Be A Fierce Bear about Your Art

You have to know the value of what you create. To me, whether it’s my visual art or my writing, it is the Divine Voice speaking with my voice and hands. Its value is incalculable.
Never let anyone dissuade you from regarding your art as valuable.

When my kids were little, they’d join me in my studio. They drove me nuts. They’d wander around, squeezing the clay, opening and slamming shut cabinet doors, sticking little fingers in the powdered glaze materials, dragging out my tools and doofing around with them, and opening and closing the top of my smaller kiln.

Finally, I sat them down at the big middle table and showed them coil and slab building, and later, how to glaze, decorate, and fire their creations. They got to it and proved themselves damn good little artists.

These days, they are dads themselves. They didn’t go into art as a profession (they told me they didn’t want to be broke like I was back then – I was a single mom – it was hard! Ergh!). But I’m so pleased that they encourage their kids in art-making. One of my grand daughters even has her own art website — and she hasn’t even graduated from high school.

I wish her luck, and a lot of it — there are so many artists trying to make it in a really dense, competition-packed field. And from what I’ve seen, 80% of them are really, really bad at it. Sorry — truth.

And suddenly, AI has entered the scene. Everyone thinks they can just use AI creation apps to make images — some are pretty good, I have to admit — and dare to call themselves artists. Can you hear me groaning?

Keep your eyes peeled, because in only a few years, the field will look very different!

Years ago when I was a potter, the field became choked with newbies. Everyone and his left brother wanted to make pots.

At first, I worried that I’d disappear in the morass. But then I started making unique things no one else did, assuring my place in the market.

When fellow potters complained about how many there were making pots now, I just said, “wait. You’ll see.”

Because after five years, at least 50% of them fell away. After ten, the majority had left. After fifteen, it was down to the few who had started when I did — and now, they were all excellent potters whose work was innovative, excellent, and sold well.

There were a few things that they did that the others didn’t. They were intentional. They had business plans. They cultivated their followers. They regularly marketed their wares.

But there’s something deeper than all that.

I believe that art — true art — is sourced through the heart. So unless you have that connection, all you’re going to produce is dime-store schlock.

If you’re going to keep at it as a professional artist or creator, I want you to produce high-quality work. So:

Here are a few things I think are required if you want to persist and succeed as a creator:

You have to know the value of what you create.

To me, whether it’s my visual art or my writing, it is the Divine Voice speaking with my voice and hands. Its value is incalculable.

Never let anyone dissuade you from regarding your art as valuable.

You have to be patient and persistent, no matter what.

You have to take care of annoying details like copyrights, communications with vendors and customers, and all the little everyday got-to stuff you have to do to keep going. You have to pay attention to the small shit and get it done, or your business will fall apart.

And protective! You have to be a bear, and love your work fiercely.

If you don’t, no one else will, either.

It’s hard, sometimes, because you can produce utter crap some days!

You have to tell yourself, “I love that shitty piece! Look how hideous it is — and look what I found out because of it!” You have to know that it’s just one more step to the really amazing ones that come next.

You have to practice your skills, in some capacity, every day.

Every, every, every day. Whether it’s drawing, painting, glazing, carving, writing — whatever. You have to keep your hand in, and your mind honed.

Never think of a piece you’re working on as a masterpiece.

Well, unless you want it to fail, because planning a masterpiece never works. Masterpieces are pretty much always surprises. Each piece is an exploration and adventure. If your art-making becomes rote, it’s lifeless.

You have to develop a very thick skin.

Develop your ability to shed rejections, nasty comments and criticisms, and months without sales, so they fall away from your mind like dead snails from a dry wall.

You have to have thin enough skin to be able to gratefully and graciously receive and appreciate praise, recompense, and rewards.

If you can’t accept praise or money, it’s just like you’re throwing it all back in people’s faces. Folks don’t take kindly to that. You’ll go broke and end up destitute, and wonder why.

Money is just a way for people to say thank you — each dollar is a unit of appreciation. Open your hands and heart, and receive it.

You have to be able to talk about your work.

That’s a biggie for so many! “Oh who am I . . . ”

Well, you’re the creator! Who better to talk about it?

A good place to start is to talk about why you love what you do. Never mind resumés and bios and all that — folks want to hear your passion, your fascination, because they can feel it. You feed them with it. Feed those hungry hearts!

Most of all, you have to love your work fiercely.

You have to be like a mama bear protecting her cubs. Because if you aren’t, in this world of hatred and nastiness, you will be torn apart like tissue paper in a tempest.

Never take criticism personally.

The speaker has just told you his/her own beliefs about their own life, work and value. That isn’t yours — it’s theirs. If you take it personally, you’re allowing your heart to end up broken into shattered little pieces, too fragmented to repair. Don’t you dare do that!

Will you let your energy fall away just because of what some stupid person said about your work? What do they know about you, or where you come from? Nada! Stick out your tongue at them, do a major raspberry, turn your back, and get back at it.

Do listen to feedback, suggestions and other ideas folks may have.

Some of their ideas could be the breakthrough you’ve been looking for. Just one little idea could be the clue to a piece you’re struggling with.

Another suggestion they have might be an indication that it’s time to pivot some aspect of your work to another direction — how exciting!

Remember to say “thank you” for all of it.

All of it! It’s part of the Divine Feast! I believe we need to be grateful for every morsel, whether it tastes bad or good.

Your talents and gifts are precious.

Guard them, grow them, and share them. Always value them, protect them, and yourself.

Whatever you do, remember that art is the only thing that persists the rages of time.

Mosaics, paintings, sculpture, architecture — they last thousands of years.

Make art that is worthy of that long-lasting stretch.

Fill your heart with peace and joy, and transmit that through work that will endure, that lasts the span of the Ages.


Be A Fierce Bear about Your Art
© Angela Treat Lyon 2024


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