Ignore Everybody outlines 40 ways for creative people to let their inner artist bubble to the surface by staying in control of their art, not selling out and refusing to conform to what the world wants you to do.
Hugh MacLeod has one of the oldest blogs on the web. At Gaping Void he still posts almost daily, releasing a new comic with every post, even after over 15 years of blogging. That’s the dedication of a true artist.
Initially, Hugh started drawing these cartoons on the backs of business cards, because he had a hard time seizing inspiration when it struck anywhere but his studio with his paint supplies. The young copywriter realized that in this format, he could create his art anywhere, and it stuck.
By now millions of people love and share his cartoons online, and his company creates custom art for their clients. He also illustrates books, for example Seth Godin’s.
Here are 3 lessons to help you find real artistic freedom:
- If you’re creating true art, your friends’ feedback will do you no good.
- Don’t force your art to pay the bills, or it’ll cease to be art.
- Stop waiting to be discovered. Discover yourself online instead.
Call your inner artist and tell her we’re about to set her free, it’s about to get artsy!
Lesson 1: If what you’re making is true art, you have to ignore everybody, especially your friends.
Here’s the crux of creating art: if people can give you extensive and helpful feedback on it, you’ve failed to do your job. Think about it. What allows you to give good feedback? Understanding the situation really well.
But if you write something and your friends can tell you exactly what’s good and what’s bad about it, then what you’ve written can’t be very original, can it? If your art is perfectly understood it likely just regurgitates other peoples’ art.
The more original your idea is, the less proper feedback and advice people can give you.
That doesn’t mean people have to be confused by your art all the time. But if you start something you think is new and it ends up not upsetting anyone, you know you’ll have to try again. If people had been used to Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings the first time he created them, well then he wouldn’t have been such an original artist.
With art the function of feedback is reversed. The better the feedback, the more work you still have to do. Beware though, ignoring your friends will affect your relationships. Since they won’t understand, some will turn away, but that’s the price a true artist has to pay.
Lesson 2: Don’t try to force your art to pay your bills or you’ll risk killing the part that makes it art in the first place.
You might say: so what if I listen to my friends’ advice? Isn’t it good to implement feedback? You tell me to do that in business all the time! Right, but art isn’t business.
The moment you listen to other people about how you should create your art is the moment you compromise it – it ceases to be art. You’d be creating what the world wants you to create, not what you want to see come to life. Ignoring your friends is one thing, but this becomes a real struggle when it comes to using your art to pay the bills.
First of all, you should never ever start your journey as an artist this way. For example, if you start a blog in your spare time, but launch it with the idea of having every post make money, you’re better off not even starting. What you’ll create will be completely driven by the desire to make money.
Instead, get a job to pay the rent and bills to detach your art from the money. This is the only way to buy yourself the artistic freedom you need to make something original.
If your art becomes part of how you make money down the line that’s fine, but never force it to be this way and never let art be your sole source of income – it’ll put too much pressure on you to perform and drain your creativity.
Lesson 3: Your plan to be discovered is flawed. Stop waiting and discover yourself – online!
The door is flung wide open, a well-dressed agent in a shiny suit with gelled hair and a pair of Ray-Ban Aviator sunglasses walks into the burger joint and orders a milkshake. While sipping on his frothy chocolate drink, he peeks around the restaurant, then sits down next to the guy with the long, blond, messy hair.
“You look like the next Avenger to me, would you like to audition?”
Sounds like a scene from a movie, where the struggling actor gets a lucky break? Well, that’s because it’s too good to be true. Stuff like this almost never happens.
Even though the internet is now well over 20 years old, we still have this notion in our heads that as artists, we need someone to discover us. We don’t. You can discover yourself.
In fact, discovering yourself has become very easy, because a plethora of platforms in a variety of mediums gives you access to whatever tools you need to create. You could use Medium for blogging, Youtube for videos, Instagram for sketches, and so on.
Forget the middlemen. Use the internet and start!
My personal take-aways
If you like Hugh’s comics, you’ll love this book. If you like bite-sized, poignant pieces of wisdom, which are easy to consume but take a while to suggest, you’ll love this book. And if you’re an artist, you have to read this book. With all this creative bullshitting going on today, it’s more important than ever to distinguish between real and fake art. Highly recommended!