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Do hard things

Allie x2 by a waterfall - work in progress

There’s a guy I follow on Twitter named Dennis. He’s an older gentleman. And he’s always doing something difficult for even a young gentleman. Something physical, but very difficult, even if he were young.

To me, that’s inspirational. And it totally applies to art.

Do hard things. Constantly.

You want to be improving. Here’s a work in progress of Allie posing under a waterfall. In real life, this was the latest live model sketch we did over the weekend with an old sketch of her. I’m constantly using both new sketches and recycling the old ones. I recycle the old ones since I’ve improved immensely since then. I want to give those poses proper credit.

As for the waterfall, that was kind of a fantasy waterfall based on some waterfall pictures I sliced together from Pinterest. No, this waterfall doesn’t exist, because it’s several spliced together.

I have no idea if it will turn out good or not. We’ll know in a few weeks.

Constant improvement mindset

I take artistic mindset very seriously. I strongly believe that the difference between artists who make it and artists who don’t comes down to mindset. Quitters never win.

But not quitting is not enough. You got to constantly push yourself. You can’t ever plateau and say to yourself “this is fine.”

Imagine Leonardo da Vinci or Pablo Picasso doing that. Yes, exactly. They never did.

You need to be improving. Constantly.

And sometimes, you really have to push yourself.

Recently, I learned how to make watercolor postcards. I wanted to do something special for my Grandma who’s turning 102 next year.

So I decided to use my artistic skills. Make something really personal. Something that other people can’t give her. Show her how special she is to me.

Grandma was a huge influence on me. She traveled the world. She wanted things done her way. That’s two things that rubbed off on me big time.

She was also a piano teacher in her past. I blew it when I didn’t take my piano lessons seriously. Now I have to do a lot of catch-up because I was totally into sports and totally not into my piano lessons as a kid.

Of course, not at all slamming sports. I’m glad I did them. But I really wish I practiced the piano too.

Where to start?

“So where do I start?”

Here’s the beauty to it. What’s hard for you may not be hard for me. And vice versa. I can guarantee that I’m better than you at five things. I can guarantee that you’re better than me at five things.

Nobody is the same. So this is on you.

What is hard for you? But don’t just do it because it’s hard. (Unless that’s how your brain is wired. In that case, do it!)

Do it because that’s what you need to improve.

I’m constantly trying to get better and better at water. I’m a water person. If you look at all my paintings, you’ll see that water is a big part of a lot of them.

Mermaids. Naiads. Selkies. What do they have in common? Water.

So what is your water? You tell me. Actually, tell me. Leave a comment below. What is your water? What’s a huge part of your art that you need to improve?

Tell yourself you’re gonna do it. And do it. Even if it’s hard. Heck, especially if it’s hard!

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On artists, entrepreneurship, and the old 9 to 5

Navigating your life as an artist

Here is something that artists ponder. But I’m sure there aren’t that many resources for them.

Imagine, you are young. You know you’re an artist. But you have to make a decision.

You have to decide which route you will take. Will you brave it out and shoot for entrepreneurship? Or will you pursue a 9 to 5 job and continue to do your art on the side, hoping that you’ll have a piece or two that can propel you into full-time art some day?

Or, you can do something that advances your art career. You can manage art galleries, teach art in high school or college, or even online. Meanwhile, you still do your own art.

Every single one has advantages and disadvantages. And to make this article more complete, I need to tell you my past so you know where I’m coming from.

I am a highly successful 9 to 5 worker and investor. I’ve twice failed to start creative businesses.

But, I haven’t given up on entrepreneurship. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.

Learning from failures

I once got up to $54k in credit card debt because my last business failed so badly. I didn’t want to get a formal business loan since I didn’t want anyone to have any control over me. My train of thought at the time – credit cards are anonymous.

Was it stupid? Looking back, probably yes. But I went in knowing the risks and fell flat on my face.

I almost have those loans paid off. No, I’m not struggling at all. I have the cash to pay them off. But I like keeping six months of cash at all times just in case. Once again, that’s just me.

I know there’s an accountant reading this right now thinking “what an idiot!” But that’s how I think. I absolutely have to have a cash reserve at all times.

And yes, this is my second business that failed. As the saying goes though, fail better.

Opium Tales is my third business, started on January 1st, 2019. The first one ironically also involved the name opium tales. But as the name of the television program, not the name of the business. (That company was an entertainment production company). I tried to get funding for the business and only ended up with debts.

“Then why be an entrepreneur?”

The freedom

Why did I choose to be an entrepreneur? Because of the freedom. That’s why most entrepreneurs decide to go that route. You are your own boss. Or they can argue your customer is. Or in my case, the networks I was trying to pitch my television show would have been.

Let’s hypothetically say my television company succeeded. I wrote the entire first season. Total freedom.

If the ratings went well, I’d have complete freedom to write the second season any way I wanted. That would have ruled!

