Art and War: Why I Write This Blog

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A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog post making a reference to the phrase, “Art is War.” In the blog post I mentioned that I was giving a presentation at a local event talking about how artists have to flip the script on how selling art works, and I called the event Art is War. It was all about how innovative artists were making a living with their work while fighting against a gallery system that tries to push them into doing something that doesn’t work for them.

The phrase “Art is War” didn’t come from me. I first read it when I saw Hazel Dooney’s blog, Self vs. Self. The tagline is “Remember: Art is War.” That phrase has stuck with me ever since I read it.

It still gives me chills.

Steven Pressfield wrote a seminal book called The War of Art. It’s a short little book that deals mostly with the topic of Resistance. At the essence of Hazel Dooney’s idea of the Self vs. the Self is the notion that artists are our own worst enemy when it comes to the creation of art. We can come up with a dozen reasons to not practice, to not work, to not market ourselves.

I Fight the War Too

I’m working on a one man show. Most of my friends know that I’m working on it. I was at a party last week and several people asked me how it was going, and all I could respond with was, “It’s hard.” The best work we do as artists often comes from a very personal place and it is easy to be discouraged by an inaccurate depiction, a clumsy turn of phrase, or a mistaken brush stroke. In other words, it’s easy to find a reason to quit.

But I won’t quit. And neither should you.

There’s a discipline to being creative. You have to put yourself in that creative space every day, and you have to work. Even if it’s all crap, you have to work. The same can be said for your business. You have to put yourself out there every day, even if you fall flat on your face. Failure is a part of life. He who risks nothing does nothing, and is nothing. Or something like that.

Taking Inspiration

When it’s hard, there are a number of things you can do to inspire yourself. You can play mental games with yourself to squeeze out a little more work. You can make art for fun until inspiration strikes. You can really delve and puke up all of your little neuroses all over other people’s laps.

I’ve interviewed a host of artists and entrepreneurs who have done some amazing things.

Helen Aldous’ post Why Being a Square Peg in a Round Hole is Your Greatest Asset is all about using your own quirkiness, your own creativity that makes you the artist that you are, as an asset. Go ahead and think differently. Question authority. It’s all about you anyway!

Meilena Hauslendale, the Sharpie Artist, shared some deep insights into how she grew her art into a business that supports her. She’s a pretty inspiring lady. You should listen to her talk.

Paula Manning Lewis has sold more than 30,000 pieces of art. The Starving Artist is a Myth indeed.

There are many, many more interviews. These are just a few. You could probably spend hours combing through all of the interviews on this site. It’s fun to do them and I’ll continue doing them.

Ignore Everybody

What I love even more than doing all of these interviews is reading about artists who do it completely differently than everybody else. There are lots of artists out there who’ve never heard of me and who’ve never read or listened to any of my interviews, and they’re doing absolutely stunning things all on their own.

I already mentioned Hazel Dooney. You probably already know about Hugh McLeod (if you don’t, you should – he wrote the book Ignore Everybody). Lori Mcnee is pretty amazing too. They’re all doing it for themselves, and it’s amazing to watch. These are all artists who do things just a little bit differently, who defy convention – who are winning the War of Art.

Sometimes, it’s not even about ignoring everybody. Sometimes it’s just a matter of what you don’t know can’t hurt you. Michael Whitlark, an artist I just met a few weeks ago when he joined ArtEmpowers.Me, is doing really incredible stuff. I won’t reveal all of his secrets here, I’ll just say that he has sold more art in the last few weeks than most of the artists that I speak to on a day to day basis. Also, he’s still in college. Hysterical stuff.

Some time ago, Brian Sherwin, a well known arts blogger and critic, did an interview here where he talked about how art galleries will eventually have to embrace the Internet. That hasn’t happened yet – not on any grand sort of scale, anyway. There are dozens, if not hundreds of artists out there doing it for themselves, with no hint of a need for a gallery or for an agent.

Art is War

If Art is War, you might say that artists are a the insurgents. There’s no formal training for this kind of art career. There’s no art professors telling their students to build up a fan base and create a movement so that they can have a career. In their world, it all happens through neat little galleries and academic treatises.

Not down here. Not where the rubber meets the road.

In military history, there are many stories about how a vastly superior force is routed by indigenous tribes with primitive weaponry and guerrilla tactics. They don’t stand and fight – they go around the bigger army, attack them from the rear. They melt away when the bigger army comes after them. They blend in among the common folk. They are never seen, but they are dangerous.

