"Success didn't spoil me, I've always been insufferable!"
Ok, this might be a confusing and long blog post, but it's a topic that has come up in my life over and over again. Next time I get questioned on why I don't make TikToks anymore, why I don't pursue gallery representation, or why I don't make prints, I'm planning on sending them this comprehensive guide.
For context, in 2019, I was on top of my game. In honesty, my artwork sucked- it was super obnoxious, flashy, and poorly made. But at 22, I was sure my work was great and felt confident about putting myself out there. While I was still a senior in college I was able to:
-Obtain gallery representation (although I had an "in" since my friend worked there)
-Amass a following of 180k on TikTok making sketchbook videos
-Accept brand deals and free gifts from companies that wanted to work with me
-Sell artwork to strangers via social media
-Exhibit in eight separate shows
-Win a Departmental Award and an Award of Excellence
-Be Nominated as one of Fay Chandler's Emerging Artists from Boston City Hall
-Have tons of miniature giclee prints and original drawings created and shipped to my followers online
The reason I feel comfortable bragging to you about all this is because I've given it all up. Yup, not a single one of these accomplishments still rings true today. And I'm surprisingly ok with it. Since 2019, I no longer have gallery representation, have not won a single award, have lost over 40k TikTok followers, no longer create videos, I don't make prints, and I don't do brand deals. You may be thinking What the fuck why are you happy about this? And I'm not happy, just finally at peace. When my success began to wane, I felt so frustrated with myself. Granted, I was fighting an uphill battle with Covid on the rise, but I couldn't shake the feeling that my plateau was completely my fault.
The truth is, I didn't deserve any of the success I received back then. When I look at my art from that time, I cringe soo hard. My craft was shoddy, rough, and unprofessional- and everyone knew it but me. (You can read a bit more about that in my blog post here). I know everyone feels that way, but it's especially true in this scenario. I had no idea what I wanted to make or why I wanted to make it, and instead relied on flashy colors and symbols to sell the work for me. Think of it like this- my work was a hot-pink Zara mini bag. Cute and trendy, but poorly made and didn't go with anything. My work is now more... off-brand Nantucket Basket Bag. Still rough around the edges, but easier on the eyes and more texturally interesting. I'm not close to a Birkin, but will hopefully get there one day.
If you know my work well you'd know this is the PERFECT analogy. Go me.
Long story short, I'm okay with the lack of success I've been having. It sucks to see others win awards and get published, but I know that my time will come as long as I keep working hard at improving. There's still so much I need to learn, and with every rejection I get more motivated to better myself. A majority of fine artists and abstract expressionists don't start seeing success until their thirties, so I still have four years until I need to start sweating about whether or not my work is shit. Who knows, by that point maybe I'll have shifted to photography or sculpture. (Probably not, but who knows!) I have some friends that are in the same boat as me. Failure sucks, but is a necessary tool for growth. At the end of the day none of us true artists are in it for the money or the fame, we just do it because making art is fun :)
If you've been going through a rough patch like me, let's connect! Us drawer-ers need to stick together.
I had the pleasure of staring at this poster every time I got detention in Middle School.
Currently playing: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Currently drinking: Large iced coffee with skim milk and one S&L from Dunkin
Currently listening to: Tidal by Fiona Apple