Achieving Success On One’s Own Terms
I was reading how the movie “The Beaver” with Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster (director) failed miserably at the box office. The article talked about Jodi Foster’s faith in the film and it’s message, and when asked about the financial disaster said: “I’ve learned … that if you gauge your self-worth at the box office, you will be a very sorry person.“
How do I , as an artist, gauge my self worth? Do I base it on sales, reviews of my work, the galleries I’m in, the price of my work, how many important people like my images and the awards I receive? Is it possible to be feel successful and not achieve all of these accolades?
External success is a fickle mistress; she may love you one day and not even know you exist another. You’ll never really know her, for her standards change frequently and she’s always looking for her next new lover. To measure success by her standards can lead to an insecure existence and frustration as you try to win her love back by creating work that you hope will please her.
For me, art is an expression of the heart and only one opinion matters; mine. It is my creation and if I love it, then it doesn’t matter what another thinks of it. Success is a internal standard that must be met before any external measures matter. Please do not misunderstand, I still enjoy showing my work, exhibiting it and I do gain pleasure when others like it. But these are not the reasons why I create and those things are not necessary for me to feel good about my work or myself.
Perhaps my resume says it best (http://colethompsonphotography.com/Resume.htm):
My art has appeared in hundreds of exhibitions, numerous publications and has received many awards. And yet my resume does not list those accomplishments, why?
In the past I’ve considered those accolades as the evidence of my success, but I now think differently. My success is no longer measured by the length of my resume, but rather by how I feel about the art that I create.
While I do enjoy exhibiting, seeing my work published and meeting people who appreciate my art, this is an extra benefit of creating, but this is not success itself.
I believe that the best success is achieved internally, not externally.
One of the reasons that I’ve been pursuing my recent portfolio entitled The Fountainhead is because I love the philosophy of the novel by the same name. I create these images to honor one of the core principles illustrated in the book; achieving success on one’s own terms.
This has been a perfect project for this purpose because in truth people have not been that enamored with my new images and they may never obtain much exposure, fame or fortune.
But that’s okay! I love these images and have had a wonderful time creating them. And I feel very lucky when I do come across another who appreciates the series because they share my love of architecture or because they can relate to the message of The Fountainhead. For me, this is success.
One of my favorite quotes from The Fountainhead serves as my artist statement for this series. This is an exchange between the main character Howard Roarke who is a young architectural student, and the College Dean who has expelled him for not conforming to the design standards of the day:
- College Dean: My dear fellow, who will let you? (design buildings)
- Howard Roarke: That’s not the point. The point is, who will stop me?
Who can stop me from achieving my own idea of success? No one can.