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Why Outsiders Make Better Artists

Why Outsiders Make Better Artists

Carolyn Edlund | ArtsyShark

Artsy Shark recently spoke to David Couper, coach and author of Outsiders on the Inside, an acclaimed book on transforming your career by turning your differences into assets. We discussed how artists can use their “outsider” status to enhance their work and their marketability.

AS: Artists often perceive themselves as outsiders. How do they identify and accept this?

DC: Identify as a successful rather than negative outsider. Artists are often seen negatively as outsiders. Some of the myths that we buy into are the struggling artist or the eccentric and mad genius. But the reality is that there are successful artists — not only the names we all know like Andy Warhol or Mary Cassatt — but also artists who have a fine life with a good income selling through galleries, developing art as a business (greeting cards or personal portraits, etc) and supporting themselves by teaching or through grants.

Accept both internally and externally that it is possible for you to be successful.

• Internally, you have to give up some of the stories you may have been told by your parents. Learn to trust yourself through meditation or other centering activities, or learn to give up perfection or procrastination.

• Externally, you may have to take more classes, understand how the business side works, or get out and meet other artists more.

AS: Talk about how artists can use their unique characteristics to brand themselves.

DC: Celebrate your uniqueness. Everyone is unique, but we often believe that the only way we can be successful is to be like someone else and conform to a cookie cutter version of an artist. Although it’s useful to see what other people do, and to look for things that work whether in marketing or in technique, at the end of the day you have to be yourself. Having the courage to identify what makes you different is vital. Many successful artists realized that they were different, but did not compromise on what they believed in, whether it was Picasso and his blue period or Bolero with his rotund figures.

Take time to look at yourself and to take an inventory of what you like. What do you do, and what do you think that is different from others?

Next: Outsiders on the Inside →

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