There's no Shame in Knowing Your Limits
The Artistic Entertainer
So, when did being a visual artist become the equivalent of being available for show pony and entertainment services?
Firstly, artists create art to express themselves. Sometimes it’s because art is the best way, and maybe even the only way they can express themselves as verbal communication is a challenge.
Further, what part of being a visual artist(works alone, doesn’t follow social trends, stand-offish loner) screams I love being in the spotlight! And my communication skills are worthy of a grand stage? Quite frankly, if that was the case, an artist should also be shown that respect and be paid to entertain. Many artists are introverts and it’s not by choice, but because they are put together differently. I am sure you have noticed.
So what is an introvert? Dictionary description is “a shy, reticent person.” Had to look that one up; reticent describes someone who doesn’t like to talk. I have never met a person who does not “like“ to talk. The fact is that they are just not good at it, and society lets them know it, so why would they want to try.
The skinny on introverts: they are thinkers, probably the best thinkers out there because they don’t spend all their time chin-wagging to every passer-by. But thinking takes time, so thoughts, ideas, and decisions take longer to fully develop which conversation does not allow for. This results in slow responses, sometimes illogical or not entirely understandable statements. And sometimes, the conversation ends with completely wrong words being randomly selected from the brain. A recent example of mine;
I was walking down the beach as the sun was going down, and looking up at the clouds, I said to my son; “It’s going to be a pretty sunrise with all these leaves???? Hahaha.
Another battle for introverts is that you could have a great and coherent speech moment, and suddenly, your mind will go blank for no real reason. What can you do… absolutely nothing! And the looks you get, the possible friends you lose, and the respect that can be lost are real. So, you can begin to see why an introvert would try to avoid conversations if they don’t have to.
Personally, after years of being quiet, I force myself to speak because I feel I have the right to say my piece even if it does not always come out the way I intend. You don’t care as much when you get older, but sometimes I am considered arrogant and aggressive because of this. Dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t. Being different is great, but only if society accepts it, and how can they if they are not even aware of it?
There is, of course, the flipside in the art industry. There are some fantastic extroverts, and they are well worthy of a stage(e.g below). I am sure everyone has met one, and to that fact should be paid to be on the stage.
So those who have met me know I lean towards the introvert who so desperately would have loved to be an Extrovert(e.g my supernova costume effort) This means that I push myself into situations that sometimes make me mentally and even physically ill. Why, you say?…. Because for some reason, everyone expects communication to be something that everyone can do, and there is no allowance for those in society that cannot. Most people think of introverts as “socially challenged” or just people who don’t like being social, as though we choose to be this way.
Last year I did a workshop titled something like “where to now”, the next step in furthering your art career. Some art organizations have some fantastic programs to help artists in their careers… but even they don’t get it. I have been in the art industry for over 30 years and never once considered standing on a stage as a part of an artist’s career. Attendees were informed that we would be doing a presentation in Front of the group about our art story and were given a short time to put some ideas together. Now for an introvert to do something like this would take weeks of prep and rehearsal. So, as you may be able to start to imagine, it did not go well. I ended up in tears… yes, I said it, a 50-year-old in the industry for over 30 years in tears for just talking. As brilliant a facilitator and a brilliant lady that she was, I could see on her face that she just didn’t get why. I tried to explain that it is just something I can’t do, and the response was, “that’s a terrible attitude.” She just thought I wasn’t trying or didn’t want to like I was some teenager starting out. Literally could not fathom that a person could not do it. Do you know what the most painful part was? My main goal for attending was to connect with other like-minded artists… and I lost all respect from most of them in those few minutes.
It seems that it is becoming a requirement to display in most venues, whether galleries, shops, or events. The owners seem to think that will be a great drawcard for their business and that every artist can and should do it. When in actual fact, if you get an artist that does not have the gift of the gab… you are hurting the establishment and the artist by forcing them on stage. So be selective and ask the artists if they are ok with telling your story. and pay them for the privilege or offer some discounts. Otherwise, just ask them to be present on the night in case someone has questions
Secondly, and more importantly, a show and pony event completely devalues the worth of art and its ability to tell a story, create emotion, and connect with the viewer.
I know there is a great saying you have to push yourself for greatness but at some point, you begin to know yourself. I have learned; know yourself, know your limits, and not get pressured to do things that may devalue your worth. Be confident in your decisions and the choices you make.