These are Some of the Many Things I Don’t Know

Usually when I write about being a self-taught artist, I write about the lessons I’ve learned along the way. This time around, I’d like to share some of the issues I’m still fuzzy on, despite having been aware of them and having pondered them a bit here and there, for quite some time. Maybe my gentle readers have found their own answers to these questions or maybe the process of writing about it will help clarify my own thoughts on these matters, as so often happens.

How do I decide which opportunities to pursue?

I feel that, as an artist, there’s a certain amount of responsibility to throw myself into every opportunity which arises, because they are scarce and precious and beggars can’t be choosers. The most positive, optimistic voice in my head says, “who knows what other, more exciting opportunities will spring from this or what relationships you may form”. And that is alluring and I do yearn for community but I have mis-givings; is it the “right” direction for me?

I used to think a reliable rule was, “don’t do it if it doesn’t excite you”. Except this still poses the same problem. My excitement levels aren’t necessarily a good predictor of where an opportunity could lead.

What are my goals as an artist/what does success mean to me?

Before I opened my Etsy shop, I had a little to do item on my list that read “define what success means to me”. As if that sort of question is just a thing on a list I could tick off. One of my favourite authors, Neil Gaiman has some advice:

“Think of your goals as a mountain and when opportunities arise, ask if it gets you closer to the mountain.”

That would be a very neat solution to conundrum #1, only I don’t know what my goals are beyond, “make art I adore and share it with people”. Seriously, that’s all I’ve got.

The paradox of caring and not caring what other people think of my work

I do these two things at the same time. What’s that about? I seem to be able to not care what people think of my work due to a deep belief that I am capable of producing work that is superior to anything I’ve yet created. They just haven’t seen my best work yet.

And yet, I love it when I get positive feedback about my work. Also, I suspect I wouldn’t much like the type of person who is unmoved by genuine praise. After all, complete apathy towards other people’s regard of oneself is a symptom of psychopathy.

These are just some of the many thing I don’t know.

2 Comments These are Some of the Many Things I Don’t Know

  1. birdie

    I’m ‘self taught’ too, but having attended half of a foundation degree and having known plenty of fine art grads who are ‘trained’ they all have exactly the same experiences/thoughts. The only thing they do tell you in art school is to grab every opportunity to show etc, because you never know where it may lead. Personally I have one caveat when making choices about opportunities and that is that whatever they are, they must be in line with my personal values. I would not, for example enter a show sponsored by companies who destroy the environment.

    Im not sure why you are concerned about the last one. Isn’t this utterly normal? Healthy even? We need a cetain amount of faith in our abilities to proceed, but who doesn’t enjoy a genuine compliment? We all need a positive mirror,that’s part of our psychological make up and essential to our mental health and stability. Like you say,I wouldn’t want to be around anyone who did not care for others opinions!

    1. Katherine

      Birdie, thank you Thank You for passing on the advice to take every opportunity to show one’s work. I’ve now entered my first art competition :)

      As to the last point, I guess I’m worried where it could lead (caring too much, that is). For example, it’s occurred to me that I may not even be a finalist in the local art competition I’ve entered and if I care too much about that it could crush me.


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