What is it to be a successful artist anyway?
Sep 20, 2021
The fickle thing about success is the way that there is always someone better to compare myself to. My perceptions are like an ever changing puzzle depending on what mind set I’m in. My husband asked me the other day - how did you think all of this would play out?
11 years ago I wanted to know how to put paint on a canvas. 8 years ago I just wanted to have enough friends that would take all of the art for free so I could stop moving it all around Las Vegas. Five years ago I wanted to sell one single painting. Kevin and I had no money, a ton of debt, and I had just lost my job. I worked for weeks getting all of that art made and up on the internet. I didn’t sell a single thing. I gave all of those paintings away in the end. I couldn’t stand to look at them.
Two years ago all I wanted was to be able to paint again after selling my soul to corporate restaurant management for a few years and not touching art supplies. 18 months ago I wanted to sell one single painting. Six months later I wanted to sell enough art to not have to go back to working in a restaurant. That was all I wanted. Just keep me out of the industry. I had waited tables for 13 years and I couldn’t do it anymore. I worked for six months straight, every single day - because I was so afraid that if I broke the rhythm I would have to go back to serving.
I sold over 100 paintings in my first year of focusing only on that. So far, I am not applying for serving jobs. It’s not that there's anything wrong with serving. It’s society and the way the general population think it’s ok to treat other people that my issue is with. The more I worked on myself and got deeper into my art, writing and what is really important the less I could tolerate it. Getting screamed at over almond shrimp on Christmas Eve and day and cleaning the puke out of a trash can at 1am after a 10 hour shift is my most clear memory of what the end of 2019 felt like. It was time to move - and my responsibility to maintain the shift.
Fear is a powerful drive force. I was so busy being afraid that I didn’t realize anything that was happening around me. I was just trying to stay out of the restaurant. There were days this year where I would book four paintings in one day from my bed. There were days where I ruined the painting over and over and over and just cry. I read today that those hard days are the most important days - because I am having a breakthrough. That’s a valuable sentence.
So back to my husband's question. How did I think all of this would play out?
We had such a laugh as I told him how some art world person in a suit would come and put all of my paintings in museums. Just random strangers from everywhere would start buying my art. We’d never have to think about money again. I guess in my mind I always dreamed that it would all come out of nowhere. It would be handed to me and suddenly I would feel like someone else.
I compare myself to artists selling their paintings for $100,000 these days and I just sit here like how tf do you do that? How do you get Samsung to sponsor your art and put it in Piccadilly square? How do you find hotels that hang your art exclusively in their buildings? How does that even happen? Welp. I dunno. I guess I could as some people but what would the fun in beating myself up by comparison be then?
The legit truth is that I work really hard in my living room art studio and I have no idea what will happen next or how, but I know I’m here. There are so many moments where right now is better than “next” anyway, and that’s something I’m just getting used to. I am going to always dedicate a section of my blog for building blocks - how I started, where I come from, and how it all plays out.
I went back to my home town and saw my uncle recently. He treated me like a celebrity. He told me “My god. I knew your whole life. The way you look, the way you dress, the way you are so different. I knew you ‘d be somebody back in the 90s. If your father could see you now.”
Really, hearing that - and feeling it - is so much better than some man in a suit handing me an art career. I’ve always needed the fight. I’ve always needed the doubt. I’ve alway needed the fear. Omg yesterday I spent $170 on 3 canvases and felt my stomach drop. But hey. I’m gonna keep going. And I’m going to keep telling my stories of the highs and lows of growing into this career.