This is my own personal, somewhat controversial, advice for a thriving career as an artist. Also known as, "What I Know So Far." In this blog post, I will sound curt, maybe even dismissive, and a little too self-assured. I promise that I’m not trying to be any of those things. These are all the lessons I’ve collected thus far from my collective journey around the sun that I’ve found extremely useful in my career as an artist. I could go on and on about each of these bullet points but for the sake of those who can’t tolerate to read anything for more than 15 minutes, I will spare you and instead try to be as brief as possible. I hope that something out of this list stands out enough for you to take it to heart and help you live a better life.
1. This is an easy one. Compete with no one but yourself. Challenge yourself to learn new techniques, new art mediums, and to experiment in bigger and riskier ways with your art. Never rest on your laurels. And don’t look at what your neighbor is doing.
2. Speaking of peaking at neighbors… yearn to be original. It’s actually much harder than it sounds, because in today’s day and age when every single one of us is hooked into a little device and imagery is being constantly fed to us on a daily basis, it’s hard to decipher what has been truly your own inspiration and what has permeated your vision based on what you’ve seen earlier that day and, therefore, associated with words like “safe” and “accepted” since it’s already out there.
When I’ve realized that all that we’re doing as resin artists is splashing in our own tiny little paddling pool, I have decidedly unfollowed about 95% of resin artists I was following on social media at the time. For each unfollow, I sought out and followed woodturners, ceramic artists, rock climbers, and dancers.
You can find inspiration in any art medium and bring a speck of it home with you, to apply in your own work. Even drywall contractors can teach you a thing or two about art, I’ve seen it! You see, when you’re starting out in resin art (or any art for that matter), mimicry is your only pathway towards success. However, when you start to forge your own name, you want to be able to delineate from the pack, which means you need to be able to find inspiration from anywhere else and keep your eye fresh. That is how originality comes to be.
3. Find your tribe in the industry. Find artist friends who will support you whether you’re thriving or surviving. There will be people out there who believe that you can’t be friends with your “competition” but those are the people who also believe in lack and I believe that there is enough out there for everyone, so if I don’t want that kind of vibe near me, I also don’t want that kind of people around me either. There are good eggs out there who will cheer you on when you’ve just received your first big commission and who will commiserate with you if something doesn’t work out. You need someone other than your mom or your boyfriend who is trudging the same waters as you are, who knows what you are going through, because sometimes you’ll need to ask for advice or honest feedback and our loved ones love us too much usually for that kind of honesty to take place.
4. Don’t get precious over your artwork. A true artist creates because there’s nothing else they would rather do in the whole world other than create art. The goal is the act of creation itself. The created piece is truly the by-product! Have the most ridiculous fun with your art piece, make yourself as ridiculously happy as you possibly can in that moment, and then move on to the next piece. Lather, rinse, repeat.
As soon as you start to get precious over your work, paralyzed by the fear of ruining it, or maybe you get precious over your art supplies, not wanting to waste any of it because of how much they cost, you cut off the flow of inspiration that flows freely into you from the Universe.
5. If you don’t have someone else to support you for the first 5 years as you’re finding footing in the art industry, and you don’t have savings of your own to fall back on, figure out another way how you can support yourself. Imagine your art business as a baby that you’ve just given birth to. It needs time to grow healthy and strong before it can start to fully support you and everything else you want to do with your life. Give it that time. There is absolutely no rush.
6. Establish what your main objective will be for your artwork: do you want it to satisfy your creative needs, basking in the glory of creation, and just making for the sake of making it? Or do you want your artwork to be a recognizable brand, easy to market and sell? I could go on and on about this topic but I would rather point you to another article that discussed this dialogue very eloquently and in more words than I want to commit to here.
7. “To be Instagram famous is like to be rich in Monopoly,” someone said. Well, almost. If you *only* have Instagram and nothing else, then it can all vanish in a poof if Instagram decides to close down your account for whatever reason or if a hacker steals your account. Create a website and then direct your social media traffic to the website where you collect emails from your followers, so that if the worst comes to pass and you lose access to your Instagram account, you will still have direct access to at least some of your followers (the really important ones that have given you their email addresses as a vote of confidence because they’re *that* invested in you and your business).
