Maria Brophy

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Rejected? Wonder if what you’re doing is Good Enough?

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Abstract WATER Paintings for Ocean Institute (c) DREW BROPHYDO YOU EVER ASK:  “Is what I’m doing GOOD ENOUGH?”

Well meaning people have a way of crushing our dreams, big and small.  It starts with our parents, who lovingly “warn” us about not making a poor career choice.  Then our teachers feel the need to save us from our “bad” decisions.  And society, also groomed by these same beliefs to stay safe, criticizes us for being different or thinking in too strong of a unique way.

But as artists, we see the world differently.  We are the people who invent new solutions and show visual representations to help the rest of the world see what we see.  Bringing new ideas to life is not always welcome by others, and often is discouraged.

The strength to believe in yourself, when others don’t, is a powerful tool that leads directly to success in just about any field.

If you ever doubt your creative mind or your new ideas, or if other people doubt you, this story I’m about to share will shift everything for you.

When my husband Drew was starting out as an artist, he was discouraged by many people in his life.  He had a vision of painting surfboards in a way that was different than anyone had ever seen; but the problem was, everyone criticized him for it.

After painting one of these “new” designs on a surfboard, one surfboard maker said to him “Drew, that’s the ugliest painting I’ve ever seen.”

It hurt, but Drew was stubborn and stuck to what he was driven to paint, despite feeling the criticism.

Fast forward twenty five years, and Drew’s unpopular painting techniques became the world’s standard for painting boards, and his painted surfboards are collected by A-list celebrities and musicians.

I’m going to share with you a blog post that Drew wrote on this topic, and I hope it will inspire you to continue to stay strong in your own ideas.


 

A young Artist asked for Drew’s advice on how to find her style.  She wanted to know how Drew developed his own painting style.  This was Drew’s answer to her:

“When I was young and trying to make a living as a surf artist and a surfboard painter, I painted a lot.  Every day I produced new work.

I painted what I wanted to paint, even when other people didn’t like it.

I didn’t try to please anyone with my paintings. Many people didn’t get what I was doing.  I thought they were nuts that they didn’t get it.  (And they thought I was nuts.)

In the beginning, I tried to get people excited about the paintings I was doing, but most didn’t respond.

There was an entire world of people who didn’t respect or understand what I was doing.  It wasn’t good enough for galleries or even surf shops at one point.  I was turned down by almost every single surfboard maker in the early years, because they didn’t understand my art.

I was constantly rejected, but I didn’t stop doing it.

I felt insecure, but I didn’t let it stop me.  I put my head down and just kept going.  Creating what I was driven to create.

Then one day some people started to like what I was doing.
Eventually, more and more people liked it.

My style became popular, and now decades after all the rejection, people copy it all over the world.

My advice: Do what you want.  Paint, draw, create a lot. Every day.

Create for yourself and see what develops.

Don’t do what other people do and don’t do what other people tell you to do, not unless you really want to.  Be stubborn.

Don’t do things just because they have always been done that way.  Do things your own way.

Do what draws you in and what keeps your interest the most. Don’t worry about other people’s opinions.

No matter what you do, someone is going to love it, and someone is going to hate it.  Find the people who love it.

Experiment with a lot of things.  Be patient. Let it develop. It may take months or years to find your style and it will constantly evolve and progress.

Just keep creating art.

I hope this helps all those people out there who aren’t sure if what they are doing is good enough.  It is.  Just keep doing it.  

Drew”


When you have a strong desire to create something new, and others don’t get it, don’t let that stop you.

It’s okay to feel disappointed that they don’t understand you, but don’t allow that feeling to prevent you from creating in a way that you are driven to do so.

We all want to be accepted and loved.   Some of us have great insight into things, but we have to be patient and wait for the rest of the world to catch up.

Put your head down, keep doing what you believe in, and eventually, one by one, people will come around.

Have you experienced criticism, from yourself or others, for thinking differently?

Please, share in the comments below, your questions or thoughts on this.   I would love to hear from you!

With Love,

Maria xxoo

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25 Comments Rejected? Wonder if what you’re doing is Good Enough?

  1. Annmarie Barlow

    I am a pyrogrpahic artist located in Franklin, Tennessee. Over the course of the past month I have nearly been refusing to make any art. My friends and family ask if I have made anything new and I tell them, “No, because it sits in my closet and collects dust.” I have a niche and a style and people look at my work and tell me they’ve, “never seen anything like it.” And yet, I swear at times I couldn’t GIVE it away if I wanted to. I told my best friend yesterday that I’d like to throw away my entire body of work, perhaps the sting of it’s disposal would hurt less than the sting of it’s failure. People don’t understand my work and they spend a lot of time telling me it’s great but that I should, “burn the state of Tennessee’s flag into wood,” or I should, “burn the logos of football teams into wood, you could make so much money!” Basically, I should appeal to the masses, I should do what everyone else is already doing. No disrespect to the people who have created a business off such things, good for them, but it’s not what I want to do. It’s not what I love, it’s not what I’m drawn to create. I say all that to say, thank you for this post. When you’ve been stubborn for so long, when you work job after job that you hate because you refuse to sell yourself out as an artist and make what everyone tells you to make, when you walk by the closet that your body of work sits in day after day after day, it’s hard to keep creating sometimes. It’s hard to find a point to it all. Thank you for permission to keep being stubborn, I needed to hear it.

