We are taught to never give up. Keep pushing. Work through blocks. Strive. Fight. And that is noble. But sometimes the pushing is not working, and no matter how hard we’re struggling to make something work, we keep sinking into the quicksand. As we fight harder and harder consciously, our subconscious knows something is wrong — and what we’ve been trying to do isn’t working. And those times when our unconscious mind knows something that our conscious won’t slow down enough to accept is when we sometimes end up in a breakdown.
You’re going about your business on the internet — maybe promoting your new Kickstarter, maybe saying something political, or maybe just posting a picture of a work in progress. Someone comes out of nowhere and starts saying nasty shit to you. Your first response is to jump to your own defense. Maybe you try to explain, maybe you attack right back. Suddenly your heart is racing and your day is ruined and all you can feel is hatred for this person you probably don’t even know. If you’re lucky, it just ends there. In some cases, the hate can spread into the physical world and have real consequences.
Confident people just seem to have permission to do more, safe in the belief that it’ll turn out ok. People who aren’t confident watch in envy and are convinced that they could never move so easily in the world. Well I’m here to tell you one very important thing: there’s no such thing as confident people — no one feels confident all the time (those people are either arrogant or delusional). Confident people are exactly the same as insecure people, they’ve just figured out one really important lesson.
Joseph Campbell is a philosopher, writer, and researcher into comparative mythology, picking up where Carl Jung left off with his archetypes and focusing mostly on the Hero story. The Hero’s journey (Superman, Luke Skywalker, Thor, Beowulf, etc.) is really a metaphor for the Artist’s journey. The Hero is one who is called to challenges and face themself and make their way into the underworld and bring back a great treasure for mankind. The Artist is one who is called to challenges and face themself and make their way into the subconscious and bring back a great treasure for mankind.
Being a professional artist is your dream. But art careers don’t come easy, and the reality of how hard it can be to make a living in a field where you have to design your own path is daunting. As an artist you’re subject to fickle fanbases, unpredictable trends, and budgets very easily affected by shifting economic outlooks. At some point you may have to face that feeling in the pit of your stomach and realize that you’re just not making ends meet on your art alone.
This book makes the case that the world is entering a new technological age that will require creative and empathic skills to flourish. The Industrial Age relied on the strength of the workers, the Information Age required data and processing power from the people. We are now in the Conceptual Age, which is all about creativity and ideas, putting these skills in higher rather than diminishing demand. So artists, read on and rest easy.
Whether you work in illustration or gallery or concept art, the fact remains that you make a name for yourself by doing something better than anyone else can. Sure, there are artists that exist by being the “second best” at something or “the poor man’s version” of someone else, but it’s infinitely better to have a style all your own. By “style” I mean the combination of medium, technique, and voice that makes your artwork yours.
The idea that artists are somehow slackers or a drain on society is an old message, and while it’s easy to laugh off on the surface, it’s much more insidious because we have all internalized it. We are told what we do, as artists, is decoration. It’s entertainment. It’s not necessary. It’s not important. And thus, once internalized, that message turns into a inner shame. And an outer embarrassment. We don’t want to ask for help because it makes us worry that we are a failure if we need help. We need to learn that asking for help can also be a gift to others.
Trust. It’s a pretty big topic, and honestly one that seems to have gotten fairly “woo-woo” recently. I blame The Secret. But let’s not throw out the baby with the Magical Thinking bathwater, because trust is a critical part of being an artist.
I wholeheartedly recommend these 2 books to all artists. Not only do they speak directly to many emotions and traumas artists feel about themselves and their own work, but the story of how Rupi Kaur was discovered should be a beacon of hope for all the artists waiting for their break. Make work from your heart, get it out there in front of people, build your authentic audience. Success will find you working.