Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Advice from the Artist as a Young Woman

Occasionally on this blog I write about challenges in the life of an Artist or an Actor.

Ali painting her daughter Neve.
One of my readers is Ali Cavanaugh, a very talented and successful visual artist, who is also a devout Catholic.  Ali recently passed along insights that her daughter Neve had on this subject.  They're pretty darned good, so I'm posting them below, along with Ali's intro.

I did ask Neve the question "How to begin to understand the life of an Artist - especially a Christian artist - which is always a life of love and of pain - how to we begin to convey that to the young?  Or to anyone?" and she had so many answers. She nailed it. Some hard truths. She is seriously observant, I'm actually impressed.
In a nutshell she gave these insights and advice for a 16 or 17 yr old Christian wanting to become a artist (visual, actor, writer, musician)

1. Stay very very close to God. 
2. Accept that you have to live/exist on a prayer. There is no financial stability for many years, possibly your whole life, but trust that God really will (and does) provide for you.
3. You have to be dedicated ... Like more dedicated than you have ever imagined. You cannot give up if you are going to succeed. 
4. You cannot be delusional. 
5. You cannot be idealistic. You cannot get stuck on a certain idea or 'vision' because it will keep you from growing. Bounce your ideas and visions off of others and listen to their feedback. Don't trust the feedback of one person, but many. If there is a common thread in the feedback then listen and work to improve in that area. 
6. If you want to be successful there is a certain amount of give that has to happen in order to make your art palatable to the masses. This does not mean that you have to "sell out" or not be yourself. You just have to listen to the world and be determined to find 'the right mixture'... be determined to master your skill so that your art is being expressed in the best possible way. And that your art is taken to the level of greatness. (don't get stuck in idealism or delusion)
7. It's ok to be inspired by others and influenced, but NEVER imitate someone else. You have to 'do you'. If someone tries to become their artistic idol, then in the end they just become a cheap imitation of another person. 
8. If you are wanting to be an actor, artist, writer, musician, you have to be good. There are improvements that can be made, you can grow and get better, but for the most part you can either do it or you can't. If you can't, if you don't have natural ability, then you need to accept that (not be disillusioned). 
9. Know your limitations. Don't try to do things you can't. Work within the bounds of what your abilities are and be realistic.
10. Take constructive criticism and learn and grow from it. Do not be offended and prideful. Stay humble and you will flourish.
11. It is a business and it has to be treated like a business. 


Joey Higgins said...

Great list.

The only one I recommend a little caution with is #8. This one is hard because, at various stages you might not have any "success" but actually be very good. Many of the best musicians and actors are not, "A List." Furthermore, determining what is "good" is also difficult. There are many rich musicians and actors who are not great (probably more musicians at this point, but it's arguable). You have discussed some in the past :P

There are measurable markers for skill or ability, but, it's very difficult to make that determination of, "You're good enough, you're not."

However, some people just don't "have it" - whether that is actual ability (arguable) or the work ethic to get there. They don't necessarily have to quit the industry, they just might not be able to be on the performance side.

Anonymous said...

The comments that she made are for the most part, true. One can say, for instance, that if one wants to 'make it' as a singer of Classical German composers, like Schumann, Brhams, etc then-- UNLESS ONE IS SOMETHING LIKE THE NOW DECEASED major singers like Dietrich Fisher-Dieskau/Christa Ludwig (opera/lieder singers) that one may not succeed-- since there is little to no demand for lieder, although the demand for talented opera singers is still there...