The Artist's Pursuit of Happiness

Everyone has heard or the tortured artist. The sad artist. But could you believe the happy artist also lives among us?! There are many factors that play into anyone’s happiness but for artists there are burdens we hold over ourselves at different points in our career or hobby pursuits. The MOST important thing to remember is that our stress and frustration comes from reality not aligning with our vision or our goals.

The first and most common blockade to happiness is the lack of skill! Ugh, this is the one that will make people give up. Skill is what makes you envious of your friend and your enemy. It inherently defines how good you are no matter how hard you think you are trying. The healthy approach is to slowly learn new techniques with the mindset that there is always something else to learn! Always! Picasso painted for 70+ years and still felt he had more to learn. Accept that you are on a journey. Imagine, if you were already the best you could be, there is only downhill from here. All eyes would be on you, waiting for you to mess up, but right now you can experiment and fail and no one will even see it. Just create for the love of creating.

After that right of passage comes the wall of validation. Although skill and validation operate hand in hand, most people don’t share their work until they have built up confidence in their ability to create art. Unfortunately every artists has to learn there are levels to this. Impressing your parents, teachers, friends, or clients are all completely different levels of validation. Your mother may pat you on the back for everything you make. For me, to this day, my mom only loves 20% of my artwork. but I know her preferences in art so I am never offended. At art shows, if you can’t sell anything, the market isn’t giving you monetary validation. Which is the hardest for most artists to deal with.

Market Validation is simply your ability to sell your work and its ability to sell itself. We know landscape paintings sell better than abstract dolphins swimming through trees at birthday parties. But many of us like to make very specific work that wouldn’t be considered “easily marketable” by non-artists. For some of us, making our art on the side will have to be enough. If you create less work because you cant sell past paintings, you won’t create many new and better paintings so you will continue not selling work. It is a self fulfilling cycle.

Once you have been creating for at least a few years you will start to develop an eye and a style. You may start selling and having success getting art shows. But you must learn humility and dedication. At times you will be proud of your achievements but never look down on another artist for their hard work or youth in the profession. How silly. We all just want to be happy expressing ourselves. It’s not their fault if people like them or their work and want to support them. Just find ways to enjoy your day to day and be happy with the beautiful life you have. You get to create! That is happiness.