If the ratings went ok, to get more money, I’d have to compromise. The episodes that went well, I’ll have to continue writing more along those lines. Even if I absolutely loved the episodes that didn’t do well, the people giving me money will say “no, you can’t do sequels to those ones” or “you can’t write them in that style.”

So yes, if you’re kicking ass, you’re your own boss. If you’re not, you have to answer to your customers.

Stop lights and traffic jams

On a lesser note, this country still pretty much drives to work. Sure, some cities have decent public transportation systems. The majority don’t. So, you spend time in traffic.

I worked at one place that took 90 minutes on the average day to get home. And I lived less than 10 miles from my job. Imagine what that did to my car. Heck, imagine what that did to my back!

If you’re an entrepreneur, you’ll read about other people in traffic jams. Sucks to be them.

Assholes at work

I’ve worked in companies where everyone was cool. OK, I exaggerated. I worked in one company where everyone was cool. One. Over 20+ years in the corporate world and one company had everyone cool.

You know what happened? The company was so good, that someone bigger came along and bought us out. Then we all got laid off.

I got a severance out of it. Yay!

Sadly, I haven’t had a single job since where everyone was cool.

If you’re an entrepreneur, the only asshole you have to deal with is yourself. But if you like yourself, you like who you work with.

Well, sort of. You have to deal with your customers, your suppliers, the shipping people, accountants, lawyers, your press people, and a slew of others. Sort of. You do get to choose all that stuff. If they’re assholes, go straight to their competitors and give them your business.

Still better than dealing with assholes at work.

Once you’re established

Also, once you get established, the only one who can fire you is you. Once established, you really have to screw up to lose your revenue.

9 to 5 people have to worry about losing their jobs. You don’t. You got yours as long as you want to do it.

Also, the upside is endless. You can go from six figures to seven figures in a year.

Good luck making seven figures at the good old 9 to 5. Once your salary starts increasing fast, your head is on the chopping block when the company takes a downturn.

I once got laid off because the company lost their main client and they took one look at my salary and thought to themselves “Roman needs to go.” I was making too much. Not to me of course. To them.

1984 at work

Orwell was right. But the year was wrong. It’s more like 2048.

Every year, we head closer to 1984. And it’s actually quite sickening.

Every year, we have to add one lie to our daily corporate vocabulary. And these aren’t minor lies. They’re pretty big lies.

I can’t even talk about them. I’d lose my job. And I still need it for another year or so.

You know the phrase as political correctness. The folks who think political correctness is another term for friendliness are the problem.

Freedom is like the whole crab in pot analogy. If you boil the water, the crab will immediately jump out. However, if you heat it up slowly, you’ll kill the crab.

Same thing with Freedom. Take them all away all at once and you’ll have a bloody revolution and the people who caused it will more than likely lose their heads. Let 1984 seep in slowly and you’ll have a global dystopia.

Now as an entrepreneur, you don’t have to deal with this bullshit. And if you think it isn’t bullshit, watch Mad Men and as dysfunctional as it may seem to you, there’s a reason why millions of people watched that show. We could be normal humans back then! Imagine what that would have been like.

Benefits of the 9 to 5

When you’re an entrepreneur, you’re the lead money guy, the lead press guy, you’re the everyday worker, and you’re the CEO. You’re even the guy who takes the garbage out and waters the plants. You’re pretty much responsible for everything. You need to know how to do pretty much everything.

Unless of course you’re swimming in money and can outsource a lot of the work. But, let’s be real. Most of us aren’t exactly in that boat. Most of us start with rowboats with the bargain brand oars.

Sure, you work from home if you’re an entrepreneur. But, your home is also your work. For better and for worse.

Most of us 9 to 5 folks leave our job at the job. We log off and go home. That’s it.

Sure, some of us have to work after hours and on weekends. Most of us ditch those jobs as soon as we possibly can though. Great way to burn someone out.

Steady income

Expect to have some time where you don’t make anything as an entrepreneur. How much is “some time?” Well, on average, it’s two years.

Some folks can make money right away. Most don’t. Most starve for at the very least the first six months.

With a 9 to 5, you get a paycheck. You know the paycheck is coming. It’s steady.

This alone is why the vast majority of us are 9 to 5 folk. You’re guaranteed a steady paycheck. (That is, until they decide to replace you).

It becomes the Devil you know. Plus, everyone else is doing it. Right?

Slow path to entrepreneurship or cold turkey?

Then there’s the third group. You have a day job. You do it because you’re addicted to this thing called being able to pay bills. It’s a nice feeling – being able to pay bills.

But, you’re not fulfilled. You know in your heart, you’re an artist, not a dentist. You just need to get out there.

So what do you do? You practice your art every chance you get. You smile when you’re working on that bratty kid’s teeth and remind him that he needs to actually brush them daily. I know, weird concept, right? Why won’t these kids brush their teeth? Why won’t parents remind them?

