The Worst Advice I’ve Heard as an Artist (*And Why it Actually Might be Helpful.)


worst advice

I’ve heard some pretty bad advice as an artist over the years and I have to say that bad advice can be way more damaging than you might think. It doesn’t help that there is so much conflicting advice for artists out there. I realize that art isn’t a science, there isn’t a qualifier for good or bad advice in a creative industry. Still, with my 8 years of experience, I heard what seems to be universally terrible advice. Even though the advice is terrible, I do see where they are coming from. After all, even the worst advice can have the best intentions.

Do it for the Exposure

If you’ve ever browsed through any sort of classified ads where people are trying to hire artists-you might find something a little off. The vast majority of posts online hiring artists are paying the artist in ‘exposure’. That is to say they won’t be paying you, but you might get some attention on social media for doing the work. This is really the most frustrating thing to hear as an artist. People just don’t seem to understand how long a good piece can take-and that’s not even counting the years of practice that it took to get to that point.  Last time I checked, the bank doesn’t take exposure as payment for bills. I have to get paid for my time somehow (and SCAD isn’t cheap). I don’t think that anyone would ask an engineer to do something ‘for the exposure’.

One of my favorite Twitter accounts documents ridiculous requests artists (and other creatives) get on a pretty much daily basis.

^^ A real quote from some chap that was posted on @forexposure_txt. We already have a job-it’s called being an artist, thanks.

Why it might actually be helpful?

Of course, if say Pewdiepie asked me to make a piece to feature on his YouTube channel I would do it in a heartbeat. He has a global following of millions of adoring fans that could be directed to my services/products. The issue is that the vast majority of people who ask for free work have nothing to offer in exchange. Doing too much free work as an artist can devalue other artists work, as people now think that it fine to not pay artists. That is to say, don’t be afraid to do work for free. Perhaps it is for a charity that you really love or a passion project that you find interesting. It is perfectly fine to do free work so long as you don’t feel that you are being used. You could always use it in your portfolio even if the project doesn’t come to fruition.

All I can say is thank you @ryanestrada, for reading through those classifieds and posting them on @forexposure_txt. I don’t think I could do it. I would get too irrationally angry by all the people devaluing artist’s time.

Only make finished work

Sometimes you are just working on something-and it isn’t working out. And you know that it is never going to work out. That’s perfectly fine. I have so many old PSDs that are sitting in storage that I’ve never finished and probably never will.

Why it might actually be helpful?

Even if 90% of the work you do sits untouched in a sketchbook, you still should try to finish some of that other percent. Although I think that sketches are one of the most beautiful art forms, it is important to try to finish some of your work. I learn so much from trying to finish a piece, even if it looks terrible at the end. I know that the next piece I finish will look even better.

Burn all of your old work

I’m not kidding-an old professor told us to do this. A friend of his whose art is now worth millions bought some old work from his younger days that came up at auction. He wouldn’t tell us what his friend did with his old work-but he did tell us that it would never be seen again.  He said that seeing your old, less-skilled work devalued your current work

I have to disagree, collecting and arching your old work is very important. In fact, another professor flat out disagreed with him too. My art history professor said that art history researchers tend to study artists with the most documentation such as old work, letters, and other personal documents. I love looking at the old work of artists! The progression is always awesome to see and is super-duper motivating!

Why this might actually be helpful?

Sometimes you have to realize that not all of your work will turn out well. It’s fine. It is just how life goes an artist. My early work is pretty horrendous, but it is great to use as inspiration when you have a down day. I guess I was pretty brave to share my old work in that post, but there is no need to keep everything online. This is to say, you don’t always have to share your old work if it is terrible. This leads to my next point…

You must share all of your work

Sometimes something doesn’t work out, and that is perfectly OK. Feel free to share only your best works on social media, there is no need to share everything. Now that doesn’t mean you have to burn the other works, putting them under a box in the attic for storage works too.

Why this might actually be helpful?

Sharing your work is one of the most important things you can do as an artist in the 21st century. Unless you want to be one of those artists who secretly draws their whole life and their grandchildren find it once they inherit your belongings. Nowadays to become a successful artist you must promote your work online through various social media channels. I struggle with posting enough original content on social media, but I can’t let loose and post everything I do. Seeing all my stupid sketches would probably just make people want to un-follow me. In short, post on social media, but don’t feel like you have to post everything.

Don’t pursue a career in art

I’ve gotten several comments questioning my field of study (video game art) and I always ask if they think studying history or English would be better. There are far more jobs available for an art major compared to a history major (sorry history majors!) yet they don’t get interrogated about their degree. I’m not really sure what about art has created the starving artist cliche but it needs to go. Of course, art is a wide field and some areas are more in need of workers than others. According to my professors, employers literally can’t find enough UI/UX designers and motion media designers. Personally, I don’t see a rush in hiring of traditional media artists like painters or pastel artists anytime soon but that doesn’t mean the whole arts industry is bad.

Why it might actually be helpful?

Pursuing a career in art is hard. It doesn’t help that many potential clients want artists to work for exposure, instead of working for real money. It doesn’t help that art college is prohibitively expensive compared to the average salary of an artist once you graduate. Still, don’t let the downers get you down!~ If you work hard, with a little luck you can be successful at anything!

What is the worst advice as an artist that you’ve heard?

So what do you say? Have you heard any of this advice? Do you think some of this advice might actually be good advice? Leave a reply in the comments with the craziest advice you’ve heard.

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