Two weeks ago I watched a couple of episodes of Ultimate Survival, (also know as Man vs. Wild) a survival TV show hosted by Bear Grylls on the Discovery Channel.
In every episode of Ultimate Survival Grylls is left stranded in a region. The episode documents his efforts to survive and find a way back to civilization, usually requiring an overnight shelter of some kind. Bear also tells about successful and failed survivals in the particular area which he is in.*
In one of the two episodes I watched, Bear was in Sumatran wilderness and I couldn’t help but notice there are similarities between trying to stay alive in a jungle and trying to find your place in the art world. Both adventures require excellent survival skills :-D
Here are three things I’ve learned about art by watching Ultimate Survival by Bear Grylls:
1.Do not fight the jungle
To an average human being, jungle is a hot, humid, dirty, dangerous place overpopulated with all kinds of not-so-friendly creatures, poisonous reptiles and curious insects interested in crawling into one of yours body cavities. Weather conditions change rapidly and drastically, it constantly rains and humidity and heat are almost unbearable. If you want to stay alive in such a place, you must not try to fight it but accept it for what it is and adjust. Every attempt to fight the jungle will cost you precious life energy, you’ll dehydrate, get injured and probably not make it out of there alive.
To an average human being, and someone just starting his art career, art world may seem as an unfriendly, confusing, even mysterious place that functions under some strange rules known by a handful of chosen people. Trying to navigate through such a place can be very frustrating at times but if you want to find you way you must not fight it. Do not complain about how art galleries/market/curators/publishing companies/etc work. Do not go on one-man crusades trying to convince everyone how their way of doing things is outdated and plain wrong. Do not rant about how you’re misunderstood or rejected as an artist if you didn’t get a chance you thought you deserved. Just do not fight the jungle art world, if you do, it will cost you precious life energy, you’ll get very bitter and frustrated and want to give up all together.
Be intelligent , adjust and maneuver your way through the art jungle or if you just don’t feel like being a part of it at all, open yourself for alternatives because today there are many alternative ways to pursue your art and make a living out of it (but, hey that’s a story for another post ;-)).
2.It’s important to build a shelter
When you’re alone in the wilderness, especially overnight, building a shelter is crucial to your survival. Shelter will keep you safe and warm and provide you protection from nasty beasts.
When you’re trying to find your path to success in the art world, dealing with art galleries, curators, clients and promoting your work will take a lot of your time and energy. You’ll also be exposed to a lot of critique (which sometimes will not be constructive but only mean and spiteful).
In order to get through all that you must build some kind of a shelter, a space where you can create freely unburdened with this, business side of being an artist. This shelter can be in your studio, your work desk, a tiny corner in your home where you can just sit and feel safe to express yourself, create and regenerate and re-energize yourself.
If you don’t create such space you’re putting yourself in danger by being drained by the business side of art.
3.At times, to stay alive, you must eat some larva
At times in jungle your only source of food will be something seriously gross like big, fat, wiggly maggot. But you must eat it if you want to stay alive and keep going.
Sometimes, especially when you’re just starting you career in art world you must take on various (often unpleasant, draining, meaningless) jobs to buy food and pay the bills. It’s not nice and if you want to make it as an artist it can feel very frustrating and make you feel like you’re wasting time when you should be working on your art.
But, hey, sometimes is necessary toswallow the maggot make compromises to help you move through financially challenging period and help you reach your final goals.
If you feel like watching Bear Grylls, there are plenty of videos on youtube to browse through.
And if you feel like learning some skills to help you find your way through art jungle you can start here: articles for artists.
*quote source: wikipedia