Soon, that won’t be your problem any more. You’ll be painting full-time.

The thing is, you know the transitional period could take years. You’ve heard of it happening, and both times you knew someone who made the transition, they did it cold turkey.

But you make a lot of money. So what do you do?

You’re scared. You got house payments. You got two kids who are about to start college soon.

Time will go by. You’ll get old sooner than you realize. And you know it.

Cold turkey?

You know a former accountant and a former real estate agent who both did it. They’re now full-time artists.

They both tell you the same thing. You need to commit then burn every single bridge so you can’t go back.

What if you fail? You’ll lose your house. And gasp, your kids will have to take big fat student loans.

But you don’t know a single person who successfully transitioned over a long period of time. That’s because we all know the truth. Once you’re addicted to steady income, it’s almost impossible to get off that addiction.

The only way is cold turkey. You know that. I know that. Both your former accountant friend and your former real estate agent friend told you this. Like a million times.

Are you going to pull the trigger?

Final thoughts

As of today, I still have a day job. Both businesses I started failed. Both were art related. And both left me with a lot of debt.

I paid off the first one. I’m still paying off the second one. There’s an old saying though that the average successful businessman failed four times before he created his winner. I’m currently batting zero for two.

I met a lady who successfully transitioned from a corporate job to an entrepreneur. Yes, those people exist.

However, most successful entrepreneurs burned their bridges and jumped straight in the water. Or at least the ones I’ve interviewed.

I only know that one exception. One out of many.

What should you do? You know you better than I know you. Are you happy at your 9 to 5? Do you have the stomach to be an entrepreneur?

Serious questions.

Then there’s the other set – the ones who do art for a living but not their own art. Art sales. Art promotion. Making art for a corporation. Teaching. Graphic design work. Etc.

If you are satisfied doing that, I suggest you keep doing it. If you’re not, then consider entrepreneurship. It’s risky. But what’s the saying about risk and reward?

I don’t have the answers. I’m happy at my 9 to 5. But it’s not my dream job by any means. I’d rather be composing music and painting Allie and Roxy full-time. My mind wanders elsewhere in meetings. Some days, I’d love to just sleep in and wear sweatpants all day long.

Expiration dates

So I’ve committed to a date. All debts will be paid off. Then bam! “Here’s my two week notice. Where am I going next? No, there is no next. I’m going all in in art.”

You can do something like this. Have an expiration date. Commit to it. And burn every bridge so you can’t go back.

Is it a good idea? For me, it’s the only way. I’m addicted to those paychecks and if I don’t go cold turkey, I’ll never be a full-time artist.

Once again, I can’t speak for you. But I’m showing my cards here.

Choose wisely. And remember – failing won’t kill you.

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Should an artist have a morning routine? Athletes have them

I talked a little bit about this when I wrote about when creative people cannot create. But I really want to expand on the importance of having a morning routine.

You’ll basically meet three types of artists. The first time is the successful artists. They make a living doing the job they love.

The second type has much larger numbers. Significantly larger. It is the artists who want to make a living in art but are either failing or will fail.

The third type, we won’t talk about. They’re irrelevant for this discussion. They’re the ones who do art for the love of art, and have no intention of selling it whatsoever. Nothing against this group. They’re just irrelevant for this article.

Where a morning routine comes in

Anyone ever heard of Jerry Rice? The saying goes that he woke up every morning at 4:30AM because Cris Carter woke up at 5AM.

You may dismiss this as a joke, but it’s no joke. There’s a reason he has every single record in the record book. He worked harder than everyone else. And that’s not me saying it. It’s all his peers.

Today, Drew Brees is about to break every passing record in the book. It’s because like Rice a generation before, Brees is known as the hardest working man amongst hard working men in a brutal game.

Why not apply this to art? I totally believe that mindset is underrated, especially for artists. The difference between the ones who make it and the ones who don’t is often mindset. Mindset will surpass talent. Well, let’s be real. Everyone who’s gotten this far has some talent. So assuming you do have some talent…

Mine

I wake up at 5:45AM Mondays thru Fridays and I get to sleep in until 6AM on the weekends. I’m doing a random morning sketch, then doing a quick social media plug. I don’t stay on social media as social media is a terrible time sink. You could get lost there for hours and not get anything done. I think it’s possibly even worse than television.

I’m also practicing my foreign language. This of course has nothing to do with art, but I’m tired of being monolingual.

When I was taking photography seriously, I’d wake up at ungodly hours and shoot. Those are often the best times to shoot anyways.

Having a morning routine will really help you succeed
Having a morning routine will really help you succeed

Yeah, I never claimed to be good at photography. It was just one of those things that I did. However, if I kept up with it, I would have worked every morning on it until I got really good.

But this mindset really helped my musician skills and now my art skills.

