Growth, Rejection, Comparison and Feedback
I've been struggling lately with defining success and what makes me happy with my art. Is it sales? My own personal happiness with each piece? My feeling of growth? My number of social media followers? Happy commission customers? Positive feedback?
The reality is that it's probably some combination of the above. The other reality is I should probably be giving more weight to my personal happiness and growth and less to the number of social media followers.
Being an artist or maker is vulnerable. I thought I came out of art school with a thick skin but I still regularly struggle to accept constructive feedback and rejection gracefully, to avoid comparison with others and to grow my body of work without awkward transitions and mistakes and fails. How hard do I try to make others happy? How hard do I try to keep myself happy? Where is the fine line between trying something new to grow as an artist and giving up on it because it doesn't sell?
Embroidery is a good example of these conundrums. Compared to my watercolours and oil paintings, my embroidery work is not selling as well (Except it seems to do well in person, like at craft shows). BUT: feedback about it and my own personal satisfaction in making it and with the finished products are very positive. I want to explore it more because I love doing it and I love the finished product for it's texture and detail and vibrancy. If it doesn't sell should I stop doing it? Or should I pursue it and hope that I will improve with time and grow an audience that loves this body of work and wants to buy some? My heart tells me to keep embroidering and so I will. I think a large part of the struggle with embroidery is that it takes a long time to stitch each piece and people think of embroidery as a lower art form than watercolour and oil painting - and thus not worth paying for the time involved. It doesn't really help that my peers on Etsy are in many cases drastically undercharging for their time.
I've thought about it a lot and I think that the joy of making art is well worth the struggles, the people who say "I could do that at home", the endless rejections, the constant explanation of why you price your work the way you do.
To those of you who constantly provide positive feedback, like my posts, leave blog comments, purchase my work, tell your friends about my work... you really keep me going and I love you for supporting me and getting that art is vulnerable and artists need a boost sometimes.
And also thanks for just loving my work. I love it, too.