Here’s the good thing about struggling as an artist, whether a painter or musician, writer or dancer: you are completely, totally not alone.
I picked up a book about art history recently (title below). A children’s book, because often, this is how I start to learn about something - the simple explanations and plentiful photos and drawings are a much easier entry point than thousands of pages of dense, detailed facts. And I was rather delighted to be reminded of the fact that many “famous” painters were not famous in their own time.
Just for fun, here are a few examples:
Paul Cézanne: He was expected to be a banker, but chose to be an artist against the wishes of his father. So he moved to Paris, devoted himself to his work and… nothing. No one would exhibit his paintings. He kept at it his entire life, painting dramatic landscapes, portraits and still lifes (for which he often used things he found in his own house), but his work was mostly unknown. Most of his life, he thought he was a failure.
Henri Rousseau: Terrible in school, Rousseau eventually worked as a toll collector and taught himself to be an artist in his free time. Today, his paintings are famous - but during his lifetime, his work was rejected. People even joked about his paintings, calling them simple and unreal. He had one solo exhibition during his lifetime without much success.
Vincent Van Gogh: We all know Van Gogh today, but during his lifetime, his artwork was not revered. Or even liked. He painted nearly 2,000 paintings over the course of a decade, but only sold one while he was alive.
So, if you find yourself in the same boat, working and working on your art, only to feel it goes by unnoticed (or possibly even disliked), take heart. Many others have trod that path ahead of you. And really, it isn’t a bad place to be. After all, you’re still making art - and that’s always a success.
Secret bonus: more than the fame and money, the glowing reviews and fan mail, we all know that the process of creating is always the best part.
Source: A Child’s Introduction to Art: The World’s Greatest Paintings and Sculptures. By Heather Alexander, illustrated by Meredith Hamilton.
All images of paintings from Wikipedia Commons.