I started this blog just for my short stories. I didn’t take it seriously for years. Then on January 1st of this year, I decided that I was going to take my art seriously.

As an artist, your biggest enemy is obscurity. Don’t ever get discouraged by anyone who doesn’t like you or your art. Who cares? Let it go in one ear and out the other.

However, if nobody knows you exist, you’ll never sell you art.

I’ve recognized that immediately. And so I plan accordingly. I write this blog to help out other artists. And I also use the main site to sell the art.

My morning routine also involves a bit of promotion because marketing matters. If you don’t take marketing seriously, good luck making it as an artist. You’d have to get lucky, and I personally don’t ever like relying on luck.

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Too much thinking and not enough living

too much thinking and not enough living
Don’t forget to live

I’ve read Plato. And of course, studied Greek philosophy, Greek art, Roman art, etc. All that good stuff.

But, we can go too far. What if one would spend too much time reading and forgot to live? Didn’t Cervantes write a book about that?

I do think artists should put their work in. We should do our research. Know the past very well. Be able to imitate our idols’ works.

Definitely do all this, but don’t forget that if you really want to be a great artist, you absolutely positively have to live a life worthy of an artist.

What is a life worthy of an artist?

You’ve seen the stereotypes. Artists love passionately, often with reckless abandon. We either break hearts or let ours be broken. One or the other. Or both.

We live to live and love for the sake of love.

I just wrote on artists and suffering and I stand by what I said. Artists should feel something if they expect to produce great art.

The Pre-Raphaelites understood this. Maybe too well. Their love affairs were often scandalous, especially for the Victorian era.

Guilty of too much thinking?

Why do I even bring this up? Because, nowadays too many people live on their phones. When they’re not on their phones, they’re doing something else cerebral. For instance reading or playing videogames. Indoors and alone.

Nothing against any of that stuff. But what ever happened to living?

Heck, even when you go to a concert, you see people doing everything but watching the concert. What’s the point of even being there if you’re going to spend the entire time hiding behind a tiny little phone screen?

The artist needs to live

Artists of the past lived. I mean, really lived. They squeezed as much life as possible out of their years, even when their years were cut short.

Jimi Hendrix only made it to 27. But in those 27 years, he did way more living than ten or twenty random people you and I know combined.

That’s what I mean by living. Really living.

Leonardo was physically quite strong and even a competitive wrestler in his youth. We only know him as an old man.

Beethoven loved passionately and recklessly and to this day, nobody knows who his immortal beloved is. Historians list many women who could fit that role.

Have you been to Key West, Florida? Ernest Hemingway is honored there. For a very good reason.

Nobody could ever say that Hunter S Thompson didn’t live. Oh we know all too well that he really lived.

Yes, they all did their share of heavy thinking. I’m not at all against heavy thinking. By all means, think away!

But recognize there is such thing as too much thinking and not enough living. You have to leave the house and live, really live, if you expect to create art to write home about.

I mean, how many paintings of bowls of fruit do you think the public can stomach?

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“An artist has to suffer to create good art”

You’ve heard the cliché many times, that the artist has to suffer to create good art. You’ve seen the examples. How perhaps the greatest American novelist, Ernest Hemingway, suffered from lifelong depression and finally ended his life with a shotgun.

My favorite composer, Tchaikovsky, suffered from melancholia his entire life. And finally ended his life when the orchestra performed his magnum opus poorly and the critics mocked him.

Sylvia Plath, author of the Belljar, a book about a highly intelligent and talented girl who just completely mentally loses it. She tried to end her life many times, finally succeeding by putting her head in the oven leaving and behind a family.

You could hear Beethoven’s manic depression in his music. You’ll literally hear the manic and the depression in the same symphonic movement.

Edvard Munch, the artist who painted The Scream, said my fear of life is necessary to me, as is my illness. Without anxiety and illness, I am a ship without a rudder… my sufferings are part of my self and my art.

They are indistinguishable from me, and their destruction would destroy my art.

Vincent van Gogh suffered from mental illness his entire life. No, he did not cut off his ear to give to Marilyn Monroe. He had already ended his life in 1890, decades before Monroe was even born. (Note that some historians do believe he was murdered and his death is still up for debate).

Ernest Hemingway - the artist has to suffer
Hemingway’s passport photo. His granddaughter, the lovely Margot, also ended her life

I personally loved the works of John William Godward, but he ended his life as Picasso was already on the rise and the art world was not big enough for both of them.

The list goes on and on

I could keep adding to this list, but I’ll probably bore you. We all know most of the greats suffered from depression. Many even ended their lives because of it.

So the eternal question goes – does the artist have to suffer in order to create great art?

The artist has to suffer

I strongly believe that art is feeling. If you don’t feel, you cannot create art. Whereas stoicism is great for philosophy, accounting, and stock and real estate investing, you’re simply not going to create great art being a stoic.

