I ran across this posting and stopped. There have been a few times in my life and career that I asked myself this question. The first time I was in grade school and my father told me the only artists he knew were queer and was I queer. I actually had no idea what queer meant but I was sure it wasn’t good in his mind. I told him no I just like to draw and paint.
Off and on for years I doodled on my notebooks, on test papers and took painting classes with my mother. It wasn’t until my freshman year in college that I realized I wanted to be an artist. My athletic career had all but vanished from various injuries and I decided I needed to direct my energy towards being an artist regardless of whether my father thought I was “queer” or not! Over the years off and on I gave up being an artist and became an art director, then a creative director and finally an art department head at a major Hollywood studio. After all I had to eat and take care of my kids. Then in 2006 I decided to pursue illustration and being an artist full-time. Since then I’ve illustrated 30 or so books, illustrated for magazines, licensing and packaging.I created an online daily cartoon and have produced and directed animation for children’s educational series.
And still I have my doubts…I haven’t reached my goal of being the best me I can be. I’m shooting for that hallowed ground that Dr Seuss and Maurice Sendak roam. So I say creating artwork has little to do with supporting yourself financially. It has to do with expressing yourself and meeting your goals artistically. So plow ahead and use your failures to strengthen your shortcomings. And most of all enjoy the process!
Here’s the posting that inspired this soft rant.
Art and Struggle: At what point should an artist ‘give up’?
by Brian Sherwin on 3/5/2013 11:54:30 AM
This article is by Brian Sherwin, regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. Brian Sherwin is an art critic, blogger, curator, artist and writer based near Chicago, Illinois. He has been published in Hi Fructose Magazine, Illinois Times, and other publications, and linked to by publications such as The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, Juxtapoz Magazine, Deutsche Bank ArtMag, ARTLURKER, Myartspace, Blabbermouth, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Conservative Punk, Modern Art Obsession, Citizen LA, Shark Forum, Two Coats of Paint, Vandalog, COMPANY, artnet, WorldNetDaily (WND) and Art Fag City. Sherwin graduated from Illinois College (Jacksonville, Illinois) in 2003 — he studied art and psychology extensively. If you want your blog posts listed in the FineArtViews newsletter with the possibility of being republished to our 22,000+ subscribers, consider blogging with FASO Artist Websites. Disclaimer: This author’s views are entirely his/her own and may not reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc.. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
I was recently asked the following question: “At what point should an artist ‘give up’?“. The artist who asked the question stressed that he was tired of ‘struggling for nothing’. I asked him to explain what ‘struggling for nothing’ meant — he responded by offering a rant that began with his lack of art awards, and ended with his frustration over his poor sales history. I reminded him that art and struggle walk hand-in-hand… and that the factors he mentioned were not good reasons for ‘giving up’ as an artist.
The artist avoided my response. He continued to explain how he was ‘giving up’ due to lack of recognition. I assume that he expected a ‘pity party’ from me in his honor. He was not aware that I’m a horrible ‘pity party’ host. I handed out all of my tissues years ago… and my smallest violin has gathered dust in a state of disrepair. Point-blank, I refused to validate his perceived failures as reasons to ‘give up’ on his artwork.
In truth, he did not want my honest answer to his question… he wanted me to offer him an ‘out’. He wanted me to agree that it was time for him to ‘give up’ on his artwork — and all the years he had put into exploring art in general. I don’t agree with ‘giving up’. I told him that he was missing the point of creating art in the first place. I told him that he needed to rediscover his passion… the passion he had known long before the art competitions and unsold artwork.
Art and struggle walk hand-in-hand. The technical side of creating art can be frustrating at times (many FineArtViews regulars have shared the technical difficulties they have faced as artists). Furthermore, there are emotional factors to consider depending on the artist and the visual message that he or she explores (some artists open emotional wounds, if you will, as part of their creative process). These struggles — including the struggles involved with marketing art — are not reasons to ‘give up’… they are reasons to press on. Passion holds it all together.
Art and struggle walk hand-in-hand. As implied above, the process of creating art — and developing as an artist — may not always be pleasant. Furthermore, it does not always result in praise. Even when praise is achieved… it is often fleeting. The need for recognition is a sad reason for entering the world of art marketing IF passion is lost in the process. It is OK to desire recognition (seek fame and fortune if you wish)… BUT upholding ones passion for creating and sharing a visual message is far more desirable. I feel that my artist friend should prioritize his needs.
This is what I want to stress: Lack of recognition — be it in the form of failing to win an art prize OR failing to sell a piece — is not a reason to ‘give up’ as an artist. It is not a valid reason for tossing your passion aside. Lack of recognition is a common struggle faced by artists and other creative individuals. Point-blank, my artist friend is not the first artist to face these struggles… nor will he be the last. He needs to stop whining. He needs to toughen up… and get back to work. He won’t receive pity from me… only pressure.
In closing, artists will often find themselves in the position of facing struggles head-on. Art and struggle walk hand-in-hand. Veterans of the art world can no doubt tell you about some of the ‘brick walls’ they have smacked over the decades. That said, most of you WILL keep pushing forward… just as they did. Stating that you are ‘giving up’ because of lack of recognition is nothing more than a petty excuse for having lost your passion. Rediscover your passion. After all, recognition is a trivial need compared to the passion that should be fueling your artwork in the first place.
Take care, Stay true,
Linda Abbott said:
I agree with the author’s point that the passion that creating art infuses in one’s life is worth facing down the struggles and set-backs. If a part-time job in a different field pays the bills, so be it. But why ever, ever give up a gift that has been bestowed upon one, for mundane reasons?
Try sharing it with others, reinvent an approach (and attitude) to art, go on an artists’ retreat or series of workshops until inspiration fills the heart and mind. Being able to express a personal interpretation of the world artistically, and seeing others’ appreciation of that ability makes it a precious commodity. And, it takes time to develop oneself as an artist and to gain the desired (& hard won) place in the light.
It just makes success all the sweeter. And as noted, praise is appreciated, but always fleeting…perhaps in order to play to the artist’s restless soul, to keep them on their toes and responsible for injecting fresh ideas into the art, continually.
Illustrators Journal said:
Love this response!