The romanticized image of 'The Artist' dictates that painters, sculptors -- what have you, are somehow more human than human. The general public is attracted to this unrealistic image -- envisioning 'The Artist' as something more than 'normal'. The image I speak of has an almost mystical quality about it. It certainly makes for great film and literature. However, I've found that artists are just as normal as you or I...though some of them choose to pretend otherwise.
I've interviewed hundreds of artists, folks. This much I can tell you: Artists tend to be hardworking individuals. They are not 'above the fray' concerning the daily responsibilities of life. Most of them don't want to be viewed any other way. Yet the sensationalized image of 'The Artist' -- locked away in study... perfecting his or her 'mysterious craft' like the alchemist of old -- persists. It is certainly not hard to find examples of 'The Artist' online.
With the above in mind, many artists choose to build upon the romanticized image of 'The Artist'. It is easy to discover examples of sensational fluff online -- that goes 10 fold if you read artist statements, art blogs, and other art-related material as often as I do. Unfortunately, the 'magical' descriptions I speak of tend to cast artists -- all artists -- as people who can't be taken seriously beyond a flight of fancy. It is a disservice to the art community as a whole.
Case in point: An artist recently asked (in private) if I would offer him feedback concerning his art business plan. The conversation started out as mere shoptalk. He then told me that his art will 'save the world' -- and noted that he wanted to project that image. I almost spilled a good cup of coffee while listening to his verbal spill.
Further investigation revealed that his bold declaration dominated the artist statement on his website. It was almost as if he was attempting to brand himself as some form of world savior. Apparently we are to believe that his art -- ONLY his art -- can feed entire countries, save the kittens, and bring teenagers home (homework finished) by 9pm. Sarcasm aside... I was not buying the 'save the world' rant.
I pressed him on the issue. It did not take me long to uncover the truth. Point-blank, he really did not believe in his 'save the world' rhetoric. He made it clear to me that he wanted potential buyers to think of him as being 'someone special' after reading his artist statement. Unfortunately, he may indeed end up being perceived as 'someone special'... but not in the way he intended. Though I suppose some readers may embrace his gimmick.
I asked the artist why he felt that he must use such strong descriptions to define his passion. He noted that he wanted to 'stand out from the crowd' -- he then mentioned the writings of Vincent van Gogh and other notable artists as inspiration for his marketing strategy. I reminded him that he could describe his passion for art AND the world without using sugar-coated fantasy. Furthermore, I suggested that he could describe said passion without appearing 'off' -- I added that he could describe his visual voice without 'fitting' a carefully crafted persona that borderlines on the fantastic.
This is what I want to stress: The reality of being an artist is not magical. The art studio is not surrounded by some mysterious haze. I highly doubt that the gods -- the world over -- are whispering in your ear as you create. Yet nine times out of ten, when reading artist statements, the words seem to dictate that we are surrounded by mystical sages or chosen ones. Here is the truth: I imagine that most of you, dear artists, live what would be considered a 'normal life' -- normal... aside from the fact that you spend hours working in your studio while someone else chooses to spend that time watching reality TV. You have to take potty breaks... just like everyone else.
Your passion is certainly real! You endure the exhaustion, sweat, and in some cases, tears of frustration. A failed work of art OR cold exhibit rejection can be a pain! You may end up feeling depressed... or you may decide to press on! These are two choices that are expected from a mere mortal... no magic attached. You, dear artist, are human. There is no reason to pretend otherwise.
In my opinion, business-minded artists should be viewed as community builders, creative economy facilitators, and hardworking entrepreneurs. We should work toward tossing the romanticized image of 'The Artist' aside. A few artist statement edits may be a step toward that goal. Have you read your statement today? Is it fact or fantasy? Choose to be real. You're only human.