No offense to your accountant of course. I’m sure she’s a lovely lady.

But to feel requires pain. The most empathetic folks you’ll ever meet have suffered and will help absorb your misery since they’ve gone through something similar enough that they can relate.

Those folks are wonderful people. They create great art. And they’re way more likely to take their lives than your accountant.

(If you’re an accountant who also uses your right-brain quite well, you’re definitely an exception, a rare person indeed).

I love a good happy song as much as the next sappy guy. But the ones that really hit you. You know they’re the sad songs, right? Even Elton John sings about that. They say so much, right?

The same goes for music. But alas, music is the soundtrack for a painting anyways. Mussorgsky showed us that with his Pictures of an Exhibition. And speaking of suffering, he died at the young age of 42 as he slowly killed himself via alcohol. Yet in his short life, he left behind some beautiful pieces.

Don’t be afraid to feel

Too many folks are afraid to get hurt. I say if you’re an artist, then get hurt. That pain can go straight onto the canvas. Or straight into a song. Either way, that’s when artists create their best works.

Nobody ever wants to buy the work of someone with an easy life. No. They want to know you bled for that piece of art you produced. I’m not talking about some moronic pop song. I’m talking about real art.

Like Prince’s magnum opus Purple Rain, an album about the love of his life – Vanity, a girl he never could have.

Or how Freddie Mercury loved recklessly, leaving behind a trail of broken hearts. (While leaving his own empty).

And we all know Beethoven had his immortal beloved, who still to this day remains a mystery. Last time I checked, historians think she’s one of four different women.

Whereas Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living, he’s talking about philosophy. Let’s take that phrase and turn it into something for artists. The heart that’s never been broken cannot produce great art. How’s that?

Agree? Disagree?

Why?

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Fantasy inspiration could also come from real life

Fantasy inspiration could also come from real life. It doesn’t have to be totally random.

We’re not rich. I drive a piece of crap car with tons of miles and a big ass dent that I never fixed. We live in an apartment barely bigger than a shoe box.

Every dollar I get, we spend on travel. And travel is where it’s at for fantasy inspiration.

Of course my models, Allie and Roxy, model for me in real life so I get their poses down. But then I turn them into femme fatales. I get that list from historical fiction since for my fantasy inspiration, I want to be somewhat historically accurate. Well, mythologically accurate. (Is that a real term?)

Traveling for fantasy inspiration

You don’t always have to go far. We had some really cool caves about an hour from our old condo. Of course, I took tons of pictures as I knew I’d end up drawing them.

But if you live in Europe, you’re blessed. You got all these buildings you can use for dark fantasy. Disney probably got half his ideas on a European vacation. I have no idea where Frank Frazetta got his ideas from though.

Romania has Dracula’s castle and it’s a great resource! Sure, it’s super touristy now. But you can take lots of pictures, then let those pictures inspire you when you get back home.

Europe has great architecture for fantasy inspiration
Some architecture in Brașov, Romania

Pretty much every country in Europe has magnificent castles, cathedrals, and other architecture you could use for fantasy. I just picked Romania since we were just there.

Nature

Whereas Europe has the really old architecture, America has nature, and tons of it! The West Coast, the East Coast – tons of scenery. Montana has breathtaking mountains. Nevada and Utah have magical deserts for days.

Arizona’s got the Grand Canyon. So many states have magnificent forests you could use.

You already know I’m leaving out a lot and there’s no way I could make a comprehensive list of every awesome spot for fantasy inspiration in America.

Mexico has tons of cool spots. They had both the Aztecs and the Mayan civilizations who both built some pretty spectacular sites that you could still visit to this day. Same with Central America, although we haven’t been there yet.

For tropical fantasy, if you’re rich, there’s the South Pacific. If you’re not, there’s Hawaii. I’ve done a tropical mermaid before. I drew the background inspired by our trip to Maui. We haven’t been to the South Pacific yet.

You also already know I’m leaving out a lot of countries. We only got the travel bug recently so there’s so much more world we have to see.

And let’s not forget Alaska and Canada. Two places with endless unspoiled nature.

People

Some artists could draw human or humanoid subjects without a model. I’m definitely not one of them. I need Allie and Roxy for reference. I hired Jin n Tonic one time too. She’s super nice. But Allie and Roxy are local and we’re really close friends as well.

If you can afford it, you can always hire professional models to work with. If not, ask your friends. A lot more people want to be in paintings than you realize.

From there, I just draw the pose. Then later, I’ll get an inspiration and suddenly, Allie will be a witch or Roxy will be a mermaid. It just happens.

You might want to look into cosplay. You’ll find a lot of people are heavily into it, and will more than likely model for you. Cosplay would be great for fantasy. They already have the outfits! You just need to draw then paint them.

