It's all a matter of perspective!
I read this great article recently about a South African artist who has plodded along on the peripheries, doing his thing and happy not to be in the art world "epicentre". It meant he could do his thing and not feel pressure to do things a particular way or fit in a particular box. The article was a good reminder for me. So much that you see on Facebook and Insta pitched at artists is how you need to be in the thick of things, with more followers, more likes, and above all, more sales. They take the neoliberal approach that if you are not a millionaire in the matter of months, you are doing something wrong.
I have to confess I had started to believe all that stuff. Not being able to triple my income in a week was starting to cause me some angst, especially as the cost of living just keeps going up. But reading the article reminded me that I have been in this business for decades, plodding along on the peripheries like my South African colleague, and hopefully helping others tap into their creativity along with it. Becoming a millionaire from my art sales would be lovely, I admit, but it is not really what I profess to be about in terms of making art. And so, I have taken a step back from all the online hype to reconsider where I have come from and where I am going to.
Artwork itself often benefits from being able to step back away from it. That way, you stop obsessing about a particular square inch of the work and get a more global view. You can see the whole forest, not just individual trees. You can more easily see the areas that need adjusting and those that don't. Put simply, you can see the big picture, something that is impossible when you are hunched over a canvas worrying about every detail. That's why artists often use mirrors to look at the work - it puts distance between them and it, and changes their perspective. Sometimes we need to do exactly the same thing with our lives and artistic careers.
The reality is, I have sold work, quite a bit, actually, over the years. That is reassurance that my work speaks to at least some people out there. And, I fully expect that I will sell again in the future. I won't go down in history as a particularly brilliant artist or for that matter, a rich one. If I keep perspective and to my mantra of making the art that only I can, I also won't be at the mercy of every trend or be churning out work that doesn't interest me for the sake of a sale. Life is difficult, and arguably getting more so, but the Universe has a way of providing what you need when you need it. So, I am going to try to step away from the screens, and the voices that keep screaming about making money. I will keep making the art I want to make and trust that it will speak to someone out there as I do.
Some of my close family members are adamant that "art is not a career". But it is mine. They and I both need the perspective that it is a marathon, not a sprint, like any other career. It takes time. And like many careers, perhaps slow and steady creates longevity better than clinging to trends or trying to figure out the vagaries of Facebook algorithms. Some of us will likely get rich from our art career, but others of us won't. But is that the mark of a successful career? Perhaps, with the right perspective, we can see our art careers as successful if we just manage to keep making art.