When Am I Going To Like My Art? Learning to Let Go of Unrealistic Expectations of Yourself and Your Art

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Marisa D. Aceves. Untitled. digital photography http://www.acevesart.com/

article by Marisa D. Aceves

At some point in our lives, many of us know instinctively, that we are called to be artists.

In the beginning, we pour over art magazines, sketch or doodle in our spare time, snap photos of eager relatives, build alien cities with legos, and dance and sing to our favorite music; everything seems possible in the wonderful world of fantasy that we create for ourselves.

Then we collectively come to our senses and realize that we have to learn a specific set of skills to truly be able to express ourselves the way we had originally intended.

The ongoing process of learning is never easy, it’s often an ego crusher.

We stumble, crash and burn as we try to emulate the work of our favorite artists.

Other people laugh and point at our efforts, trying to discourage us from pursuing our creative passions.

No matter what we do, we feel we just can’t seem to measure up and yet we are to darn stubborn to give up our dreams; we will continue even if we have to walk with our heads held low as we soon learn to adopt the title that best suites our level of ability -student.

Everyone wants to be called teacher. No one wants to be called student,pupil etc., but that is exactly what we are at different periods in our lives.

As we push through several how to articles, academia, and instructional videos, we constantly fight our impulse to give in to a perfectionistic view of our work.

We constantly compare our work to the work of people that have had years of training and experience.

We don’t want to hate our work or to feel ashamed of what we can currently produce, but when we see the obvious discrepancies between our work and theirs, we can harbor unnecessary  feelings of doubt, insecurity and shame.

At the very least, we can dwell in our feelings of inferiority, which may lead to an uncomfortable state of melancholy, at the worst we can lose altoghether the joy initially associated with creating art.

Much of our art based anxiety stems from unrealistic expectations about ourselves and our art.

We wrongly equate our performance with our self-worth; once we do that we set ourselves up for self-sabotage.

Before you give up and give in to unrealistic expectations, try to keep these helpful tips in mind:

1) Concentrate On Learning Not Judging – As you begin to learn a variety of skills and techniques associated with your medium, you are bound to run into problems. Don’t let this discourage you. Some things will be easier for your to master, others more difficult. This is the case for almost every artist and has absolutely nothing to do with your value as a person. Instead of judging your work because of the difficulties that you may be having, try to concentrate on learning and improving the skills that you are required to have to succeed.

2) Use Comparisons For Growth Not Personal Putdowns – It is easy to compare your work to the work of others with years of experience and then put yourself down because you fail to create work that is the same quality or reflective of a similar skill level.

If your must compare your work to the work of other artists, do so for growth not because you wish to be them or somehow inherit their abilities through osmosis. Study their strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps there are books or other art related instruction that can help you pick up the skills that you need. Check our where they got their education. Did they go through a special training program?

3) Let Go of The Fear of What Others Will Think of Your Work As You Learn – Sure, your friends, family and collegues can mock your personal artistic struggle as you try to grasp difficult to master skills and concepts, but do they have the courage to attempt the journey that you have presently embarked on. No, many of them do not. Most of the time, they wish that they could brave the uncertainty of the world of creativity, but they are to concerned with what others would think, so they do not even dare to attempt it. Sometimes, you will find that you are your biggest critic. You marinate in what others tell you that you are to believe about your skill level and abilities and then you proceed to criticize yourself. Instead, focus on the fact that you are gradually trying to improve you knowledge and skills so that you can create your best art.

Eventually, you can learn to give yourself permission to be perfectly human.

Human artists like you and I make mistakes as we learn to create, but this does not take away from our overwhelming desire to share with other people the joys and rewards of being artists and appreciating art.

While unrealistic expectations can put a damper on learning and productivity, we can face them with the understanding that like other problems we encounter, there are always solutions.

