Do You Really Really Really Want to be a Famous Artist?
You want to be a famous artist? Are you sure? I used to think that I wanted to be a famous artist. I have been an artist for as long as I know that I am me. This awareness took place around four years of age. Over 35 plus years have gone by and I am still an artist. I don’t have any plans on changing that, in fact I love being an artist. I made most of my earliest friends through drawing cartoon portraits of them. They would laugh and giggle and take them home. Some of those people have saved those drawings for over 30 years. I still like to draw my friends and even strangers. I still love how this makes me feel when they react. As a kid, slowly but surely I became known as the class artist, the title followed me through high school, and then I went to art school for multiple degrees. I even went on to become an art professor. Teaching art at the college level brings me great joy. Up and until about 10 years ago reaching fame as an artist was a destination that I was set on. I thought it was very important. The funny thing is, I couldn’t tell you why that was. How could this be? Is it possible to harbor an idea inside of yourself for many many years only to realize later that you really have no idea why you want something so badly? I came to understand that this thought and idea was a part of my earliest concept of what it meant to be an artist and I never questioned it. I simply did not have the awareness back then.
I was a kid. I take responsibility for this misconception gladly. When I did sit down to give this some serious thought, and I did this only because the “fame” I was after was not showing up. I certainly had plenty of good work, (yes, I really like my own work) a consistent high volume production, strong work ethic and a nice growing network of artist friends, colleagues, enthusiasts and collectors. Yet, something was not right. Believe it or not, I decided to meditate on this. Thats right, I said meditate. This meant, for about 15-20 minutes a day I would sit in a quite space with out any potential distractions, close my eyes, calm myself and ask myself this question: “why do I want to be a famous artist?” The first few times that I tried this I fell asleep. Yes, out cold for 2 hours, and those were some great naps! But it was somewhere around the 8th or 9th meditation that things got very quite, and a lot of the mind chatter that I was experiencing early on had disappeared. This in and of itself was a great discovery and the use of meditation has become a very frequent exercise in my practice of gaining clarity about what I want in life. I also use this technique for uncovering various other inner blocks that I have had.
The answer then hit me! I mean it really hit me! I had a great vision of myself watching my early art teachers sharing images with me and my art class on the Italian renaissance, the Dutch masters, then the impressionists and then the abstract expressionists, the modernists and finally the pop artists. All of the artists that I have revered and admired for over 35 years were all those who had later become well known and famous long after their life times. These were the only artists that I was exposed to. They were the very important ones in the eyes of the very thick history book that I could see my teachers hold up. I certainly do not blame my teachers for this exposure. These artists are important, as are the time periods and developments of how the artists works influenced history. In the meditation I recalled hearing not by any means was it easy to get to this level of artistic fame and almost all of these artists died poor, depressed, lonely and ill. As an open young lad on his last day free from the potential confines of the human ego I adopted this as my belief system. I had fallen victim to the default adoption of belief like every human being will as a child. Artists had to struggle, I began to perpetuate this. I was not exposed to any other kinds of artists at the time. In fact, many of my teachers all through junior high school and high school showed the same artists and the same images over and over again. (With exception to two amazing teachers who I am happy to say I still have contact with today.) I don’t come from a family of visual artists and my family did not know any working visual artists so my perception was left to what I was absorbing in school.
This was the first clarification the meditation gave me but it wasn’t over yet! I am certain that I am not the only one who has had this experience as a kid. I would love for you to share your own story below in the commenting area later! The next series of visions came through, by the time college came around exposure to the next default thought set in. ” It is really hard to succeed as an artist” I recalled this passed around by my professors and classmates. I was starting to finally meet a few young artists who were actually my age (all the others I knew of were dead) a few of these artists really stood out to me. They were pretty down and out about their work, their careers, and artists in general. To a degree this had a great effect on me because I never actually questioned it. I bought it all and thought this was simply the way things were. Ah, the young unaware mind at work. Back then, I was easily seduced and also began to play and simulate that role of the struggling want to be famous artist. This was the last of impressions brought in the meditations. I now had a great foundation to work with in understanding more about my intentions. Despite having made large volumes of works in many diverse mediums and showing my work on a regular basis, consistent income was not coming in via my art. When I began my MFA in 2002 I came to realize that I had an inner contradiction.
I wanted fame as an artist but my inner beliefs about artists were that they struggled financially, were depressed and or only got discovered much later in their lives if ever. How ignorant for a young man at 29 years old! The evidence in the world at that time was quite the opposite! Artists like Matthew Barney and John Currin were some of the youngest artists mounting major museum retrospectives in NYC before they were even 40 years of age. I came to realize that I had still been stuck on default. I had false beliefs that I had never questioned about art, artists and who I had become. I also lacked a sense of business and self-promotion as an artist. Heck, I had no idea what kind of artist I was or even wanted to continue becoming. I just knew that I loved making art. I also knew the feeling that making my work gave me. That feeling has never left me, in fact, it is the same one that I know from my childhood. What I wasn’t doing was connecting that inner bliss with understanding my personal goals and intentions. Knowing this, I tried another exercises. I sat down to make a list of all the reasons why I wanted to be famous as an artist I couldn’t even write one sentence, nor did the idea even make me feel a certain way. This was a huge eye opener. Of course the default thing to write was to become rich. How vague! I was already rich at the time. Not in my finances as an artist, but I had a wealth of great health, energy, love in my life, family, friends, colleagues and a drive to express myself in more ways than I could count! I am so lucky and grateful that this is still the case on this very day.
This was a whole new self awareness and a portal to first encounter my current and future self. I later came to realize that my desire for fame was really a lack of self love and outdated childhood insecurity. I had to take responsibility for that and release it. When I was coming of age I wanted people to love and admire me for what I did as an artist, and if they didn’t I felt lack. That was a huge error, but a common one we all make as young adults. I also found that being an artist is only a small percentage of who I am as an entire human being. If I focus only on that aspect of my existence it creates a very limiting way for the this huge world to surprise me. Perhaps this huge expanding universe knows better than we do, Im really open to that, and I trust it. Don’t limit yourself. Uncover your reasonings for why you want the things that you want so badly. Don’t waste thought and energy on making fame a destination. Don’t beat yourself up with attachments to things that you cant make up a solid list for why you want it in the first place. Get in touch with how you feel. If we really want something that bad, for all the right reasons, for the good of all of humanity, Im sure it will show up for you and it will effect people in a positive and useful way. We have to get clear on why we want what we want, and we have to want it with out NEED. We have to cultivate the feelings to match the thoughts and visions and become that “thing” for the good of all.
I’m happy and really grateful if this essay has reached and inspired you.
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