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Understand that art processes are always there for you, no matter the distance you feel towards them

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This handbook has one key takeaway that sums up all chapters into one piece of advice. It applies independently of your life situation, your business challenges and the various frustrations that accompany an artist’s life. Here goes: Understand that art processes are always there for you, no matter the distance you feel towards them.

Remember that making art will heal you in tiny bits, even though your work might not be exhibited and often not be bought, even though it might be misunderstood, misrepresented, misused and more. Nevertheless, making art will heal you because when you disregard all the noise that defines the various art worlds, your art practice helps you focus your mind, helps you create a flow, helps you manifest and work through troublesome (and joyful) times. It helps you by offering meaning to yourself and others.

Understand that art processes are always there for you, no matter the distance you feel towards them

Your art processes are always there for you, no matter the distance you feel towards them. It doesn’t matter how much time you can invest into artmaking – whether it’s only fifteen minutes a day, or sometimes even less. It is there for you if you “only” manage to squeeze in half an afternoon per week, and even if you haven’t been in touch with art making for half a year. As long as you ponder getting back into making art, your voice and strength is all there, in its full potential. In you.

It’s OK to get lost outside of the process. If this is the case for you: embrace yourself, and see the relevance of your current journey. Understand that “living your life” never stands opposed to making art – to the contrary: it complements it. Embrace whatever life you’re leading right now, trusting that when the time comes, the depth and diversity of your recent experiences will enhance your work in ways yet unseen.

In this way, your artistic processes are safe spaces to get back to whenever you’re ready. They’re available to you even after weeks, months or years of distance. Don’t feel guilty, lost or a failure for living apart from artmaking: art isn’t guilt, but possibility and challenge. Whenever you’re ready again, continue your artmaking journey. It isn’t the results that matter – artmaking is so much more than physical creation. Instead, what matters is your traversing the artist’s path, your path. Eventually, it will lead you back to your material, your tools, and to the creation of yet another piece.

Enjoy life.

The Artist’s Imagined and Actual Life

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Life is an endless series of challenges. We often lack the courage to approach, and the knowledge to solve them. But life isn’t just an accumulation of challenges – it’s also an endless series of experiences. Challenges can become experiences, and help us to proceed better next time. Nevertheless, we need to accept life as an endless accumulation of problems: when one is solved, the next one appears. As a result, there’s always a biggest problem right in front of us. This can be intimidating – but by understanding problems as personal growth opportunities, we can accept and solve them. We can find our place in the world.

Everyone understands the creativity required to be an artist – it’s a cliché by now. The artist’s knowledge of aesthetics and semantics, the histories of their media and paragons, the skills required to master their crafts, the urge to materialize thought, opinion and emotion into matter – these are core parts of any artistic practice. For historic reasons, this is where art schools usually stop their discussion, leaving graduates with rather romantic ideas about their profession: if the curriculum doesn’t discuss business and personal growth, can it really be essential? The artist’s imagined life doesn’t need any of this.

The reality is different though: art has become a business. It’s possible to live from your creations, but that requires you to grow your business sense, and balance it with your work practice. Art done for the pure sake of personal expression can ignore this: professionals don’t have this luxury. With art schools mostly leaving business realities unmentioned, artists become professionals predominantly by learning from their mistakes: messing up gallery collaborations, missing out on sales opportunities, ignoring commission contracts or work insurances, failing at communicating to their collectors, suffering from burnout, screwing up their taxes – the list is endless and enraging: by so exclusively focusing on art practices, art schools foster an outdated, romantic, unrealistic and unreasonable approach to life. They focus on the creation of hobbyists, not professionals. 

The expertises required to succeed as contemporary artist are immense. Artists traditionally think of topics outside of their work practice as hardships (“Can’t I please just continue sculpting?”): for professionals, this won’t be good enough. Aren’t artists the ultimate problem solvers? Isn’t the artist’s actual life the ultimate creative challenge? There cannot easily be a more holistically challenging, and thus potentially more gratifying job out there. Let’s therefore embrace the complexities of the real world, and become better artists along the way. To this end, the Handbook offers analyses and strategies beyond pure career advice. It wants you to thrive as an artist, as a business person and as a human being worthy of success.

To get there, you need to be circumspect, and perpetually increase your self-knowledge: who are you? How do you want to express yourself in your art practice and business relationships? How does success look like to you? By incorporating these questions into your everyday inquiries, you will become ever more sensitive to your surrounding’s changes and challenges. A seismograph of change and potential: an artist.