Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Two of the biggest words I have written in my notebook that I reference everyday - Be Authentic. It sounds cliché, but you would be amazed at how many artists have an impossible time adhering to this principle. Most people are too worried about what everyone else is doing, or what everyone else thinks, to stand strong and run their beliefs up the flagpole. Why? What are you afraid of? Don't you understand? You are an artist. Hell, in our profession I've seen "artists" call a cow's head covered with maggots - Art, a Madonna painted in elephant crap - Art, and garbage on the floor of a museum - Art. What are YOU afraid of? Why are many of us so afraid to share who we are with our artwork? Sure you can latch onto someone else's fame by producing similar work, but really, how many of us really achieve fame by using a formula that isn't our own.
The key element, and I mean THE key element of success, is to follow your passion. It is the core of who you are and what is your true purpose here on earth. Artists have a hard time connecting with what it is that they should be doing, especially artists who are at an early stage of their careers. I was at that point in my early twenties. I would beat myself up because I felt that by that point of my life I thought I should have figured it all out already. It was like having a constant image of an hourglass in my mind hoping I'd figure out my purpose before the sands ran out. Looking back at all of it now, I wish I would have listened to my wife earlier and embraced who I was, instead of trying to create something that was "new" or "original." Fortunately for me, Rebekah is exceptional artist and like any great companion she has helped me breakthrough time and time again when I was struggling with my own artistic vision. You have to realize that you have all the answers within you, but sometimes you need someone outside of yourself to unlock that special person that you were destined to be. I liken it to a story I heard this past year about a farmer who struggled all his life and died poor, losing his farm. Soon after they discovered oil on his land, and had he known, he would have been a billionaire. We all have that kind of potential inside of us, we just need to claim it, at all costs and no matter who says that we can't. I am lucky to have Rebekah for an infinite amount of reasons, but as an artist, she always brings out the best in me. Some of the greatest figures in history had great companions. Read about Henry Ford and how his wife Clara unlocked one of the greatest businessmen of all time.
Maybe you don't have a partner, a wife or a friend to confide in. Well, another turning point that brought me to where I am today came from a fellow student I attended Penn State with back in the early 90s, Dahn Hiuni. Mind you, Dahn and I did not know each other well, and he and I are probably as far from being similar, stylistically, as you could possibly be, but in my final week of college I asked him for an informal critique of my work and I had a great experience. We were lucky to reconnect six years later, and at a point when I was really over-thinking my artistic direction. After giving Dahn a long and bloated explanation of my paintings he stopped me and said what he respected most about my work was how honest it was. He told me to completely embrace my honesty and the work would reflect that level of passion. The idea seemed simple, so simple you had to feel skeptical, but that freedom to be myself made the clouds open up for me and I finally felt like I could breathe again. From that point on I cleared my head of all the modernist and post-modernist theory garbage everyone drilled into my head in art school and began, boldly, painting what I knew. Trying to please everyone else did not serve me and it will not serve you either. Always do what you feel passionate about! If I could do it all over again and save myself 17 years of frustration as an artist I would, but luckily this journey is what has strengthened my resolve as an artist and as a businessperson. The best advice I can give you is to embrace who you are and bring it out in your work NOW. You'll enjoy what you do today and set yourself up for a lifetime of success.