The "Artist" Affliction
Artists typically generate a specific look or design by viewing the things around them. They seek to be inspired, whether it is by art that makes them feel like home, or work that makes them feel they can do better.
And while this has been something that artists have done from the dawn of time, it's becoming harder to create anything that hasn't been created before, or even worse, creating at all.
We have social media now. We can view artists around the world, and people can expose their work by paying to be seen. Artists don't just organically happen anymore. Do you think that Van Gogh would have kept painting if he saw what other artists were doing? Probably not.
We live in a viral world where we can be relevant one second, and the next, searching for a job.
But to be an artist with anxiety, that your talent doesn't matter, that might be worst of all. You see, all art used to matter. Creating something worthwhile and gorgeous used to mean something - a form of expression, sending a message, bending your mind to an alternate universe, or getting people to see what you see. Now, a lot of it is quantity over quality, and trying to outdo the last person who posted an Instagram.
It seems so common now, that if you roll in a specific area that niches with artists, there's bound to be 50 people just like you, striving to be known or seen for the same things you've been doing for years. And then that Tyler Durden voice comes to mind: you are not special.
It's harder now, more than ever to get recognition, just based on your artwork alone. And even if you're a creative individual, who you know gets you in the door while someone else's raw talent goes unnoticed. The arts used to be accessible to everyone. But now it's all about what equipment you're using or what name is backed by a major brand or company to be approved as a true natured, this-century-artist.
Given that the field is as full as it is, it becomes so simple for someone who doesn't understand the process to treat someone who creates with a crass sense of ease, because they "make it seem easy." Art takes time, no matter what type of art it is. And that the work that they do does not warrant payment, not because of their talents being less than worthy, but because they aren't socially reinforced.
We are, and I say we, because we're all guilty of it: Perpetuating this image that the only work that matters is the work that is approved by our peers. It's become a popularity contest.
I don't know about you, but as a grade school student where I grew up, being an artist wasn't cool. We were not accepted by our peers, but by our teachers, who fostered our creativity like it was an academic. Because they knew that if they told 20 of us we could be something, one or two of us would actually grab life by the figurative, spherical cahones and be that person our teacher knew we were capable of being.
But even now, we could have the eye, the technical application, and the drive - and build everything we have from the grass roots up, but someone can come along and boost their followers and fans with a press of a button, and end up the ambassador for a leading company because they make themselves visible. The celebrity status. The "Enforcer."
As a self-marketed business person, there's nothing worse than hearing "Yeah your work is great, but you aren't an enforcer." That just means that you have great material, but they can't market their brand off of you because you don't have enough followers to make their product that more visible. Translated: Free Advertising.
That pressure, the "trying to be someone," trying to be the person who is in the eye and has their names/brands on everyone's tongues, it will completely destroy what artistry you felt you had. I know this from experience.
I begun brand ambassadorships with multiple clothing companies, kick-started several models, promoted several products and people, and after a while, I look at my feed and it became nothing but a walking ad.
It may look great to everyone else, all the work that's been done, what clients have been represented. But I see failure. I see failure of falling victim to a system where my creativity is measured on if I can be approved for a concert, what clothing company I'm working for next, or what nods I've gotten. I've made some sort of name for myself, as people have told me. But that's not art, and it never was.
I've realized there needs to be a re-calibration. Maybe not even just for me, but for art in general. Because continuing to play a game where we keep trying to make every single person see our work, skewering and slandering other artists around us, hashtagging and hoping for features, and churning out work that's less than quality while claiming it's in the name of creativity is not going to work anymore. Because that is not art.
If you are an artist, keep this in mind: When your self worth comes down to whether you are able to be granted royalties, or that your branding is a name that people know, or when you snicker behind other artists backs because they got something you didn't, that's when you know it isn't art anymore. It's a game, and you are losing.