These are all just quick ideas. I’m sure you can come up with a lot more. I’ve intentionally left out a lot. It’s up to you to fill in the rest.

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Keep the child alive

The child draws. Not asked to. She just does.

And she gets good at it fast. And her parents smile proudly.

She continues to draw and gets considerably better. But, she starts to reach an age where that gets discouraged.

Grown ups will tell her to focus on other things. Other kids will join in on it and start to make fun of her. Because drawing is just dumb.

Decades later, the kids have grown and the world has been traveled.

She tries to rekindle that old passion of hers. Nothing good ever comes out of it because that child is dead.

If that girl is you

If that girl is you, don’t kill the child my friends. No matter what the grown ups say. You may need the child someday.

I have an infinite supply of ideas. I never tire. I could write a song a day or a damn good drawing a day.

Easily.

All because despite everything I’ve been through, I kept the child alive.

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When Creatives Can’t Create

Are you a creative person? And are you going through a period where no matter what you do, it just plain out sucks, or you’re totally blocked?

Well, the good news is it’s the same problem. We can fix it.

The bad news? To quote RuPaul – supermodel? You better work!

That means getting out of the daily grind and changing some things up. Yeah, you’re burning the candle at both ends. Or the opposite. Nothing is happening in your life. Either way, same result. We need to fix that.

Explore life more

I know today is crazier than it’s ever been. I get it. Looking back, I’ve never seen people around here so miserable.

When I grew up, a lot of people would smile for no reason. I almost never see people smiling nowadays. Everyone looks like they’re either stressed out or zoned out. But no smiles.

So what do I suggest? Explore. Break out of the ordinary. Do something you don’t normally do. Go somewhere you don’t normally go.

Do you have a sibling you haven’t seen in years. Why not call them up and tell them you’re coming over? Or where does your best friend live? When was the last time you saw them?

You could always plan a vacation out of the blue. Go somewhere you haven’t been to before. You’re broke? Don’t worry. Check out some places close by that you can drive to. Get a cheaper motel if you have to. Heck, you can even camp if you’re totally broke. Just get out there and do something.

Sunset in Maui
A sunset in Maui

For years, my wife and I were too broke to do anything. It took years of budgeting and aggressive investments to get us into the middle class. When we finally made it, we decided to travel.

I can’t tell you how great this has been for an inspiration. After getting back from our now yearly vacations, I have so many ideas for paintings. And so many references as well.

Don’t be afraid to get hurt

Imagine your favorite song of all-time. Now imagine if you found out that it was all a lie. That the person who wrote the song never felt anything about anything and just computer generated the words.

Imagine how betrayed you’d feel that something you were so attached to was nothing but a lie.

Now, flip this around. Imagine that your favorite ten songs of all-time were totally real. You got the backstories to all of them. Wouldn’t that make the songs way, way more genuine? For me, it definitely would!

Same with art. You need to feel. I mean, really feel.

People who feel something – it shows in their art. The art looks totally genuine. Because it’s from the soul.

That’s how you create the best art. By feeling.

Those afraid of getting hurt will never get their hearts broken. But, will they be able to create art? Sure, but not good art.

A confession

I have a confession for you. I don’t like to talk about this because it makes me a bad guy. Unfortunately, it’s true.

All artists have had their hearts broken. In my case, I was the breaker. I had a perfect girlfriend who was super nice to me and treated me great. She went through a bad time period of my life though. My band was about to breakup and I felt my life was going nowhere.

I felt like a complete loser and I took it out on her. Why? Because she was there.

Eventually, she had had enough and cut me off and I made her one last promise that I’ll never ever contact her again.

She’s been the subject of over 20 of my songs. No, no exaggeration. I’m happily married now, but when I need to write something sad, I think back of her. That was almost 30 years ago.

Another bad thing – I’ve stayed in touch with most of my friends from the past. No, not Facebook. I don’t even have that. I mean real life. And I found out a few years ago that she went through a divorce and never had any kids.

Very sad. I really was rooting for her. Rooting for her was the least I could do.

Alas, that’s what I mean about feeling something. Don’t be afraid to get hurt.

Let the creative juices flow

For a songwriter it’s easy. You just strum chords on the guitar or play some chords on the piano and sing a melody that goes with the chords. A song will come.

You know why that works? You’re literally flowing. You’re letting your creative juices flow.

Now for writers, you start writing stuff. It could be random gibberish. It doesn’t matter.

Once the words start coming from your brain onto the paper (or nowadays, computer), your creative juices will flow and you’ll create.

Now as an artist, just start drawing something. It could be a picture from your vacation. It could be anything. Doesn’t matter. Just draw.

when creatives can't create
Fixing when creatives can’t create

The ideas will come. Lucky for me, I got two beautiful models I work with. Well, technically three now that Jin came by for a solid session. But really two – Allie, the blonde, and Roxy, the brunette. Half the time, they end up selecting the poses and I draw accordingly. Those drawings transform from beautiful young ladies into mermaids, femme fatales, dryads, sirens, selkies, succubi, or whatever. Since I’m letting the creative juices flow, it just happens.

