In this week’s video post, I mentioned that I wanted to change the way that we use words here at The Abundant Artist.
If the words that we used were monsters, what would they look like?
The world at large continues to talk about Starving Artists. Even close family members of mine ask my wife and I, “How’s the life of the starving artist?” Ahem. We haven’t been starving for years, Aunt Edna.
Sorry. You’ll figure it out eventually. This little guy (from MadeByMoxie) is what I think of when you ask me that.
Silly, right? Who would be afraid of this little furry beast? The trick is to substitute words and images for the automatic reactions that we usually have when we hear something.What do YOU think of when you hear the word starving?
The Psychology of Substitution
When I was in acting school, I learned about the concept of Substitution. The basic idea is when you are playing a character who does something that you aren’t familiar with (murder someone, win a Nobel prize, or complete an otherwise extreme action), you can substitute your own profound experiences as a stand in for that emotion, and thus move you to a more convincing performance.
If you are like most of us, the idea of putting your art on display for the world to see can sometimes send you into a terrifying tizzy. You won’t be able to breathe and the though of asking someone to pay for something that you’re unsure of anyway seems like an insurmountable barrier.
If you want to be successful as an artist, then substitute success at something else when you think about your art. Perhaps you won a spelling bee as a child. Perhaps your mother put all of your projects on the fridge at home, no matter what you did. This substitution will pull you out of the paralysis that you’re currently in and allow you to take small steps forward.
It used to be that when I looked at my bank account, I would get a gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach. I grew up poor enough that we had ‘adventures’ like living in the car for weeks at a time. I get the scared panicky feeling. The truth is that my experiences growing up created unconscious scripts that I would act from when certain things would happen. It’s easy to make bad decisions when acting from pre-existing scripts that make you more afraid.
The thing about money is that it’s totally neutral. It’s a prop that will do whatever you tell it to do. It took me years to really understand this concept, and I’m still learning how to become more skilled with this prop. Once you understand this concept, you’ll recognize that your financial state is up to you – and that means you can change it and make it work for you, instead of having an adversarial relationship with money.
In other words, money is not this big green monster trying to hurt you or take away your artistic integrity. It’s just a physical (or digital) manifestation of an exchange of value.
Flipping the Script on Money
There are many ways to change your pre-programmed responses. I know because I’ve tried a whole bunch. One of my favorites is Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). My wife and I were introduced to EFT by Carol Tuttle, who you can see in this video.
I practice EFT when I find myself freaking out about money. I also practice before I go on stage to get rid of tension and fear, as well as if I’m having an emotional argument with someone.
Quite often I talk to artists who ask me if I can help them get into a gallery. I don’t do that. I help artists build their own businesses and learn how to leverage the power of the Internet. The funny thing is that most of the artists I know who are doing well don’t even have gallery representation. Even if they do, it’s not a significant portion of their income. That’s probably skewed because of the work that I do, but it amuses me nonetheless.
You don’t need a gallery to succeed. Galleries, and gallery owners, are not magical soothsayers with the ability to conjure collectors.
Gallerists = Artistic Partners
When you do place a piece of art in a gallery, you are entering a business relationship with the gallery owner. They become a sales agent on your behalf, and you need to do whatever you can to enable them to make the sale. Deliver on time. Show up for interviews. Offer to do some in-gallery demos, exhibitions, or other public appearances. Write up the story of the work, of your inspiration. Follow up and ask about feedback from gallery visitors. Communicate regularly.
By the same token, be sure to partner with the right people. Do you get along with your gallerist? Does their gallery excite you? Does your art fit there? Do they have good references from other artists? Did you get a contract that stipulates how long they have exclusivity? How will you handle people who visit your website? Will you sell the same pieces in the gallery and on the web? How will the gallery promote you?
What Do Your Monsters Look Like?
You probably have a different take on what the Starving Artist, Money, and Gallery monsters look like. You might have other monsters that you deal with. I take inspiration from Havi and her Monster Coloring book.
I’d love to see your monsters. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be taking entries for The Abundant Artist Monster Contest.
What is it?
The Abundant Artist Monster Contest is a way of encouraging artists to define their monsters (fears), why they fear them, and what is really behind these monsters. Draw, paint, sculpt, photograph, or otherwise manifest your monster in a visible way and share it with us here. At the close of the contest, I’ll pick a few monsters to permanently display on the site as a way of letting other artists know about monsters, and why they don’t need to be afraid.
How Do I Enter?
Leave a comment below with a link to your monster. You can post it on your own blog, Flickr page, Facebook, or whatever, but I need a list of links in one place so that I can see them all. Don’t wanna miss any, after all. Oh, and it would be extra awesome if you decided to mention this contest on your bloggy thingy. Let’s also do a Twitter hashtag – #ArtMonsters
The Deadline for Submissions is January 27, 2011.
What Do I Get if I Enter?
First of all, you get the opportunity to define your fears and make them manageable. This is hugely important.
But wouldn’t it be more fun if we did something else too? I’m going to give away a couple of really fun prizes to the best monsters (as totally and completely and arbitrarily defined by me).
- A copy of Havi’s Monster Coloring book. One artist will win a Monster Coloring Book for submitting his/her drawing, gratis. Thanks Havi, for the inspiration!
- 3 Month Membership in ArtEmpowers.Me. The best resource on the Internet for selling art online, Art Empowers is chock full of course materials on selling art online and getting past the starving artist mindset. Plus there’s a super awesome forum for artists to ask questions – and that’s where the extra goodness lies.
- A Special Surprise that I’m not going to tell you about just yet.
So…get crackin! Go introduce us to your monster!