About 5 months after I graduated I realised that what I really needed to do was my work. And my work alone.
I didn’t need to scroll Instagram feeds, or google articles on how to grow my following, or email 200 galleries every fortnight or Look obsessively at how many people liked my new post of finished or ‘partially-finished’ work or search for new ideas, or read what methods other artists use to make or exhibit their work, or try to revolutionise my materials, jump ship to another art medium, collaborate with another creator or decide which residencies to apply for in 6 months or a years time (I would probably forget about it amidst a sea of notes describing other ideas or opportunities and open calls anyway).
I needed to do my work. Why? Because if you are to be successful at any of those above considerations, you need above anything - good, fully realised work. No amount of Facebook or Instagram followers or subscribers can actually give you good work, until you have done the work.
And what do you need in order to do your work?
When I really thought about it - I could only remember a handful of times when I had been, truly fixated and focus on my work. This came as a huge surprise, from a student of Art for 7 years, and a person whom was well known amongst fellow artists, friends and tutors as the ‘driven, focused one’. It really occurred to me that all of the things that I had allowed to prevent me from truly focussing were extremely superficial, especially at my level - and that level was a successful ‘graduate’. I had surpassed many of my peers in terms of initial exhibition success, awards and impeccable grades etc, but in the world of art - a complete unknown. Welcome to the world new graduate - you are reading the right book.
And it wasn’t really my fault or any of our faults. Social media makes today distressingly distracting, and makes us people who are just too dam ‘busy’ with these distractions in order to really, truly focus on our work. Thinking too which is equally as damaging that the so called ‘busy’ lives we lead answering every one of these distractions is actually helping us. Can you honestly say that you remember the last 20 new followers or likes you gained on Facebook or Instagram? Why do you think that is? It is because they have nothing to do with your work or success. But rather boil down to addictions that only serve one real outcome - to distract you from doing your work and to enlarge the pay cheques of their founders.
Using social media to test your work’s value is like chasing a ghost. Offering nothing more than an imaginary hierarchy. Why? Because it is open to anyone and everyone who has ever held a pencil. Genuinely, good work cannot be judged on a platform of anyone. This is the danger that you subject your mind to every time to indulge in it and its comparisons.
The solution? do your work.
Making Work for the Sake of Posting
If you’re an artist and like me, you may have fallen in to the daily post trap. Many advisors tell us to make daily posts. Now, while this can be all very well, I think they have actually left one vital thing out. Post GOOD WORK. Good work can at the best of times take more than one day to produce. But we have to post everyday right? Or else our following will drop and we will inevitably fall behind and fail. What? Fall behind who? And fail at what?
Ditching the Illusion
The idea of our following dropping, if we do not post daily resulting in our inevitable failure is a complete and utter delusion. The only thing that will actually cause you to fail in your career is if you fail to make any good work. In this instance, buyers will not buy your work, collectors will not look at your work. Galleries will not represent your work.
The contact you should make
- Relative open calls
- Residencies when appropriate
I began an experiment in which I would spend 6 months completely avoidant of Facebook, Instagram and any other social tool, unless I actually had a good reason to post in order to actually do my work. I really wanted to know that if this time off from ‘taking time off’ to procrastinate online would actually impede my success. I had a good inclination that not only would it not do this but it would in fact do the opposite. I set out to narrow my focus. on my actual WORK.