Two pieces of simple advice that shaped me as an artist
Sometimes the simple advice is the best advice, wouldn't you agree?
I think that advice works best when it is both easy to understand and easy to remember. If it is too complicated we are likely to forget or confuse the intended meaning, and it is really not serving it's intended purpose: to advise us.
In the last semester of my last year in my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, one of my professors gave us a simple assignment. He told us to start saying “I am an artist” as much as possible. To ourselves in the bathroom mirror, to our friends, to our family, to strangers we meet at parties - just start saying it. He told us not to undercut the phrase by attempting to qualify the word "artist", such as by saying “aspiring artist” or “art student,” as this reveals a lack of confidence - it undercuts our abilities and makes us seem "less than" an artist. It was simple advice, straight to the point, but it completely changed how I looked at myself and my future. It is still changing how I think to this day. All of my fellow artists say it with me now:
"I am an artist."
Of course, my University stay was full of lots of people sharing what they had learned over their years as an artist. There was a teacher’s assistant, a well-know conceptual artist and MFA candidate at the time, who provided another influential piece of advice: “overcommit yourself,” he said. He recommended that we always say “yes” to every opportunity we are given, even if we don’t think we have the time for it. The truth is, with a deadline in mind and the right kind of motivation, you can usually find the time to get the job done. And often, you can exceed your own expectations.
The advice of these two artists has been tremendously helpful for me in times of doubt and uncertainity. In fact, I don't think I would have accomplished as much as I have artistically without it. Thank you to Andrew Wright and Adrian Göllner for giving the kind of advice worth taking, and to everyone else who has inspired and supported me. If you have ever felt unworthy, incapable, or uncertain, I hope that this advice will help you too - artist or not.