Tessa's Poem, 12x 9" / 30.48 x 22.86 cm, Watercolour on Paper, 2005
I’m going to start by saying I suppose you could say every time I blog I offer unsolicited advice ^__^
And I suppose you would be right ^__^ Although, if I might make a lame excuse for myself, I kind of like to think of it as me just sharing—on the off chance anybody finds anything useful, or helpful amongst my incoherent ramblings ^__^
Because advice, for me, kind of implies that 1. Somebody asked for it, and 2. The person giving it is an authority of some kind and is in a position to give it.
I can’t say I have either of these things, but I figure if somebody who wasn’t asking for, say, cupcakes happened to run into somebody who was giving them out for free… I hope you get what I mean (unless the somebody was on a diet or something, I guess) ^__^;
Everybody’s an expert, these days.
Boss, It's Time to Go, 9x 12" / 22.86 x 30.48 cm, Watercolour on Paper, 2008
Same way everybody’s an artist ^___^
We live in a 'fake it till you make it age' where pretty much anyone can Google an article or two and start giving advice like they had a PhD in whatever ^___^ Not that I’m knocking PhD’s or anything; I’m just saying that maybe advice is best given when it’s drawn from experience.
That experience could be firsthand, i.e. from that person’s own practice, or secondhand, i.e. you’ve been very closely associated with the practice of someone else. Or, maybe you’ve talked to or even worked with a whole lot of people with experience. You get the idea.
But see, here’s the thing:
Only you, and you, alone.
Orion, 19.75 x 19.75" / 50.165 x 50.165 cm, Acrylic on Canvas, 2018
Nobody knows your practice, your needs, your circumstances or your goals better than you. You’re the only one who knows best in terms of what works for you, and anybody who gives you advice, however well they might know you, still is not you.
That means any advice given to you has to be seen through the lens of your own needs. It can’t always be taken verbatim or at face value or as gospel truth.
In my 'Bruce Wayne life' (that is, my writer life) there are a lot of 'gurus' with YouTube commercials and free e-books and webinars. I guess every field from fintech to flying a plane has its share of these sages, and my 'Batman' life (i.e. my artist life) certainly has no shortage of these.
Regardless of field, life or what have you, I’m not saying you shouldn’t listen to these gurus because there are bonafide, qualified gems among them. What I am saying, though, is that 10 to one, these people don’t know you, I mean, really, know you. And chances are that if they did, they just might advise you differently.
Now some of them might take the time to do that extra digging so they can make sure whatever they tell you is relevant. But again, chances are they probably won’t. I’m just saying that advice that isn’t exactly meant for you (and you alone) may have to be considered in that context.
You’re in the driver’s seat.
Tikshaw, 17 x 23" / 43.18 x 58.42 cm (with frame), Watercolour on Paper, 2011
Not only are you the only one who knows your practice best, but you’re also the only one who has full control over whose advice you’ll listen to (and whether you’ll take all of it, or just the bits that work for you).
You’ll want to consider who’s giving the advice, what qualifies them to give it, and what they have in common with you as an artist. If you’re a performance artist, for instance, advice for painters might not work as well for you when it comes to technical stuff.
And again, you’ll have to factor in whether that advice was meant for you, specifically, and whether they have a firm enough grasp of your practice and your particular circumstances.
You might also want to take a closer look at the motivations of the person for giving advice—some people, they really just want to help (and I say God bless them and may they be fruitful and multiply). And 'anyone who says differently is selling something.' ^_____^
You’d best be doing your homework.
Maya, 12x 9" / 30.48 x 22.86 cm, Watercolour on Paper, 2009
One thing I’d (I was going to say 'recommend' but then that would be me giving advice, wouldn’t it LOL) say was a good idea ^___^ is to educate yourself or learn all you can about our field, or the art industry.
Even if you did have an art degree, things change after your graduate, and learning is a never-ending journey that happens outside of the classroom, right?
You’ll want to stay up to date with trends and you’ll want to know what’s going on outside of your own little art world—outside of your community or your circle of artist friends, even outside of your country.
It’s just possible that the source of some of the advice that might’ve been given to you might be stuck or coming from an art world 10, 20 or even 200 years or more ago.
