Why I am a proud art geek –  about the mistakes that I have made last year and what I have learned from my mistakes

Hello dear art friend!

One year ago, I nearly wetted my pants, because I was so scared. I had a booth at my very first art show. Wearing my pretty dress (Hey, those aren’t even pants. But I was wearing panties! Phew. Blog saved.), on the wall a selection of work framed in beautiful professional frames.

Miserable is a good word to describe how I felt.
I wish I could tell you I was really proud, happy or at least excited.
But I wasn’t.

Valuable lessons
I tried three more art shows during 2017. And after four art shows, I learned some valuable lessons.

Yes, I am about to share them with you!

‘Do something with it’
I have been journaling since I was about 15 years or so. It has been a big passion ever since. Four years ago I was able to make this passion into my business. That is when I started BloknoteAcademy.

However… For some reason, people still kept on telling me that I should “do something with my art”. People had been telling me so many times for  these past 15 years  that they loved my art and that I should “do something with it”. As in: sell it.

So even though I had my online art school running, people still advised me to attend an art show. Or organize some kind of exhibition. Because than, my friend, you ‘do’ something with it. And I listened. Because, I guess, I thought like most people, that that is what artists do: sell art and show their work at exhibitions.

What professional artists do

This was what I envisioned that being a professional artist would look like, when I was a 23 year old art graduate:

  • work in my studio all day
  • smoke and drink a lot
  • be poor
  • make loads of art
  • attend shows
  • organize art exhibitions
  • build an audience of customers who were willing to buy unique pieces of art

It is not weird that I thought this, as this is, I guess, what most people picture that artists do.

In 2016 I had a bit of a rough year, personally. I had worked so hard to get my online school running that I felt burned out. My old wish, that I had since the age of 23, to be a ‘professional artist’ popped around the corner and I wanted to give it a try. And I was in a hurry. Perhaps because I wanted to proof to the you-should-do-something-with-it-people, but probably mostly to myself, that I was worthy of the title ‘artist’.

I registered for a couple of art shows for 2017, framed a selection of work, printed new flyers and business cards. I wanted to try a couple of art shows, because I figured that I would probably not like the first one, as it is often scary to do something new. Scary was indeed an understatement.
It got better. The fourth show I did not find nearly as scary as the first one. But I after four shows I still did not love doing it. I did learn some valuable lessons though!

Mistake 1: I thought that when attending an art shows I would feel worthy of calling myself artist.

My lesson learned: You don’t need art shows or selling art to feel worthy. I learned that there are many artists with an art degree who still find this hard. And there are people who find it really easy to call themselves an artist. More importantly, I learned that it really does not matter what you call yourself. Just be yourself, and create. Love what you do and create the things you love to create.

Mistake 2: I thought that I needed to sell unique works of art to be an artist.

My lesson learned: There are other ways to make a living out art. And you do not even have to make a living from your art at all and still have art as your biggest passion. You can still be an artist, even when you earn your cash doing something different.

Mistake 3: I thought that the majority of professional artists make a living from their art.

Lesson learned: It is an illusion that the majority of professional artists earn a living with selling art.  There are, of course, artists out there who make money from selling art. But the picture of the ‘suffering’ artist is partly true (depending on what you mean with suffering, lol!). 90% of the artists need another (part time) job to be able to make a living. Even the ones that are relatively successful.

And I also learned – and this is quite sad actually – that many artists are ashamed to admit that they have another job as well. Which keeps the myth alive, I guess. Be smart and find other ways to sell art or make a living. There are ways to live a creative, artistic life, without the suffering.

Mistake 4: I listened to do the you-should-do-something-with-it-people.

Lesson learned: Don’t listen to the you-should-do-something-with-it-people.
They often don’t have a clue. Only listen to people who support you to do the things that you love. Because those people know that you are already ‘doing something with it.’

And my biggest mistake: I did not listen to myself.

Lesson learned: Stay true to yourself. Do not listen to what other people think. Do not allow other people to judge you. Or worse: don’t judge your own work, by what you think, that other people might think of your work. (you may have to re-read that one, lol!)

My trap is that I listened to the 23 years old me, that thought still wanted all this. But the 37 years old me knows that my life is perfect as it is right now.

Proud art geeks

And most of all I learned: I missed you. I REALLY MISSED YOU!

Okay, maybe not YOU-you, but people just like you. The best conversations I had at those shows were with the people who were interested in my techniques. People who asked me about the art supplies that I had used. In other words: my fellow art supplies geeks, who just have a passio for creating and for art supplies.

I learned that I was already on the right path. I just did not see it yet, as I listened too much to other people and dreams of the past. Ever since my last art show, I did not feel the urge to call myself an artist anymore. I now genuinely consider myself an art supplies geek. I am someone who loves art supplies. I love talking about art supplies, teaching about art supplies.

Also, I am an art lover: I love to visit museums,I love to look at art and teach about looking at art. I love create, I love to to learn how to create and teach how to create.

In a way, we are all artists. Or, if you don’t agree with that, or if you find it difficult to call yourself an artist, let’s just call ourselves: proud art geeks.

With love,
Marieke Blokland

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