Chuck Close

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Let’s face it: artists walk a pathless path where nothing is clear

The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you.

–Chuck Close

This is a well known quote from Chuck Close, but it is one that I appreciate revisiting. And it fits in with my usual list, one that I only share after being asked repeatedly (keeping the wise Buddhist admonition in mind that no one really wants to know what you think unless they ask you three times).

So only read on if you really really really want my practical advice.

1. Your work is the most important thing. This is so much more important than getting shows, good reviews and the accolades of others. Making the best art you can is your job. All the rest of it comes second.

2. If your work doesn’t delight and captivate you, then you are doing the wrong thing. You are the primary audience for what you make. Please yourself first and foremost.

3. Be “professionally persistent”: That means doing the research, following up, keeping at it.

4. Be ye thick skinned. Very thick skinned. Art is subjective and not everyone is going to understand what you do. You need to find those who do connect, but that can take time.

5. Do not compare your work with others. Do not walk into galleries in Chelsea and say, “My work is SO much better than this!” It has nothing to do with better or worse. You can learn by watching how other artists have achieved success, but that is different than comparing.

6. The art world is—for most of us—DIY (“do it yourself”.) No one else is going to do this job for you. You are an entrepreneur and responsible for the business of you: R&D, manufacturing, marketing, sales, public relations, accounting, customer service, community relations.

7. Fight the black beast of discouragement. When it slips in your back door, stab it dead.

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