You are your best asset. As a matter of fact, you are your only asset. Invest in yourself to develop your skills and abilities.
I am primarily talking about our skills as an artist. We need to invest in our self to grow and get better professionally. It is a life-long process.
Do you invest enough time in your art? Many of us have a “real” job to pay the bills. And we have families and other obligations. It stretches us pretty thin at times.
But we cannot grow as an artist unless we put in the time to do the work. Practice, practice, practice. Repetition. Experiment. These things make us more skilled and more mature in our craft.
I have heard of a gallery saying they are not interested in an artist until they have painted 10,000 pictures. Of course, that is a silly metric. There is no arbitrary number to reach your peak. I do believe, though, as Linus Pauling said, “The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas and throw away the bad ones.” Same with our art. We get better with practice as we learn to recognize the bad stuff and throw it away.
We have to put in the reps.
I don’t know about you, but before becoming an artist, my professional life involved constant learning. I seldom did things I learned in college. One of the great benefits of my previous career was that I had to learn to learn. My life as an artist is the same.
My friend Ramit Sethi makes a point of how much he spends on personal development, from courses to books to a personal trainer. He has a much larger budget to play with than I do. Even so, in proportion to where I’m at I may rival him. No personal trainer though. I have to be content with getting out almost every day and walking about 5 miles with my camera. His advice is good. I do like and generally follow his book buying rule: “If you see a book you like, just buy it”. As I write this I’m waiting for a new one to show up.
It’s not the amount you spend on training that matters, it’s the results. I have occasionally spent hundreds of dollars on classes that were a marginal benefit, but gotten a lot of good from a free online class. It is a matter of what speaks to you at the time. And the fact that you’re doing it regularly. I probably watch 10-15 hours of videos a week on art, marketing, sales, general business, and selected other subjects of interest. No, no funny cat videos.
The point, though, is that we must constantly invest in our self. When you say you already know everything you need, you start to stagnate. You can always learn something new and improve your artistic skills and yourself personally. You have to.
Now it starts to hurt, at least for me. I don’t like marketing. I would rather just do art.
But I have been told over and over and I now believe I have to invest at least 20% of my time marketing. The reality is probably more like 30-40%. I have a lot of catching up to do.
Unless we are doing our art as a hobby, and are content to just show our work to friends, we have to market ourselves. “Build it and they will come” is a great line for a movie, but is not true in real life.
Art is a very competitive world. Galleries don’t want to hear from you. They have too many artists already. Selling online? So is everyone else. So what can we do? We build a distinct brand and be very persistent and professional in our outreach.
Several marketing gurus have made a point that we will never get anywhere if we do something a couple of times then get discouraged and move on to something else. Persistent, repetitive, sustained marketing is required to “break in” to the world we want. I don’t like it, but that is life.
As important as it is to grow and take care of our self professionally, I believe it is equally important to take care of our personal life. I hope your vision for your life is about more than just professional achievement. Do not neglect your health and fitness and your mental and spiritual development.
The training I advocated above also helps you mentally. Keeping your brain active and learning new things has a lot of long term benefits. A substantial part of the training should be targeted at things that do not seem directly related to your art. Read biographies, history, science, psychology, and even fiction. It is amazing what seemingly unrelated things can spark a creative idea.
A key word there is “read”. You are a professional. You cannot just watch videos. Reading has a greater benefit than watching a screen. Try it. It is good for your mind.
A common thread to all of this is mindfulness. This is just a fancy psychological term for being deliberate and conscious in what we do and very aware of what is going on around us. I am studying this now and I am sure I will be writing more on it later. But for now, pay attention to what you do and be very aware of your choices.
I love this picture with the article. It is one of the greatest train tracks I have ever seen. Look closer if nothing jumped out at you when you first saw it.
I can take it as metaphors for a lot of things. For this article, I will use it to make the point that there are many paths we can chose. But they do not all lead to the outcome we want. Choose wisely and deliberately. The path you want is usually not the easy one. You are your best asset. Take care of yourself. Work at it.