She Believed She Could So She Did: How Belief Effects Our Artistic Potential

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Marisa D. Aceves. Pigment Landscape: Crevice. digital photography http://www.acevesart.com/

Not too long ago, I caught my mother browsing  the virtual pages of one of her favorite online sites that funds and features innovative art/design related small businesses, The Grommet.

Eventually, she came upon a lady that used her creativity to come up with several unique furniture pieces.

When the lady was asked how she took her present collection from idea stage to a marketable product, she confidently stated, “I believed I could, so I did.”

Whether we are involved with fine art, arts and crafts, performing arts, literary arts or design, we all have to sum up the courage to take our product to market.

No one told this particular lady it was going to be easy.

They probably neglected to point out the many obstacles she would encounter, the costs she would incur, or the motley tribe of naysayers that would try to convince her that she didn’t have the intelligence or the talent to make her idea a reality.

Nevertheless, she soldiered on, either oblivious or resistant to the many challenges that lay ahead until she pitched her product to the right venue.

What is the difference between the lady and her creative counterparts still struggling with the idea of promoting their work?

Unlike her peers, she believed with all her heart that her product had value and was valuable to others.

When you truly believe that you are producing something of value, you make more of an effort to find an audience that will appreciate what you create.

No matter what you like to tell yourself, belief really does play a big role in your productivity and whether or not you reach your true potential.

Despite spending the necessary time it takes to develop your skills, art is largely a subjective experience.

Some will love what you do, others will have a different preference.

Here are some of many reasons why people avoid their creative destiny and how to overcome them:

1)  Operating emotionally instead of rationally – As an artist, you rely to a certain extent on what other people say and do.  However, you should not let your negative emotions about perceived failures, mistakes and disagreements determine your future success.  Sometimes, you have to consider a more rational approach to your business and art making. If you’re not making mistakes along the way, you’re not growing. There must always be room for growth and improvement. Otherwise, you’re dead and your art business is dead.  You’re not your mistakes or career disappointments, they have no power over you unless you let them.

2) Operating your business exactly the way others do – While observing what works for others and applying it to your business is not a bad thing, trying to operate it exactly the way someone else does may not be what is best for you. If you feel that your business and business approach is not your own, the resentment you feel may cause you to want to distance yourself from what you used to love. Never lose what makes you unique, it will set your art business apart from others, but refrain from feeling obligated to lose you individuality in the process.

3) Giving into the opinions of others – No matter where you are in your career, it’s easy to get discouraged when colleagues try to tear you down and belittle your accomplishments. You can be their puppet, letting them guide you to places of greater isolation, lower self-esteem, and overwhelming negativity or you can politely wish them well and use their refusal to be professional and positive to fuel your desire to see your ideas, dreams and visions to fruition. Take back your power and work to make it happen.

In the course of pursuing your artistic passion, you may find your business takes a different direction then you initially thought it would, but at least you can continue with the realization that you didn’t give up.

When you take the time to think about it, that is a victory worth celebrating!

As you explore the artistic potential that this period in time provides, I hope that you not only grow in your understanding of your individual discipline, but also in the confidence it takes to share and communicate with others.

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What Is Your Artistic Legacy?

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Marisa D. Aceves. Grandmother’s House: 1st Bedroom. digital photography

Years from now…legacy

article by Marisa D. Aceves

For the last three months our minds, hearts, and lives have been tied up in preparing Eloisa’s house for sale.

Although things have slowed down considerably, I have still managed to find solace in faithfully recording some small treasures and a few rooms that remind me of my grandmother’s love.

We will make the long trip to her house again this coming week, but the journey will be a bittersweet one.

Potential buyers will traipse through the long corridor with its’ gold linoleum floors, gradually making their way through the living room, bedroom, kitchen and bath.

Eloisa was not her house; it was only a place she occupied for a certain period of time.

She has been gone for fourteen years, yet our memories of her remain.

It is not as though she sat up one day and announced that she was going to have a wonderful life and endear herself to many of the people that she came into contact with, but that is exactly what she did and all within the small, intimate confines of a typical Texas neighborhood.

