Blog / 2016 / Advice for Artists

December 1, 2016

He told me I smile too much. “No one will take you seriously if you have that look on your face.” He was a professor at my university, though not someone I’d ever taken a class from. In fact, he was giving me this bit of advice after I’d already graduated. I don’t remember why I was talking to him, but I do remember thinking: “what do you know?”

Some university professors are so sheltered by their institution and so proud of their research that they start to believe they know everything. Like when your professor says you can’t make a living with art because, in the professor’s view of the world, everybody who makes art has to teach.

self-portrait
Gwenn Seemel
Wish-full Thistle (Self-portrait with Fairies)
2016
acrylic on panel
5 x 7 inches

Last summer, I visited my alma mater and had a lovely conversation with one of my professors, someone whose classes I’d taken. He congratulated me on my successes as a professional, and then he said: “whatever you do, don’t get distracted from your art.”

As far as I can tell, advice is generally pretty stupid, but this particular recommendation seems like the very best sort of advice. Because the world is big and the social pressures are real, all artists feel things tugging them away from their path now and again. A reminder to focus—an invitation to smile despite it all—is always welcome. After all, the only difference between the people we know of as artists today and those we’ve forgotten is that the artists kept at it.

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