Ever since I became more focused on being visible and sharing my work, I realized that there is a lot that I have to know about myself as an artist. I thought knowing myself as a person was more than enough, but there’s really another level to it. Something that is more acute and focused. What inspires me, what motivates me, what I like, what I don’t like…what do I even do? People who are interested in you and your work are going to be asking you those kind of questions, and you better know the answers if you want to be taken seriously. Otherwise you may be creating an unnecessary barrier between yourself and viewers. I can’t tell you how often I talk to other artists who really can’t explain why they do what they love and can’t have an extensive conversation about their work. It’s interesting to me because it’s something that no one else can tell you, YOU have to know it. Why do you create what you do? I think that knowing the answers to these deeper questions can strengthen your work and keep you grounded throughout your artistic journey, maybe even build your confidence. And that’s something we can all use.
I’ve found that if you don’t know the deep-seated reasons for your motivation to create your art, a good way of discovering this is by actually sharing your work. When putting your work out into the world, even if you only end up showing just a few friends, you’re almost forced to actually say something about it. That reason alone will get you thinking about some deeper points about your creations. It’s scary, I know. We put ourselves in a vulnerable position once our work is out there for viewing. However, if your goal is to build an art career it’s necessary to start sharing! The more that you do it, the easier it becomes.
With the rise of social media and the ever-growing emphasis on using it to make connections, I don’t think we artists can afford to be so shy or reclusive all the time. If you can do all of your marketing or networking offline and still amass followers, then I applaud you (and please share your tips on this blog!). But to me it seems that if you’re in the beginning stages of your art career, it might not be the best idea to be mum about your work. People want to know who you are. Collectors want to know who you are. People need to feel some sort of personal connection to you. People want access to you. They want good reasons to follow you. If you are one of those people that is opposed to social media, then I’m sorry you’ll have to get over that! At least create an artist facebook page or instagram account and start allowing your work to be findable. Use the tools and resources that are out there, many of which are free by the way, and connect with other artists and potential followers.
You don’t have to reveal intimate details about your life, unless that’s your thing, but whatever you’d like to share is better than doing nothing and continuing to go unseen. People love pictures and video, so start there. Sharing progress pictures or your thoughts about a particular piece of work can go a long way. These are the types of things that non-artists usually don’t get to see, and typically it’s non-artists who are most likely to buy your work. So give ’em something to see! Build relationships with other artists by commenting on their posts and share each other’s work. If you’re REALLY brave, post your mistakes or discuss your struggles through a piece. I did just that for the last painting I worked on, check out the post on my personal blog.
The more opportunities that you can give people to connect with you or understand what you’re about, the more valuable you become to your followers and the more in touch you will be with your own work. Below is a screenshot of artist John Wentz’s instagram page. I think he does a good job of managing his page by sharing interesting pictures of his artwork and promoting upcoming shows. And every now and then you get a cute picture of his sweet dog. It may not seem like a lot, but I wanted to show an example of just how easy it is to get the ball rolling for yourself.
Trust me, I know it can be daunting to put yourself out there and subject your artwork to judgment. It’s a tough thing to do, but if you want to embark on a path of a professional artist in this day and age it’s a necessary evil. I encourage you to challenge yourself, get over that fear by starting small. Share some things with your friends or supporters. Tell them what you like about your piece and what’s important about it. Then when you’re ready, move it to your social media spaces. It really is that simple. The more eyes you can get on your work, the better. No one will know what you do unless you show them!
Thoughts? What has been your experience with sharing your work? What holds you back from putting yourself out there?