The world may find the existence of an ordinary housewife boring even inconsequential.

“There’s not much of a story to tell”, they’d say under their breath preferring to read and write about flamboyant, drunken playwrights or headstrong, oversexed politicians.

There is a story to tell.

While the majority of the world may lack the imagination to see the overlooked beauty and profoundness of everyday occurrences, my grandmother knew that it is a series of small moments that make up our lives not just a couple of huge, game changing events.

If we can maintain a constant attitude of gratefulness for each and every second we are blessed to experience, we will never lose the child-like sense of wonder that leads to happiness.

She grew up sheltered from the persistent pessimism of her day.

Simple swatches of left-over wrapping paper were saved fastidiously, but not out of fear that she would not have enough of the everyday necessities we often take for granted.

“Someone else will need them!,” she would say as she carefully cut the small pieces of tape that sealed her latest birthday present, gently folding the paper into a neat rectangle for a neighbors future use.

Whenever someone was hungry, she always had beans, buttery tortillas and pinched star cookies ready to take home.

My grandmother lived her life for others; the majority of the things she did or said revolved around what was best for them.

She never judged you because you had problems; she would always pray for you and give you a big hug when you were ready to leave.

Eloisa’s legacy was a life of unconditional love and acceptance; it was a life steeped in spiritual simplicity.

Our legacy might be a different one than my grandmother’s, but all of us have an intense longing to be loved and remembered.

We want to know that somehow in this crazy, unpredictable world we made a difference.

What is your artistic legacy?

Is your work a way of life?

Does it illustrate your dreams, fears, and hopes?

What does it reveal about the way you view yourself and others?

Will you make a name for yourself and die lonely, or will you end this life with gratitude surrounded by friends and family?

Can you really have it all or do you believe you must sacrifice everything for your art?

These are questions only you can answer?

Perhaps your legacy will be based on a mantra you invent when you’re sixteen years old or maybe like Eloisa you will simply live an artful life that speaks for itself.

Why You Don’t Have To Be Ernest Hemingway To Write About Your Art

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Marisa D. Aceves. Pigment Cascade 1. digital photography

article by Marisa D. Aceves

We all love creating our artwork.

When we get a new idea that we just can’t wait to flesh out, we race to our studios with sparkling eyes and child-like enthusiasm, but while we’re content to lose ourselves in the creative process, we may or may not always feel the same when assigned the task of writing about our art.

Why is writing about what we love to do so intimidating?

Could it be that many of us share a common tendency to compare the quality of our thoughts and words to those of   popular art magazines or perhaps the works of award winning authors we were forced to read in school (ex. Hemingway and Malamud)that leave us tossing our laptops and tablets in disgust at out perceived  lack of literary genius?

Of course we could always make the excuse that we were too busy in our studios to write about our work…

…and maybe that might be partially true…but…

…no matter how much we procrastinate, ultimately we will have to provide some explanation for why we create, even if the real reason is as uncomplicated as “I felt like it!”.

If you are one of a number of artists who subtly fears the writing process, don’t fret over words.

Make them work for you.

Here are some suggestions for cutting through the confusion and getting to the meat of your artistic message.

1) Give A Little History –  Inquiring people are anxious to know how, when and why you became an artist.

Some artists’ route to creativity is traditional while others “fall into” their art practice by first participating in some other activity.

Include this distinction in the course of writing about your work.

If you are an artist which has a background in other fields of expertise and you apply this experience to your art, explain how this adds to your unique approach and perspective.

Artists who have undertaken a more traditional, well-traveled route to their artistic development may want to share what subjects, events etc. that inspired them or that continue to inspire their creations.

2) Write About Your Work Often – Practice removes the “intimidation factor” from your writing.

Sure, it’s a little scary, but then again, if you are still learning, you’re always new at something.

Set aside time in the day or week to write down your thoughts and feelings about your work.

