Suggested New Year resolutions for artists

By Joe Malik on December 30, 2009

First Night. It happens all over the country, including our fair city. At the heart of the tradition is a spirit of celebration without the assistance of a bottle of vodka, beer or wine. Or weed. Or speed. Or spray paint in a plastic bag. It’s a strange idea — sober on the first night of a new year in Tacoma. But why not? I’m going to try it as part of my new year’s resolution drafting process.

Resolution No. 1: Sober on New Year’s Eve.

Resolution No. 2: Don’t be preachy and self important about being sober on New Year’s Eve.

The rest of my resolutions have to do with art. Every artist should revisit their relationship with art at least once a year. Since we’re making resolutions, now seems like an appropriate time. Here’s a few to get you started:

Resolution No. 3: Do It Every Day – I don’t care what your medium is. Do it every day. Don’t talk about it. Don’t read an issue of Juxtapose. Do it. Paint, sculpt, write, dance, sing, carve wood. Whatever you do, do it every day. Nothing will advance your art like, well, making art. Every day. Try it for one year. Make sacred time for creating art. Do it every day. Take one day off a week if you need to. By the end of that year, I guarantee you’ll be amazed at how much your skill has evolved.

Resolution No. 4: Say Goodbye to the Audience — The audience in your head — not the audience at your opening or concert or recital. Stop thinking about other people — what they might think, what they would be willing to buy. The audience is irrelevant until opening day. Until then, forget they exist.

Resolution No. 5: Invite Criticism — Get over yourself. Seriously. You’re not that good yet. If you can’t accept this, go work at Starbucks.

Sorry. No one has probably every spoken to you that way, whether it’s true or not. And it’s probably not true. Not completely, anyway. But you can improve. You can always be better. These days, many artists surround themselves with little cadres of friends, family and loyal fans — people who never offer anything but encouragement. Yes men and women are the artist’s worst enemy. Set your ego aside. Be humble enough to grow. Be humble enough to accept critique from people who are more talented than you are. Or continue feeding on the compliments of people who don’t know any better. Forever.

Resolution No. 6: Feed Your Soul, and Everyone Else’s Too — Yes, your art is an expression of your deepest thoughts, desires, feelings, struggles, etc. Yes you’re a genius. Yes, you express it with purpose and feeling. And yes, I know I said forget the audience a few paragraphs back. But it’s not all about you. If you choose to create for an audience, consider that they may not be as inspired by the poem or painting about your favorite childhood memories or the asshole that dumped you last week. It’s OK to make art for yourself, as an engine for self discovery and processing internal realities. But it’s sophomoric and pretentious to put it on a wall. Keep the personal … well … personal. Otherwise, find those universal realities — the places where we connect, experiences that people can share with you and find personal meaning in, and save those for your audience.

And have an amazing New Year.