The Best Advice for Artists

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11 Truths and Tips from One Artist to Another.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m the creator behind @messyeverafter on Instagram. I make art for a living. (Yup, it’s totally possible to do this.)

I’m going to pass on some advice that I wish someone would have told me 10 years ago when I first thought about being a professional artist. Then again, I probably would have ignored all of this advice because I was stubborn and thought I knew everything. C’est la vie!

Here are 11 things I have learned during my time in the art world. Feel free to ignore any and all points just as my past self would have done.

1. Don’t create art just to make money.

Create art to feed your soul. To express yourself. To find peace. To make change. To comfort yourself. To disrupt society. Create art because if you didn’t make art you would be incomplete. Don’t make art with the primary goal to make money.

Your art should always come first. If you can figure out how to make money after your art fulfills its primary duties, then more power to you!
Usually, when you need money, you need it fast. A creative career takes a while to get moving. You might not actually make money off it for years.

Sure, others may thrive off of financial pressure to create, but for me and many others it can stifle creativity. 10 years ago, I put pressure on my art to pay my bills and it made me so miserable and defeated that I stopped creating for a while.

When your art doesn’t pay the bills, it can become a disappointment to you. Remove that financial burden from your creativity.

2. Make the art that you want to make.

At some point in your artistic journey, you will hear comments from others trying to nudge you to change what you’re doing. You’ll get it from people with good intentions or bad intentions. People who know nothing about the art world, and even people intimately tied to it like professional art instructors.

Everybody has their own vision for what art should look like. If you’re going to be an artist, make the art that you want to make, not what your art teacher or Jim from down the street wants (unless they are paying you).

Show us your vision, and ignore the naysayers.

3. Someone will always hate your art.

You can’t please everyone. You literally can’t. If you try, you’ll lose your sense of self.

I’ve seen people hate on incredibly technical works of art, and I’ve seen people gush over the simplest of compositions. I’ve gotten my fair share of negative comments on my art. And you know what? Now I just laugh, because I’m not making art to please others. I’m making art that speaks to me.

4. Someone will always love your art.

Your audience is waiting for you. Right now it might just be your mom, and that’s okay. I promise you that your art will be appreciated by the right people. It takes time to find them, but if you are making art that fulfills you, it will speak to others as well.

So ignore the silence you may experience when you first show your art to the world. Keep creating and keep putting your work out there.

5. You don’t need to go to art school.

I don’t want to get deep into how flawed the United States education system is, but the fact that schools give out art degrees that leave a student tens of thousands of dollars in debt without a solid career that can earn enough to pay the loans back is just nonsensical.

I’m not saying school is bad. You do need to learn how to be a skilled artist, but you don’t need a degree and you don’t need to go into debt. There are a lot of free or cheap ways to learn how to be an artist.

Art school is good for things like meeting new people, becoming part of a community, and being forced to step out of your comfort zones. But ultimately, you don’t need a degree to get a job as an artist. Especially if you do what I do and become your own boss. Boss me doesn’t give a sh*t about my degree. Boss me is wishing I would have majored in accounting instead. (Taxes, am I right?)

6. Be nice to yourself.

Don’t let your inner critic dominate your thoughts. I spent years questioning if I could make it as an artist. I even spent a couple of years vehemently saying “I’M NOT AN ARTIST!” I can say with 100% certainty that those thoughts did nothing positive in my life or my art career.

If you don’t believe in yourself, you’re standing in your own way. You have to build your internal sense of confidence about what you create. You can’t constantly cut yourself down if you don’t like where your technical skills are, and you can’t rely on others to tell you your art is good.

Be nice to yourself and be your own cheerleader.

7. Nobody cares about your art.

Yet.

It’s not personal. There are a lot of talented artists already on the scene vying for attention. Don’t get offended when people don’t pay attention to what you’re doing. It doesn’t mean your art doesn’t have value. It’s that the other artists are louder and better at marketing themselves. (Read: Nobody wants your art.)

You have to show people why they should pay attention to you and your art. Which is also why you need to believe in yourself.

8. You are a product.

I’ve never liked being around a lot of people or being the center of attention. I’m an introvert who nervous-sweats when I have to speak. Naturally, in the beginning I thought being an artist would give me the freedom to sit behind the scenes and let my art speak for itself. Nope.

So. Wrong.

When you are an artist, you are a product to sell just as much as your art is. Your story, your voice, your style, your face, your personality, your quirks, fears, and more become reasons why people will pay attention to what you create and ultimately give you money.

9. Being an artist isn’t easy.

Being a creative person doesn’t mean living in dreamland your whole life. It is actually living through cycles of internal torture that look a little like this:

“I have a great idea! This will look so cool! Omg, this sucks. Why do I suck? No, wait. I think it’s okay. It’s finished. Oh, look at that really talented artist over there? Maybe I should just give up. Crap, how’d my bank account get so low? I have a great idea!” and repeat. Oh and then add on the other things like marketing, accounting, taxes, social media, etc..

I dreamed of making a living from creativity since I can remember. This career path fulfills me, but in the beginning I didn’t realize how arduous it would be to gain momentum. This is why “Don’t create art just to make money” is my #1 piece of advice. Passion will fuel you to move forward when you’re not getting the results you imagined. It’s not going to be easy, but it might be the best challenge you’ve ever accepted.

10. Don’t compare yourself to others.

It’s a fricken trap. Honestly, there will always be another artist out there who has all the things you want. They are talented. They are eloquent. They have celebrity clients. They have more success. They probably even have flawless skin and that #blessed vibe.

Busting out an old cliche here, but the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. When you compare yourself to any person, you are comparing yourself to fiction. Take me for example. If you only know me through my Instagram, you only know one version of me as an artist. You see what I want you to see. You don’t see my flaws unless I let you.

Only compare yourself to who you were yesterday. You’re not going to ‘win’ anything if you compare yourself to others and find out you’re ahead. Most of the time, you’ll just get sad by seeing that others have what you want, and then that sadness will distract you from kicking ass.

Stop scrolling, and…

11. Just make art.

Go pick up a brush. Start making a mess.

Don’t waste too much time thinking about creating. Create. If you want to be an artist, make art. Sometimes it actually is that easy.

***

What about you? Do you have any advice for other artists? I’d love to hear from you, so please leave questions or comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email.

Or, if you are an artist and you’re looking for a little guidance to get started with your career, check out my consulting services. My schedule is limited, but I’m always happy to help other artists.

-Kelly

Shameless Plug: If you enjoy my blogs and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep doing what I do. Plus, you get extra little perks like phone wallpapers! I have added two new tiers that include discounts to consulting services and one-on-one email support to help you with your art goals.

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6 thoughts on “The Best Advice for Artists”

  1. Does this happen to you too…
    I get such an urge to art so I go into my art room sit at the desk and I’m completely unable to create. I will do a little thing here little thing here and all the creativity is just none existent. What to do in this situation. It happens more than I’d like to admit.
    Thanks

    1. Oh this definitely happens to me! What I do is always try to have a muscle memory task that allows me to make things without thinking too much. When I sit down with my sketch book and start drawing the lines I always work with, my brain can shut off. I don’t need to be creative to go through the motions. Make yourself sit there for at least 30 minutes and do things you’ve always done. If you still feel blah after the time is up, then go do something else. But, this exercise might just shake something loose and get the creativity flowing.

  2. “Only compare yourself to who you were yesterday.” So needed to hear that! Thanks for all the wisdom!

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