Create a schedule that you know is easy to keep.

3) Write in Small Increments – Sitting yourself down to write for an hour or two can lead to procrastination as you sit there tapping pencil to paper waiting for the words to flow.

 If you know that you freeze when forced with a long, drawn out job, you may want to spread the work out and do things in between writing.

This eases you anxiety and helps you to collect you thoughts.

4) Observe the Writing of Others – 

I think the best way to learn how to write about art is to familiarize yourself with the way fellow professional artists write about their work and the work of others.

When observing articles artist write about other artists, consider these questions:

 a) Do they include background information about the artist before describing what they do?

 b) Do they include where the artist lives and works, their specialty (photography, painting, sculpture, installation etc.?

 c) Do they mention the artists level of education, awards and experience?

 d) Do they mention what is unique about the artists’ work?

Once you learn to break down art articles into bits of information, the easier and less intimidating it will be to write about your own.

Here are some things to keep in mind when you study the artist statements of others:

1) What is their work about?

2) What is their particular discipline (photography, painting, sculpture, installation etc.)?

3) Why do they create their work?

4) What are they trying to say with their work?

As you read their statements make sure to answer the questions mentioned above.

When you are finished you will have a rough map of the type of information that you will need to include in your own statement.

You can learn to write about your own art, or defer to others who may or may not truly understand your vision.

Be pro-active; don’t let the meaning of your art get lost in translation.

I am hopeful that over time, you will continue to grow and improve your communication with your audience.

Why Having A Back-Up Plan Provides Greater Flexibility For Your Art Business

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Marisa D. Aceves. Bubble Landscape 3 (Vivid and Juicy). digital photography http://www.acevesart.com/

Some people give up their dream.

It’s sad, but it happens all to often.

When it does, years upon years of disappointment and resentment build.

Then anything mildly associated with creativity pricks pride and pushes buttons.

Nothing is ever satisfying; life has lost its luster.

Why do many otherwise creative people stop making art in times of extreme adversity while their peers continue to freely express themselves no matter what the consequences?

The answer is simple.

Plan A didn’t work.

What is Plan A?

Plan A is the traditional well-traveled route to recognition and success.

The scenario may start a little something like this…:

An artist may have always known especially when he or she was young that they were born to create art.

During their formative years, other people (friends, family members, casual acquaintances, etc.) told them that they had special talent in their chosen medium (drawing, painting, photography, sculpture etc.).

Then like many other artists, they went to college and read about the lives of famous artists throughout the ages and in their naiveté, thought that they were going to leap out of college with countless galleries begging them to sign.

They imagine that their innovative work will be featured in various reputable art publications.

Why they would even have their own star on the walk of art fame!

Hey, sometimes this does happen, but many times it takes several years of hard work, commitment, and contacts to build a successful art career.

Reality hits for the majority of art students.

There’s plenty of competition in college.

All of a sudden, many artists find that they are no longer the center of attention.

Instead they are second best, third best, fourth best in class or maybe they are the least skilled of all of their peers.

Often with academic endeavors there is a constant humbling, a steady chipping away of their once ample self-confidence.

They begin to find out quickly that they don’t know everything there is to know about art.

The more an artist learns, the more they realize how much smarter Jerry Saltz (a leading art critic) is then they are.

After school artists have to focus on building a strong portfolio, gallery submissions and other art related opportunities.

If an artist doesn’t have a mentor or an art world connection, doors grow heavier and more difficult to open.

Family problems, illnesses and financial difficulties can sometimes make creating art more challenging over the years.

At this point, faced with these odds, many talented artists walk away.

Should you?

This is a sad phenomenon, but it doesn’t have to end like this.

People don’t have to kill there art career, they choose to.

Sure, there are several challenges on the road to supporting a healthy art career, but if an artist really loves what they do they will always find an excuse to create even if it is not in the medium in which they started.

Most people start out with Plan A at the beginning of their lives, then after several years of experience move to Plan B, C,  or D.

