In the early days…
Reframe, my early days—what do I know about the early days?
I often wondered when my career as an artist would launch. When will I get where I want to be? What will it take?
What I didn’t think to ask was: “How will I know?”
I’ve studied artists all my life. It started with my cousin Chris when I was in middle school and she was on her way to the Art Institute to study photography the year our class visited the high school art room. Then there was art history in school, studying working artists in my community and trying to figure out how to get my work seen, writing and printing stories about artists as publisher of Arts Perspective magazine, and now working with artists and coaching them on their art life/careers.
One thing we all have in common is that it is a learning process. Sure we have all heard that before, but do we really know what it means?
Here is a visual interpretation of the four steps of learning as described by Abraham Maslow:
In the early stages of our art career, we are unconsciously incompetent because we don’t have the experience needed to operate at the level we want to be. We don’t even know it yet!
After some art instruction we learn processes and some even develop the skills needed to proficiently execute a technique. But are we there yet?
Whether we take the formal education route or view it as an obstacle to getting right to it, there is so much more to learn than how to apply paint to canvas (or a technique specific to your preferred medium of choice). There is also the wonderful journey of creating an art career while surviving, even thriving, in all other aspects of life. And we all progress along the four steps of learning at different speeds, in different areas, and even digress at times.
But one thing is for certain, you won’t know if you’ve arrived if you don’t know what you want. It’s important to define the goal in order to obtain it.
You say you’re not good at goal setting or don’t see the point? Well when you set off for vacation, you don’t just get in the car, wipe your knowledge and memory clean of the destination and hope that you arrive to your destination. No. You come to some determination of where you want to go. Perhaps through a magazine, a conversation with a friend, or your parents called and they want you to come home for a visit. I don’t know, it’s your vacation! And you make arrangements. You buy plane or train tickets, you fill up the car, get out the map (or ask Siri) and you head out. Sometimes you even set a timeline of when you will return. Most likely right? Because your spouse can take only so much of the in-laws anyway.
So why would you travel through life hoping that you get where you want to go and not plan for it? Sure life is about the journey, not the destination. But wouldn’t you like to have some kind of input? And how rewarding would it be to actually accomplish a dream (big or small)?
So what’s it going to take?
It’s going to take a little introspection, a little daydreaming, and a dash of excitement to motivate you to:
“Make a plan and then do it.”
My sister is famous in our family for saying that line. And although we all laughed at the way she said it at the time. It makes perfect sense and it works.
In order to launch your career as an artist, you are going to need a springboard. In order to get the opportunity to jump, you will need an opportunity. And in order to find that opportunity, you need to engage yourself into your work, process, and what it will take to get you there.
And how will you know? Because you made a conscious effort to make a goal, look for opportunities that bring you closer, and once you’ve achieved it, you will be consciously competent. Leverage that success for the next goal and you can wash and repeat all you want. Get good at that and you are on autopilot.
What are you going to do to make the first step?
What are you waiting for? Go do it!
Wait, are you still here? Go!
Seriously? Email me.
I’m a human tow truck and I help artists get unstuck all of the time.