Wednesday, May 30, 2012

"FOMO" - Art Style

In case you were wondering... Women's Health Magazine is the only non-art related publication I subscribe to, simply because, by the end of the day, I've worked so hard and been so immersed in my art that I need something light and inconsequential to help me wind down. However, an article in the latest issue (June 2012, pp. 106-108) really caught my attention. The article was titled, "Are You a Slave to FOMO?" It's not considered an actual disorder, but FOMO ("Fear of Missing Out") is, according to Huffington Post's Annie Stamell, "an epidemic sweeping our nation".  In the article, one psychologist states, "FOMO happens when we invalidate the experience we're having because we're obsessed with the ones we're not having." This often triggers a great deal of self-induced stress, guilt, envy, or insecurity. Not only does FOMO invalidate your experiences, it causes you to want to "inflate" the experiences you are having so that others will envy you. For instance, you might tweet, "Sand between my toes, a good book, and a cold drink. This is paradise!" when really you are sitting in your backyard sipping a coke, doing your taxes, and slapping mosquitos away. Okay, that might be a silly example, but I think you get the drift.

Why do I bring this up? Because my little art-wired brain recognizes FOMO as something I'm seeing far and wide in the art world, particularly because of Facebook and other social media. I've experienced it myself. I'm suddenly remembering all those hours I spent in college framing and finishing last-minute pieces for my senior art show... my friends were all out partying, and I was experiencing FOMO. Or, when many of my art friends attended a certain art event its first year running... and then the second year, and the third year... without me... I experienced FOMO. It made me feel like I wasn't good enough, and that no matter what I was doing here at home, it would never be as great or as exciting. Or even this past weekend, at the Portrait Society of America conference, I conked out at 11 every night and missed out on the late-night festivities and conversations. Uh, hello... FOMO. As I continued believing I wasn't one of the "cool kids," self-doubt set in, among other unhealthy emotions.

Quite honestly, this is ridiculous. As artists, we should be accustomed to long hours alone in the studio, where nothing matters but creating excellent work. Yet we can't peel our eyes off of what the rest of the world is doing, and consequently, waste valuable hours of our lives in envy and regret.

Here is my solution to dealing with FOMO in the art world.

1) Limit your time on Facebook. Post when you have something relevant to say, or a new painting to show, etc, but don't spend hours stalking your art friends and envying what they are doing. I also have a policy that when I start feeling envy set in, I will think about why that person is really great and deserves the wonderful things that are happening in their lives. Then I write an encouraging comment (i.e., "Amazing work!" or "So glad you got to experience that!"), to validate their experience.

2) Whatever your reason is for missing out on something, OWN IT. For example, when I missed out on all the parties before college graduation because I was framing art and finishing paintings, I was happy to say that I never suffered from a hangover, AND that all the hard work paid off. I sold many of the pieces at my show! Even if you can't attend a workshop or conference, or go to lunch with a famous artist, or travel to Europe every year to paint... don't worry about it. Do the best you can with the circumstances you are in and make the very most of that time. Your work (and your happiness) will improve exponentially.

3) Enjoy each stage of your career, while applauding the successes of others. This is a tough one for me, because my tendency is to always look ahead, while missing out on the present. Being an artist IS about the journey, not about how many publications you get in or how big your studio is or whether or not you become famous. It's the journey.

That being said, I would like to applaud all of the incredible artists who were finalists in this year's International Portrait Competition held by the Portrait Society of America. I would also like to praise the efforts of the 15 Face-Off artists at the conference in Philadelphia, and everyone who gave of their time and energy to help with this event. Samuel Adoquei said, "The best artists are givers." That is what I saw at this event - knowledge and talent being poured out by artists so that others could learn from their successes and mistakes. Hopefully as we are inspired by others (and not hampered by FOMO), we will take what we can use for our own personal journeys and simply leave the rest. We've got painting to do!

Rose Frantzen and Mary Whyte at the 2012 "Art of the Portrait" Face-Off



  1. Very well said, Anna, very insightful and honest. I applaud you for that! I have definitely experienced FOMO myself, especially when it comes to the conference every year and once again I cannot attend, but also in regards to you! You are so young and already so accomplished. It's where I saw myself when I was young but my life took different turns. I am learning to accept that the choices I made back then that derailed me off the planned path were the best I could do at the time. I cannot live in regret but am learning to embrace the richness of my experiences. So, I didn't go to art school, had to make a living in other ways since age 16, but that also allowed me to see places and experience things I would never had the chance to otherwise. You seem to be doing all the right things, dedicating your time to being a full time artist, honing your skills, getting established before having kids, building your art business in such a smart way. I really admire you for that and have no doubt that one day you will be the grand prize winner and sought after demo artist at the Portrait Society of America conference. Keep up the good work, joy the journey, and don't beat yourself up over missed opportunities. You are doing extremely well!

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Daggi. It's true that we all have different paths and make different choices. I find every artist's story to be fascinating and wonderful for its uniqueness, including yours. Thanks for sharing! :-)

  2. Well said! And it needed saying! At the end of the day, the only thing we have control over and that should matter is the quality of our work and the unique perspective via our unique DNA that we bring to our art. I would say that you both, Daggi and Anna, do very well in that department!


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