My column on February 17 on Fine Art Views.
(5 minute read)
There’s the family you’re born into, and then there’s the family you choose.
Thin people have thin parents.
The original series on weight loss included a discussion of the genetic components of good health. But what about those of us who aren’t fortunate to have healthy parents? Er…Successful parents? How is this useful for our discussion today??
Obviously, it would be difficult to claim that artistically successful people have artistically successful parents. It’s much more likely we are the only artistic person in our family history. So are we totally without hope for artistic success??
Let’s start here: What do we mean by “artistic success? Or even “success” in general?
“Successful” parents might mean people who have achieved “financial” success. But it could also mean parent who balance work with family life. Parents who make decisions to create a stable home for their family. Parents who love their work and do it well and with pride. Or it could mean parents who encourage their child to pursue the work of their heart, no matter what that is.
There were no artists (that I know of) in my family. My parents didn’t even have hobbies (except for my dad, late in life, after retirement.)
But they did provide me with a powerful meme that has stood me well in life:
Both of my parents made major life changes in mid-life:
My mother, a stay-at-home mom with six kids and a seventh on the way, went back to college in her 40’s to get a teaching degree.
My father sold the family restaurant around the same time. He was unemployed, and under-employed for a few years. But after a lengthy and varied job search (including working in a factory and running for public office) he found a new career, one he loved.
Those were scary times for our family. But as kids, we hardly knew it. Looking back, I see now how courageous (and contained!) my parents were.
I believe their example gave me courage to do the same.
Yet whatever successes our parents have, I would still revise this “secret” for artists. Especially because sometimes our parents and families don’t support our decision to make art. It’s weird, it’s scary, or it seems frivolous to them.
Let’s talk instead about the family we create for ourselves. Let’s say this instead:
Successful artists create networks and social circles for support.
Successful artists surround themselves with a “family” of people who believe in what they do.
Successful artists take note of what successful artists do.
And successful artists decide what “success” means to them.
When I teach professional development workshops for artists and craftspeople, I always end the final session by saying this:
“Okay, long after we’re (the ABI team) are gone, you’re still going to need the support, the inspiration, and the sharing of resources you found here today.
Look around the room. These are your peers. They are artists who have SELF-SELECTED to come here this weekend. They came to learn, to get resources to grow their business, to learn how to be successful.”
“Look around. Who did you talk to? Who did you bond with? Share your contact info. Call them up when you get home, email them, and meet them for coffee! Meet up with a small group once every few weeks, or once a month. Research and share ideas and resources. Inspire and support each other!”
“If they don’t live close to you, friend them on Facebook, or e-mail them! Some of my closest professional friends live across the country from me.”
What do you look for in your new professional “family”?
You can do this right now. Right now, as you read this, you are (or can be) a part of the FASO community, full of artists who have self-selected to grow their art biz: creating their own websites, creating an online presence in the world, creating email newsletters. Artists who are reading this email newsletter! Artists who write here, or comment on what others have written, artists willing to share their own experiences of what works for them.
Look for people who support your vision for success.
Remember that success can be different things to different people. Some people need to a little extra make money. Some need to make a lot of money, fast. (When you figure this one out, please let me know!) Others seek prestige, respect, and recognition. Some are looking for a better balance between home, life, art, and work. Some are looking to simply better their craft or product, or their business skills, so they are working smarter. Some are looking for their big Oprah break. (Good luck with that.) (No, really!)
Understand that you can support someone else’s vision even if it is not your own. This gets hard for me, when people dream small. But it’s okay–as long as they respect MY dream, which is not small.
Look for positive-thinking people. We all have enough nay-sayers in our life to last…well, a lifetime. Let the naysayers babble on, but don’t let them wear you down. We all carry one in our head, too. No matter.
Look for people that believe success is possible–because that belief helps make it possible.
Look for people who understand that life may intervene, that our dreams may go to go the back burner temporarily (or longer!)
But look for people who will always remember that you are an artist. They will let you turn down the back burner so your artistic “pot” can simmer, but they will not let you turn it off. (Oh, I knew a cooking metaphor was in there somewhere!)
Not everything is possible. Not everything is going to come up roses.
But making your art, and sharing it with the world, is a good start. Finding people who encourage you to keep doing that?