The plight of the undiscovered artist

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Dear Artist,

Last night I met with five of the 17 million artists who currently need to sell more of their art.

Two of my visitors came originally from a sales background. Two were young and disliked the subject of selling but were eager to get on with it. The other one had read a lot and taken courses — online, on the phone and in person. These courses included art marketing, eBay sales, art blogging, display advertising, selling yourself and your art, the business of art, licensing art, portfolio building, CV writing, direct selling without a gallery, use of art consultants, corporate art sales, generating buzz and PR, working with museums, art fairs and biennales, Tweeting and Facebooking, finding private patrons, approaching and developing relationships with commercial galleries.

This lady was a walking encyclopedia of art entrepreneurship who hadn’t sold one of her paintings in seven months. We could’ve spent the whole evening listening to her.

All of them felt selling was key to a happy life. While it might be hard for some of our readers to swallow, they thought cash flow would probably make creativity flow.

I quoted an old friend: “Paintings are sold when they’re painted, not when they’re sold.” This brought out some shouting. My thought was that all the suits on Madison Avenue couldn’t sell substandard art. It was pointed out to me that a sliced cow with enough bull will get someone to call it art and another to pay for it.

One of the sales guys put in that he had sold used cars that weren’t going to run more than a couple of blocks, and that he felt bad about it. Everybody agreed it’s best to feel good. The other sales guy let it drop that he had more paintings than the Louvre. He said he had made them, they were good paintings and everybody, including his wife, thought they were good paintings, and he was entitled to sell them.

Everyone left with more questions than they brought. Maybe you can answer some of them. Which is better — feeling good or getting good? What is good? Has everything already been done? Does it matter? What courses should monetarily artists take? How much of the current art-poverty is due to the current recession — or does the current poverty have something to do with sliced cows?

Best regards,

Robert

PS: “Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons.” (Woody Allen)

Esoterica: In times of poverty, get-rich-quick systems abound. “Take it easy,” I put in. “Why not just take the time to make what you think is better art?” With all the talk about marketing I wasn’t even sure painting was worth mentioning. “A conversation,” said Ambrose Bierce, “is a vocal competition in which the one who is catching his breath is called the listener.” I cleaned up my studio. It’s a nice quiet place.

Creating for joy
by Carl Richards, Cape Cod, MA, USA

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“After the fall”
acrylic painting by Carl Richards

All the courses in the world will not teach you how to be at peace with yourself, which is, I believe, the ultimate quest. William Manchester put it nicely when he said that a man’s task is to find himself, and if he fails in this, it doesn’t much matter what else he finds. Japanese Zen master Hakuin (1686-1768) put it another way: “Not knowing how near the truth is, we seek it far away.” An artist is one who creates art. A salesman is one who sells things. They are not the same. Create the best art you are capable of creating, because you must, and for the joy and satisfaction of creating it. The rest will take care of itself.


There is 1 comment for Creating for joy by Carl Richards

From: Caroline Jobe — Oct 11, 2011

my sentiments too. lovely painting.

Time to upgrade quality
by Terry Gay Puckett, San Antonio, TX, USA

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“Llamas y Rosas”
watercolour 22 x 30 inches
by Terry Gay Puckett

I am not exactly undiscovered. I have sold a lot of art, but I don’t consider myself famous. And things are slow right now. The general public is not in an art-buying mood while the economy is tanking. But there are always exceptions to this, and art lovers who are ready to take the plunge and invest. Sometimes we get lucky. I think that this is a good time to work on upgrading the quality of my art, exhibit when possible, clean up my studio, and think positively. About workshops: Some of the big workshop names are selling art products and putting on dog and pony shows. Most of these don’t do much for me. I am trying to develop a genuine style that is authentic, regardless of sales or acceptance. I also am also leery of “How to sell your art” workshops. It costs a lot less to buy a book about it and read the parts that are helpful.


There are 3 comments for Time to upgrade quality by Terry Gay Puckett

From: Deborah Elmquist — Oct 11, 2011
From: Virginia Wieringa — Oct 11, 2011
From: Sarah — Oct 11, 2011

Your painting fascinates me. It is so distinctive and beautifully rendered, and different from anything I’ve ever seen. /and your comments are well taken.