    Reply
    1. Maria

      Ann Marie, thanks for sharing your story.

      I can totally relate to what you’re saying, about how people will tell you to create something that is not meaningful to you.

      We are always told “Drew should paint Santa Clause, he’d kill it in sales!” And it makes me cringe, because that is not what his art is about.

      But people mean well, they don’t understand art when they say things like that. It’s not their fault.

      Keep doing what you love, own it, enjoy it, stay strong!

      Reply
  2. Claudia Tremblay

    Wonderful article! Thank you! Making lots of art is the key! At some points its all gets connected. Even our “horrible pieces ” exist for a reason! How else would we compare our growth? You have helped me greatly before Maria and continue to. The tips you gave me worked all the way! .You are very inspiring. I adore reading your blog!

    Reply
  3. jim

    Maria,thanks for sharing Drews’ amazing triumph over fears and the rewards of achievements in his art. I feel the pain when someone discounts a work of art always. “finding yourself or style” is my search. The fear of being influenced by a past artist or even emulating them seems to have a stigma attached to it. the fear of “COPYING” another artists style or look to some degree. I want to have my own look but seem to lean on past artist and the way they create. I see in Drews art a wonderful influence by Rick Griffin. I love it and apriciate it… has he ever felt uneasy for this adaptation or has anyone ever accused him of being a “copier”?

    Reply
    1. Maria

      Jim, thanks for the comment and question.

      Drew has never been accused of copying, as he has never copied someone else’s work. But, you can see the influence of several artists in his work; Rick Griffin, Salvador Dali and Bill Ogden.

      The symbols used in many of Rick Griffin’s work came from Hopi Indian artwork that he was inspired by. And Bill Ogden was inspired by Maxfield Parish.

      Artists always influence each other; there’s no greater compliment than to see that you’ve influenced an entire generation of artists behind you.

      As long as you’re not copying someone’s work, being influenced is okay. Don’t worry about what anyone else says about it. People always want to compare art to other art, it helps them to better understand it.

      Drew’s work and style is copied around the world; some ask permission and some don’t. He sees the big picture and is happy to know that his work has inspired people to create art.

      It’s like passing it on, from one generation to the next. Not a bad thing!

      Reply
      1. jim

        Thanks Maria, I agree with you that he has never copied someone else’s art. And yes I can see the great influence of those past artists that Drew has been inspired by and grown from it. I remember the first Lost board I saw with Drew’s art on it and was blown away!!! He has such an amazing imagination and use of color in his work. Your advice about creating art and not letting others bring you down was very helpful. And a huge thanks for sharing all this with us artists. Your transparency and encouragement is only propelling us artists to levels we never thought possible. And given many artists vision for things to come.

        Thanks again
        Jim

  4. Carol

    I feel like I pretty much know my niche ( thanks, Maria, for helping me identify it). Fear, self doubt, and discouragement seem to slow me down. I met once with a mentor who essentially doubted that my art, as it is, would have a broad appeal. I know what I want to do, but most days feel quite all alone. Thanks for the encouragement to keep on going.

    Reply
    1. Maria

      Carol, thanks for reading my post!

      Regarding the mentor who doubted that your art would have broad appeal: There is no way for that person to know!

      When artists come to me, asking if their work is worthy to offer to the public, I refuse to give my opinion. My opinion does not matter – because I cannot guess how the rest of the world will respond.

      There is only one way to find out, and the opinion of one person is not it. You put your work out in the public, make it visible, see WHO it resonates with.

      It will resonate with people, you just have to find out where those people are, and find a way to reach them.

      Please, Carol, continue doing what you love and find various ways to share it with the world. And allow yourself to enjoy it while you’re doing it!

      Reply
  5. Thomas

    Many years ago, I saw a television interview with actor Burt Reynolds. He had just won major critical acclaim for his portrayal of a character in the film, “Deliverance”.

    Burt specifically and sincerely gave thanks to all of his critics, detractors, and naysayers, saying that they ultimately provided motivation for him to work even harder to improve his acting skills.

