We like a sure thing. The desire to eliminate risk has birthed many a promise in marketing messages. Because we keep looking for magic bullets. We continue to hope that the 1 thing that will solve all of our problems about [fill in the blank] is out there.
Still, uncertainty persists, and it's a thorn in our side. Because, again, we would much prefer a sure thing.
I want to make what I know will sell, I’ve heard from risk-intolerant artists throughout the years.
Making art for the marketplace turns my stomach. It’s the antithesis of what art, at its core is about. This is one of the few times when I’ll should on you: You should only make art that comes from your soul. Art that must be birthed. Anything less is less than art.
Great Art Requires Risk
What is art—great art—if not a risk at the time it was made?
History books are sorely lacking in stories of people who played it safe. What boring stories those are! History is made by people who took big risks.
In order to embrace risk, we have to practice. We step into it, try it on, and, almost always, discover that it isn’t as bad as the soundtrack we were playing in our heads.
Here’s another one I hear: I want to make sure it’s the right thing to do.
Think about those words the next time you hear them come out of your mouth. When, in the history of the Universe, has anyone ever been 100% sure that their next move was the right move for their long-term happiness and success?
You want a sure thing? Go back to engineering school. There’s plenty of work for you in that field.
Risk avoidance is often accompanied by decision-ducking. I can avoid risk by kicking the decision down the road.
This isn’t just risk avoidance. It’s procrastination. It might save you frustrations in the short run, but it only delays potential positive results. It postpones your evolution as an artist and business owner.
Hey, I get that decision fatigue is a real thing, but there are things you can do to eliminate some doubt about the best decision for you at a particular moment in time.
1. Be curious.
You can gather outside help, opinions, and advice about the decision at hand. You can take a course, like my Create Opportunities, if it would contribute to a better decision about where to show and sell your art. Heck, you might even be able to Google your options and get credible answers.
2. Be healthy.
Don't make decisions—especially the most critical among them—when you're tired, sick, or at the end of the day.
3. Understand how you make the best decisions.
Some of us decide with a simple gut check. We just know when it's right. Others need to sleep on it, to try it on and live with the ideas for awhile. Still others (me) need to talk about it and journal about it. I don't even need to get feedback. I only need to hear the sound of my voice.
What is it for you?
Ultimately, you alone have to make the final decision as to whether or not to take a risk. To apply for the residency or grant. To raise your prices. To teach a new course. To start making prints. To approach galleries. (Again, Create Opportunities can help here.)
Nobody has as much skin in the game. You, as the head of your art business and leader of your life, are responsible for making hard choices. This is a lonely position to be in. That’s why it’s so helpful to work with a coach or belong to a community of trusted, like-minded artists for support and accountability.
Yes, you’re going to make mistakes. You will absolutely make the “wrong” decisions from time to time. And you’re going to be rejected from shows and opportunities. Count on them. Prepare for them. You'll survive.
You may be a bit black and blue. But you'll use courage muscles you never had before.
You'll become more and more resilient every time you take a risk that doesn’t work out as you had intended. You’ll bounce back. And you’ll be stronger for it in the long run. Promise.
My guest to discuss these things on The Art Biz is Christine Aaron. You’ll hear how she embraces risk and has come to understand the role of rejection in her art career. She also shares the tools she relies on to get back in the studio and do it all over again. Resilience.
- The unusual motivation behind Christine’s first watercolor class selection. (2:08)
- Taking risks and challenging yourself in a rewarding art career. (5:31)
- Refining your art by sharing it with and soliciting critique from others. (12:45)
- Identifying your safe zone and moving beyond it. (21:45)
- Taking on the work that pushes you out of your comfort zone. (25:12)
- Name the risks to work your way through the potential rejection. (32:57)
- What rejection really means about the work that you’re doing. (39:46)
- Honing your resilience skills amid rejection. (40:35)
- Stop comparing yourself to other artists and remember how far you’ve come. (45:45)
- Reflecting on your work, your processes, and your improvement. (47:06)
- The risks that Christine is going to take in 2022. (48:00)
Christine Aaron Quotes
- “There’s not one of us that hasn’t experienced disappointment and loss in life.”
- “I make work ultimately because I want it to resonate with someone else. And the only way to do that is to get it out there.”
- “Think beyond what you can imagine now and know that you’ll have the ability to get the resources you need to do it.”
- “Every artist I know gets way, way more rejections than they get acceptances. But nobody is talking about that.”
- What Your Failures Are Teaching You with Laura Petrovich-Cheney
- Leaving Behind What Is Safe with Jan R. Carson
- Calculating Risks in Your Art Business with Christa Forrest
- Are You Playing It Too Safe
About My GuestChristine Aaron is a conceptual and material focused artist. Her work is exhibited nationally and internationally. Aaron received an artist’s grant from ArtsWestchester—New York State Council on The Arts, a Surface Design Association grant, and a residency and grant from Vermont Studio Center. She presents talks at The International Encaustic Conference in Provincetown, MA, received awards in printmaking and mixed media, and had a solo exhibit of The Memory Project at California Museum of Art Thousand Oaks.
Aaron holds a BS in education from Cornell University and a Masters in Social Work from Hunter College. She lives and maintains a studio in New Rochelle, NY.
Follow Christine on Instagram: @christineaaronart