The Jack White method
by Donald L. Smith, Macon, MO, USA

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“Last snow”
original painting by Donald L. Smith

Concerning your recent thoughts about “The plight of the undiscovered artist” I would like to share artist and author Jack White. I don’t know if you’ve read his books or not, but he has written 4 or 5 books about marketing art. Magic of Selling Art is his first book and I think it is a Must Read for all artists wanting to “make it” as an artist. His formula is easy. It takes a lot of hard work, determination, and perseverance. The book is well written and full of great ideas on how to sell art. Jack says, “Art doesn’t sell itself, it has to be sold.” Even poor art can be sold, but not for big dollars. Start off with low prices; your patrons are paying you to learn to paint better. As your quality improves, so will your prices.

(RG note) Thanks, Donald. Jack White‘s website is here. His books can be purchased on Amazon.


There is 1 comment for The Jack White method by Donald L. Smith

From: Greg Rapier — Oct 23, 2011

Jack White has been my mentor for the last few years. He is a great guy and helps many artist with their art. Jack saw my art on my web site and contacted me and asked if he could be my mentor. I was so suprised and greatful to have Jack with all his experience help me with my oil paintings. He is truly a good man is helping many others with their work. I can’t thank Mr White enough for taking an interest in me and all that he has done in guiding me in my passion.

Painting in the niche
by Popo Flanigan, Naples, FL, USA

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“BRAGintine: South Beach”
acrylic painting by Popo Flanigan

I think the trick is to have a niche, a recognizable style, and the ability to get people involved in your career. Keep up with them, do public venues (tent shows and plein air events, donate, give out post cards with your images (very inexpensive at Vista print). Tell them the story of why you painted it, how you painted it, where, etc. At times, I take photos at the varied stages, and give them to the buyer. I try to keep in touch with them and even invite them (some of them) for casual salad and pizza nights at my home. You have to paint, paint, paint as well as schmooze, schmooze, schmooze… if they want me to deliver in 15 minutes, I am there… but I Love what I do and just got the opportunity to do it full time in 2006, when I retired from my retail fine jewelry store… My Dad wouldn’t let me go to art school. (I went to secretarial school.)

The current lower standards
by Mike Barr, Adelaide, South Australia

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“Summer sun – Semaphore”
original painting by Mike Barr

Where I live, a number of lower-end galleries have or are about to close down. Most Rotary or other community shows are down in sales and it is miraculous to sell for over $1000 at these places. A brief look at the sales of the higher-end galleries shows a down-turn in sales there, too!

It is the subject of much soul-searching for artists who have come to expect their work to sell.

I am coming to believe that there is so much work around that does not tip the scales in the direction of excellence. There is a glut of the ordinary because every man and his dog claim to be an artist. I die a thousand deaths when I hear the all-too-familiar words at the opening of an annual community show to the effect that the paintings on show this year are of a much higher standard that last year. In reality 90% or more of the work is ordinary, even from accomplished artists. It has been said there is no truth in advertising and I reckon that goes for the art world, too.

I feel in myself that I need to strive more to produce works that have that extra something. Somehow I tend to forget this goal when I am at the easel, but then it really shows when the paintings are on display. As a rule, all the ‘better’ works I have produced have sold. I wonder how many other artists have found this? If so, the solution is too easy — paint better!


There are 3 comments for The current lower standards by Mike Barr

From: Brian Seed — Oct 11, 2011

Well put, Mike.

The number of art fairs in the Ottawa/Gatineau are growing by leaps and bounds with studio tours and outdoor exhibitions. But sadly, the quality of the work is not. And your comment about looking at your own stuff on display, at least for this guy, makes the point that perhaps we should try to paint (produce) less paintings with the goal being better paintings.

From: Anonymous — Oct 11, 2011

Didn’t Robert once quote, ”The enemy of Great, is Good”? That’s the deal…aim for greatness and enjoy the passage where you find yourself. Take a trip to a museum and ask yourself, will anyone want to see my art in 500 years?? (-:

From: KenFlitton — Oct 11, 2011

I used to marvel at people who said the reason they didn’t sell much was that the public at their shows weren’t sophisticated enough! I once took a couple ptgs into a gallery and years later I asked myself ” how could you ever have had the nerve to show those!?”

