• Cat Regi

Seeking attention Vs Paying attention

I listened to a really interesting Ted talk today about seeking attention being the death of creativity. I instantly related, because I often think that in trying to please others when painting (or probably doing most things) you lose yourself a bit in whatever you're making.

Magnolia stellata, lavender, geraniums and other Spring flowers in watercolour
A commission which had a loose enough request that I can't wait to do something similar again.

It's one of the reasons I have stopped doing commissions, because in trying to please someone who was looking for something specific, I felt like I was compromising my personal (still developing) style and therefore potentially wasn't giving the customer my truest self in the art. I loved helping people making something really special for themselves or a loved one but the pressure to get it exactly right for them made me worry that I wasn't giving the real me. It didn't quite sit right with me that when I was just painting to please myself I was creating something different from when people asked me for something specific, but also I couldn't get into the relaxed, focused state that I adore about painting when I don't know where I'm going or what the end product will look like. As someone who works with an anxious brain I wanted to create art I was proud of and I felt truly represented me, but also I wanted only positive emotions to go into any piece, and I'm very aware that it's a position of huge privilege to be able to make this decision.

The Ted talk, by the actor Jospeh Gordon-Levitt, describes how seeking attention is increasingly encouraged by social media, but actually as an artist of any kind we create our best work by paying attention. This is, that we have to really lose ourselves in one thing, in that one moment that will help us enter a state of 'flow' where nothing else matters. I personally turn on relaxed and happy music at my painting desk, find some beautiful colours and that one magical idea I've had and then I just play and paint and draw. Some of these moments turn into something I love and many fizzle and die out shortly after starting when they aren’t ‘clicking’! Those flow moments are the most 'me' that I get in terms of what I'm painting, when I'm not seeking attention of any kind, I'm only paying attention to, and enjoying, what I'm doing.

This thought process leads me to a tricky conundrum as an artist trying to sell my art. Not only do I love doing it because I really genuinely love seeing the colours spread across the page and blend with each other and even the physical act of making different size and shape brush strokes on paper, it all relaxes me and makes me so happy, I never realised how much I would love it, but I would also really like to sell my products and art and make a career from it if possible! Ideally 😂 So I need people to pay me attention.

I started thinking 'how can I make sales without attention' which is quite the thought process and please do let me know if you think of any! I don't believe that social media is evil but clearly moderation is key. The science even points to social media being something we should be cautious of in terms of our behaviour although this is not a long enough blog post to cover that. I hope one day to have an exhibition, or before then even a little display in a shop (more news upcoming hopefully) or in a cafe. But as a really early career creator of things for other people to enjoy, I really need other people to know that I exist 🤷‍♀️ As SEO Queen Maddy Shine says ‘visibility is everything’ so how do I stay genuine and also build a business? I will always be grateful when you share my posts and photos and generally pay me attention 😊 Getting myself out there and letting you get to know me will always be good for Badibidu. But that is why I'm not currently doing commissions and why I'm super grateful for likes, loves, sales, shares, and when you tag me in a post saying 'have you seen thing you should take part!' I love it and I'm soooo grateful for you all, especially anyone who has read through this long rambling post 🥰

I'd love to hear your thoughts on ways that artists and small business owners can build a business without losing their personal style and creativity by seeking attention and essentially trying to people please. I'm fascinated by this brain teaser.

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