Artist, Determining Your Values Increases Your Satisfaction In Your Work.
Determining your values an artist is an important exercise.
I wrote an article about different definitions of success for artists a while back. I wanted to produce a few useful definitions for people to work by to make their own lives easier. But I don’t think I really got into why defining success was such an important exercise.
It is not a fun place in life to be missing meaningful ideas about how you want to approach your creative missions or your own life. I said in the other article:
You cannot be a successful artist with unclear goals.Me, 2019
If you don’t have a good idea your values as an artist, you’re not going to have fun creating. You’re not going to achieve success as an artist without determining your goals.
The trouble with goals is that good goals require you to know yourself. Determining your values as an artist helps to develop good goals.
Now, a little operating principle for you:
Fame and wealth are not sufficient value definitions. Fame and wealth are good tools, but they are not good personal value categories.
I wrote about this one too, whether money should matter to an artist or not, and this article is admittedly a bit of an extra push on that point.
Financial success is not bad or evil. There is nothing inherently wrong with the pursuit, and there is nothing inherently wrong with seeking out solvency through a craft you love.
But you must love your craft first.
Wanting a lot of people to see your art is not bad or evil. There is nothing inherently wrong with the pursuit, and there is nothing inherently wrong with desiring widespread expression of your message.
But you must understand your message first.
You must determine what is important to you as a person.
You can’t just make something about nothing. The work of an artist is a reflection of their soul. It is a reflection of what they believe is important, what is valuable, and what is right and true.
What do you value?
I don’t just mean, what are you a fan of, though it’s certainly perfectly fine to have enough love for things that you’re inspired to create from them.
What is in your heart that’s important? What do you want to give to the world? Does your art reflect what you want to see in the world?
What do you love deeply in your heart that you want to share it with the rest of the world?
Do you want to provide respite or engage thought? Do you want to address reality or explore fantasy? When someone encounters your work, what do you want them to take away from it?
When I make these assertions, I don’t make them to say that any of these ideas are exclusive of each other. And I certainly don’t make them to close the gate on participating in the creative craft simply as a matter of enjoyment.
What I am saying is that if art has a serious meaning to you, it’s a helpful exercise to critically address what is important to you and how that is to come out in your art. Even if critically addressing the matter is simply a matter of saying “I like drawing girls with robot parts.”
You must determine the validity of your values in order to define success as an artist.
Admittedly this starts to become something that approaches the category of philosophical discussion. There are good values and bad values. There are good approaches to values and there are bad approaches to values.
Loving equity and kindness, for example, is praiseworthy. Loving exploitation and abuse, and producing depictions of that exploitation and abuse, for example, is not praiseworthy.
There are valid and invalid values. There is no way around this.
The view that one race is inherently superior or inferior to another, for example, no matter who holds this view, is not a valid value. That is in fact, racism, which is not acceptable in any context. Everyone on earth will call you out on this, and they would not be wrong. This is not politics. This is human rights.
The view that all of humankind shares an unstrippable dignity, and that dignity should be respected and upheld, and that we should hold all violators of that dignity accountable, is a valid value. This is not fun to discuss, and it is difficult to get everyone to agree on this one, but the value holds.
Values, and the ways we act on them, are objective, not subjective. That is why determining your values is important for an artist. We are people before we are tradesmen.
Acting on the value of human dignity by serving your neighbors, whether by providing needful resources, walking alongside them in their suffering, or simply listening when they hurt, is an excellent approach to this value.
Acting on the value of human dignity by the act of self-hatred, demanding self-hatred on the part of others, or committing evil on one person to try to elevate another is not an appropriate approach to this value.
Admittedly, this is a particularly hot take that I’ve chosen just because it’s what’s popular right now, but I believe it is sufficient to prove my point. What you value feeds into what you create. Whether you value things like equity, beauty, diligence, sacrifice, as long as you understand what you value, and whether it is good to value what you do, is key to empowering your art. Good and noble values also enable you to draw attention to and criticize what is evil in the world, if that is germane to your mission as an artist.
If your values are not solvent under the weight of what is good and right, your art will reflect that, and you will have a harder time achieving meaningful fulfillment and success in your work. Valuing money over all else, or valuing things that are evil or bad comes out in your work. You may enjoy success for a time in
You must align your goals with your values in order to define success as an artist and have fulfillment.
Whether your values are valid or invalid, or your execution valid or invalid, if your art does not align with what you love, the quality and power of the art will suffer. What you create and what you love are connected on an inseparable level. Even doing things you hate can be empowered and elevated if they are motivated by deep love and a strong personal values.
This is especially true for artists. Determining and aligning your values as an artist with your work is critical because of how deeply connected the creative mission is to the heart of man, and how involved the work is.
Good values simply feed into good art, whatever the mission of that art is.
The friction in making great things comes from confusion about what you love, and confusion about what exactly you do in the name of that love.
The real trouble after making all of these introspective dives is that your creative mission as you understand it now may not be able to stay the same after. You may have to make some changes to the way you think afterward, and that’s not a bad thing. You do not have to necessarily give up creative work altogether, but you may have to make some radical changes to what you do and how you do it in order to be in line with what you care about.
Acting on values rather than acting on what’s popular not only empowers your work, but helps you to fight against feeling a sense of oversaturation over topics or concepts you think have been addressed already. Pressing into your values forces you to increase your technical understanding in order to present your ideas and messages more clearly.
Determining and aligning your values with your work as an artist also increases resonance with the people who share your values and want to support the causes and ideas you support. If you are not truly saying anything with your art, you are not guaranteed for someone to hear you. But if you endeavor to speak truth that means something, someone might hear, affirm, and repeat your message. And somehow you might just have a better time.
Agree? Disagree? Write me an email sometime. I’d love to hear it.
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PS: My article is kind of moot for fan artists who really like fanart. But if that’s what you love, go right for it! Just bear in mind you’re building on borrowed property and it may not always work out for you, depending on your career goals.