by seanlow on February 27, 2012

You, as an artist, have to ask yourself, what work matters to you?  Beyond your creative business, your clients, colleagues or employees.  Is it avant-garde design?  Perfect, detailed production?  Minimalism or opulent ornate?  Journalistic, posed or the decisive moment?  Do you belong only to your backyard or are you truly the intrepid traveler?  And if only your backyard, what about it has meaning to you?

As we are bombarded with all of the information and clutter that technology has brought us, meaning gets lost in the avalanche.  Yet, without meaning, knowing what matters to you as an artist, there is no level to go to other than the one below you.  For if you are to build, the foundation has to be there.  And that foundation is meaning.

I get told all the time,  “I want to take my business to the next level”.  My first question is always, “What do you really care about?” Often, the answer is to do great work with better (i.e., wealthier) clients.  Sometimes, the answer is strictly financial – to make more money.  Almost never is it to share a vision (modern, Steampunk, decisive moment, classic letterpress) with the world.  It is almost as if meaning is shoehorned into what will work best for everyone but you.  I am incredibly refreshed when I see someone standing tall for themselves and their art, but ultimately disheartened if the business is not built to support the vision.

And that is the point, if you have no vision, it is almost impossible to build a business that will support it.  Worth noting that, when I joined Preston Bailey, he had only a floral designer on his design team.  Preston is obviously amazing with flowers, but it is only one part of many to his event designs.  As remarkable as his floral designer is (and he is), he does not know about lighting, draping, linen, floors, etc.  Preston is an event designer first and foremost and needs a team around him that can express the size and breadth of his incredible imagination.  When I left, there were three designers apart from his floral designer and I am sure there are more now.  Simple, if you have a vision, you will invest heavily to support that vision.  We all have choices to make and, apart from hiring those that do what you cannot or do not want to (which you can outsource), your first choice should be to hire those that amplify your ability to deliver the meaning you seek to impart.  The proof is in the actual delivery.  When I joined Preston, he would largely do table set-ups to present his ideas with little or no follow up.  Today, the design work he delivers to clients would make most of the best commercial interior designers (and maybe even a few architects) jealous.

If you are to be about service, lose the digital operator.  If it is about film, talk about why and maybe have your own darkroom.  If the brush does what the stylus cannot, then only deliver hand drawn renderings of your intended design.  Forget about scaling for the moment, it always comes when you focus intensely on what it is you most want to deliver.  Your art will transcend its medium if only you are willing to extend the boundaries of your art in the first place.  Customers are willing to buy Polo sheets because of everything the Polo brand means to them.  The everything is premised on the clothing – the vision Ralph Lauren has for someone who would put on Polo clothes.  What would have happened (or would happen) if he stopped caring about the clothes?  Or focused more on perfume instead?

Fundamentals begin and end with focusing on what matters most to you as an artist.  Invest (time, money, resources, etc.) in what takes to deliver on that promise first and best.  The statement is straightforward, execution not so much.  Just please understand, if you are unwilling to do the (hard) work to both identify and have your creative business support your vision, the next level will always be a day away.


1 Darryl February 27, 2012 at 11:23 pm

Not just artists, but in all fields of human endeavour, the journey of discovering what really matters–the fundamentals–can take years or even decades.
Many of us tend to focus on the here-and-now, rarely thinking long term or on the journey itself. In fact it’s astonishingly easy to get fixated on the shorter term: project deliverables, next week’s outcomes. Part of the challenge is that we live in a culture of immediacy. The process of nurturing thoughts and aspirations with the capacity to transcend one’s chosen medium require a deeper, longer term commitment. This is the (hard) work, the vision.

Thanks for this post, really got me thinking.

2 Monica Smith February 28, 2012 at 2:25 pm

Thank you for this post. This is the third blog post I have read today that talks about the importance of having a vision. I just answered some hard questions asked on the other two blogs and you have given me even more questions for reflection. Not one of you overlaps. Each of you adds something deeper that requires time for reflection and discovery. For truth, authenticity, and fulfillment, a person must take the time to ask themselves and answer these questions.
Thanks again,

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