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Wearing Two Hats - But Only One At A Time

by Lori Woodward on 9/19/2017 9:58:09 AM

This article is by Lori Woodward, regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. She is a member of the the Putney Painters, an internationally known group of a dozen artists who paint under the mentorship of Richard Schmid. Lori authored and illustrated step-by-step articles for Watercolor Magazine from 2007 to 2012. She has taught art marketing seminars at Scottsdale Artist School and at the 2012 Oil Painters of America national convention and show.



I’ve been reading a book about Motivation for Creative People: How to Stay Creative While Gaining Money, Fame, and Reputation by Mark McGuinness. It’s been a real life-changer, or I should say, work-changer, in that the book has taught me how to get painting done while in a state FLOW… a pleasurable experience that feels similar to being in love. Then when the creative side of me is finished, I take off the artist hat and put on my business hat, but I never mix the two types of work emotionally.


Getting in the Zone

Some call the creative state of mind, The Zone, but whatever you call it, I’m willing to bet you’ve experienced it. Clint Watson recently wrote a blogpost, The Maker's High, which describes this same phenomenon. Flow takes hold when you are so engrossed in a project, that time passes without noticing, the space and people around you no longer exist (to you), and you enter a type of euphoric dream-state. It's also when you're likely to do your best work. When you finish your creative session, you're amazed you had it in you to do such wonderful work.


Again, it feels akin to being in love. These feelings release the hormone, Oxytocin. Did you know, it's impossible to release Oxytocin and Adrenalin at the same time? (yes, there are studies). What this boils down to - you can't experience the zone while you're worried about selling your work or even when you're self-critiquing. In order to do your genius work, you'll need to let go of fear and worry while quietly letting your training and experience work intuitively. It's the same way an athlete, who has trained for years, puts it all together intuitively during the competition.


Back to Mark McGuinness’ book. His premise is that there are two types of motivation: Intrinsic and Extrinsic. His book is divided into two parts – the first delves into how creatives are initially motivated intrinsically (love and passion for their craft), while the second half of the book deals with extrinsic motivation (rewards, affirmation, marketing, income).


Creativity and Criticism

The first chapter cites a study where two groups of children are given drawing materials. The first group may draw anything they want, and the second group is told that their drawings will be judged by a panel of adults. Those who do well in the second group will be rewarded. The first group is not informed about any reward at all.


As you might have guessed, the first group (no rules) had the more engaging and imaginative drawings. The study was repeated several times with the same results. What it points out is that fear of criticism sometimes paralyzes artists. That's probably why artists rarely do their best work during a workshop they're taking... too much in the way of perceived competition among the students.


Turning Off Inner Head Chatter

McGuinness, advises creatives avoid thinking about sales, competition, or marketing during their creative time. I can hear you thinking, “But wait, don’t we need to make a living at this?”


Absolutely! That’s covered in the second half of the book: Extrinsic Motivation. Because rewards, selling our work, and even money to pay the bills motivates us too! But it is a different type of motivation than that while actually creating our art.


McGuinness suggests that we strive to separate these two types of motivation by time and space. When you’re in artist-mode, resist thinking about marketing, and when you’re marketing, don’t worry about whether your work is good enough... just put on the business hat and think like a business owner. It's almost as if the business person in you stops worrying about the art - almost as if another person created it. While doing business, take off the creative hat. While creating, take off the business hat and inner critic.


Cognitive theory scientists are at a loss to explain exactly how creativity works. They know the right hemisphere lights up when an idea occurs, but they are not sure exactly how the brain arrives at an idea. It’s almost as if it’s magic.


MRI scans have shown that left and right brain hemispheres never light up at the same time. Sure, these hemispheres can switch sides at great speeds, but never at the same mini-second.


There is certainly a time for training and practice for athletes and artists, but there should also be a time where the artist, after having practiced and experimented, can just “Go With The FLOW”.


Painters, who have had years of training and experience, can do amazing things while in the zone/flow. Just like the figure skater, who practices daily, can just “go for it” during a competition without much apparent effort. “She makes it look so easy”…




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Topics: advice for artists | art appreciation | Art Business | art marketing | creativity | FineArtViews | Lori Woodward 

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Joanne Ehlers
I love when I am in that creative Zone. What a great feeling.
I can do 6 or 7 paintings, until suddenly ends. Then I have a dry period and can't wait until it happens again.
I do paint for myself. I try not to think about sales when I paint.
When the thought comes to mind, which it had once, it was a big mistake. I did a painting, thinking that the person who bought my last painting in this exhibition, if I do the same type of painting, she will buy this one... she didn't, it wasn't that she didn't love it, I think she didn't have the money. So I will never think like that again.

Alice Melzer
Thank you Lori, for your beautifully constructed insight and book review. Guess i will order the book soon. Also, for your additional and insightful comments. Perfect timing! Today I was dealing with a thorny issue in the "real world". All my attention was directed to that endeavor. Then, I could do no more. i stopped and read your post. The world where "my art lives" is indeed fantastic and a magical place. Reading your post brought me back into a feeling of balance between those worlds.They do exist together and operate in their own ways.

Mark Brockman
I agree with the premise of separating the creative from the business of making art. I never consider whether a painting will sell or not, before, during or after the painting. We can only do what we do, as good as we can do it, at the time of creation. Wondering if it will sell, for me, is detrimental. That doesn't mean one can't be creative in how they market, just keep the two separate.

