The Happy Struggling Artist turns seven in April!

The Happy Struggling Artist turns seven in April!

Right on cue for some much needed introspection and gratitude practice, the Universe sent a kindly stranger my way for a very amusing and thought-provoking chat:

Picture this — I’m on duty at the fabulous Spier Craft Art Market. I’m painting one of our hand-crafted wooden animal masks. A charming, elderly gentleman approaches:

Charming gentleman: “What are you making?”
*Gestures to display panel*
Charming me: “I’m painting one of these animal masks.”
Impressed gentleman: “Wow! These are great!”
Humbled me: “Thank you, that’s very kind!”
*Comfortable, momentary silence as he watches me paint*
Confused gentleman: “And… You do this for a living????????”
*Note the vast collection of question marks — this should give you a good indication of his tone*
Bemused me: “Um… Yes.”
Skeptical gentleman: “Really?!?!?!?!?!”
*Again, note the dramatic - but not dramatised - punctuation*

*Stupefied pause*

Very bemused me: “Really.”
*Another stupefied pause, paired with a disbelieving facial expression*
Extremely bemused me: “Do… You… Not believe me?”
Apologetically gushing gentleman: “Oh, no, no, no. No. I’m just surprised. I’ve been trying to sell my work for ages. My cousin is the only person that’s bought one.”
Awkward me: “Oh. Um… That’s… um… too bad. Well, they say that Van Gogh only sold one painting during his lifetime, and um… he’s famous now.”
*Shared, knowing giggle*
Charming gentleman: “Yeah… Well, as long as it makes you happy, right?”
Still awkward me: “And you get to keep both ears!”
*Polite giggling at my extremely lame joke*

Thereafter, our bizarre little conversation fizzled out and we parted ways amicably.

This brief and surreal interaction stayed with me for ages afterwards. For a while, it threatened to morph into a self-doubt monster, ie. the gentleman looked at my work, and found it unfathomable that I could make a living from the pure shite I was producing.

Now, this could absolutely be true and is, in fact, a very real representation of what some people feel when they look at my art. And that’s okay. The way art speaks to us as individuals is so incredibly diverse and varied. We are allowed to have reactions and opinions - good or bad.

Bear with me for a quick, totally valid thought-detour: As part of my university residence acapella singing group (Yup, it’s a real thing and really quite competitive!), our voice coach always said that when he doles out critique, he is critiquing our “instrument”, not our character.

The same thing applies to any creative endeavour/deliverable/product/project/thought, including waaay more than just fine art: If someone doesn’t like it, don’t take it personally. Whatever it is that you’re putting ‘out there’ is merely an extension or expression of Self, not Self itself. It’s not YOU that they don’t like/understand/appreciate, just your instrument.

It boils down to a simple decision: Either we make peace with this fact and keep creating; OR, we don’t ever put anything ‘out there’, for fear of rejection.

Self-doubt Monster neutralised.

Moving on to my main takeaway from the strange little conversation with the charming gentleman:

I feel lucky. Humbled. Grateful.

After seven years of jubilant ups and soul-crushing downs, I’m still making a living doing what I love. Not many people get to do that. And although my wonderful mother owns an extraordinary amount of my work, I think it’s safe to say that I’ve done a little better than Van Gogh did in his lifetime.

My ears are intact too…!



I would not have made it to year seven without you! Thank you for every purchase, every share, kind comment, word of encouragement… As a small token of my appreciation, everything in my online store will be marked a whopping 20% off from 15-21 April.

Discount automatically added at check-out.


blaauwklippen market the happy struggling artist
Featured image: In our home with all my original wildlife artwork, ready for my first ever solo exhibition in the gorgeous National William Humphrey's Art Gallery in Kimberley in 2016.
Above: Our first ever market stall at Blaauwklippen Wine Estate in 2017.


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