The Bestiary of Battles

Fighting obscurity. Fighting mediocrity. Fighting sameness.

Those three statements. That’s how I started this blog some weeks ago as I battled with an ogre that I think all of us creatives probably do battle with on a regular basis. We are in, what I consider to be a Golden Age for artists. Art perhaps has never been so accessible to make and to consume. But with that comes with the endless need to join the massive shouting match that is social media and as a result, the endless comparison match that ensues. In this post I wanted to take an honest and raw look at some of these internal battles that I fight on a daily basis. This is a post about facing my monsters, facing my doubts and fears and hanging on, pushing through and keeping going.

Most of us have heard of FOMO - Fear Of Missing Out - which equates to something like the feeling that by scrolling through the events of other people’s lives on social media you feel like you are some how “missing out”, that perhaps you should somehow be in a bigger house, have more friends, be earning more, be travelling more, have better kids, rescue a dog etc etc etc. Creatives I think suffer the same issues with their own creative output. As creatives, we have the power to create content other than the endless show reel that is our personal lives. By creating and sharing, those of us who are trying to make a living by our creations rely on Likes, Shares, Follows and Comments to reach more people , potentially earn commissions and gain a form of street cred (I'll talk about how social media companies like to constantly move the goalposts for us content creators in another post). Social media wants us to share our processes, our videos, to do live video casts, and if we do it all well we get feedback from fans, we maybe gain loyal followers, maybe even some commissions or other sales - so naturally it’s a heady and addictive mix and in all of this I’ve noticed some battles that I fight on a daily basis.

Fighting Obscurity

I follow so many artists nowadays, people who inspire me, who I see “making it happen” somehow making a living doing what they love. I follow them because I love what they create, they inspire me to always do better but with that comes this endless sense that I myself am fighting Obscurity. I see people who have a bajillion followers (by my mind 2k+), get a bajillion likes on every post they put out, and claim to be swamped by how many orders for prints they got yesterday for example. My inner complain-ey, whiney, scared and insecure person just wants to throw my device across the room and give up. It seems like an unachievable task to ever be able to have that many views of my work, to be able to someday say that I need to hire someone to help me process orders, to sell out of items in my shop the moment I post them. How does anyone ever reach such lofty heights? (Hard work and perseverance, perhaps some luck and a good share of talent too of course).

So for now, I celebrate when I get a couple of orders in a week, I reply to every comment on my social posts, because I can and I want to and every comment is like gold dust to me, and I celebrate every small commission, every greeting card sale and every kind word but every now and then Obscurity rears its ugly head and we do battle.

Fighting Mediocrity

Fighting Mediocrity pushes me through everything I create. Mediocrity is not like Obscurity. It’s not a monster I feel like I’m bashing through with my sword, taking all my strength to break through the walls. Obscurity, in a way is a thing I have no control over, as we all know so many artists who died in Obscurity before their work ever got recognised. Mediocrity is at least something I can control. Mediocrity is the thing that chases after me, insidious, lazy, tempting, like a swamp perhaps, threatening to suck me under if I hang around too long. I want to be the best artist I can be… I want to be the best person I can be! Mediocrity has no place here. Every piece of art I create I try my best to make the best I can, push my skills to the limit. Inevitably in a few months I will look back on it and see glaring errors, areas I could improve, things I could have done better, but at the time I know I gave it my all. This journey, whatever it is, pursuing my career as an artist, even if I fail - I will know I gave it my all.

Fighting sameness

Ah Sameness. This creature is the most seductive of foes. It shows me the successes of others, shows me that if I just created more women themed artwork with flowing gorgeous locks, curving hips; if I just pursued that cute, flat folksy style; if I did more fan art; if I drew warrior men clad in incredible armour, gripping massive, impossibly sized weapons; if I just stuck to one style… then perhaps I would gain some attention out there. I would gain more followers, I would make more sales, I would be “successful”… and sometimes I dabble, I’m not ashamed to admit. Sometimes, Sameness has helped me win over other monsters such as the “Am I Going to be Able to Pay Rent This Month Monster” - a worthy adversary if ever I saw one.

But thankfully I have a pretty thick skin when it comes to Sameness, and perhaps taking the easy way out. I don’t want to create what everyone else is creating. I don’t want to rehash the same views of one gender or the other just because it’s popular and will get me out of Obscurity’s inky shadow. I don’t want to stick to one style, or “find my artistic voice”. I want to show the world that, to me “the whole world burns and sparkles with light.” (thanks Kev for that epic quote!). But damn if the idea of working within the Sameness world isn’t so very tempting, so very very tempting…

The Bestiary of Battles

There are other lesser monsters in this Bestiary of Battles. There’s the Not Making Enough Monster - who raised his ugly head just today, when I received a stunning art book by a talented artist. This worthy tome is filled with the most beautiful work. And the Not Making Enough Monster tapped on my shoulder and whispered in my ear “You’re not making enough art.” He is often accompanied by the Not Doing Enough Monster - who believes success is to be found by sketching every spare moment in the day, by filling endless reams of Moleskines that capture every fleck of my life and every mote of my imagination. These monsters walk hand in hand with the Not Participating Enough Monster, who believes I should post every idea, every sketch, literally everything on social media and my website, who believes I should participate in every art challenge, in every art competition because if I don’t I’m clearly not a true artist, I’m clearly not worthy. His twin is the Do Everything Monster - who even now is whispering in my ear that I really should illustrate each and every monster referenced in this blog, that that would round out this blog perfectly, that people will be more interested if there were compelling pictures to look at…

But I’m not going to. Not today anyway…

If you’re a creative and you have the same or different battles, share your monsters in the comments.

By the way - I believe we are all creative beings, we just aren’t in a stage in our evolution of society where we particularly emphasise or nurture creative growth in ourselves. So if you don’t feel “creative” but still want to add your monsters to the comments. Please do!