“When one has reached maturity in the art, one will have a formless form. It is like ice dissolving in water. When one has no form, one can be all forms; when one has no style, he can fit in with any style.” (Bruce Lee)
Two years ago, I took a leap of faith in myself, jumped from the highest heights in my life to try something new, and crashed every area of my life. I sacrificed everything I owned (outside of my art) for the dream of becoming a Welding/Fabrication Artist and professional. I won't belabor the details of the journey - I've written plenty of content in this blog over the last two years on the subject. I was determined to see my #metalmorphosis through, until it killed me.
Two years ago, I awoke on the Monday morning following my professional departure into my adventure with excitement, anticipation, and a feeling of pure freedom. The potential was palpable; confidence in myself was at an all-time high, even if my mood was at an all-time low after my Dad's death.
Two years ago began a trail of bad luck, mistakes, learnings, and misfortunes that directed this adventurer toward depression, burned through all that I had amassed for the journey, stalled my life momentum, and trashed my map.
I'm now a day away from my professional rebirth with a new company called Deluxe, a new opportunity for greatness, and renewed stability that I haven't felt - literally - in years.
In order to make this change, another sacrifice will be required. "Sacrifice" is really a dramatic label for "focused reprioritization". Unfortunately, I have to shift my personal focus towards doing what I need to do to survive as a human and put art on the backburner. It is a sad acknowledgment that I failed at my #metalmorphosis, failed at launching my Seretic Studios business to the level of successful (or even survivable), and failed at making a living off my art.
The Shifting Sands of Serenity
Effective immediately, I am shutting down my #yearofSerenity content campaign. This Week 13 post will be my last coordinated experience from my #yearofSerenity content campaign that I mapped out for 2021.
That doesn't mean that I won't be sharing art throughout the year. That also doesn't mean that I'm abandoning the social media spaces that I returned to in 2020. I will still be around - sharing art and continuing to build out the legacy art experience that I'm developing on my website. I still plan on releasing "Echoprism Vol 2" later in 2021. I still hope to finish "Obscurious X: Ten Years of Darkness" this year.
I still have a lot of work to do, and am now getting a metric ton of more work.
I just can't make my art a priority in the face of my new job. This new job will take all the focus, attention, and capacity for learning and evolution that I can muster throughout the rest of the year. Re-entry into a vocation that I left two years ago means some re-education on the current trends in marketing and customer experience. It means putting in more time than less. It means putting my day job in the driver's seat, and working to find calm whenever I can find it - not using every hour I have to race at breakneck speed through 2021 and burning the candle at both ends.
I simply don't have enough time in the hourglass. Working 15-20 hours a week on my #yearofSerenity on top of the 40-50 that will be required for my new job would mean I'd be working around 70 hours a week. That means no days off. That means filling all of my free time with art time outside of breadwinner time.
That means no serenity.
And do you know what I miss the most? Painting and being artistically productive, not just sharing and being digitally effective. Working on developing my art craft. Producing new fine artworks, not just digital copies and remixes of works finished five to ten years ago. For every minute I spend building digital experiences, I lose a minute in creative development of what I care about most.
In the Name of Clicks
The sad truth of four months of running a daily #yearofSerenity campaign: the audience, apart from very specific people, has not engaged. Clickthroughs from social media properties to my website has generated a murmur of traffic, and gained me a small increase in audience, but apart from a passionate core, engagement has been minimal. Sales of "Echoprism Volume 1" remain dismal, and I've sold one print as a result of my clickthrough to DeviantArt. Most of the digital experiences that I've built for my Serenity Gallery have not seen more than 10-20 visits each. Social indicators on primary platforms echoes little growth and consumption, even from people that know me.
Vanity metrics such as impressions don't impress me. Views and impressions are necessary at the top of the funnel, but if few follow through your pre-determined experience path, then you've either built a poor experience or have underperforming content. The experience is the best it has been, stripped down and served for efficiency. The flow is the most consistent it has been in years. The messaging is the most focused it has ever been.