This is not failure, this is called adaption.

The people that give up after Plan A fails never realize that Plan A, was only one way (one possibility) not the only way.

Plan A may or may not work out for you, but if it doesn’t, know that you are not alone.

Lack of Plan A success has nothing to do with self-worth.

It has nothing to do with the size of your talent.

It is not an indication of your true potential for making a valuable artistic contribution to the world.

You can have an art career in the face of intense adversity, but perhaps it will take a different path, one that’s a little bumpier, a little bit scarier and a lot more rewarding.

Be open to combing your interests, learning something new and applying a myriad of skills to different areas you haven’t explored.

Here are just some of the many options available to artists today:

1) Be Your Own Boss – A gallery may not come knocking on your door right away but you can use many different social media platforms to promote your work. Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook are all helpful tools for artist promotion. People all over the world will see your work. Make sure that you protect your work by copyrighting and watermarking your images. You may also consider selling work over your website to prospective buyers once you have reached your target audience.

2) Pursue Other Art Related Fields – Sometimes, you can seek internships at galleries, work at places that show art or volunteer for a docent program at your local art museum.  This can help put you in the public eye and connect you with people involved with the arts in your community.

3) Write About What You Love – Writing about art can help you approach art in a completely different way. It can help you better understand why other artists create the work that they do. It can help you understand the different movements, trends etc. that are shaping the art world. It can provide an additional source of income.

4) Apply Your Creativity To A Career Unrelated To Art – You might find that you have talent in other areas besides art. Pursuing a career in business, advertising, marketing analysis etc. may provide you with the steady income that will help you produce the art you have always wanted to without worrying about whether or not you can pay the bills. In addition you may find that you can approach other careers with the same creativity that you apply to your art, offering an original perspective that other people cannot.

5) Diversify Your Income – You can increase your income by investigating the many different ways that you can expose your particular brand of art to the public. For instance, you may pursue licensing, or putting you images on cups, post cards, greeting cards etc. Curating shows may offer an extra source of income. If you are great at photography, you might consider charging a fee for photographing the work of others. The possibilities are endless.

Don’t give up your dream; dream more creatively.

Once you consider the many options and avenues that you can pursue, any perceived career limitations fall by the wayside.

The Key To Finding Inspiration In Unexpected Places Part 2

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Marisa D. Aceves. Bubble Landscape III (Red). digital photography http://www.acevesart.com/

article by Marisa D. Aceves

I am sure that you have heard the tried but always true saying, “Inspiration is were you find it”, but what if you’re having trouble finding a source of inspiration.

Everywhere around you, popular culture conditions you to believe that if you don’t do it “BIG” it isn’t worth doing.

If you don’t capture some huge monumental event or make a historical breakthrough, then the art you produce isn’t worth doing.

While we all would like to give into the “I’m not doing it “BIGGER” yet so therefore it’s not better” despair, we need to remember that life is not full of “BIG” events, it’s full of many “small” ones.

These small events like spare change in your pocket may not seem like much at first, but they quickly add up to make the “BIGGEST” event you will ever experience, your life.

You can gain both inspiration and insight if you pay attention to the “little” things that surround you.

It’s these “little” things that people cherish, though they are often overlooked even forgotten.

The story behind the picture featured above is a simple one.

A family excursion to the local Dollar Store led to the search for a familiar object to photograph.

Initially, we had decided to pick up some plastic sandwich bags and various other items we would need for the weeks chores.

When we walked in, we headed for the far left of the store.

Measuring cups, plastic ladles, and chip clips lined the isle.

Nothing really struck me as interesting until “it” popped up right in front of me.

The small transparent plastic napkin holder sat on the bottom shelf.

I picked it up instantly examining the many colors shining through it’s beaded surface.

This was the object I was going to photograph.

To the undiscerning eye it was just a cheap picnic napkin holder, but I knew it had potential.