It’s all about movement, my friends. Don’t stay stagnant. Rather, you need to move.

The physical movement for the creative types will cause the creative part of the mind to move as well. You simply use your creative medium. The guitar or piano for the songwriter. The typewriter or computer for the writer. Or the pencil or paintbrush for the artist. Move those fingers!

Morning routine always helps

I’m extremely predictable. Every morning, you know as soon as I wake up, the coffee brews. It magically happens. I drink a cup and immediately do 50 push-ups, 25 body weight squats, hold a plank, then start to draw. I stretch when I remember. That’s admittedly not as often as I should.

The whole thing about drawing every morning, it really helps. If I can’t find anything to draw, I do an image search for Game of Thrones. I can always find the best images that way. Beautiful women. Dragons. Exotic landscapes.

Every morning, I get my warmup drawings in. And needless to say, I’ve improved way faster than I thought I ever would.

Same thing if you’re a musician. Start off every morning with coffee and practice. (If you don’t drink coffee, how in the world do you wake up?)

Do these four things my friends and things will just work out. A consistent morning routine. Physical movement. Feeling something for someone else. And exploration. I listed them backwards this time but the point is to remember those four magical ways to get yourself into a creative mindset.

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Most artists who fail don’t fail due to lack of talent

I know I’m going to offend a few people by writing this article. I’ve been buying art for quite awhile now and I have amassed quite a collection. Some of it is actually worth something. Some of it we bought because we just like it and want it up on our walls.

The thing is, artists are a weird lot. Most artists are just like musicians. They think they can write some songs and everyone will magically discover them.

Hate to break it to you. That’s exactly not the case. Your audience doesn’t have to look for you. Rather, you have to look for your audience. You have to do the work, not them.

Whereas Walt Disney gets all the credit since he had the big vision, he’s lucky he had his brother Roy to handle the sales, marketing, and finances. Unless you got a promoter, you’re simply going to have to do your own promotion.

I’ve seen so many artists with gobs and gobs of talent fail and quit, then go back to doing a job they hate. Meanwhile, their art collects dust and ends up in a landfill.

The hands down most naturally talented artist I’ve ever known hung himself. You’ll never know his name because he killed himself and his parents keep his art for obvious personal reasons.

Most artists who fail fear…

Most artists who fail fear the sales and marketing side of art. Or, they’re in denial that it’s important.

Once again, your audience doesn’t have to discover you. You have to discover them. It’s your job to find them, not the other way around.

most artists who fail
Most artists who fail don’t fail due to lack of talen

Of course, get really good at what you do. Don’t produce complete shit and expect it to sell like hotcakes, even if you have the best promoter in the world. It still has to ring a bell with someone. It still has to touch someone. In other words, put your best foot forward and hide your mediocre stuff.

Don’t worry, we all produce mediocre stuff. Pick your top five bands of all-time. How many of them produced excellence in every single album? Two? One? Zero?

The thing is, until you build your audience, you can’t show your mediocre stuff. More on that later though. Let’s get back to the topic at hand.

Talent and self-promotion

Talent refers to innate ability. Some artists have it. Some artists don’t.

That said, some artists have so much passion that they end up passing up artists who have natural talent. I’ve seen this happen in real life. There is something to be said about work ethic. If I were running a company, I’d rather hire someone with a solid work ethic. There’s a reason for that.

How does that apply to art? Well, for the artist, you have to have a bit of both. Whereas talent is innate, laziness will get you nowhere.

And that ties into self-promotion. Artists have to get over themselves. You need to realize that your artwork may be downright awesome, but if nobody knows you exist, you’re simply not going to sell your art.

That’s where self-promotion comes in. You have to figure out a way to self-promote without sounding desperate. There’s a line in there. You learn it by interacting with people. Read their faces. Are they interested or are you turning them off?

These are all things you learn with experience. Artists should know the sales and marketing side.

What are you doing for sales?

Are you selling at an art fair? Do you have a pretty nice webpage? Are you in an art gallery? Or an art auction? Do you have a distributor?

I sincerely hope you have at least one of these and whichever one or ones you pick, you’re good at. The good news is you only have to be good at one. I got a chance to attend a selling lecture from a successful artist who makes a lot of money. She has a shitty website, but her sales skills are top notch. It doesn’t matter that her website is garbage. She sells in person and shows you her value immediately.

There’s more than one way to sell your art, my friends. This is good news. Find the route you’re best at and go that route.

What are you doing for promotion?

File this one under marketing. How do people know you exist?

I’ve done sales before so I do talk to people about my art. People who matter. People with money who buy art.

