Artists — performing artists in particular, but all artists in general — have a reputation for being prima donnas, for going overboard in seeking attention. I’ll admit that if a single person praises, or even shows great interest in my work, it sends me soaring for days. Naturally I look for that whenever I can get it. However, I don’t think artists are actually different from anyone else in this respect. Everyone needs affirmation. Why is it then that artists appear to seek praise more than the average person? I’m not attention-seeking in other facets of my life; why do I care so much about how others react to my art?
Artists work in a field without objective measures and without regular feedback. If you are an accountant, or a cook, or a teacher, you receive a regular paycheck that confirms you’re a “real” accountant, dispatcher, or teacher. Once a year you probably have a performance review that, while stressful, again verifies that you’re doing the job you say you do. Can you imagine if you worked all year but only got paid when your boss was in the mood to check the accounts you so meticulously kept? Or when an jury panel determined that out of aIl the secondary classrooms in the district, yours was the best?
As an artist, what says that I’m a “real” artist or that I’m doing my job? Sales are unpredictable, dependent on so many factors other than the quality of my work, and subject to dry spells that last for months. Awards are even more fickle. Hopefully I’m working up to my own standards, but how do I know that when I call myself an artist, I’m not merely fooling myself? On a day-to-day basis, the interest that other people show in my artwork is the only thing that silences the nagging voice trying to tell me that I’m a fraud who’s only pretending to be an artist.
Art is my primary occupation. No amount of flattery will pay the bills, but sincere interest in my work provides motivation to keep going. Motivation increases my productivity, enhancing the likelihood of an eventual sale that will pay the bills. So please forgive me if I seem to be fishing for praise and don’t be stinting with it. If you don’t like my work, then go to another art show or a gallery, find something you do like and by all means let the artist know. Tell them I sent you.