Episode 172 – Making It in the Art World by Brainard Carey / Your attitude

Chapter 12

Your attitude

As I am sure you know, your attitude plays a crucial role in how you use this book and how you make it in the art world.

On one level, it is simplistic. When you are feeling good, it tends to rub off on others, and the opposite, of course, is also true. When you are enthusiastic about your work, your life, and the latest thing you are working on, those around you share that enthusiasm, and it can only work to your benefit.

The trick is figuring out how to maintain that level of feeling good every day, or at least on most days. For artists of all types, I think that one of the biggest issues is to work on your career on a regular basis. If you are using the time management techniques in here and are spending at least thirty minutes a day, four days a week on the work that it takes to get your art seen in the world, it will have a profound and positive effect on your career. By committing yourself to such a schedule, you are also telling your- self that you are in control of your life and that you are working towards a goal. That in itself will not only put a smile on your face and some self-assurance in your step, but will also prevent the feeling of being unsure about the next steps you are taking.


Another aspect to consider is your general health. While this may seem obvious, artists operate under certain myths about partying. Drinking alcohol and doing any kind of drugs will not help in giving you access to the art world of your dreams. I am not saying that you should never drink alcohol and go to a party, but I am saying it would help to be conscientious about it. At openings for galleries, it is not helpful to drink the alcohol unless you do it very sparingly. When you are in control and aware of what is happening, you have the ability to really make things happen. Sincere enthusiasm is catchy, but slightly drunk enthusiasm is viewed suspiciously. Wouldn’t you view it the same way? There are artists that have been notorious party animals, but it is often to their detriment, either healthwise or in terms of their career. It is just easier to function and be ambitious when you are feeling healthy. It is very easy for artists to get involved in addictions to drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, food, sex, or something else, because to be an artist, you have to create your own structure, and since most don’t create that structure, they are in an environment that is unstructured and vulnerable to doubt. General well-being is also an important contributor to your attitude. Again, this may be obvious, but if you don’t practice it, it will not help you. To be healthy, really healthy, you need to do some kind of vigorous exercise every day. That could be walking at a quick pace for thirty minutes or working out at the gym or something similar, but it means sticking to a schedule.

Eating Habits

How you eat is another step, and a major one in my experience, of controlling your mood and attitude. I became a raw foodist at one point, meaning that I only ate salads, more or less. I didn’t cook anything; I ate plenty of fruits, nuts, and lots of greens with avocados and tomatoes and other delicious vegetables. I did not eat bread or grains of any kind. I also started to fast once a week. The way I fasted was to drink only distilled water for an entire day. I would fast every Sunday and eat raw food for the rest of the week. That in itself changed my life. The first big show I had at the Whitney Biennial came when I was a raw foodist. There is an incredible feeling to seeing quite clearly that everything you eat looks like it came from a plant or a tree. I lost weight and began biking every day and felt like a million bucks. This may not be the diet for you, but the more salads you eat, the better you will feel. Experiment and see. After eating raw food for several months or even days, have a plate of pasta or a bagel and see how it feels. In my experience, it feels awful, and suddenly I become sluggish and tired. That feeling of being tired extends to everything. You’ve felt that, I’m sure. Once you are tired, or not feeling well, all your best-laid plans are useless. There are plenty of books on the raw food diet and also books on how to fast, but make it easy on yourself and just try to swap out regular meals for a salad at least a few times a week, and you will feel better and have more energy to pursue the plan you have created with this book.

Stress, Anxiety, Depression

If you have serious depression, consult a physician; the other method to battle stress, anxiety, and depression is to meditate. While fasting, raw food, and exercise are important for health, stress is not managed entirely that way. As you move through your career, you will have ups and downs, and the downs can be difficult to manage if you don’t have a plan to deal with it. Meditation is simple, and it is the answer to stress that affects nearly all of us. You don’t need to take classes in meditation in my opinion, any more than you need to take classes in how to breathe. It is very simple. Sit in a comfortable chair every morning and set a timer for ten minutes. If you don’t have a timer, you can sit near a clock and open your eyes occasionally to check the time. With your eyes closed, breathe in and count to yourself starting with the number one. Then breathe out and say the number two, breathe in for three, and so on until you reach ten, and then start over again. Do not worry about other thoughts coming into your head; just continue to focus on counting. If you go over ten by accident, just start over at one. It is best to do this twice a day, in the morning and before you go to bed. It is an ancient technique that really works, try it. If you want to know exactly what I do, take a look at my daily calendar online and you will see my schedule of exercise and meditation on a daily basis, as well as the deadlines I am watching.


While almost everything in this book is geared to help you make it, there is as much to be said for helping others along the way. It is all too common to hear artists who are jealous of other artists’ success. One of the cures for this unfortunate emotion is to be consciously generous to other artists in particular. Examples are to listen closely to friends’ ideas and help them sort things out or encourage them when you see them hesitate to pursue a dream. One of the online fund-raising platforms, kickstarter.com, is a good way to be generous with your money. I’m sure you have heard this can work both ways, so it is important to be financially and emotionally supportive of other artists. That means anything from lending your friend money to supporting several artists for a dollar or more each on kickstarter.com. You can go there now and begin to be a philanthropist for very little money. It will make you feel good and also give you a taste of what it is like to get letters from people thanking you for your generosity. Some of those letters will make you smile more than others, and that will be a tool to illustrate the pleasure of giving.

To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here.  To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.