Don’t waste your time with people who don’t buy art. It’s like if you write Country and Western music, don’t go to a Goth show and expect to sell your CDs. You need to go to a Country and Western club.

Today, you can promote online. You have social media. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be on all of them. Find the one or two that you find actually getting results and get really good at them. There are no wrong answers. We have different personalities so what works for me might not necessarily work for you and vice versa.

I have an online store. It’s been open since January. It’s already getting some traffic because I’m currently working with two traffic coaches. Yes, not everyone can afford to do that. I get it. But you can still learn how to generate traffic through other means. You can buy books or courses. Or you can figure out how to do it yourself.

Regardless, take the marketing side seriously. Unless you have someone else handling for you.

Artists who fail don’t take sales and marketing seriously. Artists who succeed do. Be the latter.

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How to write a memorable artist statement

artist statement
How to write a memorable artist statement

If you’ve ever been to an art gallery where paintings are for sale, you more than likely saw an artist statement before. They’re the pieces of paper by the artwork that tell something about the artist and his or her intent.

Artists may ask if they really need one. They may question its relevance.

That’s totally fine. But think of it this way. How well do you know yourself? Do you know why are you an artist in the first place? And if anyone asks, how will you respond?

Think of it like an elevator speech without a 30 second time limit. You can make it as long or as short as you like.

However, not everyone who buys art wants to read a book. They’re coming for the art.

Who is it really for?

You can use your art statement to better know yourself and your purpose. You also use it to differentiate yourself from other artists when applying for a gallery.

“But my art speaks for itself.” I’m sure it does. Remember though art gallery owners are sales people. They may or may not be artists themselves. So even if it’s only a 5% importance thing, that’s still 5%. You want to create an air of professionalism and competence. At the very worst, a good artist statement will appeal to those art gallery owners. Keep reading.

“So what do I write in an artist statement?”

Make it reflect yourself. Are you whimsical? Make it whimsical. Do you love painting the Scottish lochs? Well, tell me, the buyer, why your paintings of Scottish lochs are different than your competitors.

I’ve bought a lot of art over the years. We have so much art that most of it is in storage. We will keep our favorite works and resell the rest.

Buyers buy art, and the hardcore ones often want to know something about the artist. I can tell you a lot about Olivia de Berardinis and Craig Tracy. I haven’t even met either of them.

So yes, an artist statement is important and it should be easy to find online. I had no problem finding the links for either of those two artists I just mentioned.

Make it memorable

Are you a good writer? If so, you already know how to make something memorable.

The problem is a lot of people, even damn good writers, have problems writing about themselves. They’ll expose their soul through particular characters in their fiction but when you ask them directly who they are, they often freeze.

Hot tip – if you’re one of those people who has trouble writing about yourself, then write in the third person. You’re totally allowed to do that!

Yet another reason to have an artist statement prepared.

Make it reflect yourself. If you have to, start off with a short biography. You’re divorced, remarried, and have two kids? That’s great. Put it in there. You love dogs? Well, what’s your favorite breed? Put that in there too.

You had the most romantic time of your life in Venice? That’s great. I like Venice. So does that rich old lady there who buys art. Hopefully she’ll read that line.

My son served in the military. A lot of art buyers have also served. You can bet your ass that’s in my artist statement.

Commonalities my friends. Become relatable.

Your process and your materials

You will find a lot of people find the art process fascinating. You don’t have to discuss your process. Some people love to keep how they did their works a secret. That’s perfectly fine.

But, I can guarantee you that someone will ask. You have the choice of discussing your process or keeping it a secret. Totally up to you.

If you do, make it interesting. Don’t just say “I paint with brushes I like.” Make it interesting.

Art geeks may ask which tools you use. Or even what kind of materials. You can mention that. You can even mention why you choose certain materials over others. Some people love to hear stuff like that.

As an art buyer, I hear those conversations all the time. Totally up to you though if you want your process and your materials in your artist statement.

The art

Now, talk about the art itself. That’s a pretty amazing painting of a lady’s nose. But why did you paint a lady’s nose?

You can talk about your muses. You can talk about your influences. So much could go here.

Maybe you paint because you have chronic pain and art is the only thing you can do to help you focus away from it. Tell me more.

Or maybe your past haunts you and you paint it for therapy. I met a UDT once. Very few people will know what a UDT is. Anyways, he painted islands from the air. They were awesome.

This was 30 years ago but had I met him today, I’d love to interview him and help him with his artist statement. I’m sure I could help him make it fascinating.

Memorable and relatable. You’re human. So is that guy with the big wallet who wants to buy a painting or two. Sure you have a 20 year old beat up car and he drove here in a Ferrari. But did you know his grandma was the biggest influence on his life?

You have commonalities with everyone, even if it looks like on the outside you come from different worlds.

Be yourself. I’m sure the art buyer and you have overlap. And you even have overlap with that art gallery owner who asked to look at your artist statement.