A CASE STUDY: finding and exterminating artistic ANTS

The last post on this subject closed with a description of the process but to really make it work we need to look at it as artists. To do so we are going to have another conversation with our friend Sarah who has been struggling to make a living with her art.

” So Sarah, you look particularly discouraged today, what’s up?”

Well, I just feel forever stuck in a rut of never making enough from my art to support myself.” she said. ” I can’t figure it out…I work hard at what I do and yet I never sell consistently and my friends and family keep telling me I should get a ‘Real Job’ I’m close to giving up”.

” I am sorry to hear that…are you willing to try something different to see if we can get you back into the swing of things?”

“Sure, I’m game for anything that will help.”

” Ok, let’s take a look at some of your beliefs associated with being an artist or for that matter being a creative person. So tell me about your earliest memories of what people said about art and becoming an artist. What pops out…?”

“The first thing that pops out is how often people told me that it was ‘cool’ and they thought I was really talented but that I could never really ‘make a living from it’ . I heard that a lot in grade school and later high school, most of my teachers told me I needed to focus on skills that were marketable and leave the ‘creative stuff’ as a hobby.

My family was sort of supportive but they insisted that I study something ‘real’ in college, although I did get them to let me take art classes if I took their ‘real’ classes as my primary major. Well that didn’t last long…I fell in love with  the art department, I felt alive when I was in the studio. It didn’t matter if I was drawing, painting, throwing pots or pulling prints. So I decided to be an art major in spite of my family.”

“Did you notice any negative beliefs creeping in or was it all fun in the studio?”

“Now that you mention it there was a strange undercurrent type feeling that I couldn’t figure out for quite awhile. It seemed like everybody was always talking about ‘working hard’ on something and our professors were often saying that ‘art should not need to be sold’ that what we create should sell itself. I remember asking a couple of my profs about that and they all said that art was not a business and to think of it like it was would demean and constrain our work.”

“What did they mean by that?”

“Well mostly they would say that it would hurt our creativity and to be really successful we needed to focus on our art and not worry about the business end of things”

“Ok,” I said ” this is starting to look like something…so what do you think was the common message you got. What are your core beliefs as a result?”

” I totally, got the idea that art was not worth much, that at best it would be a hobby. In college I started to have hope but the undercurrent of the art department saying over and over that art and business shouldn’t mix left me confused and feeling like I was forever doomed to being a ‘starving artist’. Now after finishing school I look around and don’t see many artists that aren’t starving ! Also when I do sell my work most people think I charge to much since I don’t do it full time”.

“So would you say that you developed a belief that to be an artist you had to starve and you certainly couldn’t  make a living at it?” I asked.

“yes, that’s about it”, she replied.

“Let’s look at that negative thought… write it down. Now, look at it and ask ‘is this true’ so do you think it is true?”

“Well, yes at least it is how experience it”, she said.

“Ok, now can you ABSOLUTELY without a doubt KNOW it it is true? Can you REALLY know?

Next I want you to answer this question…‘how do I react when I think that thought?’ This is important you’ll need to dig deep and pay attention to your feelings. When you think that thought what do you do? How do you treat yourself and others? Take some time to write down all the ways you react.”

” Here goes” she said. ” I feel angry, resentful and well hopeless. I get mad at buyers or at least don’t put a lot of time in with them. I really get mad at myself for thinking I could make this work.”

“Now ask ‘what would I be without that thought’, who would you be? How would your life be different?’”

“That’s not hard” she said. ” I would be living in a nice house, I would have lots of people wanting my work. When I did shows I would sell out and would easily get paid well for my work.”

“Ok now let’s take that original negative thought and turn it around. The original thought was, ‘you could never make a living as an artist’ now becomes ‘you can make a good living as an artist’ or ‘I can make a good living as an artist.’

Finally, I want you to take that turn around and ask ‘Is this turnaround as true or truer than my original negative intention?’ Then find three good examples that prove the turn around is just as true or truer than the original negative thought.”

“wow!” she said, ” my mind is racing I can see how one thing can lead to another. Can this process be used with my buyers?”

“Yes, certainly, it can help you get out of feeling like a victim and start seeing you buyers in a different more positive light. We can work on that another time you are going to need some time to work just on this part.”

I hope this has been helpful here is another way to get at the negative thoughts and begin the process. Take this list of positive intentions/beliefs and write the first negative intentions that pop up when you read them:

  • People will easily pay me for the value of my work.
  • When I talk to potential buyers it is easy to get them to sign up for my newsletter.
  • People really get my work and see the value it will add to their lives.
  • It is easy for me to build a network of supporters and buyers.
  • My buyers come back to me often and tell their friends to buy from me.
  • It is easy for me to learn to market my work.
  • My brand is easy to identify and is the primary driver behind buyer attraction.

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finding and exterminating artistic ANTS
finding and exterminating artistic ANTS

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