It’s Okay Not to Be Okay, and It Always Has Been. We Get It Better Now.

You don’t need to be an empath to feel the collective weight of turmoil right up to now. Life is always stressful; lately, the dial is on full blast for too long. You know the reasons why and that there are heated disagreements on virtually each of them.

Today, it’s easier than ever to find a spot to grind your ax and state your case, which only amps up the stress level all around. I believe we can find ways to reduce hostilities and find common ground. I don’t hate anyone for their opposing views, but I wouldn’t say I like those who intentionally stoke the angst, especially for selfish purposes or financial gain.

It doesn’t matter what you think or how sure you are right. The burden of supporting your opinions and your actions to reinforce them adds to the problem and boosts your stress level. Can we all turn it down, please?

Angels with Life-Changing Messages Are Among Us.

Then you get hit with an unshakeable dose of reality that puts things in perspective. A perfect example was the Golden Buzzer moment on America’s Got Talent when Nightbirde took the stage. Her angelic performance of her original song, “It’s okay,” is a telling of the last year of her life battling cancer.

She tells Howie, “It’s important that people know I’m so much more than the bad things that happen to me.” Then she sings a song so pure with a message so strong it stuns the audience into a long moment of silence before they break into a thundering standing ovation.

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Learn about art-related Careers.

Afterward, she tells Simon, “You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.” She has a 2% chance of surviving cancer, and she is genuinely happy because it is not zero; it is something.

Her bravery, her message, her gentle, kind spirit are examples for all of us. We can be better, choose positivity like Nightbirde. It feels like she is an angel sent to give us this message of hope and optimism against all odds. God Bless her!

It’s Okay Not to Be Okay.

Olympian Michael Phelps’ honesty in revealing the mental health issues he’s dealt with, including depression and suicidal thoughts for years, has helped many realize they are not alone. He hopes his example will reach those who need help and get them to resources that provide their assistance.

A significant focus for Phelps in his post-Olympic life is ridding the stigma of and bringing mental health into the light. His admirable goal is to make access to care for mental health problems easier to request and obtain. And he wants to help prevent suicides. The saying he uses to send the right message is, “It’s okay not to be okay.”

Simone Biles Reset

The headline news about Simone Biles withdrawing from her all but delivered gold medal performances is shocking. Phelps, in his commentator role at the Tokyo Olympics, spoke about Biles and supported her decision. Who could not feel for this young woman? She has given her life to her sport, and at the pinnacle, it all comes crashing down. Like so many of us, she needs to know it is okay not to be okay sometimes. And I pray for her to be okay with not being okay for as long as it takes.

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I sense her contributions to the world in her post-Olympic life will make a far more beneficial impact than her exemplary gymnastic career. I think she can reach new audiences, elevate how society views mental health issues, and help Phelps and others make mental health programs more readily available and acceptable to reluctant users.

What Do These Things Have to Do with Being an Artist?

In a word, everything. There is potential mental anguish for artists with lots of ways to get hurt. Making art and shepherding it into the world is a seriously challenging and emotional experience even for the well-adjusted. You put your heart and soul into creating a work of art. Then you work at finding ways to get it to market, which is never easy. That’s because art is subjective and infrequently bought at best. And it requires discretionary income and some appreciation for fine art.

And when you put your work into the marketplace, you expose your creativity to unwanted critiques, comments, and judgments, which are hard to take at times. Learning to let it go is the only cure. It’s tough to tune out what others say or do, but you can use your human endowment of free will to do it if you want.

It’s Helpful to Know You Have Options

If it’s all too much, you can also choose to make art passionately but not pursue business except when you feel like it. Sales will suffer, but maybe you aren’t much interested in learning about and working in the art business anyway. And it’s okay if you aren’t.

It can seem frustrating and unfair sometimes because you can look around and find numerous examples of artists who seem to have it all. They are making art they like to make and are making money selling most, if not all, the art they create.

The Guide to Art-related Careers
Learn about art-related Careers.

Just observing such success can heap more stress on those still struggling to turn their art-making skills into a money-making business. It’s tricky to realize most are outliers by comparison to countless artists who are frustrated in figuring out how to make the art market work for them.

Knowing What You Genuinely Want Is Enormously Valuable.

You have competing interests. It’s tough to balance the desire to stretch your creative freedom against the desire to find a market and keep it supplied with the kind of art they like to buy. Having a clear vision of what you want to happen with your art after its creation is the key to success as you define it.

Did Michael Phelps and Simone Biles want to achieve Olympic greatness? Of course, but at the same time, they felt they represented the hopes and dreams of so many others, and such realization magnifies their concerns. Those feelings add to the already enormous pressure on them to succeed. Artists who respond to the perceived pressure to sell their work and demonstrate commercial success can find themselves with similar feelings.

You don’t need to be on the world stage to know it’s not easy living up to the expectations of others. What’s most important to know is you can stop trying. It’s okay if you do.

It’s in the Ether, and Head Trash Is a Real Thing.

