Exhibit Your Art
If you’re a beginning artist, it’s incredibly daunting to exhibit your art on a blog or on social media for the public to view, judge, or critique. But it’s important, and here are some encouraging reasons why. Pretend we’re having tea on a porch somewhere surrounded by majestic pine trees – serenaded by birdsong – and squinty rays of sunlight while we discuss this over a bowl of blueberries.
Artists make art to Express. And Share. Artistic expression is a release, a purge of the heart, an assortment of poetic visual statements about how you see the world. Artistic sharing is an offering, a communion, a gesture to another human being to say ‘Look, I noticed something special in this mundane thing we walk past each day, and I tried to highlight it’s most beautiful parts, so you could see them too.’
You must put your head into the lion’s mouth if the performance is to be a success. ~Winston Churchill (1874-1965)
It Takes a Village
Posting your art on a blog or social media is a bold step in your creative journey, and it’s crucial if you want to grow your ability to communicate with your work successfully, and connect with other artists and art lovers. The feedback, friendships and connections will propel your art further and faster in a group setting, even when your access to these like-minded encouragers is through your phone, ipad or computer monitor. Direct feedback from your community will grow your skills faster than learning all by yourself.
Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit. ~Aristotle (384–322 BC)
They Won’t Know Unless You Tell Them
Before posting your art online, take a deep breath and disarm your expectations for global praise. We’re starting small. Unless you are an artist wunderkind, or you have a corporate marketing team, shrinkify your applause-expectations, and start at home. Share work with your friends, family and neighbors. Create an email list that includes your siblings, cousins, doctor, dentist, teachers and friends. Let them know you’ve started a blog, or you created a Facebook or Instagram account to exhibit your art, and ask them to follow along. Share, rather then pitch. You’re not trying to close a sale – you’re just adding a little eye candy to their inbox, and building community. (Read this excellent post by Katherine Tyrrell.) Add links to your new online presence on your email signature.
A couple of Likes or Instagram hearts will boost your conviction to keep at it, especially when you’re feeling stuck. I’ve seen people blossom from posting their first drawing *ever* , to posting a new drawing every day with a growing list of followers encouraging and commenting on every new sketchpad adventure. It’ll transform you from being a single flower in a pot, to a swaying bud in a sunny meadow of flowers.
Small But Mighty
Just because your following is small, that doesn’t mean it’s not also Awesome & Mighty. We tend to measure success by the numbers we see in the entertainment industry; millionaires, with millions of followers and a dozen homes in far away, exotic countries. So, first, let’s take a deep breath, and dial things back to our singular, artistically adorned patch on this earth. Re-target your focus on simply Starting. A handful of deep friendships will satisfy and nurture better than hundreds of acquaintances. If your garden of followers, encouragers and fans is tiny enough to fit in a flower pot on the porch, grow them well. Communicate with them, nurture your relationship to each member of your growing squad, and practice gratitude for their connection to you over art. #findyourteam One friend stopping by an art festival to say hello can brighten my entire weekend. One comment on social media transforms a post into a handshake connection with another human.
The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers & cities; but to know someone who thinks & feels with us, & who, though distant, is close to us in spirit, this makes the earth for us an inhabited garden. ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
Too Close to See Clearly
Putting your art out into the world will undoubtedly expose you to criticism. And that’s a good thing. Art school includes critiques. Art mentors steer us away from things that aren’t working, and focus our efforts on things that deserve practice. Outside commentary is necessary. We’re so close to the work – we’ve looked at it for so long – sometimes we can’t see what it needs in order to flourish.
Sort Before Consuming
Not all feedback is positive, and not every effort in the studio is entitled to praise. The trick is to separate your emotional reaction from the details. Ponder the criticism after you’ve locked your ego in the attic. Pull the observation apart on the potting bench, extract the useable I-Can-Do-That bits, and discard the rest. I’m well-versed in failure, rejection, and negative feedback. It only stings when you don’t manage it. All criticism and rejection has contributed immensely to my artistic growth. You’ll never please all of the people, all of the time with your art, because tastes range from dark blood-colored abstracts to pink unicorns with rainbows. Just do your work, find your art friends, and get better at it with repeated practice. Take the constructive criticism to the sorting room. If the critique is mean-spirited, toss it in the compost bin. If the suggestions feel right, deploy them with gratitude that someone thought well enough of you to offer feedback on your work. And then get back to it.
There’s a difference between criticism and constructive criticism. With the latter, you’re constructing at the same time that you’re criticizing. ~Ed Catmull
Do you have a friend that makes lovely art, but shows it to no one? Does someone in your family have piles of beautiful paintings that nobody ever sees? Have you read news articles about estate sales loaded with amazing artwork that was never shared with the public until after a lifetime of creating beauty ended? Don’t be those folks. Share your work, and grow your artistic community. It’ll help your progress as an artist immensely.
Thanks for stopping in, and I’ll see you in the next post –
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Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground. Let their spirit ignite a fire within you to leave this world better than when you found it…
~Wilferd Arlan Peterson