5 More Mistakes I Made As An Artist

I find it very helpful to take stock at the end of the year, both of my professional triumphs and even more helpful, of my professional flops. Listing mistakes not only prevents us from repeating them, but allows us to learn from them and to recognize how we might not be who we are today without them.

Last year during this festive holiday season I wrote two blog posts outlining 10 Mistakes I Made As An Artist, Part 1 and Part 2. I find it very helpful to take stock at the end of the year, both of my professional triumphs and even more helpful, my professional flops. Listing mistakes not only prevents us from repeating them, but allows us to learn from them and to recognize how we might not be who we are today without them. 

  1. Not putting my best work out there. I have heard over and over again by many artists and art mentors that its best to put only your best pieces out there and keep and rework the unsatisfactory ones. But I wonder how many actually do this when pressed for time getting ready for a show? I’ve made paintings that are just blah and I can’t take the time to figure it out because I have a deadline and rush, rush, rush, it’s gone to Fedex and hanging on a wall with me cringing at the opening. What’s kind of silly is that some of these paintings are the first to sell at said opening, which makes me even more depressed because then I realize I can’t even judge the quality of my own work! The root of the problem lies in poor planning, poor studio discipline and poor time management. I may not be able to understand why my not so good paintings sell and the ones I love collect dust in storage, but I can do better at working on my time and studio discipline problems, especially before a show. 
  2. Not attending enough openings. Like a lot of us artist types, I’m an introvert and a bit of an empath. I don’t mind being around people for the most part, but interacting at openings truly exhausts me, as do many large group social activities. I also find it difficult to view the work at openings, which is what I really want to do when I’m there. But openings aren’t really for intimately viewing art, openings are for supporting the artist, discussing the art and meeting new people. A few years ago I decided to make a New Year’s resolution to attend at least one opening and/or one artist talk a month. Even though I go through a little social anxiety beforehand, I’ve pretty much stuck to it and the experience has been quite rewarding. I don’t stay long, but I make a point to interact, to ask questions and to introduce myself to either the artist or to a few others while I’m there. I’ve met many people, some of whom I now call friends. I’ve seen some amazing shows and created a new habit of sharing the work I’ve seen on my Facebook. It’s been a veritable win/win/win and instead of dreading openings, I actually look forward to attending them.
  3. Not taking enough art classes/workshops. I spend a good deal of my time sharing with and teaching others and although I learn a lot from my students, sometimes I want to be in the student seat, having fun and making a mess with new ideas, new products and new voices. I have only taken two workshops in the 15 years since graduate school-One with Lisa Pressman and the other with Laura Moriarty and both workshops were worth their weight in gold. I was at a crossroads in my work during each workshop and they both shook me out of my doldrums, I am grateful. But there have been many, many workshops I’ve passed over for one reason or another-mostly lack of time. One resolution I will add to my 2019 list is to take a workshop every year. I’m keeping my eyes open for unique workshops with well known instructors in plein air painting, oil/chalk pastels, markmaking, collage, creative writing, Chinese brush painting, mixed media, just to name a few. Suggestions are welcome. 
  4. Not taking enough risk in my art. If you read my recent post, The Evolution of A Mark, you’re familiar with my early creative development involving a career in textile design. Because of this, it’s ingrained in me to create with sale-ability in mind. I have pretty much broken this mindset over many years but it still lurks in the darkest shadows of the studio and poisons my creative mojo. For this reason, I have had many ideas I simply repressed because they were too risqué and that is more than sad!! I made a list of these ideas as I have recommended other artists do and I have made some things on that list, but wish I’d made more. Emily Hopcian of Unsettled writes “the moments we most remember — those which make our stories rich, our lives worth living and our dreams worth pursuing — are the ones where we just say yes. When we plunge head first into the things that scare the shit out of us.” I need to silence the little voice that screams NO, tells me that it’s a dust collector I’m creating and no one will buy it and for Pete’s sake, quit worrying if no one will buy it!! 
  5. Making work I’m tired of making because it sells. Many times during my career I have said ‘this is exactly the work I should be making right now’ and those times feel so good! But too many times that ‘right now’ passes and it’s time to move on but I don’t. I like my current work, but I don’t love my current work. I feel it’s work I should have made two years ago and did make, but I feel I’ve lingered in making it too long because it’s comfortable. I’ve done this many times over my 15 year professional career and need to cut those lingerings short, create and  experiment with abandon and do it more often. 

Listing these mistakes at the end of the year helps in creating your Studio Resolutions for the following year. Stay tuned for my 2019 Studio Resolutions List coming up in January and read this post and this post for my 2018 Resolutions if you need ideas for your own list. I look forward to reading some of your resolutions in the comments section as well as some of your mistakes. (The comments tab is located at the top left of this post under the tags.)

I am overwhelmed by the support Art Bite Blog has received this year and I am truly grateful for all of you! Wishing you the very best of this Holiday Season, see you soon in 2019!