As an artist, if you don’t evolve, you die. Not literally, lying in the gutter surrounded by wine bottles with the bitter air of artistic contempt swirling around your corpse—though people still buy into that stereotype. It isn’t nearly that dramatic, but it is scary.
The realization that the style you’ve been comfortable working in is now something you’ve grown bored with is melancholic. It becomes exhausting to meet deadlines when you’re agonizing over incomplete work that you struggle to finish because you’re old methods frustrate you. You become resentful of other artists for showing off their new work and promoting their new exhibitions; you feel like everyone is leaving you behind. I always tell myself to keep moving forward; I say this to keep myself motivated and to stave off my spiral downward into insanity. It’s worked so far, but there are days when I wonder if I’ve gone as far as I’m meant to go. Maybe my journey as an artist stops here.
Once you’ve found a method that works, something that people will buy, you don’t want to change because you’re afraid that no one will want anything different. What if galleries don’t want to show your new work? What if publications don’t want to write about it? What if no one buys anything ever again? Some artists survive solely on the money their artwork brings in and evolving can be a big risk that greatly cuts into your livelihood.
Every artist has that fear; the fear that the pursuit of a creative career won’t become fruitful. For me, that fear manifests itself as working a minimum-wage job at Walmart, and having to do that demeaning Walmart chant every morning with the horrible Walmart dance and squiggle included.
Is the risk worth taking? Well, in some cases you don’t have much of a choice. Currently, I’m finding that not only am I bored with my work, but so is everyone else. I’ve told the same story in the same way too many times and no one, including me, is interested anymore and no one wants to buy what they’ve seen countless times for free. The world is bigger than the 8.5×11 inch pieces of paper I use to draw on, and my mind is expanding much further than my old methods can express. What was once my truth is no longer true and to continue to make work based in what is no longer true would be dishonest. I can’t lie to others that way, and I certainly can’t lie to myself, not while I’m trying to pursue the most honest part of who I am.
Illustration by Amina Harper. See more on Facebook.