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June 27, 2020

Your Art Isn’t About You

She made me realise that this whole business of art – it had in fact never been about me. That is how I overcame my fear of putting my art out there. 

When it came to selling my art I mostly struggled. In my mind self-promotion has a bad reputation – I don’t want to “be that marketing guy”. I don’t want to be tooting my own horn and look for attention. I don’t want to be slimy and pushy. 

Then last Tuesday, I had a chance to sit with Petra Laranjo, a coach and brand specialist, over coffee. Being a sunny winter day, we sat outside, on the steps in front of the shop to casually chat. Few days earlier she had been on my platform, speaking on leading change with purpose. 

I happened to mention to her about my struggle. And what she told me changed me forever. 

Today, four days later, I confidently walked into an art gallery, where many famous South African artists’ works are showcased. I showed the owner my work and he immediately said: I absolutely love your work! 

Those were his exact words. Very soon, I will be taking few of my art pieces to the gallery.  

Aha, now you must be wondering what Petra told me!   

This is what she said: “By not putting your art out there, you are robbing people of the opportunity to experience and enjoy your amazing art. Imagine how much value you would be adding to the lives of so many people who would get to see your art – and only because you put it out there for them to find your work.”  

That moment, sitting on those steps, listening to her words, my life changed forever. That moment, I altered my destiny. I shifted and it happened in a blink. 

It Was Never About Me

Petra made me aware that I had to turn my attention away from the little ‘me’ toward my art. She made me realise that this whole business of art – it had in fact never been about me. 

It was about the people who loved and enjoyed my art. It was about the connection people felt with my art. It was about how my art made them feel. It was about what people saw in my art. It was about the flashes of insights that my art revealed to them. It was what my art was communicating with them.        

How arrogant was I thinking that it was all about me!  

In the book, The War of Art, Steven Pressfield writes: Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got. 

Hope you are not playing it small or hiding when it comes to putting yourself out there?  I believe we come into this world with a specific destiny and a specific gift or gifts. We have a job to do and a unique calling to heed to. Picasso articulated this beautifully in few words: 

The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of your life is to give it away.” 

When you find your gift, don’t hold yourself back. Give it away. Share it with the world. Honour your calling, your gift by sharing it with the world. Giving away your gifts is your contribution to the world. It is your responsibility and purpose as an artist. Your fundamental duty to the world and every being in it.      

Radhika Mia is an artist, author and founder of Future Leadership – a global community of changemakers.  


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