I could choose to see it as a napkin holder and pass it by, but I decided to make it my subject.

The napkin holder would represent more than just a napkin holder, it would serve to deliver a message about the beauty and wonder in common objects and everyday life.

It was my personal challenge to make this common object interesting.

I had to give it life.

I had to help others see the aesthetic value of what would otherwise be considered disposable and forgettable, because if they could do this with a common object, they could learn to approach their lives and the people that they met with appreciation and gratitude.

A fellow artist and photographer, Misty Dreamer 10, tweeted a picture of a beautiful sunset with the message that everyday was beautiful you just had to choose to see it.

Artistic inspiration is all around us; it is in common objects, our relationships, nature, our pets etc.

We just have to choose to see it.

Why Your Differences Are The Hidden Blessings That Can Help Your Art Stand Out

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Marisa D. Aceves. Distant Memory. digital photography http://acevesart.com/

article by Marisa D. Aceves

In a sea of artists producing similar work and selling it successfully, it is easy for artists that create work outside the accepted status quo to feel both bewildered and distressed about their future.

Many of us know there are few certainties in life and yet we crave stability; We often seek it out even if it means that we give up pursuing our latest innovations.

The fear of failure is alive today as it has been for centuries.

It’s not going away.

We have to battle it one piece of artwork at a time.

Despite the overwhelming feelings some of us face as we force ourselves to push forward into unchartered artistic territory, the very things that make us different are the important elements (if used correctly) that can help us stand out.

Here are some helpful tips for overcoming the perceived mental blocks that keep us from confidence in our creativity:

1) Research Your Niche 

Carefully study what other people in your niche are creating.  How are they marketing their work? Who is their target audience?  What works for them? What doesn’t? Add your own personal voice and style to differentiate yourself from artists producing similar work. We all would like to do our own thing. We should produce the artwork that holds the most interest for us, but sometimes when the general population have difficulty with accepting the type of work we are producing, we may also have to look at what does appeal to people and why? When you complete this exercise, you are able to get outside of yourself. You begin to get valuable insights into how others view things.

2) Create Your Brand Around Your Unique Vision

Branding is a necessity, because it helps others to both know and trust you.  If an audience doesn’t know you, than trust will be difficult if not impossible.  As you market your work across different social media platforms, make sure that you are consistent with your overall message. Generally people are more likely to respond to new and different art when you reach them through your message. If your message resonates with them, then your art business has a much better chance of survival. The art then is a symbol for that message. Each time people see your work, they will think about that message because you have given them something to relate to.

3) Network With Other Artists 

Make friends and business connections with other artists.  Some may have similar interests; others may not.  When you have similar interests with other artists you may share what works and what does not. If you are in contact with artists that may not have similar interests, sometimes they can help you to view your niche from a unique perspective. Connections are key to building a successful art business.  When you reach out to others for support and encouragement, don’t forget to provide it.

4) Become A Storyteller

People want to know the story behind your art.  Share both obstacles and inspiration, but be careful not to divulge inappropriate or personal information that could hurt you and your business. When writing about your story, consider these questions:

a) What are you trying to say with your work?

b) What is important to you and why?

c) How does your world view effect the type of work you produce?

5) Share Your Success Stories

When people like and trust you, they are more likely to buy from you and promote your work.  There is nothing wrong with letting people know about a sale that you have made, a contest you have won, your latest commission or a show that features your work as long as you do this appropriately and politely. Simply informing your audience about peoples’ appreciation of your products and services is acceptable. Constantly boasting about your abilities or how much money you make can eventually irritate your audience and keep them from visiting your website so practice discretion.

While researching or creating your niche is a challenge, remember this: No thing worth doing is ever easy. The healthiest approach to tackling difficult aspects of your art business is to view them as both learning opportunities and teaching moments. If you apply the same mixture of discovery and discipline to your marketing efforts, finding your niche will be more enjoyable and less intimidating.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact me.  I’d love to hear from you.