I come from a family who always valued arts and crafts, but my parents and relatives were not artists themselves. I spent my childhood drawing and painting, mostly animals because I feverishly wanted to have a pet of my own. My ultimate dream was to become a visual artist. Now when I look back, I see big misconceptions that I had about art. These misconceptions are not rare or unique, I hear and see people talking about them all the time. So I wanted to tell how I currently think about them and what I would say to anyone who has the same experience.
Misconception #1 – “Am I talented enough?”
People talk too much about talent when they talk about artists and art. I think the word should be banned, especially when talking about children and their creations. There are many other ways to encourage and admire. The problem about the word “talent” is that it implicates a thing that you can’t change in yourself – it’s there, or it’s not. Yes, some people are more visual than others. But there are so much more qualities that are needed for becoming an artist. For example, growing and combining ideas, and seeing principles and concepts behind real objects and events. Instead of just redrawing a photo of my beagle and her puppies in 2007, I could have put the warmth into focus and tell a bigger story about the unconditional love that I was witnessing at that moment.
If you question your talent, stop! Start learning how to process ideas, how to apply visual principles, and how to evaluate the quality of your work. The question implicates that you need to start learning and practicing! I love the ambition behind the question, but stop agonizing over it and start learning!
If you say, that you already are learning, but still question your talent, you are not learning enough on a higher level. If you are watching videos about someone painting, you also need to know the reasons behind the decisions the painter is making. You need to connect the theory with the actions. (That’s why I built the class Inspirational Drawing 2.0 – you will get not only the hows but also the whys)
Misconception #2 – “All I want is creative freedom.”
Many years ago, when managing IT projects by day, I needed a creative outlet by night. I wanted to feel free, create loosely and make a beautiful mess. And so often, I only made a mess that didn’t set me free at all. When I was able to freely choose from the vast amount of art supplies, the beginning often felt suffocating. Then there was an agony in the end when I wasn’t able to be satisfied with the result. I added new layers after another and desperately tried to make it work.
There’s one big problem in creative freedom that I missed. To feel free, I needed the opposite. I needed limits and a direction. I didn’t need anything as defined or restricted as a reference photo or an image in my head. I needed to limit my supplies, my colors, and my feelings. As the work progressed I could have become more focused and experienced the freedom through the gained focus. Instead, I was overwhelmed by the choices.
If I could talk to myself now, I would say: “You don’t need freedom, you need to educate yourself in art. You need to explore what and how the master artists have expressed. That way you can find what’s your take on the big themes like landscapes, portraits, still lifes, and abstracts. Knowledge will give you the direction and set you free.”
There has to be a balance between creating and acquiring information. If you only make a mess, you easily invent the wheel again and again. On the other hand, if you only study art history, it can make you feel intimidated. However, knowing more doesn’t make you less unique. There’s no reason to avoid going to art museums, art galleries, browse and read books about art history (I often listen to art related audio books while creating). Understanding the background stories of artists and artworks, helps you to find your personal focus. (That’s why I sell Imagine Monthly Bundle 1 and Bundle 2 – so that you can connect dots between art history and your creative inspiration)
Misconception #3 – “Someday somebody will find me.”
When I started blogging over 10 years ago, I thought that someday someone would get in touch and say something like: “Hello, I am a hugely famous art critique, and I would like to buy your art because it’s so fabulous.” Not probably in those exact words, but you get the idea. I also wished that there would be a lot of people visiting my blog and admiring what I had created. But there were practically very few people visiting my blog even if blogs were very popular at that time.
The best thing that I did back then was that I started following business people. Many recommended setting up an email list. It felt awkward enough to blog, so it didn’t feel natural at all. In 2010, I decided to trust the advice and sent my first group email to 9 subscribers. Even if they had deliberately subscribed my emails, I felt like I was spamming the world. After a year and seven more emails, I had 95 subscribers. I still felt like a spammer, but because the number was growing, I couldn’t stop either. By blogging and sending emails regularly, I got more subscribers, and my feelings changed. Sending the emails felt more like a service than spam, and in 2014, I started posting them weekly. (If you are not a subscriber yet, subscribe here!)
When I write my weekly emails, I don’t write to “hugely famous art critiques.” I write to my soul-mates who love art and are always eager to learn more. I write to people who want to explore all kinds of approaches to art and who want to share the enthusiasm and ambition behind all that.
If you are waiting for somebody to find you, make sure that you also do the work. Being consistent and learning business and marketing means a lot. But there’s also one more misconception that I want to bring up that relates to this one.
Misconception #4 – “Images are enough.”
Let’s get back to the time when I started blogging and was hoping to get more readers. Well, yes “readers,” even if I wrote very little. I thought that images are enough. If I made a picture pretty enough, where would I need the words? Do I even have to say my real name “Paivi Eerola,” isn’t “Peony and Parakeet” enough?
But we need the names, the words, the faces, the stories to get connected with people. It’s scary and difficult, but it’s also necessary. As artists, we need to make the process visible. We need to make the knowledge that we have gained visible. We need to open our minds and tell what we feel when we create. We need to tell how our creations can relate to the viewers as well. Even old master painters still need the words. The museums organize guided tours and offer audio guidance through headphones. There are books and biographies. The sad truth is that many of the artists who died undervalued didn’t use enough words.
There are also other things that we need to include than just words. These are the ways we photograph, exhibit and handle our art; the way we show joy about what we have created; the way we participate and include people into discussions rather than staying silent. I refuse to call all that with the word “marketing” because I think it’s much larger than only that. It’s about growing your artistic identity where you can spread your passion and where you feel the need to do so. Then it’s more than about your images – whether they are “good enough” or whether you are “talented enough.” It’s about using art as diversely as possible to connect with people. It’s a good cycle to build, as these connections also improve your art.