Abundance vs. Scarcity Mentalities and Artists

This week's illustration from two sessions.

Listen to this, and see if it doesn't resonate with you.

A woman goes into Wal-Mart on Black Friday to shop for her kid's Christmas present, an Xbox. Three other people want the same thing for their loved ones. It is at a big discount, but, it's the last one. She ends up attacking them with a screwdriver and flees with the gift, without regret.

This is a true story that I would like to use, as a loose example, of what new illustrators now face in the industry.

Let me tell you, it is no nourishment for the human soul to see slave labor wages being offered for hit-and-run type creative work. It is further crushing to realize that many beginners accept this, or, even believe it to be the norm of our industry. I was one of these faces. In fact, I'm still dizzy from the hamster wheel. 

I was watching one of Will Terry's videos (totally check his stuff out if you don't know his work) and I was struck by his phrase, "abundance mentality."

This is a mentality that says there are enough jobs and opportunities for all. In art industry terms, that means that everyone can find a job (but whether the job is specific to your tastes or not is up for speculation).

Then there is the scarcity mentality, which is more akin to the Wal-Mart incident. A newcomer will look at the sheer amount of artists in the industry across the globe 

 or, the amount that apply to job posts on freelancing websites 

 and think, "Wow, how can I ever keep up with all this ruthless competition?"

The scarcity mentality, while it helps someone in survival mode, has no place in the art and illustration industry. The belief that money and jobs are scarce leads people to do some crazy things, such as bid lower, refuse to refer other illustrators for jobs, and even take jobs without handling a contract. All of which sabotage the illustration career in a slow and painful way if left unchecked.

Your view of the industry can really impact your success as an illustrator or artist. If you are negative, you can bet that your soul will be put through a shredder and spit out into a never-ending retail job. Likewise, if you are optimistic, the odds feel less against you 

 that will reflect in your work habits, and in turn gain you likability, which means more opportunity.

Whether you are of the abundance or scarcity mentality, the industry is a cold mistress when you're a beginner. That fact cannot be ignored. So, I would like to offer some advice on how to overcome the scarcity mentality, particularly for those who are just starting out. Believe me, I feel your pain!

1. Keep a positive mentor or friends around you, always.

Artists are renowned hermits. But this doesn't mean that you can keep your creative spirit alive all by yourself. Fatigue will chew at your ankles. Other creative peers will keep you accountable for your work, and a mentor will reassure you that you are on the right path by generously sharing their own experiences. If they are of the abundance mentality, they will congratulate you on getting work. Fellow artists' optimism is contagious.

2. Get your work in publications so it's in front of people.

Free ones are especially awesome for those on a budget. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my work was published in Cred Philly's June 2014 issue, which has since given me a few bragging rights. These publishers need work on a recurring basis, so to have your work displayed in this manner is evidence of abundant opportunities for yourself and others.

3. Compete in contests for awards/further recognition/some formal merit.

This will help you get used to competition, thus, slowly eating away at the scarcity mentality. And if you're going to be competing with others anyway, why not compete for something that will pay off later?

4. Practice gratitude.

This applies to just about every human being, but I thought I would share it with you. Counting all of the art-related things you are grateful for will start to make you feel that creative opportunities are more abundant than you thought. For example, if I look back on all the times someone has given me a friendly compliment on my work, I feel ten times better about the direction I am heading in.

5. Remember your real goal.

Just why did you go into this line of work in the first place? Because you wanted to!

Because it is fun, exciting, and good for your mind.

Because it was the only thing you could see yourself doing.

Because you can make money while having fun.

Because you have faith in yourself and you don't care what others think, say, or do.

Don't let desperation in yourself or others knock you down. If art is the path that you've chosen, you better believe that you have to fight for it.

Personally, I wouldn't have it any other way.

What goals do you have that keep you going through the tough times? Share them below! And if you think that someone might benefit from this advice, please share to help.