It must be in the zeitgeist because I’ve been experiencing similar feelings about my business with many questions about how I can best help the artists who follow me, read my blog, or join my projects.

My business has never been about the money for me, primarily. I give away too much for free and sell access to my art marketing courses for too little. Many a wise person has advised of that. For years, I’ve heard some version of, “Barney, you’re not meeting your potential. You should raise prices and market much harder to get all you deserve for what you do.”

I believed some version of that for a long time and would suffer angst when I failed expectations I thought were mine when they were not. When I figured it out, I created the Art Marketing Toolkit Project and priced it at $4.99 per month to make it affordable for all artists. I’m okay doing things my way.

Those thoughts and feelings were noise and distraction that didn’t help me at all. I call that head trash. That is those little nagging voices of self-doubt about decisions and resulting actions or lack thereof.

Then the Epiphany Came… Just in Time.

My ultimate zen-like realization was I do things because it’s what my true authentic self wants — and so do you and everybody else. Nothing could stop me from being aggressive with marketing and pricing if I decided to do so. I don’t because operating at that level sucks the life out of me. I reached a point where I was torturing myself about what to do with all the art marketing knowledge I possess.

Like many artists I know or know about, I’ve found the payoff is not pursuing the almighty dollar or fame as an international art marketing guru and author. I’ve concluded the back part of my brain (subconscious mind) made a lifestyle decision that success at all costs is not my jam, but the message never got through to the conscious mind.

The boss in the back put in the orders, “Not going to happen, and you can’t make me.” 🙂

It took my conscious mind a long time to figure out what was going on, but when it happened, things got better. That’s because I learned it was okay to do things my way. And that was okay, even if doing it my way meant missed opportunities that were right in front of me.

A Brighter Light on Mental Health and Wellbeing Is Shining

Somehow, as enlightenment spreads about mental health, the costs of overachievement, and what is true satisfaction, the realization of it all has reached my consciousness. I understand better how I got to where I am and why I’m okay without being the biggest and best. It’s not what I wanted. And I think some version of that is behind the subconscious decisions artists make about their careers.

Too many artists don’t know the real reasons for the way things are because their subconscious and conscious are not on the same page. When you think you know what you want but it’s not really what you want, you create chaotic energy. It’s the same problem I had and now stay vigilant to steer clear.

The conscious mind is getting all stimulus about success, while the subconscious is not on board with the plan. (I’m not a doctor and these are terms I use loosely because they are so helpful to make my point.) The conflict leads to confusion, anger, distraction, self-doubt and dims the happiness bulb a bunch. The good news in this is a fixable situation.

You can choose to let all that baggage go. It’s not easy, but you can do it. Sometimes you need help, and you should get it if you do.

An Important Message

As I’ve said many times, “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” And pushing just because you can often come with potentially serious side effects, including grave mental health issues – ask Michael Phelps, Simone Biles, or many other high achievers. As such, success at all costs is not the message I want to convey to the artists who take advice from me.

I believe the way to be genuinely successful is to work on and enjoy what is realistically possible and do things that bring you joy. It’s way better than money unless money is your jam. Either way, it’s okay.

A Better More Enlightened Way to Live and Work

Instead, it’s my goal to help artists lead their best artist’s lives. Picasso said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” Whether you are prodigious and make art daily or casual and make art occasionally, you are an artist. Skill levels differ and matter on many levels, but the act of creation is what makes one an artist.

As I see it, living one’s best artist’s life is about knowing what you want from your life as an artist and being okay with your decision. Get that right, and the opinions of others and slings and arrows of critics no longer matter. They stop invading your brain and stealing your happiness. They vanish from importance, and you have the joy of making the art you want to make.

You can choose to make art that others want to buy and pursue selling as much of it as possible if that makes you happy. Or you can decide to make art the way you like without worrying whether you can sell it. Both choices and everything in between is valid. What only matters are the choices of your making and the results of getting what you want.

Making My Why Work for Artists and Me

It came to me that art marketing information and guidance shouldn’t be expensive. So, I started the Art Marketing Toolkit Project (AMTP) to make art marketing affordable for all artists. ($4.99 per month with no contract.)  The program has dozens of workbooks on virtually every aspect of marketing for artists and videos aimed at helping them find the best ways for them to get their work into the world. And weekly live sessions that work current situations and the content in the workbooks.

It’s fascinating that as my members and I grow and evolve, the content has become secondary to something much more significant. Instead of making the best ways to market art the focus, it’s turned to a higher ideal with superior benefits. That is, exploring and determining what actions will make you happy as an artist and human is the key to living one’s best life as an artist.

Is There a Better Way to Market Art?

If marketing and selling art is part of the happiness equation, which is a highly likely goal for many artists, learning the options for how to market art makes sense.

The difference is in how one approaches marketing. The brute force way nearly never works, but it’s how art marketing is taught most often. Get a website, build a list, make social media work for you, start blogging, find influencers, and on and on. Only a very select few partly left-brained artists can accommodate all that without messing up their psyches.

