Are you forcing yourself into an art business before you’re ready?
Why you need to perfect your craft, deal with your sh*t, and find your artistic vision first.
I’m going to share part of my personal story. Maybe this isn’t you at all, but I know a lot of us struggle with similar situations, so maybe you will find value in the lessons I have learned.
Sometimes you can’t rush the process.
When I first started selling my art almost a decade ago, I did it all wrong. I didn’t have a clue how to be a professional artist. I was a college student, and kind of a miserable human. I thought an art business could save me from the real world. (Quick back story: I was severely depressed from past trauma and wasn’t ready to be an adult. It’s cool, though. I’m over it now.)
While chasing that dream, I tried multiple times to succeed with art and I kept failing.
SO many reasons.
I had no idea who I was as an artist. I had no clear branding. My work was disconnected. My message was muddled and incoherent. I had no vision. I couldn’t depend on being in a good enough mood to get sh*t done.
The only things working in my favor were: 1. I loved art and 2. I decent had technical skills.
Skill and love were not enough to make art a business. It’s fair to say I simply wasn’t ready to be a professional artist, but I badly needed art therapy–and real therapy…I just needed ALL the therapy.
I was still discovering and rebuilding who I was, and you could tell through how much I jumped around between subjects and styles. If you saw the images above after seeing what I create now, would you have any idea they were created by the same artist?
When Creating Art is about the process and Not a destination.
I’ve talked to multiple artist over the last 9 months who are impatient to get started making money with their creations. It’s the dream, right? Do the thing you love and be able to make a living.
You can get there, but is now the right time? Is this what you are supposed to do with your art at this very moment? If you feel conflicted and antsy and are hoping success with art will save you from something, I urge you to dive deeper into your intentions. What is it that you really need right now?
Why do you create?
Your intention for creating matters. We use art for a variety of reasons, but they can all be condensed into three main categories.
- Art as a hobby/for funsies
- Art as therapy/self discovery/escape
- Art as a profession/source of income
Any reason to create is a great reason and a lot of times these reasons overlap, but it’s important to understand your intentions and your needs before jumping into art as a profession.
When you create art as a hobby, you are doing it purely for yourself. It’s something that is enjoyable and something that occupies your free time.
When you create art as therapy, you are using it as a sort of meditation. Your life may be stressful and art helps you release that stress. It helps you discover more about yourself and find a sense of peace. Art as therapy charges up your internal energy and helps you heal.
When you create art professionally, it becomes your life. It’s your source of stress. It’s your misery. It’s your happiness. It’s your burden and your gift. You push yourself to create even when you lack inspiration, you take care of all of the mundane tasks that you can avoid when using art as a hobby or therapy, and most importantly you understand what you are trying to say to your audience.
Energy In vs. Energy Out
Anytime you shift from therapy or hobby to art as a profession, you are changing the artistic process. Specifically, the energy input and output in the process changes.
When you create art as a hobby or as therapy, the positive energy that you get out of the process is usually higher than the energy you put in. This is why it’s so satisfying. I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m saying the process charges you up rather than draining you.
When you create art as a profession, you have to put WAY more energy into the process. You still get positive energy back, but it’s going to feel like work at times. You may even feel completely drained on bad days.
When I was using art as therapy and tried to shift to starting a business, I didn’t have the energy to keep up with professional demands. The energy I was getting out of my art was used to heal me. When I diverted that energy to spreadsheets, taxes, customer interactions, and marketing, I had created an internal imbalance. I did this over and over again, creating constant frustration.
Get your Sh*t together before Adding the Stress of an Art Business
Art can save us from ourselves, but if we try to force too much out of it too quickly, it can back fire. I ignored that I needed to heal my internal wounds and hoped finding success would make me feel better. I’m sure you’ve heard the stereotype that artists are tortured and depressed. Some believe that this is the source of their creativity, but I’m calling bullsh*t on that.
When I was at my worst in the darkness, I was empty. It’s when I find the light that I feel most creative. More importantly, when I found my light, I was able to sustain productivity and maintain the energy needed to consistently put energy into my business. This is why I say you need to figure your sh*t out. Be a healthy artist.
But, if you want to be a tortured artist, go for it. It you want to find internal piece and contentment–embrace art as therapy. Get lost in the process. Find yourself and put your pieces together. Put your money making goals aside for a little while. Art doesn’t have to make you money to make you whole.
If You Already Have your Sh*T Together, Then find your vision
Okay, so let’s say you are doing art as a hobby and you aren’t a dysfunctional human like I was. High five! That’s awesome! Before you consider making it a full time thing, think about your brand.
I talk about branding a lot, because you and your art are products to advertise and sell. Get used to that idea. As an artist, YOU are a product. Your story is a product. Your personality is a product. Your Instagram is a product.
How are you going to package all of these products and deliver a clear and cohesive message to your audience?
Perfect your Craft
Alright, so you are a functional human. You have a clear idea of your branding and your artistic vision. Now you get to practice and refine your message and skill set.
I say that technical skill ultimately doesn’t matter when you are pursing art as a career, BUT what does matter is consistency and style. Look at the weird a** faces Picasso painted. They are not technically accurate at all. A lot of people may scoff at the work and say things like “anyone could do this.” What makes work like this significant is that it’s intentional. It’s consistent. It’s building on a specific style.
Whatever you do, do it with intention. Do it consistently. Do it over and over again.
If you are like me back in 2010 and have a crap ton of disconnected pieces and styles, then keep pushing until you hone in on what it is you’re trying to say. (If your goal is to be an artist that creates the visions of others, then ignore that advice and keep working on your various skills and styles.)
In summary, before you jump into an art business think about these three things:
- Mental Health: Do you have your sh*t together? Are you hoping art will save you from something? You may just need focus on the healing power of art. Maybe talk to a counselor. Find a cat to pet. If you aren’t happy now, finding success with art likely won’t fix that.
- Your Artistic Vision: Do you have a vision for your art? Is your branding cohesive and clear? Do you know what you are trying to say? Do you know who you are?
- Your Craft: Are you intentional and consistent in your craft? Do your skills need work?
You can dive into an art business head first before having anything of this figured out. I did it. I don’t regret it. It’s all part of my artistic journey. But, had I known back in 2010 that I was going to fail so many times because my head wasn’t in the right place I might have tried to enjoy the process more.
Or not. Hindsight, right?
Though, I can confidently say that once I had worked on my internal issues and no longer needed art to heal me, I felt ready and energized to pursue it fully as a career.
Do you think you’re ready?
Anyway, thanks for reading! I can’t tell you what is right for you, but if you ever want to discuss your artistic future with someone who understands, I’m always happy to lend an ear and offer my coaching and mentoring services. And as always, if you have comments or questions, please leave them below or message me directly. I love hearing what you think!