Again, it’s likely for people to give you advice based on their own experience, so it depends, really, on how extensive (i.e. how far outside of their art world) that experience is. If you’re well-up in what’s going on (and what has gone on before) in the art multiverse as a whole, I reckon you’ll be better able to distill and discern for yourself.
So say you’re the one giving the advice instead of taking it…
Boy Next Door, 36 x 36" / 91.44 x 91.44 cm, Acrylic on Canvas, 2019
I guess you would have to take everything I’ve just said thinking that the artist (or aspiring artist) you’re talking to will be thinking all that about you ^__^
Of course there are some people (artists or otherwise) who couldn’t care less about what other people thought about them ^__^; All the same, I’ve always preferred to try and think about how I would feel if I were on the receiving end of the 'advice'. Like I don’t want to assume people are very glad to hear what I have to say even if they might have asked me for it.
That goes double if I kind of know that what I have to say might be difficult for them to hear. Like what if I know they’ve worked really super hard on something, and they already think it’s the best they could possibly make it—but I have suggestions for making it better.
If you’re not an artist, of any kind, and you find yourself giving advice to an artist, I hope you’ll try to think about how artists in general put a lot (if not all) of themselves into their work. We spend a lot of time and put a lot of effort into planning and executing stuff, so you might want to consider you know. How you offer your advice.
Some artists are real tough and can take it, really, and if you know the artist you’re talking to is one of these and even actually prefers that you don’t mince words then go for it, I guess. I’m just saying that I hope you remember what I just said ^___^
Because it’s easy to advise someone to do something I guess when you’re not the one doing it ^___^ And unless you’ve actually done it, or really tried, you’ll never really know what it’s like.
And if you are an artist, giving advice to fellow artists, well, it ought to be easier for you, then to put yourself in their shoes. You might think about how you would feel if you were the one hearing the advice, or what you would find most helpful.
Finally, there’s advice, and there are opinions.
Gonna Build A Little Home, 36 x 36" / 91.44 x 91.44 cm, Acrylic on Canvas, 2019
I read somewhere that there are people who might think they are giving you advice when they’re really 'only' giving you their opinion. We’ve heard how everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I’m not sure whether anyone’s said we’re ‘entitled to our own advice’?
Basically, the thing I read said that the difference between the two lies in whether the person giving it has gone through or does the same thing as you—if they haven’t, what they’ve given you is their opinion. Pure speculation.
Even in a case of one artist advising another, regardless of their going through the 'same thing’, i.e. creating art, no two practices are ever the same—mainly because no two artists (or people in general), are.
This brings me back to how the most relevant advice ought to be based on a thorough knowledge of someone’s practice and circumstances as well as experience and expertise.
But I guess what advice and opinions have in common is how we’re perfectly free to take `em or leave `em. It’s up to us, really, the extent to which we’ll allow ourselves to be affected by them, even if it’s something nice or something we dearly wanted to hear.
I do think, though, that given the definitions above, opinions are a lot more easily dismissed, shall we say, than advice, and that advice would probably be a lot more useful to you and worth seeking out.
Auntie Squid, 30x 22" / 76.2 x 55.88 cm, Watercolour on Paper, 2015
I’m going to end by saying that there also might be such a thing as ‘too much advice’—I mean, going around looking for advice every which where, but never actually acting on it.
That’s something I admit I might’ve been guilty of. I’ve been, lost, I guess? For a real long time and I wasn’t sure of, well, a lot of things. And I knew, for sure, that the small jillabrains weren’t enough, and that I needed wiser heads than mine to, you know. Show me what’s what, guidance and all that.
I’m not saying my ‘little grey cells’ have gotten bigger lately or anything, and, I guess I’ll always be on the lookout for opportunities to educate myself, as I’ve said, or to grow, as an artist, and as a person.
But I guess what I am saying is that I think it’s high time I put all the advice and at least a good chunk of I’ve learned to practical use. To spend less time ‘advicing’ and more time ‘arting’, you know what I’m sayin’?
So for better or worse that’s just what I’m going to do. And, um, if you have any advice for me ^______^ (or if you think some from me might be even the smallest bit of help to you)—I would be deeply grateful if you could let me know.
* Interested in any of the pieces in this post?
Drop me a line to let me know
and I'll let you know if it's still available,
or how soon I can make something similar just for you.
I don't purport to know everything. Yet if the little I do know can be of any help, you are more than welcome to it.