I have always regarded myself as being a perfectionist, both in life and within my creative practice. I will never forget a time in which I created an artwork that I truly hated, however at the insistence of my peers, still posted it online. That piece was soon recognised by an organisation called Project Okyo, who then collaborated with me in order to manufacture the artwork onto a series of 250,000 sustainable coffee cups distributed around Australia and New Zealand.
I have sacrificed a lot for my art practice, more so this year than ever. Lately, it has been daunting to think of how much of myself I invest into art, because the risk of failing now carries so much more weight. And that's a terrible word rattling around my head recently: failure.
Today, somebody told me to look inwards, to truly make sense of what failure is, and why the prospect scares me so much. The job market for an artist is dishearteningly unstable, and I have always been someone who craves stability and assurance. The future keeps looming closer and closer, and I continue to weigh up my relative successes (residencies, internships, sold artworks, client work) against my imagined failures (the battle for recognition, the competitive and saturated nature of the art world, the horrible little voice that tells me that my art won't get me anywhere).
It's a difficult boundary to navigate, and I'm sure many artists can relate to this. From the starting line we are already heaped with the added weight of the 'starving artist' stereotype; the social stigma linking creative arts students to unemployment. We're not given much encouragement to begin with, so we try harder than ever to prove everyone wrong. If we can't achieve that - the disappointment is immense.
Over the past few days, I have faced unbelievable challenges that have tested the faith I have in myself to the limit. I am proud to have overcome these situations, and it has made me realise more than ever that our concept of failure and success is totally arbitrary and subjective.
I am not the sum of my my sold artworks or the number of exhibitions I've had per year, or Instagram followers. I am not the sum of any praise or criticism from my peers or clients. I have value simply by virtue of existing. I am here on this earth, breathing, living, moving around the globe. Seeing things, writing things down, creating pictures.
I think it's an important message for all people - but especially artists - to hear. Yes, the future may look bleak sometimes. People may question the feasibility of your goals. But always remember to have an unshakeable faith in yourself. I know what I am capable of, and I know I am more than any sum of parts. I will become more than I know, and more than you ever thought.