123: Carving Your Own Path as an Artist
A Lesson from Stand-up Comedy
"Perseverance is a great substitute for talent." - Steve Martin
I’d like to apply for a job as an Artist. (Laughter)
In art school, you acquire a diverse range of skills focused on design, creativity, and problem-solving. These abilities are valuable in numerous contexts. However, being an artist isn't a job you can simply apply for; it's a career you must build yourself. And while there isn't a clear path for artists, there are lessons to be learned from other creative fields. This newsletter is a rewrite of a newsletter I wrote in 2021, in it we'll explore how the process of developing a stand-up comedy act can serve as a metaphor for carving your own path as an artist.
The Uncharted Journey of an Artist:
Unlike other professions, there is no clear path or map for artists. Instead, you have something akin to a compass that constantly shifts direction, similar to the one Jack Sparrow has in Pirates of the Caribbean. Your journey is unique, and no one can follow in your exact footsteps.
Learning from Stand-up Comedy:
Stand-up comedians develop their acts through a process of trial and error, gradually refining their material based on audience reactions. Here's how the process works:
Start small: Show up for a brief 5-minute performance at a small venue, with a limited audience.
Learn from feedback: Pay attention to the audience's reactions. Keep the parts that generate laughter and rework the rest.
Iterate and improve: Show up consistently and repeat the process until you can reliably get a positive response.
Expand your act: Gradually seek out larger venues and longer time slots, while continuing to refine your material.
Applying Stand-up Lessons to Your Artistic Journey:
Like stand-up comedians, artists can benefit from a similar iterative approach:
Begin with small projects that allow you to test your skills and develop your unique style.
Seek feedback from others, such as mentors, peers, or even social media followers, to understand what resonates with your audience.
Consistently create and refine your work, learning from both successes and failures.
Gradually expand the scope and scale of your projects as you gain confidence and refine your artistic voice.
While there's no set map for artists, the stand-up comedy approach can serve as a framework for your own creative journey. Consistently showing up, iterating, and refining your work will help you carve out your unique path. As you progress, remember to share your journey with others, seek support, and ultimately, enjoy the process of discovering your artistic identity.
It is a process. And in the process perseverance is a great substitute for talent.
Suggested reading: Born Standing Up
📁 On Getting Started