    Reply
  6. Gareth

    I’ve always been someone who has enjoyed drawing but never considered what I did to be something people would buy or be interested in. So in a weird sense it was kind of liberating because I always did whatever I liked, it was for me, it served a purpose and at some point usually ended up in the bin. I can’t remember anyone telling me they hated what I did, and really can’t remember many saying they liked it either, other than mates who I thought were being polite. I never really considerded what I did as art, I just found drawing shapes patterns,etc enjoyable. As one of my hobbies I make wooden surfboards and for fun I drew on a board. I sometimes take boards to shows to meet other builders and show off the boards, and with luck sell a couple. I was dumbfounded to have a couple of offers on the board with art and sold it to a buyer who told me he was stoked to buy a board from a local artist. It took me a few seconds to click that he had called me an artist. I’d never been called that, and never considered myself that. But a seed had been planted. Since that point a little over a year ago I’ve sold 10 or so boards shipping many to America, I’m Australian. The only boards I’ve ever sold have been the ones I’ve drawn on. It’s also led to me being commissioned for a few canvases and also some art for a stand up paddle.
    Which leads me to why this article is great for me. Because of the success I’ve had I now have the thought that maybe I could make a living doing this. I already have a great job, primary school teacher, but I really love making boards and drawing. Which means I need to put my stuff out there more and arm myself for the negative. It’s great to read how someone as successful and whose art I’ve loved and admired dealt with the negative. Resilience has never been a strong point for me. Thanks for fountain of information you provide and for sharing your experiences so openly, and sorry for the long rambling post.

    Reply
    1. Maria Brophy

      Gareth,

      Love your art! I’ve seen it before, and you are a great artist. Thanks for sharing your story here and for the kind words. So good to hear from you!

      Reply
  7. Patrice A Federspiel

    Great advice and oh so true! Paint what YOU want to paint and you can be sure it will turn out better than if you paint for “anyone else”. It’s been true for me. The paintings that I REALLY want to paint, no matter how silly they may seem or how “out there” they are, are the ones that turn out the best, and that find a new home with someone else.

    Reply
  8. John Mavrakis

    Maria . . . as usual, excellent insights and observations for anyone interested in a career in art, or . . . just about any profession! The stories you and Drew have shared are pertinent and relevant to anyone with a dream and a goal to be or create something different. It is not always so easy to stick true to that dream, but as your story demonstrates, you will find your place and others who value what you do. Superb reminder and a great inspiration for us all!

    Reply
  9. Michael Bruce Davis

    When I was in grade one and I played house with one of my friends from my class, I said to her I have to go to work now. My job was being a painter. Not of houses, but I created paintings. I think in many peoples hearts they have known what they wanted to do at an early age as I did. I’m now 70 and that desire is still with me. I’m a procrastinator as well, and finding your site has given me a kick in the bum to keep being creative. Maria, thank you for your inspiring words.

    Reply
  10. alan phillips

    Hi Maria,

    Every post, email and expression of love you have for Drew, for art, for artists resounds with truth. I just wanted to pass on a few words of wisdom that I heard Alan Watts, the great philosopher speak that is a little image I think of when someone is judgemental, wants to help or has what Curtis Jackson calls “A bad idea.” concerning my art. He said, “It’s like a monkey that reaches down into the water and pulls out the fish to keep it from drowning and places it safely in the tree.”
    I think of this and move right past any negative energy. Thank you for your posts Maria.

    Reply
  11. Michael

    Great Article 🙂

    Iv been drawing seriously for about 5 years now. Never sold anything, but have never tried to sell either.
    This was a great article to read at this point in my life, as I need to start selling now.

    A problem I face however isnt criticism of art.
    Yes I’ll be criticised by EVERYONE I know for trying to make a career out of it, but people are quite positive when responding to my artwork itself.
    My main concern about “Is what I’m doing GOOD ENOUGH?” is that people often say one thing and do/believe another.

    Any handy tips for artists on how to cut through the “double speak”?

    Reply
  12. Brandon Bresee

    Enjoyed this article:)
    I’ve been drawing ever since I was a little kid, I always practiced almost everyday when I was young, and as I grew up, I said I wanted to be an artist and sell art as a career. A lot of my friends laughed at me and said that it wasn’t a real job… I didn’t stop though, in fact I started my own skateboarding apparel brand. The brand is only 2 months old, and there’s so much I need and want to learn. I don’t have a full time job anymore, and almost completely out of money due to investing in the company. What should I do to become successful in this? I always try to advertise my brand to friends and at skateparks, but I have had no success with anyone buying my shirts. What is some advice you’d give to a young entrepreneur like myself?

    Thanks again,
    Brandon

    Reply
    1. Maria Brophy

      Hi Brandon, thanks for the question!

      You asked “What should I do to become successful at this (Skateboard brand)?

      There are two things to do:

      1 – Make sure that you write out a general business plan. Printing and making tee-shirts without having a customer base is a quick way to run out of money fast.

      Selling just tee shirts to retailers or individuals doesn’t make money, not unless you are selling thousands of units a month. And to get to that point, you have to build a great brand (see #2).

      So, rethink what you are selling. Have you considered making skateboards? Or something else that skateboarders want?

      2 – Built a great brand. This takes time (unless you have millions $$$ to put into marketing). Great brands are built on great ideas. They are also built on giving people what they want and what they need.

      Ask yourself: What does skateboarders want? What do they need? What can I offer?

      Also, a great brand is all about the buyer, not about the seller. So your brand should be about skateboarders, not about you. Does that make sense?

      Hope this helped somewhat!

      Reply

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