By Marco North, Creative Director, Bittersweet Group
There is a sort of defeatist position held by some artists, say ones from my parent's generation (born 1940). The prevailing idea was that self-promotion was always shameless. The pipe dream of being discovered meant you made your art and toiled in poverty and obscurity, waiting for that fateful knock on the door - the agent, the gallery, the rep to do the dirty work. In fact, many "succesful" artists were seen as sell-outs, suckers - shameful beasts in monkey suits, not authentic.
I grew up hearing this rhetoric, watching great paintings languish in stacks, in piles, unseen or seen by very few. But my father's self-respect remained intact. Never a sell-out, was the mantra. Nice for artists, not the best life choice for your children.
As a young man I made a conscious decision to learn how to "sell myself" without feeling embarrassed, without betraying my muse. The first thing I did was work to sell something, someone I really believed in. I wasn't selling snake oil, I was selling a high school senior with some big ideas and a serious work ethic. I went to college on a series of scholarships, based solely on my newfound ability to "get splashy" as I like to say, about why I wanted to become a writer and filmmaker. I kept the conversation positive. I kept the answers emotional, and brief. I looked people right in the eye, and I did not tell them what they wanted to hear, as much as spoke from my heart. I could not have gone to college any other way. My parents had no money for that.
Flash forward to twenty years later. I am a single parent. I live in Moscow, the most expensive city in the world. I have a daughter to provide for. When I self-promote my agency/studio, I do it with that same "splashy" presentation. What's interesting is that my daughter has been in those meetings with me, and has become part of "the show." It's definitely a lost scene from Paper Moon in some ways. But afterwards, walking in the dusty street, trying to figure out where to get a late lunch, I talk with her. I explain why we make jokes and show project samples and talk about "our workflow" and "our methods."
She smiles at me.
"I know why, Pop," She says. "So we can buy a lot of Legos."
"And the rent," I add.
I feel not an iota of shame or tackyness when I hustle for work. I don't power through it. I got so far past such wasteful thoughts, this self-doubt. Being a single parent and running your own business means shame must be abandoned.