Since we’re talking about evolution and growth, let’s consider an important but uncomfortable element of the process: failure.
Not the irked disappointment one feels when a painting doesn’t turn out quite right, or when one can’t get a passage of dialogue to flow naturally. Nope, I’m referring to the utter crash-n-burn of a whole great fantastic plan that just doesn’t work out no matter how much time and energy and positive thinking one has put into it.
Failure to make a living in the art business was one of the best things that could have happened to me as an artist.
Working as a freelancer seemed like a dream come true at first. Over time, though, the constant pressure to make a profit and make pleasant schmoozey small-talk with the general public on the off chance that they might buy something, anything, turned my creative juices into sludge.
Not surprisingly, I didn’t make enough money to pay the bills. When I eventually had to get a day job to make ends meet, though, I was surprised to feel a sense of deep…relief?
Yes! No more scrounging for commissions. No more demanding critics asking for insipid crap while turning up their nose at my best work. No more fake smiles. No more BSing my way through “artist statements”. No more trying to guess how to tailor a piece to spur some stranger into coughing up a decent price. No more 16-hour days wasted on uninteresting, vaguely art-like chores with no time or energy left for my personal projects.
It’s just me in my studio, now, working as I please, on whatever I please, with only myself to please. This is the dream come true. The bottleneck has cleared, the ideas are pouring out, and they’re getting weirder and more un-sellable with every brush and key stroke.
My art is fun and meaningful again, now that it no longer matters to me whether or not anyone else wants it.