7 Paradoxes of highly successful artists.

So I started out today thinking I'd write a post about New Year's Resolutions for art...but a) that's been done to death, and b) it got me noticing things.

Have you ever noticed how you get conflicting advice ALL THE TIME from people in this field?  One person will tell you to "focus on the fundamentals" while the next one will tell you to "Dream big and paint what you feel!"  One teacher will write an excellent article about how you should make measurable goals, while the next one will tell you to focus on the end game and your long-term dreams.

What's going on?  At first glance, it seems like either everyone is screwing with you, or SOMEONE is wrong.

I don't think either one is true.  I think that to be successful in this field requires that you be able to hold two, mutually contradictory positions as true AT THE SAME TIME.  It's like you have to be two different people at once.  This is the hardest thing for me to express to students when they ask for advice.  I'll give one piece of advice to one of those "two people", and it gets taken as "THE WAY."...and then I watch the student ignore the other side, that I consider equally important.  I thought it would be fun to try and think of some of these dualities.

To learn and grow, you must focus on your own voice and also focus on standardized fundamentals.

You must be disciplined and have a regime and also be flexible and willing to change on a dime.

You must be able to focus on the moment you are in while always seeing the long term goal ahead of you.

You must create work for yourself without worrying about being marketable in order to be marketable.

You need to "find the joy" in the daily activities and also treat it like a job.

You need to be both highly focused and very laid back about your work.

You need to have faith in yourself how you do things while remaining open to change and negative feedback.

Yeah...it's no wonder people think we're crazy!  I'm sure there are more, but 7 just seems like such an appropriate number :)  Seriously though, this is not a field for dogmatic thinkers.  Many times I do feel like two people at the same time, the hard-working, focused technician who is living in the moment and the creative dreamer who has his head in the clouds.  I find that when I listen too much to either side, I get into trouble...either my work gets stale and boring, or I feel depressed that I'm not getting where I want to.

I think this is the reason you need to internalize and really process any advice you are given.  It's almost certainly going to be focused on one of those two people...probably the one that the person giving the advice feels the strongest about...that may NOT be the one you need to feed at that particular moment.

"Give yourself measurable, achievable goals for your New Years Resolutions" is a very "down to earth" advice, designed to shore up that side of who you are....but I have friends who would be much better served thinking more about "What excites you?  Go out there and do that!"  Conversely, I know some people that IMHO need to bloody well knuckle down and get some work done...right now.  I think many of us have a hard time holding both sides equal at the same time, so we jump back and forth between the two.  I think the easier you can do that jump, the more chances for success you are going to have....the brilliant people I know seem to be able to keep both sides fed and active all the time.

Hope you enjoyed reading, thanks for kicking off the year with me :)