You should also be posting the same content that you post on Instagram, onto your website for the same reason: if you ever lose access to your Instagram account, your hard work won’t be lost with it. Of course, a website will also help you sell your work by leveraging SEO and doing your due diligence with that, but you also get to protect the digital assets that you’ve accrued!
8. I’ve heard/read a lot of business advice for aimed at the artists that says, “You have to just make yourself make art when you don’t feel like it. Persist and persevere. Do it because it’s work.” And honestly, that has never worked for me. Whenever I force myself to do something I don’t feel like, resin fights back. I make stupid mistakes and then when it all starts to crumble (figuratively speaking), I blame myself, “I knew I shouldn’t have been doing this because of how I felt and look how it turned out!” And then I feel even worse because I wasted resources only to reaffirm what I knew in the beginning: forced creation doesn’t work for me.
Motivation and inspiration are two very different things. When I’m feeling sluggish or apathetic, I watch Youtube videos of people making different things: building houses, sewing clothes, mudding drywall, etc. Forcing yourself into making art will only produce art out of that same kind of vibration, “I did it because I had to.” Watching others make stuff usually lights a fire under my butt as I get pulled into their excitement about creation, and when I make something out of *that* vibration, it feels so effortless, almost as if the creation is pulling the components onto itself like a magnet and I’m simply facilitating the process.
9. Savor the moment. You can’t miss the boat if it’s your boat. It’ll wait for you or it’ll make a loop around and come back to get you. If it’s not a “Hell yes!”, it’s a No. And that’s ok!
10. Don’t be a conveyor belt. There will come a time when you’ll produce something that will grab the Instagram world by storm and you’ll go viral, something that really shakes the resin art world because you’ve produced something that no one else yet thought was possible. And Instagram will flood your account with new followers and everybody will be banging their pots and pans for you to make more of the same. It can feel exciting and exhilarating, as well as overwhelming and eventually tiring. You will of course have to make up your mind yourself about how you feel about the whole thing but I will say this: it’s very easy to be coddled into complacency by social media to keep creating what has worked before in order to keep growing your following. In today’s world your following means you have their attention, and attention equals possible business opportunity. And if your numbers don’t grow as fast as they used to, or worse – they’ve started to fall, you may start to feel like you’ve stopped thriving and started to fail.
Go back to what excited you before anything else started happening online, before the world started to reflect your success back at you – go back to creating the new and exciting. If you keep being a conveyor belt, producing the same thing over and over, you’ll stop being an artist and become a machine. That’s not why you wanted to become an artist, is it?
I’ve had this one big idea in my head for about 3 years; it was always on the back burner in my mind, as something I will get to eventually. And this year I realized that if I don’t make time for it, I will never get to it. So I’ve stopped doing everything I was doing, and just started with this project. Instagram algorithm didn’t like that as I predicted and so of course my following stopped progressing but I was okay with that. I still had orders coming in based on what followers had seen from me before, and based on the reputation I’ve created for myself for creating quality art products, and I still had a wait list of students waiting to take my master class.
Bonus #11. And my final and biggest nugget of wisdom would be... Don’t take it all so seriously. An artist dreams of what his or her work can become out in the world and what that can mean for the artist, how their life will change as a result of that. But sometimes when we want something so badly but the world is not reflecting that desire back at us, it's easy to get discouraged. If you made your art to be the thing that feeds you, that can feel especially destructive to your spirit (which is why I wrote #5 above). But if it's not a matter of do or die, put your attention on something else. Distract yourself with anything that makes you happy. Go pet a cat or a dog. Call an old friend. Go out for a hike in the woods and sit under some trees. Buy yourself a yummy treat. Really - do anything that would make you feel just a little lighter. The only thing that's permanent is impermanence. Which means that this too will pass. And according to the Law of Attraction, the faster you can make yourself feel better, the faster the world will reflect it back to you, but that's a topic for another blog post ;)
Hope you enjoyed this one! Do you agree? Let me know in the comments!
Alex Labunets is an abstract resin artist and resin art teacher based in Seattle, Washington. She mainly works with epoxy resin but uses other media to achieve various results. Her work is inspired by nature and semiprecious gemstones, geodes, and agates. To inquire about a possible commission, click here. To inquire about her Resin Art Master Class, click here.