Artists and Entrepreneurs take heed — the ideologies of art and business don’t have to be at war.
Can art and business truly live in harmony? Art is “the expression of what is beautiful or of more than ordinary significance.” Business is “a person, partnership, or corporation engaged in commerce, manufacturing or service, a profit-seeking enterprise.” On the surface, art is an act of expressing something extraordinarily beautiful and business is an act of exchanging the results of that expression for cold hard cash. It isn’t easy for these two concepts to maintain a balanced and happy marriage.
I design and create custom engagement rings for a living and try to capture love stories in the brilliant stones and bands of gold and platinum. As MeetMindful.com recently wrote about one of my articles, I’m in the business of love. I get to be a part of one of the most powerful moments in someone’s life. It never gets old and it’s always an honor. My artistic endeavors and my business aspirations have good synergy and the positive energy is steadily increasing.
But what happens when those two ideologies of art and business are at battle with each other? What happens when a talented artist’s work isn’t selling? What does it look like when the artist’s temperament is getting in the way of their own success? How is an artist, who has poured heart and soul into their expression, supposed to handle it when that expression is judged unworthy of commercial success?
Unfortunately that is when the claws come out. Artists are extremely sensitive people. It’s a double-edged sword. Our sensitivity lets us see the world a little deeper, a little brighter, and as a much more magical place. With that sensitivity also comes an extreme vulnerability to critique, rejection and hardship. But these things are all part of the process. Every new business owner can attest that that journey is never easy, but usually worth it.
As we all know, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, what is of “more than ordinary significance” to the artist might be nothing special to another observer, and cold hard cash doesn’t leave a lot of room for subjective interpretation. The conflict between art and business is the darker side of the artistic industry that everyone knows about, but not many people are discussing.
Critique is a huge part of every artist’s growth. Whether it’s from a client, a coach, vendor or a friend — in order to thrive as a business owner you need to be able to take in the constructive feedback, learn not to take it personally, and move forward with more knowledge. What isn’t a helpful is a scathing remark. They happen here and there, but what I’ve quickly found out is that they usually aren’t about you at all.
Recently I was part of an online forum where one artist took time out from her day to critique the work of another artist and post her opinions online. It was delivered as a slew of insults, not any of them constructive or offering insight into how the work could improve. After I wrote to her privately to express my discomfort about her post I received a fairly snarky email in return.
I quickly realized her “critique” had nothing to do with the art or with the artist she was “trying to help” by offering her feedback. I googled her before responding further and found she had been charged with killing a man while driving under the influence of alcohol. I wondered what caused the pain that was at the root of her critique, and if she herself, as an artist, had also been subjected to cruel critiques and business setbacks.
I’m keeping her in my prayers, but I also sent up a prayer of gratitude for the reminder. It would be so easy, when the world fails to show appreciation and remuneration for our expression of what is beautiful in our heart and soul, to fall prey to bitterness and anger. Some turn it inward, some outward, but the world has been deprived of many great artists and much beautiful and extraordinary expression because of a failed relationship between art and business.
This year I hired a coach who specializes in entrepreneurs, not fine jewelry or even art. And I learned that most entrepreneurs are artists in a sense. They may not be selling something the world recognizes as art, but they are putting their heart and soul into creating something extraordinary. And they are just as susceptible to the bitterness, anger, and defeat as any other “extra sensitive” artist.
So this is my advice and challenge to all entrepreneurs, no matter what form your expression might take:
Keep it warm – not heated.
Business and art can live in harmony, but it’s the artist’s job to stay true to themselves and keep their emotions in check both when offering and when receiving critique. We aren’t here to throw daggers at each other – think of packaging your critique more like a supportive idea cloud. And when someone does start sword fighting with you it’s in nobody’s interest to keep the conversation going. You’re both just creating negative vibes that can shut down creative thinking.
Be mindful of how you can serve and be served.
A professional critique done with mindfulness helps everyone prosper. The sharer of said information has an opportunity to be of service and the artist in question, if open and willing, has an opportunity to learn and improve their craft.
Remember that you are always in control of, and responsible for, your environment.
As artists we consistently bare our soul to the world whatever the medium may be. Mine just happens to be fine jewelry. My work has been critiqued many times and I’m better for it. But I’m also grateful to know that I never have to deal with emotional abuse or unnecessary negativity.
If I’m going to walk around with a naked soul I’m going to keep my mental and spiritual space warm and inviting. Like any tropical paradise, there may be occasional torrential storms, but they will always be followed by sunshine because I am in charge of the weather in my personal space and I refuse to let outside influences keep me from feeling safe in expressing my art.
And that is my invitation to each of you, whether your call yourself an artist, or an entrepreneur, or you pretend that you don’t have a creative bone in your body but secretly know you have something beautiful and extraordinary to express — I’m going where it’s warm and I encourage you to join me.
Photo: Flickr/Michael Stout