. Relaxation lowers anxieties that produce cortisol and create negative feelings.

#3 – You Will Find:

  • There will always be somebody better than you. People are naturally competitive, so don’t follow others blindly to get ahead. Instead, be instinctive and do what feels right to you. Take what you’ve seen, heard, and read to help you learn. Before selecting the most effective art marketing strategy, consider numerous alternatives. It will take some trial and error but don’t get discouraged if your initial path to success doesn’t work as planned.
  • You are sometimes surprised at how better your talent is than some well-known artists. Charm and good fortune benefit some successful artists’ careers as much as talent. So, there will be moments when you reach beyond and produce something truly extraordinary. Learn to take pride in your accomplishments. Discover how to profit from them as well!

#4 – There Will Be:

  • Art you are sure will sell well that doesn’t—even though you have a feel for what your collectors want, there will be some pieces you would bet the ranch on that doesn’t live up to your expectations.
  • Art you are ambivalent about that draws tremendous interest—Trace Adkins, the country music star, had an emotional tribute to his daughter, You’re Gonna Miss This. He didn’t even put it on an album he made at the time because he thought it was too personal. Instead, it became a huge crossover hit.

#5 – You Will:

  • Make money where you didn’t think possible because, for example, the internet creates new marketing and distribution opportunities for visual artists to earn income from making art.
  • Lose money sticking exclusively to traditional marketing because it’s hard to let go of doing things in comfortable ways. Undoubtedly, circumstances have already changed your conventional marketing strategies. So, while traditional approaches work today, they are certainly not the best basket for all your marketing eggs in the future.

How Do You React When You Find Yourself Pulled in Different Directions?

Such situations are perplexing, so I avoid them when I can. Although you may use a different criterion, if I choose between two equally important tasks, I would typically choose the one I find most entertaining. In times of conflict, it’s good to remind yourself that you’re only human and need to care for your needs since you may become so absorbed in wanting to help others. In challenging situations, the best thing to do is to think clearly, act with integrity, and ask for help.

How to Find Art Collectors: A Trout Fishing Analogy
How to Find Art Collectors: A Trout Fishing Analogy



Tips for Finding Balance in Your Life.

You’re not alone if you struggle to balance pleasing others and to care for yourself. The balance you need to manage your life, art business, and dreams will come from within you. It won’t come from anyone else. It’s vital and up to you to find balance in your art, life, dreams, and work because it gives you space to focus on the things that matter. Without it, you can get lost in everything around you.

The key here is to keep an open mind. When you are looking at something from a fresh perspective, it becomes easier to find flaws. To change, you must first admit that you are flawed. To become a better person, you must accept that you are not perfect. With such clarity and balance, you can begin to make changes accordingly, and you will find ways to grow and evolve in due time because changes don’t happen overnight.

Miscommunication Is Everywhere and Unpredictable.

Examples of how conflicting concepts are employed in communication are easy to find. But here’s my point: Since it’s difficult for us humans to ever agree with one another totally, practically every contact has some element of contradiction.

Even if we speak the same language, the only way to communicate is by saying something distinct from each other. And if we don’t agree on every detail, we’ll hope to settle on the big picture. You can be genuine, compassionate, and opinionated and still be a terrific communicator because you listen more than you talk.

Contradictions Can Be Healthy.

Contradictions are not a bad thing. Doing so is in line with human nature. Because our brains are often already made up, we sometimes draw contradictory judgments based on data, logic, experience, intuition, and reason. Awareness of our biases and tendencies makes us stronger and better partners, suppliers, merchants, friends, lovers, and family members.

How to Find Art Collectors: A Trout Fishing Analogy
How to Find Art Collectors: A Trout Fishing Analogy



Whether or not we know them, contradictions are a necessary part of cognitive thought. Contradictions are also essential for maintaining equilibrium as one moves through life. The only way to recognize a genuinely smooth passage is to experience how bad the rough ones are. Friction and adversity give us perspective and make us better humans and artists.

The Secret.

If you keep an open mind and are willing to change, contradictions shouldn’t bother you. Instead, they offer chances to discover more about you and others and reveal new ways to leverage the knowledge and connections.

The secret is recognizing and accepting differences and seeing their beauty and potential.

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Barney Davey

About the author

I help artists and photographers find buyers, sell more art and operate profitably.

  • Teresa Wentzler says:

    Thank you for this. I too often stop myself cold instead of intentionally thinking through the contrarian position. I appreciate your insight!

  • Barney this was terrific! I totally agree. I have finally come to these conclusions myself and am applying them to all areas of my life. Thank you for your wise words!

  • Thanks Barney
    I like the F. Scott Fitzgerald quote. It's kind of like the one attributed to Mother Teresa about Doing it Anyway.. I think it was really written by Dr. Kent Keith though. Are you familiar with it? Here is one line from the poem.

    If you are kind, people may accuse you of having selfish ulterior motives, be kind anyway.

    So anyway, I'm still at it.

    Thanks for all your work for all of us artists! I really appreciate it.

    • Thanks for your comments and observations. I agree with being kind for kindness’ sake and letting others worry their busy minds about your motivation. 🙂

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