Dawn DeVries Sokol


A Creative Living: It’s STILL Hard

From my latest book, “Art Doodle Love”

This post has been a long time coming, a long time of watching, listening, and reading. As someone who’s been in the craft industry for a number of years, I have seen many success stories and many failures, many artists who get to be so well-known and those who just seek the spotlight.

I’ve always been kind of a fringe girl. I was that way in high school—not HUGELY popular, not the “it” girl, but known by several and friends with many. I’m not a “yes” person, I’ve never been someone everyone wants to be.

And that’s just fine by me. I got to where I am now by way of a journalism degree, MANY years of stepping up the ladder one rung at a time, and pushing through open doors when I saw light shining through them. In other words, I’ve WORKED HARD. I know a lot of artists like this. Artists who’ve worked LONG hours to finish a project on time, artists who’ve submitted many proposals for books and/or to teach at a retreat before one is finally chosen. Artists who KNOW how hard it is to get what they want, but who’ve enjoyed the struggle, who’ve learned from their mistakes and don’t blame others for them. Artists who LOVE what they do but don’t really expect much more than the process and creating things they love. Artists who create what they LOVE and don’t look for answers from everyone else, in other words, try to gauge what “sells” and then create that simply for the aspect of selling to get known.

It’s a cruel world out there. If you’re creating to “get known” or to “make it”, you really shouldn’t be. Creating is about making things that you LOVE, things that are a part of YOU, things that you bring your heart and soul into. THOSE creations are what others will love. And if they don’t, well, that’s OK. What I’m saying is, you can’t force art. You can’t worry that so-and-so is loved and endeared by others. There will always be a select few that will be loved by everyone. Don’t make it about being one of those select few. If you do, it will show in your work and in your presence and you will never get there.

If you’re making art to make money, good luck. I see some who get so upset because something they create doesn’t sell. Obviously, your intentions show in what you create. Once you stop worrying about that, your art will shine more because it’s about YOU, not about what you’re trying to achieve.

As Sheila Kelly says in the movie, “Singles”: “Desperation is the world’s worst cologne.”

And if you think, “Oh, working from home sounds so glamorous...” Well, not really. It can be difficult if you’re a real people person. If you need social interaction, DON’T work from home. Yes, the internet is nice. It will provide you with a way of communicating with others, but it won’t fulfill you if you need TRUE social interaction. You can’t depend on others to be constantly helping you that way. For some people, it is enough. But for most, it really isn’t. If that’s the case, find a job somewhere that is flexible and allows you to do your art in your spare time. (I worked for several years at a full-time job while building up a freelance book design career for myself. Which meant I came home at night and worked some more on projects for publishers. I worked on the weekends. For a few years, I was ALWAYS working. If I wasn’t working on a project in my “spare” time, I was working on my self-promotion, I was researching the industry, I was “pounding the pavement.” I never sat back and expected it all to come to me.)

I love to see artists succeed with TRUE art that is from their HEARTS. I’ve been told by certain peeps that if I hadn’t picked their work to appear in a book or interviewed them for a blog column, they might not be doing what they’re doing today, and that’s WONDERFUL! BUT I also know those same people have taken “opportunities” that arise and make those work for them. They build upon those opps to make other opportunities. They stay open-minded. They know that it’s a difficult journey. They don’t worry about any particular destination. But they stay behind the wheel and keep driving. And they love the ride.