The artists that I’ve mentioned here, and dozens of other artists, are like that. They don’t have a big name gallery backing them. They haven’t been highlighted by a big name critic. They didn’t start with a big war chest full of money. Instead they connect with people through free tools like email, websites, Facebook, and other social media. They care about something so passionately that they build a following around it. When the Arts establishment comes calling and criticizes them for the way that they are doing things, the artist who wins the war makes her own decisions instead of bowing to peer pressure. You may not ever know who these artists are – unassuming, plain clothed folk, who are creating the Abundant Artist lifestyle that they want.

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16 comments
Sylvia
Sylvia

Wonderfully informative! Thank you for sharing the wealth.

lisafirke
lisafirke

I have to say that I don't like the notion of art being war--at least not when it comes down to facing yourself in the studio. Sometimes the challenge is not to break down resistance, but to approach it as a misguided friend and ask it what it thinks it's trying to do for us.What I DO love is the idea of the online artist subverting the traditional gallery system. Especially since our tools these days are both modern and ancient. Fun to think about, and inspiring to hear about how others are making it work.

LibbyHintzArt
LibbyHintzArt

@DorasPaintDrips "You have to put yourself in that creative space... you have to work. Even if it’s all crap, you have to work." Myfavquote!

Anne Bevan
Anne Bevan

Wonderful article - Art is war is a perfect concept. I was amused to find myself thinking, "...but, I love every minute of it" and was immediately reminded of the famous quote from Patton (" . . . I love it so")I hope you read these responses because I have two little notes :1.) The Abundant Artist is wonderful. May I respectfully suggest you that you should personally have the attention you deserve by putting your name right up there on the header!2.) Although I am a subscriber, I cannot find a copy of "Sell More Art Online in 10 Weeks" on my computer. Could you send or tell me how to find it?Thanks so much, you are truly appreciated!Annehttp://facebook.com/AnneBevanStudio

JimelleSalyers
JimelleSalyers

This is deeply thoughtful and exactly dead on. I'm in the middle of several battles this year, learning these very lessons about how to do it. And since necessity is the mother of invention, as they say, I'm trying something new these days. I have to, because the whole war depends on whether I win the current battle. I blogged about it here: www.artgrab.blogspot.com.Thanks for helping me find some perspective today!

thebrush
thebrush

Its 6 am and i just crawled out of bed , morning coffee and i started reading your article well said i really enjoyed it , Just gave me more inspiration to get done what i got to do today around my studio, finish my latest piece , get it scanned, make my prints and get them framed . There are so many ways of winning this battle as a Artist , i know its takes away from my painting but i worked out a schedule that i paint all day , Then relax a bit watch the news , go for a walk , then i hit the studio again , i run my prints , and i do my own framing this way it give me total control over my works and i get to enjoy both worldFROM START TO FINISH .i really enjoy your article keep writing www.artofjeffmusseau.com

vaslittlecrow
vaslittlecrow

This is beyond amazing, and it came when I needed it.

CoryHuff
CoryHuff

@lisafirke One artist that I failed to mention is Natasha Wescoat. http://www.wescoatart.com She's done some really interesting, fun things with her promotion.

CoryHuff
CoryHuff

@Anne Bevan pssh...of COURSE I read responses!I get all of the attention that I need from the About page - I don't need any more credit than that (but thank you very much).Sell More Art Online in 10 Weeks is a 10 part video course. You should have received a series of emails with links to short videos about selling art on the Web. If you can't find them, let me know and I'll see if I can resend.

CoryHuff
CoryHuff

@JimelleSalyers Jimelle - good luck with your fundraising! You should put some examples up on your site so that people can see what they're buying!

CoryHuff
CoryHuff

@thebrush The fact that it's 6 AM and you're up means you're winning the battle. Now, what are you doing to let people know about your work? How is that built into your day?

lisafirke
lisafirke

I agree! Natasha does a great job and is kind of a proof-of-concept for running an art biz in a nontrad way...

Anne Bevan
Anne Bevan

@CoryHuff Thank you, Cory. I have searched but I simply cannot find it. I would love it if you could resend it to me.Anne

thebrush
thebrush

@CoryHuff Morning Corey and thanks for your reply, now thats a good question i launched a web site a few month ago but still cant get around how to push it , to be honest i think i have only sold a couple of pieces from my site , most of my sales at this moment are from word of mouth and believe it or not i am doing good but i would love to better , i want to get a bolg from wordpress but not sure if i got to get a separate domaine other than one i got for my site because the company that made my site used wordpress, i am finding it a little confusing to be honest . Are there anyways you can help thanks again corey .

thebrush
thebrush

@CoryHuff Thanks Corey i will be watching for it

CoryHuff
CoryHuff

@thebrush If your site is already built in Wordpress, then you have a blog build into your site already! I have a comprehensive guide to Wordpress in the http://artempowers.me classes - you might look there when we reopen membership towards the end of October.