Sweet Pea flowers appearing in the first stages of a new watercolour composition
This week I sent a very long reply to an email I had received and as I pressed send I realised I should possibly share some of my response. Purely because it may be helpful to other artists, art teachers and beginners to painting.
The email title that I received was " My life is in your hands" and the message had landed in my junk mail. I get so many messages daily that I do look through and delete any that may appear to be spam. I am afraid with this title I was on the point of deleting it when I realised the message was completely genuine. It wasn't asking for money or a donation. It was sincerely asking for my help as a professional artist. The message was long but it explained why it had been written. To ask my help for the sender to become a professional and successful artist. I was asked to guide them to making a career from painting. Which was a compliment as the sender admired my art and my own career.
Bearing in mind that I didn't know the sender or hadn't met them on a workshop, my advise in one way could only be limited . But I took time to absorb what they were asking of me. I slept on my reply and then responded. Basically, this is how I feel so I am sharing my advise here on my blog too.
Success comes from hard work at any skill, which means you need to take time to learn. Success isn't an instant thing that anyone can simply achieve because they hold a desire to be famous or indeed successful. It takes far more than simply wanting that goal to reach it.
I need to explain that in my case I do not see myself as , nor did I aim to be, a famous artist or indeed one that is necessarily successful. I do what I am passionate about and I share my passion for working in watercolour. It is this love, and this love alone that I feel has aided me in reaching the point in my career where I am now. And because of my journey, and how much I have loved it, I am in a very good position to help others reach their goals or make their dreams come true. Which I try so hard to do with my books and on my workshops.
But what is success? Is it making money from a career or being happy? Or ideally a combination of both. I don't see what I do as a job. I see painting as a wonderful way of enriching my life. But what happened from my own time spent painting over the years has led me to a fantastic place in life where I enjoy meeting people from all over the world on my courses . And invitations keep coming in for me to hold more at home in UK and internationally. Also, I love writing my books hoping to inspire others.
I advised the sender of the email to take time to consider where they want to be and how they are going to get there. I explained this point clearly. I fear when anyone places their focus on success alone, they may miss out on the joy of creating because the pressure they place on their shoulders to sell art or be famous can overtake it. Which is the complete opposite to my of working which is to be consistently passionate about painting. I believe if you love your own art, as in you love creating it and enjoy striving to be better each time you paint you will eventually get somewhere as an artist.
Many people simply paint because they love painting. And that is wonderful.
But if you want to be successful as an artist professionally here are my tips.
1) Study from the best artists whose style you admire. Really study from them including looking at how long it has taken them to be successful in their careers. You should find their success hasn't happened over night.
2) Practise. Practise non stop and keep finding ways to improve your art. Never be satisfied, always want more from yourself.
3) Be unique. This is the most important tip. In my early years of exhibiting, galleries used to tell me they had turned away other artists who seemed to be too much like me. Their answer to the new artist to the gallery was " We already have one Jean Haines , sorry" which sounds harsh but it was true. You need to be yourself, original and interesting which leads me to my next tip.
4) Be you. Find your own style. Yes there are many artists out there already painting everything in so many ways but I honestly believe that style is a huge part of who we are so let your personality shine and realise there is only one you and that is who a gallery wants to see. You.
5) Never give up. No matter what happens if your dream is to be successful keep fighting for that dream to come true.There may come a time when you need to face the fact you should follow another path but there are many roads to a successful career in art and you may just be on the wrong one.
6) Take rejection on the chin. It happens to everyone. Not every person that you meet is going to like your art. Accept it and realise that you too might not like their idea of a great painting!
7) Understand that success isn't given to you on a plate. You have to work really hard for it.
8) Finally. As much as other artists can offer you advise, it may not be the advise you want to hear. Have confidence in your own judgements. And your own ability.
I must admit I was really concerned to read that someones life was in my hands regarding their art career. But we never know what is happening on the other side of a computer screen and this artist asked for and needed my help. I hope I gave it well.
Keep painting. keep loving moving your brushes and keep looking for ways to make your work even more interesting.
For now I am getting back to painting the sweet pea flowers seen at the top of this blog post. I can't wait to finish them!