Every time I do a show or a festival, at least one person walks into my tent and tells me they make art, but are scared to show it. Many ask me how I got started. If you already make lots of art, and enjoy attending art festivals and openings, you are an artist already, the only obstacles in your way is filling out the paperwork, and fear of humiliation. I hope this can help you see that fear in a different light.
The thing about being an artist is, you really have to put yourself out there to the world. It’s like your imagination is on display. Some people love it, some people cringe, but either way, at an art festival or gallery show, it’s there for the whole world to see. That’s the fear you have to overcome to make the transition from a person who makes stuff in their basement for their own amusement, to a working artist in a professional sense. Art can be very intimate and personal for many artists, including myself. Showing your art can feel like you are jumping your motorcycle over snake river canyon while never fully believing you are going to live to tell about it. If Evel Knievel survived so can you!
Sometimes, it’s easy for an artist to feel alienated. There are these ideas that are constantly bouncing around our heads that sound completely ridiculous to some people if we dare share them. We all are born with these great imaginations, and the ones who leave it behind become adults, but the people who can’t let it go? Well we become artists (yeah, I got that from the Picasso quote but, it is still true!) I feel many artist put their guard up, and assume that after years of being the “weird” one, or the guy that “marches to the beat of his own drum” as some people like to say, that rejection is eminent and those ideas are best kept under wraps. I’ve been called a dreamer, a weirdo, I’ve been told I have my head in the clouds throughout my childhood and so on, but I’ve learned to embrace it.
I recently watched the movie “Wedding Crashers” the other night starring Vince Vaughn and Luke Wilson. The movie was hilarious, and lampoons certain extreme stereotypical personalities; the raging jock; the dysfunctional rich folks; and of course the tortured artist who wants to play “tummysticks” with Vince Vaughn. This caricature is quite funny and entertaining, but of course, most artists that I’ve encountered aren’t at all like that, but it often is the kind of sterotype that comes to some peoples mind when they hear the word “artist”. Growing up in the Providence area, the home of the prestigious and notoriously expensive Rhode Island School of Design (also referenced in the Wedding Crashers movie), I actually feel like I’ve seen that guy walking down Thayer Street, or even sold him a ticket to the Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Avon Cinema (before I got fired for sleeping through some bizzaro Lars VonTrier flick I had to endure for the zillionth time).
The truth is, that our artist brains are indeed wired a bit differently than most people. It’s not an act, or were not trying to be different, and I promise, many artists I know can’t stand the attention. I feel like some people fear that difference, and are too quick to judge. Maybe it’s all in my head, but this feeling of fear and alienation occasionally wells up inside me, especially when I’m in a room of people who feel really strongly about something (especially when it comes to politics, religion and sports). After all, who are the first to go in the event of authoritarian dictatorships pop up? Sometimes we might get a complex about it, I know I do. In a world where art and music takes a backseat to the football team, it’s easy to see why.
I think one of the most important tools in my art box, the one I use before I even get out the paint or a brush, is the ability to laugh at myself. I grew up in a place where it’s a cultural imperative to take it with a grain of salt when someone is “busting your balls”. The ability to laugh at my own absurdities and mistakes is probably the number one reason I ever decided to show my art in the first place. Finding my place in the world has been a challenge at times, and even an adventure. Whether it’s a customer, a kid, or a fellow artist, I can testify, the best feeling comes when someone sees your art, gathers insight into your soul, and likes what they see.