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9 Rules for Being an Artist

A Guide for the Unsure and Insecure

Follow these nine rules. 

1. Embrace what makes you unique.

Everyone has their own special form of creativity. Channeling yours and owning it will make you stand out—which will make you successful. Original art is good art. It is not enough that you have the skill to produce something intriguing to the eye or ears or tongue or whatever, to be an artist you have to be able to create from nothing. Make something out of nothing, and your creativity will make it beautiful.

Just as we all have our own creativity, everyone has their own unique style. It can take time to develop yours, but it’s very important that you do. It’s okay to take inspiration from others, and the content you produce will probably resemble other styles, but ultimately it has to be your own. It has to be personal, and it should allow anything that you produce to show who you are.

2. Find perseverance in frustration.

You will run into walls. You will get stuck in the crevices of your own brain and feel like you’ll never make it out alive. However, nothing can ever be completely still; quantum physics doesn’t lie. You will find your way out of that rut whether you fall or you’re pushed or you drag yourself out by the strength of your own fingertips, and your creativity will flow again. Give it time, and have patience. In the meantime, teach yourself the virtue of perseverance. Not giving up, even when it seems like the only option, will strengthen who you are as a person and also make future struggles easier to handle.

This also applies to when you feel inadequate in your abilities. Say, for instance, you’re working on a project and it just isn’t coming out right. It’s easy to believe that you’re not capable, that you don’t have the necessary touch, but you do. Incompetence does not exist in the heart of an artist, but frustration is a liar and will convince you otherwise. It might be hard, and it will get harder, but you are capable. Do not ever give up.

3. Look for the beauty in everything.

The physical world is made up of puzzle pieces and there are little fragments of beauty hidden in the interstices of each connected part. An artist has eyes that can see all of this. An artist can look at an overflowing dumpster and recognize how alluring its filth can be. An artist can find mini masterpieces usually unnoticed in the cracks of the sidewalk. Teach yourself to look for the art in everything, especially where it wouldn’t be expected, in things that are generally considered ugly.

4. Appreciate and learn from other’s art.

One of the best ways to learn about art is from other artists. When you observe the styles and techniques that others use, it allows you to broaden your own horizons and your own ways of creation will develop. Study theory and the meanings behind what people create. Ask other artists why they make art, and their approach. Spend a lot of time researching various methods and trends throughout time. Gaining knowledge about the world of art will elevate your own.

5. Put passion into everything you create—or don’t create at all.

Art is the work of the soul. Unlike technical work that doesn’t require creativity, creation relies on not only on imagination but also on the raw wholeness of the individual. You have to be connected to what you are creating, and the final piece should reflect who you are. It is impossible to produce anything with substance and meaning if it does not come from the deepest parts of yourself. Pour all of yourself into the art that you make, and I promise it will not make you feel emptied but instead fulfilled. 

6. Be vulnerable.

Part of being able to put your whole self into what you make is having the courage to be vulnerable. Art is personal, and it’s difficult to be able to show yourself in a way that is guaranteed to be judged. However, most of the judgements will be uplifting, and that’s what makes it worthwhile. Being vulnerable and making your art raw and personal will speak to people and move them in powerful ways. This is the most rewarding part of the process, but to achieve it you first have to be brave. Don’t be afraid to show yourself—ugliness and all.

7. There’s no such thing as “bad art.”

Every individual has a different perspective. That means that some people are critics, and at some point someone (probably more than one person as a matter of fact) will tell you that your art sucks. But there’s no such thing as art that sucks. As long as you made something original that came from your heart, it’s beautiful. One of my favorite clichés is that everyone has a different idea of beauty, remember this.

One of the hardest parts about being an artist is the internal conflict and tendency to never feel adequate. For some reason, I am never satisfied with anything that I create, and it’s almost impossible to look at my work without a critical eye. This is when you have to remind yourself that you are enough. Remind yourself that you put your entire self into whatever you made, therefore it can never be “bad.”

8. You have to dedicate yourself.

Once you decide that art is your passion, you have to give all of yourself to it. Be willing to put forth all of your time and energy. If making art is truly what you love, this should not be an issue. One of the most significant lessons I have learned is that your time should be spent on things that make you forget about the time. Consider this.

9. Don’t be afraid to make a statement.

As Banksy once said, “It’s not art unless it has the potential to be a disaster.” That can be interpreted a few different ways, but what I took from it is that good art is powerful. When your art is so moving that it changes the perspective of those who view it, it can be considered disastrous. It invokes a change. Make it your mission to change the world through your art. 

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