I must say I do have a mistrust of those who claim to have the answers but make their money from selling those answers and not from that which they creatively produce. I usually get little or nothing from them but the same stuff that has been sold as 'success' for decades. But then that's just me, such things as books and articles on how to be successful may work for others. To each their own.

David McKay
Thanks for the post Lori,
I have said many times that being a professional artist really involves two jobs ... creating and marketing. I never thought much about the fact that they should be done at separate times and perhaps in separate places. Your comment about how the left and right side of the brain do not work simultaneously is new to me and very interesting.

Susan L. Vignola

Thank you for providing additional reasons for turning off our inner critic.


lori Woodward
Susan, You hit the nail on the head. That's mainly what this post is about. If we start self-coaching or let another critique our work in the middle of a creative session, it turns off our best ability and goes left brained.

It's perfectly fine to take a critical look at our work when it's almost complete - just to see if there's anything that's missing or needs to be added. I don't think it's a good idea to "change horses in the middle of a stream" by reworking a painting so much that it becomes a different painting.

Better to finish it and move onto the next. We'll never be 100 percent satisfied anyway.

Karen Burnette Garner
via As it is many times when I read blogs by you and Luann, I hear what I need, when I need it. This is something I will take to heart as I transition to a new creative venture. Thanks for sharing.

James Adcock
Thank you Lori. I experience this quite often and your advice is supportive of what I try to do.

Bonny Wagoner
What you are describing s an autotellic zone, where we ar in sync with the moment. It's awesome when it happens.

Walter T Scott Jr.
Lori , I've experienced everything you've said in your article . But I must admit , I love BOTH hats . Getting into the "zone" for me , or what I call the "magic bubble" is very much an experience all in it's self in which music plays a huge part . And once there , not letting the bubble get burst is my biggest fear . Before the "Crash"I'd partnered in three galleries here in RI and all together have run six including my own and still get a thrill when selling either the work of someone else as well as my own . When I run a local gallery in Wickford , RI which sells my work , to me it's like a day off to get back in tune with the art world , with the only negative thing for me being people coming in looking for donations . One thing that's happened to me the past few years , is losing collectors to the circle of life . Not only did my patrons pass on , ( one was my biggest patron who had thirty one of my paintings )but I lost such great friends as well . This is natural and faces us all BUT the thing that bothers me is that I'm not seeing many new collectors on the scene . This can be due to many factors , the economy , the political climate of this nation and the world and last but not least , disasters happening in the world . All of which "distract" our patrons . The internet hasn't done much for me and is barely a break even to the point I don't even maintain my sight much any more . For every REAL art contact theres hundreds of scammers . I'd love to open another gallery , but being financially hobbled, I can't right now . I had so much more I wanted to say , But , I've gotta get ready to go to work to pay the bills if you know what I mean . One more thing , I'm an artist yes ! But I'm not from the art world . I was a fisherman most of my life . I'm what I was told , an "outsider" artist with my only degree being from the "school of hard knocks" So my biz acumen is one of , "If there's no fish there , ya don't waste time there ." And you're right " We'll never be 100 percent satisfied anyway!" Great article and all the best .

lori Woodward
Walter, thanks for sharing what you're experiencing. I too, enjoy both hats. I have an art degree, but I didn't learn diddly in college because I love realism, and that just didn't count. The only demo I had was on how to stretch a canvas.

Since then, I've learned a great deal by taking workshops with artists whose work I admire. Most of the artists whom I know that are making a good living never went to art school.

Most who are making a living are not doing so through galleries or patrons. That market is not doing well right now. That said, more art is being sold directly to "buyers" than every before, and much of it is being sold directly from the artist to the buyer.

Although the patrons of the past are not around for me, or else they've simply stopped collecting, I'm selling art through my website. There are ways to make a living as an artist today. Although, it's a little less romantic than the ways were in the past when the gallery system was "doing all the work".

The Internet has changed everything for the art world. In many ways, it allows artists to reach people to buy their work that they never had in the past... many more people.

What's important is to understand who will buy your work in the future and why. I know why people buy my art and I know who. It's different for each artist since each creates a different subject and stye of work. It's something we need to figure out for ourselves if we hope to make a living in the future.

David McKay
I have just taken a break from painting and checked this post to see what is new by way of comments.
Briefly ... Walter and Lori, you make a lot of sence and it was comforting and encouraging to read your comments.
Now back to work!

lori Woodward
Thanks David for commenting during your break. Glad it was comforting. Keep on keeping on!

Walter T Scott Jr.
Thanks for commenting during your "break" David . My family bought me an electric drumset I keep in my studio . So a break for me usually means getting a cup of joe and playing the drums for a half hour or so to "unwind". Thanks again . I've not painted in nearly a month now , I'm jealous !
And thanks also to Lori , for your kind words . As you said to David , Keep on keeping on !

Cristina Del Sol
I very much appreciate all your wonderful posts Lori, even though I don't have the time to comment. You always share so many insights and helpful advice.
This one is great, I will get that book for sure.


Bartlett Harley
Lori, your last chapter nails it. When teaching, I talk about the athleticism of art making. You can't expect to run the Boston Marathon if you only run a mile a day. And, you can't expect to become a world class athlete merely because you are athletic and or know something about your sport.
To become good you have to put the physical time into it. And, that still will not be the measure of future success. Aside from world class talent you'll need good business acumen (and a big dose of good luck).

Dawn Wicklow
Thank you for sharing this info Lori. With your permission, I'd like to share it with a class I'm speaking to...of course I would give both you and Mark McGuinness credit, listing the book title, and and your website.


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