Sunday, September 11, 2011

"If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out

Right now, traditional artist advertising venues aren't really working for me.  I don't update my DeviantArt often enough, or with enough fanart, to garner any sort of web presence.  When I posted just art to my blogspot, I MIGHT get a comment, if one of my friends was feeling generous.  The sketches I posted on Twitter went mostly unnoticed.  For years I'd been stubbornly doing the same things that all other artists did and wondering why I wasn't succeeding.  I knew I couldn't compete with them artistically, but I kept banging my head against that wall, betting that my head was harder than brick.

Even when I tried something new (conventions), I found myself falling into the ruts my friends had already made.  Sit behind your booth, offer candy, smile, try to engage everyone, rinse and repeat and hope you make a single sale.  I couldn't see that by behaving like everyone else, I was failing myself.  At that rate, I was going to get nowhere, lost in a sea of aspiring wannabees. My blog was cut and dry and boring, updated sporadically with sketchdumps and occasional comics, the layout was awful, the header made readers want to navigate away from my page.  There was no reason to add my blog to feedreaders, there was never going to be anything useful or exciting at the rate I was going.

This isn't me just needlessly ragging on myself.  These are honest facts.  What everyone else was doing wasn't going to work for me.  It never has.  I was never the kid who retained what was taught in class, I had to study.  I have no natural inclination for art besides appreciation, I had to cram those skills into my head and hands through study and practice. 

You can't live your life by the standards others set for you.  I spent my entire childhood trying to be the person my parents wanted me to be, and I was constantly failing them.  I had no idea who I wanted to be (they'll argue this point with me, my mother claims I was always an individual and very strong willed), and I was afraid that if I failed them, they would stop loving me.  My decision to pursue fine arts after no formal training raised a lot of eyebrows and ire in my family, but it was a decision I only sometimes regret.  Learning to live by my own standards has been the best thing I've done for myself, freeing my mind from a lot of anxiety.  So long as I have done my best, it doesn't really matter what is said in critique.  I'll make the nececssary changes, but I can live with myself.

Self hatred is fairly common amongst artists.  Its understandable, we are forced to wear our hearts on our sleeves and are constantly up for scrutiny.  Even someone who only picks up a pencil to write down a phone number feels justified in mocking us.  "You can't do THAT for a living", "There's no money in THAT", "Why don't you get a REAL job?"  "ANYONE can do THAT".  I can't tell you how many times I've been told "you better marry well" by close friends and members of the family.  With this sort of feedback, its no wonder we begin to doubt ourselves.  And if we live our lives trying to impress these naysayers, we'll always fight a losing battle.  My mother will never be satisfied that I want to draw comics for a living, but she'll settle for children's books.

Things have started to get better now that I'm starting to do them my way.  It's easier to hold my head up when I've failed, because I've failed by my own terms, and I'm much more pleased when I succeed.  I am slowly learning to trust myself and my instincts, to take risks that those around me ignore, and to seek out alternative venues.  I've always been so afraid of standing out from the crowd that I've sacrificed myself to blend in, but as an artist, standing out from the crowd is a good thing.

There's a Cat Stevens' song that really rings true for me- "If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out".  His advice is so simple, but so many of us have trouble taking it.  We're afraid to sing out because we're afraid that if we're heard, people will notice us.  And if we're noticed, they'll criticize and ostracize us. The highschool afterschool dramas warned us what happened to those who don't fit in, and we took it to heart.  It's time to shed that old skin.

"Well, if you want to sing out, sing out
And if you want to be free, be free
'Cause there's a million things to be
You know that there are

And if you want to live high, live high
And if you want to live low, live low
'Cause there's a million ways to go
You know that there are

[Chorus:]
You can do what you want
The opportunity's on
And if you can find a new way
You can do it today
You can make it all true
And you can make it undo
you see ah ah ah
its easy ah ah ah
You only need to know

Well if you want to say yes, say yes
And if you want to say no, say no
'Cause there's a million ways to go
You know that there are

And if you want to be me, be me
And if you want to be you, be you
'Cause there's a million things to do
You know that there are

[Chorus]

Well, if you want to sing out, sing out
And if you want to be free, be free
'Cause there's a million things to be
You know that there are
You know that there are
You know that there are
You know that there are
You know that there are"

(via http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/If-You-Want-to-Sing-Out-Sing-Out-lyrics-Cat-Stevens/7686AAF20B224585482569BA0013B368)
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