Let’s talk about the artist’s evolution. As you continue in your craft – grow, change, repeat – your art will grow with you. It will evolve and expand and collapse. You will hate it and love it and hate it again. You will want to change it, and you will, and you’ll regret that sometimes, and you’ll move forward.
I’ve been a photographic artist for 10 years. That’s a DECADE, people! And in my fairly young life, that’s a third.
In a fortunate turn of events, I’ve also had an audience for those 10 years that I’ve been an artist. From just a couple of weeks into creating up until now, I’ve had people looking at, and commenting on, my work.
Which makes it understandable as to why I’ve heard this comment more times than is countable:
“I prefer the old you.”
In my career this has meant anything from “the you of 10 years ago” to “the you of last week”. And it used to bother me.
Can’t they see I’m GROWING?!
It doesn’t matter if you have a big audience or not. Anyone from your mother to a stranger on the Internet will likely tell you the same exact words sooner or later. Here’s why:
1. People change.
2. People hate change.
…And we all have opinions.
I’ve had periods of what I consider really, really bad art-making in my life.
2013. What a bad year. I look back at that year of my art and cringe! It was so flat, so boring, so not where I wanted to go.
But I had to make that art. I had to do it to move myself forward. To experience, to know that it wasn’t me.
I used to get upset when people told me they prefer a different style that I used to make. I thought it made me less of an artist. I’d second-guess my artistic direction. I’d let it consume me.
Imagine a friend calls you up and they say: You know, I really prefer your personality from a couple of years ago. This one just isn’t cutting it for me. I don’t enjoy being around you as much anymore.
That’s basically the conversation around art and change.
(That might have been a tad dramatic).
So it makes sense that feelings get hurt and that it stings a little to hear it.
As an artist, you want to yell back: “Don’t you see?! I’m doing the best I can!”
But you can’t, without sounding paranoid.
The fact is that we are doing the best we can. Even if you haven’t created in months, that’s the best you can do for yourself right now. You might look back in a year at this time and recognize just how much you needed a break.
Maybe you feel your style shifting and it scares you. Let it, but keep going. You never know where that will lead.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve made some art that I don’t like. And I don’t blame you for not liking either. But that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t worth making.
Perhaps the most difficult part of being an artist with an audience is knowing that, inevitably, someone will tell you that you were better before. And they’re not necessarily wrong. I value every opinion. I don’t disregard someone because they think differently from how I do.
But I do know that the bad art is as necessary as the good. That where I am now is where I’m meant to be. And that where I’m going will remain fulfilling if I listen to myself…
…All opinions valid, none as much as my own.
Anna Bruce - Honestly? I like most of your work. There are seasons in your career that I gravitate more than others because of my own personal preferences. I am a photographer because of my life experiences and I gravitate towards more photographic images most of the time. The reason I like most of your work (I have to say most because your wedding cake piece was a bit questionable but I am so glad you shared it because it’s also hilarious) is because of you. You’ve put so much into your brand that is not just your art. And, in a way, just like someone’s personality can make us fall completely in love with them so can your personality make me fall in love with your art. I think this is why it’s so important for artists to share their process and themselves.
I’ve definitely had people tell me they liked it when I was a wedding photographer more and I’ve definitely had people say that they thought I was super talented but they preferred people who actually painted canvases. Funny world. Anyway, you have a fan for life. Keep being you and the rest of us will follow through the ebbs and flows of your life. Some people will break off, some new ones will join and some will stay for the whole journey.