Your Next Big Art Project? Your Business.

The great writer and philosopher Henry David Thoreau once said, “The world is but a canvas to our imaginations,” and these words still resonate for me.

Your next big Art project
Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog by Caspar David Friedrich

As an artist, my heart has always called me to create. Along the way, I often encountered what seemed like obstacles—income concerns, business requirements, clients, agents, producers, etc.—preventing me from achieving what I wanted. If not for these hurdles, I thought, I could finally get down to the good work that I was meant to be doing.

But then I started to consider that creating a business could be just as much of an opportunity to express my creativity and values as any of my projects—the two did not have to separate. And that’s when my point of view shifted.

Art is not an exercise in getting things right, but an opportunity to disrupt the predictable ways that we view the world. Seeing my business through this new prism was thrilling. Now when I look at expenses, clients, agents, and producers, I see opportunities instead of speed bumps or obstacles.

I went from looking for the right answer to difficult questions, to making choices based on what I believe—on the things I think are important. I now choose the kind of person I’d like to be, and the kind of change I want to bring about in the world.

To make this kind of shift, however, you have to be willing to ask yourself some fundamental questions. When the time comes for your eulogy, how do you want to be acknowledged? What kind of artist do you want to be, and how does that translate to the way that you create your business? Do you want to be bold? Fearless? Generous? Beautiful?

To move this question from the abstract to the practical, consider the purchase of a business asset, such as an $8,000 printer. You can approach the decision as an exercise in predicting the future. Will you use the printer enough to justify its cost? Will you follow through with the applications that you currently envision for it? From there, you can imagine successes and failures, all the while knowing that the future is not truly in your hands. While you are busy spinning these wheels, your decision remains unmade.

Now look at the question from the perspective of who you are as an artist, and how you want to create your business. Look inwardly and ask yourself who you are committed to being in your work? What are your core values? If you want your career and business to be built on boldness, what choices must you make?

Artists have an opportunity to make decisions about their businesses from a place of creativity or control. You can mold your career into another expression of who you are, rather than merely a vehicle. While your decisions do not guarantee success, they certainly offer velocity and clarity. They are an answer to the call that all artists hear deep within themselves—to create, create, create…

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Nephi Niven
Nephi is the founder of Nephi Niven Coaching, a success- and accomplishment-coaching practice. With clients on three continents, he focuses on projects that fill bookshelves, gallery walls, stages, and the silver screen. He is also a leader and mentor for Accomplishment Coaching, a renowned coach-training program in Washington D.C. Residing in New York City with his long-time partner, Gideon, Nephi is also an accomplished photographer and an active and contributing member of the art scene.

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