Summer is waning
A letter to a much younger friend who wonders
whether or not to become an artist
Berlin, August 2014
Hello my dear friend! Thank you for your email and your kind words. Yes, we arrived safe and sound back here in Berlin. The transition was really hard though. It felt like a huge shock to find ourselves back in rather autumnal weather in the big city (somewhat between 19° C during the day and barely 10° C during the night, cold winds and rain).
I am an artist, yes. How interesting to read that you are thinking of becoming one yourself and how strange that we never shared this during all those days we just spent together.
What I feel I must tell you first is that it is all but romantic. Being an artist is really hard work. It needs a hell of a lot of self-discipline, perseverance, and a large capacity for self-reflection – not to forget very good networking and marketing skills (which nobody really talks about openly because, officially, money and art don’t go together in one and the same sentence, at least not when spoken by an artist).
You need to be able to work in solitude most of the time, with nobody caring whether or not you do what you do. Basically, everything must stem from your self-esteem and your own impulse, in combination with the mentioned self-discipline. Plus, you have to be prepared to earn little to nothing for what you do, despite how hard you work.
The art world is extremely self-referential and it is not enough to produce good things. It also has to be seen and discussed within a certain artistic context – your chosen professional family. Therefore, your plan of getting a good academic education is a very good idea! It helps you grow into a professional network, which might, if you are driven in the way I have mentioned, carry you along to become a successful, though not necessarily wealthy, artist.
Many young people like you flock from all over the world to Berlin to live and work as an artist. They form quite a large community. How many of them will really successfully make it is hard to know. All I can say is, if you feel that this is what you need to do, follow your dream and do it. Just bare in mind, that it might be a very long journey down the road.
This turns out to be a rather long and personal reply; some shared experience from an older artist. I hope it is helpful. It might sound like a warning and maybe it is.
Had I known all this ... would I still have chosen my profession ... ? I cannot give myself a sufficient answer to that. I do what I feel I am able to do best over a long period of time – which is my life span. I started later in life with art and so far I am neither astoundingly successful nor do I expect to be able to live from working as an artist in the near future.
I enjoy what I do for most of the time. Most of all I enjoy positive feed-back to my work from different people and friends like you. I just love to do art and try to understand and to express what I think needs to be expressed through art in these days. I do not know whether I am incredibly talented. I try to be persistent with what I do and I guess I am reasonably intelligent. In a way I just do what I do.
As a teenager, I wanted to become either a writer or an artist. It turned out that words were not enough to express what needs to be expressed. Yet words are still very important to me and part of my work. Somehow I turned to art.
Summer is waning. The girls are back to school and I am back to work. I have an important art fair coming up in September. I put you in my roster for the newsletter, if I may.
The girls, by the way, would not in their wildest dreams want to become a professional artist. Actually I can see why. They see me stressed for a lot of the time and they always advise me to finally produce something “that is easy to look at and will please the eye of the beholder”. In the end, they hope for something that sells easily. I don’t blame them. I guess it looks stupid to an outsider to see someone work really hard without getting rewarded in the classical sense of the word. And they are still too young to understand what I just tried to explain to you about the networking business.
It was really nice to get to know you. I liked your positive spirit. Whether you venture out into the art world or whether you decide to do something else – I wish you all the best for your future! Let me know if you make it to Berlin. Very best! Ute