I'm not a "break the rules" kind of girl. Quite the opposite. I cross only at the crosswalk, I keep to the speed limit and I never step on the grass if there's a sign telling me not to. My family laugh at how rule abiding I am. To me, these rules are mostly in place to protect us, the environment and my wider community: They are rules that make me feel safe.
However, where I willingly toss all 'rules' aside, is in the art world and my creative practice. The art world has some ridiculous 'rules' that really aren't rules at all, rather traditions inherited from a bygone era. Traditions that serve to keep artists and creatives - and especially women artists - small, undervalued and, let's be honest, underpaid. These 'rules' make me feel frustrated, angry and undermined.
The 'rules' I'm talking about include several myths that you'll be familiar with:
- Artists must be starving, not thriving
- Artists must suffer for their work
- It's OK for artists to work in shabby conditions with little regard for safety regulations
- Artists can't sell their own work
- Artists must create, show or donate artwork with no payment in return for 'exposure', or potential future 'opportunity'
- You can't call yourself an 'artist' unless you have a BFA, or better an MFA
- Women artists create as a hobby, not as a business
- Selling work undermines the purity of the creative process
- Galleries must take a 50% commission
- Artists must have a serious bio and a statement to be 'professional'
- Artists must show in a gallery in order to gain recognition in the 'art world'
Who the heck wants to be an artist with those 'rules'?
BREAKING THE RULES
I'm calling time on all the above!
I don't subscribe to any of those 'rules' and I am more than happy to be a legacy breaker in my own corner of the art world. And you know what? I'm not the only one. All around me I'm seeing examples of artists, makers, crafters and forward thinkers who are THRIVING by shaking off tradition and inventing new models of working. I'm seeing zero commission galleries coming out of London and Chicago, artists who sell their work ONLY on Instagram and become superstars, self-taught designers with vibrant blogs that drive income, artist garage sales, and folks like the ones in the photo above, who were told to bring a tent but arrived in an old school bus (and got more business because of it).
Tradition is just that - tradition, not rules. Tradition is the handing down of beliefs and customs from one generation to another and WE can choose whether tradition still serves us, or whether it's time to create a new set of beliefs and customs that support the way we want to live NOW.
There's no tradition police (as far as I know!) There's no-one going to say "hey, you can't make money from your silk painting, that's breaking the tradition!" Or, "what do you mean, you paint in a beautiful, light filled, heated room?" So what's stopping you? Fear of being 'different'? Fear that it won't work? I'm prepared to take the risk, are you?
Here's what I model in my own practice and business, and here's what I promote through my Wild Creative teachings:
- Artists thrive in their work and they enrich their communities through their art
- Artists have the necessary skills to grow a successful, profitable business
- Artists create their own beautiful spaces to work in, whether that's a home studio, a tent in the garden or a shared venue
- Artists are self-empowered and use the power of community to support themselves and other creatives
- Everyone is an artist, regardless of the certificate (or lack of one) that's in the filing cabinet
- Women are uniquely qualified to create vibrant, profitable and heart-centered businesses that bring value to themselves as well as to those they serve
- Artists have the choice to work within the traditional gallery model or not (or do both); there's no rivalry, competition or 'only' way to success
- Artists create new gallery models with zero or low commissions, artist collectives, exhibiting groups, innovate ways of sharing their work: Artists understand the strength of community
- Artists speak to their communities in their own voice and explain their work in a way that inspires, engages and encourages participation (and sales!)
Does that sound like a better way to you? Want to be an artist now?
Are you a legacy breaker too? If so, I'd love you to join my Wild Creative Circle and let's BE the change we want to see in the art world. Let's model the change in our own life, creative practice and if we have one, business. Let's re-frame what it means to be an 'artist' (such a loaded word, right?), and let's show the world examples of thriving, prosperous, confident and fulfilled artists.