Lessons Learned

Here is a 2018 year in review: an important and thought-provoking blog post by Dallas, based artist, Bree Smith. She has been gracious enough to share with our readers!

This […] title may sound a little depressing but I wanted to reflect back on the year to acknowledge the challenges and failures that taught me the most important lessons that will shape my art practice from now on. It’s not that I didn’t have a lot of successes to celebrate (it was a great year of growth!) but I also didn’t want to write a “Bye 2018” post like everyone else’s….you know us artists have to do things a little differently.

Experimenting leads to discovery

It’s so hard to try something out of my comfort zone, but I realized that nothing bad is going to happen if I make a bad piece of art. The art boogie man is NOT going to come out from my closet and take my paint brushes away for life, and the art police aren’t going to walk in and take my BFA away. I finally realized the importance of experimenting—that if I don’t ever try anything new and make some bad art, how will I ever make new discoveries that lead to evolving my work?

Having a mental blank slate before starting a piece removes unrealistic expectations

For me, unlearning practices like creating thumbnail sketches and planning out a composition before starting a piece was key to unlocking my creative productivity this year. Starting without a plan resolved my obsession with outcome and helped me focus on process. By changing my focus, I discovered new ways of making art that bring me so much joy! Setting myself free from the rules I had learned in college was a major breakthrough for me this year.

It’s time for a season of no commission work

I was so blessed this year with many clients who wanted me to create custom work for them. The fact that so many of you wanted me to make something for you touched me deeply. So, it was a shocking realization for me when I realized that I only have a limited amount of time in the day (and shoot, life) to create artwork. After the fellowship ended in May, from that point on I spent all of my available studio time (which is not much after day job & family) working on commissions until November.

After I was finished with all of my projects on the books, I looked back on the past six months and saw that I had made little forward progress on my own work. It became clear that I needed to put commissions on hold for a season so I can focus on developing my own artwork. Creating work in my own style from my own heart and soul and putting it out into the world is the only way to move my art career forward from where I’m at right now, and I hope you all understand! (I also hope you understand that if Beyonce calls she gets what she wants). I am SO incredibly grateful to my clients who wanted me to create special pieces for them, and it honestly means more to me than I can express.

Art Steady Me, 2018. Mixed media, digital collage. Bree Smith

Art Steady Me, 2018. Mixed media, digital collage. Bree Smith

Boldness pays off

Overcoming fear was a huge focus for me this year. Every time I hesitated to take a bold step, I would ask myself, “why not?” or “what’s the harm in asking?” And what do you know? Great things happened because of this new habit!

More is accomplished with others than alone

I was so fortunate to meet so many creative people this year. The help, ideas, and inspiration that came from being with other creative people fueled my passion and motivation. I have become a little hermitty towards the end of the year, but I’m making it a priority to get back to more creative events next year and make more creative friends!

The hustle mindset can kill your relationships if you’re not careful

It’s so easy to get sucked into the Gary Vee mindset of working every single minute of the day. And you know what? If I didn’t have a family I probably would. I honestly love making art and marketing my art that much. But that’s not my situation. In order to be the wife and mother I need to be, I can’t work all the time.

Creating work for myself has led to better and more interesting work

I used to have this high expectation in my head while creating that people might love what I made and that it would be THE piece to launch my career into the stratosphere because it’s such pure genius. Oh my goodness, how ridiculous. I decided to throw those thoughts out of my mind and make the work that makes me happy and that comes from who I am. And guess what? More people liked it than I ever expected…

Fashionauts, 2018. Acrylic, Bree Smith

Fashionauts, 2018. Acrylic, Bree Smith

I’ve also made peace with the fact that this art journey is a long and difficult one. There won’t be a single piece I make that will fulfill all of my career dreams. It will be consistency over time that will make my dreams a reality, and bring sustained success.

Leaning into my weird obsessions brings more interesting ideas for work

I decided to stop pretending to be “cool” and dive into my love of sci fi and futuristic things this year and into next year. I think in the past I’ve tried to hide and bury the parts of me that I felt didn’t fit in with the world around me, but this year I’ve begun to embrace the true parts of me and put them on display in my art. It’s been giving me so many exciting ideas for new work in 2019, and I CAN’T WAIT.

Don’t neglect your SEO strategy

For real…don’t skip over this one. There’s a trillion times better chance of people finding you on Google than Instagram, so don’t ignore this one like I did. This is going to be a huge focus for me in 2019. I started with setting up a Google My Business page which took like 5 minutes. Next, I’m going to work on my on-page SEO like adding alt-text and meta descriptions. I’m dreading this one tbh, but I have no excuse for dropping the ball on this one. I’ve worked in digital marketing for 8 years for pete’s sake!

The artwork comes first, not Instagram.

When I first started making art again I used Instagram as an accountability measure to keep me going. That soon evolved into making work solely to have something to post. Yikes. Once i realized what I was doing, I vowed to put my work first, and have my marketing efforts be an outflow of my work, not the other way around.

Special thanks to Bree for sharing this interesting and truly resonating read with us. I know I’ll be adding some of her mentioned topics to my own “to-do” list!

To learn more about Bree Smith and her art, please visit breesmith.com. You may follow the artist on Instagram @bree_smith_art.


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