I have learned from two years of direct, focused exposure to my creations and then the sequenced promotion of what I've created.
As a friend of mine suggested over Twitter recently, what I'm doing isn't "good enough". It's not good enough to generate clicks. It's not good enough to expand audience without promotional investment. It's not good enough to sell product (enough to survive off of).
It's simply not "good enough".
As a core believer in "Art for Art's Sake", I shouldn't be so affected by what's "good enough". In a different time for artists, simply expressing your ability and talent was "good enough". If you were "good enough", you surfaced into artistic survival quickly. Now, everyone that can turn a pixel can be "good enough" and be competition for someone that is truly fixed on art that can be created by hand and brush or other implement. NFTs are now the rage for digital art, and a crazy amount of money is thrown around for pixel manipulation. While I too appreciate digital art, I don't "feel" it like I do tangible, textured, expressive pieces that capture your breath and imagination.
And so, the question of "am I good enough?" became rooted in my subconscious. Like a cockroach with thick teeth and an insatiable appetite for confidence, it gnawed at me daily, with each underperforming share, every grand piece that fell on a social media audience disconnected from my efforts.
The answers were right in front of me; once upon a time, I could command over a hundred likes on Instagram for an abstract piece. Once upon a time, I could rely on a circle of engaged and supportive Twitter friends to share my content. Once upon a time, I spent a hundreds of dollars a month to share my art with a Facebook audience to gain connections that seldom engage.
Once upon a time, I had patience with the game.
And so I collapse the #metalmorphosis and Seretic Studios dreams back into its impatient, nifty gamebox, and accept a similar professional road as my primary focus, use my talents and skills for a game that I have better odds at.
Is anyone really good enough when the social feeds work against you? When it really is a popularity contest that can turn on you at any moment? I have 10,000 "Likes" on my page on Facebook, but only 60 people regularly watching. I have 37,000 "Followers" on Twitter, but have an average of 100 views per post - unless engagement happens, which is relatively rare (apart from a few friends - thank you, RT!). I talk about these misgivings of metrics quite a bit, but they are telling. They do tell you whether or not you are "good enough" to meet certain goals, to do certain things, to reach certain heights.
I can't grow a business off of ether, just as plants don't grow without sun or water. I produced art products, made them available as seeds to a new artistic future for me, and the blooms were mostly ignored.
I'm not a bitter, angry flower. I accomplished a lot over the last couple of years, and have become stronger as an artist, creator, and marketer through failure. But I'm not done, and I'm not giving up or going away.
I still believe in the buildout of these fine art landing pages, and know they will benefit me down the road as I get past the "legacy" phase of my gallery and start introducing new pieces via this experience process. I will aim to do that throughout 2021 with my new works in order to provide experience consistency. If you're interested in what I shared during the first part of 2021, check out my #yearofSerenity page for all of the summaries. I will continue to build on the Serenity Gallery, and may release an update of the "best-of my additions" throughout the year.
I also want to get back to growing, expressing, and expanding as an artist. Doing what I do best without the guilt of not doing good enough for someone else's (or to a bottom line's) standards. Appreciating the great art that I have created without the disappointment of the clicks. Engaging with other artists that I admire, and reciprocating with those that engage with me.
I don't create art for an audience; I create art for myself and invite the audience to participate and engage. Since the latter didn't happen, I will return to creating art for myself and focusing less on the invitation.
As much as this seems like whining about my path, this isn't. This is acceptance. This is growth. This is redirection. This is rebirth.
This is the #metalmorphosis giving the world a more beautiful, brighter being through the power of the figurative flame.
I have the best years of my art ahead of me. I may now be more limited in my free time to devote to art, but I've developed a personal, professional, and digital framework for my expression, an experience template for years and products to come.
Serenity is about finding calm and balance in your life, not creating a circular tempest of chaos, stress, and lies.
Practice what you preach, right? Seems like a good theme for even this atheist on Easter Sunday.