Being positive about your art and life

Let’s be honest, this Covid-19 crisis has had a huge effect on all of us. Trying to stay positive is difficult but believe me when I say that being negative will make things even worse.

Like attracts like, though I don’t understand quite why I find myself having to deal with so many people who refuse to do their jobs properly, but maybe I am not as alone in that as I feel I am.

Every morning I wake up and say thank you for a good night’s sleep, a roof over my head and money in the bank. I don’t know why but this is something I have done for a while now and I am so blessed that I sleep well, I have a lovely home and there is still money in the bank (not as much, but we won’t go hungry).

How does that translate into being an artist? Well, we artists are very good at telling ourselves that we are not good enough or that “they” are so much better than us we will never be taken seriously. So not true.

So, I thought this week I would talk about questions you can ask yourself – not just as an artist, this easily translates to everyone – which are empowering.

As children we have a natural curiosity. I can remember my children asking so many questions when they were little, it was exhausting. I vowed that I would never say to my children “because I said so”. I know what it feels like to be on the end of that style of parenting. So, every question was encouraged, and answered to the best of my ability. I feel sure that my children’s success is down to feeling free to ask questions and to be inquisitive about life. They are both very successful in their own fields.

In order to solve problems, you need to start asking questions. Just this week I reminded my younger son that fretting over a question was not going to bring him the answer. “Go for a walk or a bike ride and when you are not directly thinking about the problem the solution will appear”, I told him. And it worked.

The assessment questions set on his MSc course required deep thought but by not thinking about the problem the solution emerged. So, you need to start asking questions and ask them in the most positive way you can.

I am not going to go all voodoo on you, that’s not who I am, but visualisation works. It doesn’t solve all the world’s problems, but it does work. So, to have a successful career in art (or anything else for that matter), you need to start by visualising yourself doing whatever it is you want to do. If you already meditate this will be easy for you, but I don’t like meditating. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t use that power of thought to help myself.

A calm place to contemplate

Find a time and place where you can meditate or think without being disturbed. Personally, I use car journeys for this. I switch off my phone; punch my destination into the satnav; sit on the M25 (the world’s biggest car park even in the middle of a pandemic); and I start asking myself what it is that I want. Some people go for a walk and one lady I know does this when she is swimming.

So, quieten your mind and then visualise what you want. For example, you may want a dedicated studio space. Think about what that space would look like. Where would it be located? How big would it be? How would you feel walking into that space every day? How would having that space improve your work? How would it benefit your career?

Where do you see your work being viewed as a result? And what kind of buyers do you think you will attract when you have a dedicated space to work in?

It is so easy for humans to talk themselves out of being successful. We are always comparing ourselves and telling ourselves how much better everyone else is, so your next steps are to reframe your mind and become confident.

So, on another session think about how much easier your life would be if you were as confident as the person you most admire for being confident. I can tell you everyone has doubts.

Even narcissistic twits like Donald Trump have doubts. So firstly, think about the people you have around who support you and your goals. What are you most grateful for in them and their support? How do they react to your art?

Then, visualise strangers enjoying your art the way your supporters do. Sure, there will be people who don’t like your work, forget them. Not everyone will like your work – that’s life – so focus on the people who do. How do they react when they see your work and how good does that make you feel?

Imagine strangers reacting the same way and loving your art. What is special about your art? How can you share that with potential purchasers? Sometimes you need to be ale to share your passion for people to fully understand and want to own a piece of it. If you don’t feel you or your work is good enough, that will show through in your work and when you speak to people, so spend some time thinking about how you would best like to react when sharing you work with others.

One of my biggest challenges as an artist, and I know that I am not alone in this one, is finance. As artists we are at the bottom of the pile where money is concerned. The products we buy to make our work cost a fortune and many, many works never see that light of day. When that happens all the products we purchase simply finish up in the bin. Those that make it out of our studios, have to be priced up to cover exhibition or gallery fees. We are squashed financially on both sides.

So, think about what you need. Ask yourself “What do I really need in order to be financially stable? What can I do to raise the funds you need?” Take a look at what your peers are doing if you are really stuck. Can I find a way of exchanging my artwork for something I need? Do I have other skills that I can barter or exchange to get my work seen? Are there any grants I can apply for which will solve my problem? What does my ideal client look like? Who would I like to have my work? What can I do to attract more customers?

Visualise yourself selling one, ten or even 30 pieces of artwork each month. Seeing yourself being successful in your mind’s eye will help you be successful.

In all this thinking or meditating time avoid asking negative questions and refuse to consider negative answers. We all have that nagging voice in our ear which tells us we are not good enough. That voice comes from a place of fear. We need to have that voice in our lives, but we don’t have to let if take control.

Let’s be honest if you allowed fear to control you, you would never leave the house every day. My grandmother suffered from agoraphobia (fear of being outside) and I, too, would never bother to leave home if I didn’t have to. I make myself go out because I know, logically, that outside is no more dangerous than inside, and I battle that daily, but I just won’t let fear take over my life.

So, I know that visualising myself going to the supermarket, buying my shopping, the drive there and back allows me to continue to lead my life. So, if it works for that then it stands to reason it can work for anything else. Flip those thoughts into positives: I can drive to X; I can enjoy being in London (one of my greatest fears); I can sell my art; I am good at what I do. Yes, I know there are people better than me and that’s OK, there are far more who are not as good as me, so I focus on being the best version of myself I can be. Me.

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