Steven Archer Rants #9 Ten Rules For Artists

I’m a full time artist.
I have been for the last 10 years.

But I’ve been doing it my whole life.

My wife is a horror author (look up Donna Lynch on amazon if you’re curious).

We have multiple music projects that have run the last 20 years. Touring, releasing records etc.

I have a children’s book and a few others books out there, I do cover art for our publisher and used to do illustration for weird tales.

I make the majority of our money by selling art to customers directly through Facebook. And do commission work that runs from 300-17,000.

If you’re looking for advice it’s this.

1. If you really want to do the thing you have to build your life around that idea. You have to be willing to sacrifice your comfort and sometimes relationships in order to get there.

By which I mean, you have to want to do it enough to be willing to stick with your hopes and dreams and not become part of someone else’s.

And by build your life around it, I mean exactly that. We live in the middle of nowhere to keep costs down. We don’t and won’t have children for the same (among many other reasons.)

2. It will take infinitely longer than you feel like it should.

I’m pushing 50, we have managed to stay above the poverty line for the last 6-7 years or so.

3. And I can’t stress this one enough.

You have to put in the work.

I mean all the fuckin time.

I’ve done thousands of paintings, even more sketches, dozens of sculptures, released 50+ records, written hundreds of songs, played shows without number, curated art shows, owned a gallery, written music for NASA. And on and on.

Even now, I get up every day and I go into whatever studio makes the most sense and I work. I take a break to eat at some point, and then I work until I pass out.

It took a long time for my wife to really get that what I do is more important than everything, including her. I love her very much and I am always there for her when she needs me, but I am not always going to be around.

After 20+ years of this, touring together etc we have a pretty good system.

4. Make as much work as possible and give it away. Just get rid of it and move on to the next.

Learn to work fast and fluid. Don’t make your work precious.

Make it, get rid of it, forget about it.

When I put an album out, I do the standard promotional stuff, videos, whatever, but I’m already working on the next one, and probably thinking about the one after that.

5. We live in the future, take advantage of that.

A few years back I did a tarot deck, each card hand drawn. It took two and a half months to do all 78 cards.

It was worth it, they look great and it’s sold well.

A year or so later I got an iPad Pro and an Apple Pencil. I did an 60 something page illustrated book on it in two weeks.

Or, I blocked out the majority of a record for one of my projects while on tour for another by writing it on my iPad in the van. When I got home I dropped all the pieces into the studio and finished the rest in a week.

Take advantage of other shit too.

I block my paintings out in my iPad. Set up my projector and spend a few hours laying out a dozen pieces with graphite directly on the canvas to paint later.

I could do it the old fashioned way, but why bother? It ends up the same and this saves me time.

6. Read.
All the time.
Working in a painting? Listen to an audio book.

The more information and ideas you have in your head, the larger variety of ideas you will have to put into your work.

Human brains are connection machines. Learn to use yours.

7. See a therapist, if you need to get on meds, get on meds. The idea that artists need mental illnesses to be creative is ridiculous.

And the idea that meds make you less creative is also ridiculous.

If you go on meds and that happens you’re on the wrong ones. Talk to your doctor and find the right ones. It may take time and multiple tries. But it will be worth it in the long run.

My wife and I are both mentally Ill, and we have worked our asses off to get well enough that we are able to do what we do without year long gaps caused by depression or worse.

As she says “I am not creative because of my mental illness I am creative in spite of it.”

8. Don’t fall into the idea that drugs make you creative.

By all means, experiment, do the thing. I’ve done plenty and I don’t regret it.

But drugs aren’t bringing anything new to the table. All they are doing is scrambling your brain chemestry. You can get there on your own.

Though you may learn a thing or two from your explorations.

9. I said reading, but I also mean keep working on your education. Learn constantly. Be curious.
I am forever fascinated by how things work. And I spent a lot of time learning about that kind of thing, because it’s interesting and you never know when it might be useful.

And finally
10. Know thyself.


Spend a lot of time thinking about your motivations. What gets you off? What do you love about art? Why do you want to do it? Why do you do it? Why do you love your life? How can you contribute to the world? What makes your voice special? (And believe me, you better find something or you’re not going to work hard enough to get your work out there.)

You have to deeply love being you, or at least believe on a fundamental level that what you are bringing to the table matters.

Otherwise, why bother doing it?

If you need my bonafides, here’s a link to a bunch of prints so you can see my painting chops.

You can look up “ego likeness” or “stoneburner,” (the electronic industrial band not the sludge metal band from PORTLAND with the same name) if you are interested in the music.

And if you want to know more about my other shit, you can hit my personal page, it’s all there.