The Alternative Approach to Living One’s Best Artist’s Life.

The alternative is what I’m building and evolving in the AMTP. That is to start with figuring out what you want and need from your efforts to make art as best as you can for now – with the knowledge, things will change, and you will adapt to them.

When you know what you want, then you can figure out which tools and techniques will give you the results you need. Usually, with help from the group and me in it. That decision includes your personality traits. For example, if you hate writing, then you shouldn’t blog.

Choose the things that most appeal to you and make them work. I routinely see successful artists having success by instinctively sticking with specific marketing activities that work for them. For instance, some only do shows; others build a close following in a tight niche or work exclusively with galleries. There are countless other ways to sell art that aren’t part of any formulaic training you get from a traditional art business course or a book.

Better Choices Lead to Greater Satisfaction All Around.

A great choice is to stick to doing things that you know you will continue to do. Otherwise, you burn out fast. Working at those things you can consistently accomplish is how to bypass frustration and feeling like a failure. You know why you choose to do some things and avoid others. And you can decide you will no longer feel obliged to live up to someone else’s expectations of how you should live your artist life.

No one can be excellent at everything, and it is exhausting to try. Better to excel at something in your wheelhouse and leverage it to the degree that satisfies you.

Get these things working, and you are on the way to being more than okay. If there is anything I can do to help you get there, please reach out and let me know. I wish you all the best in all you do.

It’s okay not to be okay.

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Learn about art-related Careers.


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  1. I absolutely LOVE this article!!!
    I am recovering from a long and deep depression. I feel much better now.
    But I have struggled with the same issues you write about in this article.
    I am paying for one of those online art courses that teaches how to sell your art via a facebook business page to drive people to your website.
    The problem is that I do not have my own website right now. I could not renew it because I lost 2 jobs during the pandemic. I have no income right now from those jobs. I do have a page on
    Luckily, my husband and I are self-employed. We own and manage rental property. But the income from that just pays the bills to live, not promote my art.
    If I did all the things taught in the course I am paying for, I would spend all my time on my computer and that would suck the life right out of me.
    I love to do shows, but I just turned 60, suffer from some arthritis, and cannot load and unload, set up a tent and my booth, and tear down, load and unload there and at home by myself. I cannot afford to pay anyone to help me with this, let alone pay for the large booth fees and jury fees to do an art show.
    I tried lower end arts and craft shows. No sales. Wrong clientelle.
    I cannot afford to pay for any other online courses.
    All the doors seem closed for me.
    I am interested in learning more about your Artist Marketing Toolkit.

    1. Thanks for your comments. I’m sorry for your situation and I feel for you. My advice is to boil it down to one. That is, focus on how to sell one piece of art to one person you know even if it is a print. Get your first buyer that way and then repeat the process. If you keep it up you will discover patterns that will make getting more sales easier. This will only cost you time. By the way, you can get a free-for-lifetime ecommerce-enabled website from Shift4Shop. If you want to learn more about the Art Marketing Toolkit Project, it’s only $4.99 per month with no contract, which makes it a no-risk offer. Wishing you all the best.

  2. Thanks for this article, Barney. I've also been struggling with what I want to do with my art career. I was really pushing hard for about 18 years, but the past couple of years I just haven't felt like I want to do that anymore. It's exhausting, and not much fun. Now I'm not sure what it is that I want to do, and the pandemic and everything else going on hasn't helped. It's confusing. I really appreciate you bringing this to light and giving us permission to stop or slow down. I needed to hear that!

    1. You're welcome. It's gratifying to know my words and thoughts help you. The thoughts and words come from the heart. I believe It's okay to slow down and re-evaluate. Be well and best wishes!

  3. As I realize this happens more often than not, I read this article when I needed it. It’s the one I needed to read, at this moment.
    Transition time. Recently divorced. Retired from gallery ownership and moved across the country. To my home state of Texas. Family. Starting over and winding down, but plan to ramp up the painting. Entangled in all this is Me. Who is that…Me. At this time. And forward.
    What will my art become. What will I allow it….
    The article jumped up from my inbox and said Read Me.
    I did.
    Thank you.

  4. thank you thank you thank you! your post hit the nail on the head for me! I have come to the conclusion similar to yours, that marketing sucks the life out of me!

    you have given me courage to follow my heart. I make art because it fills me with joy and it is worship to my God….He loves when I am creating, because I've been created in His image! lastly, I make it for others to see and embrace the beauty and purity that this earth still has to offer….focus on what is pure, instead of the twisted and ugly…..

    I am focusing on my 7 years of selling calendars with my art and inspiring words with each month. it is my best seller!
    thank you again Barney!

  5. So interesting to read, just what I needed as I feel I have lost interest in painting. I know it will come back, but I want to paint loosely and stay that way. thank you

    1. Thanks for your reply. Use your self-awareness and honesty to guide you to finding the muse again. Sometimes, a layoff is just the elixir we need to revive interests and take them in new directions.

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