If your ptgs don’t sell there’s only one reason. They’re not good enough and you have to work like hell to analyze and improve.5

Valuable marketing group
by Rachel Wilson, Flagstaff, AZ, USA

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“The sky is falling”
monotype 18 x 14 inches
by Rachel Wilson

What a madhouse the current art market is! Your column captured the essence of so many discussions about marketing that I’ve heard or been part of. I actually belong to a small “marketing group” of friends (two painters, one writer, one blacksmith, one textile artist). We share problems, what we know of new technologies, local art gossip, our hopeful plans, good news and disasters. It’s a great support group, but the only marketing skill that the group really believes works is to keep on keeping on with projects and production. And I should have mentioned, we laugh a lot. Which brings me to the real point of this letter — the Ambrose Bierce quote was perfect, a real “laugh out loud.”

Not so valuable group
by Paul deMarrais, TN, USA

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“Bay’s Mountain Inlet”
pastel 12 x 15 inches
by Paul deMarrais

I recently joined a forum of artists using my medium. After a week I need to un-join. When I read the comments, I feel like I am exposed to a virus of female neediness laced with occasional fits of male frustration and ego. Reading this post brings much of the same feelings. I feel that the theory of selling needs to be tested with the actual practice of selling. The Internet abounds with the theory of making money. Many of the theorists make a good living passing on their theory to the impoverished. I’m reminded of the country song about ‘too much talk and not enough action.’ An artist needs to be always selling – selling themselves to others and to themselves. If you aren’t convinced, no one else will be, either. Selling, like painting, has to come from within. Your product is you and you need to be an expert at that product. If you are motivated, you will paint more and better paintings and learn how to sell those paintings. Action creates results and destinies. As the great theorist Charles Darwin  suggested, the best will survive and pass on their practices.


There are 5 comments for Not so valuable group by Paul deMarrais

From: Diane Artz Furlong — Oct 11, 2011

Gorgeous painting, Paul. Oh, and clearly thought out, insightful comments.

From: Marsha Hamby Savage — Oct 11, 2011

Paul, I totally agree with all you said. Love your work and your comments.

From: shirley fachilla — Oct 11, 2011

A vibrant, gorgeous painting. Your passion for painting is apparent both in your work and your words.

From: Anonymous — Oct 11, 2011

“a virus of female neediness”, did you even think about what you were saying?

From: Anonymous — Oct 12, 2011

I love the description “female neediness.” As a female in a group of female artists, they all want you to make a positive statement about their work. I lost a “friend” not too long ago when I didn’t make a positive statement about her painting. Actually, I didn’t say what she wanted me to say and told her that she was consistent in her brushwork.

Dreams finally fulfilled
by Delores Hamilton, Cary, NC, USA

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“Koi”
art quilt 24 x 30 inches
by Delores Hamilton

I can’t figure out why my work sells. I don’t actively market it, except for occasionally posting a photo on Facebook or in notes to you. I don’t have a blog or a Web site and don’t do craft shows. My only solo show resulted in ten art quilts being sold, eight to people I know. Unlike many of you, I didn’t have the courage or the marketing skills, not to mention talent, to try to make it as a full-time artist (plus, I detest paperwork). As a single mother with two children, I felt I had to have medical benefits and a guaranteed income, some of which I used to take many art classes. Now, as a retiree with a pension and Social Security, I can jump into my studio (AKA my house) and finally fulfill my dream of being an artist, while I continue to take classes.


There is 1 comment for Dreams finally fulfilled by Delores Hamilton

From: Caroline Jobe — Oct 11, 2011

no wonder it sells, it is beautiful work!

Answering the questions
by Linda Thoman, GA, USA

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“View from a meadow”
oil painting by Linda Thoman

1. Which is better — feeling good or getting good? I would choose getting good, since I think art is a communication for the ages of humanity — feelings are temporary.

2. What is good? — For the artist, a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. For humanity and the art-aware public, a sense that makes the art valuable in some way.

3. Has everything already been done? No. Keep working.

4. Does it matter? It doesn’t matter if it matters or not. Don’t let it interfere with something you want or feel you need to do. Keep working.

5. What courses should monetarily-challenged artists take? Not many artists were born with sufficient funds to support a creative lifestyle. Rather than sell, some use “non-art” jobs to subsist. Art happens, even with incredible odds against it.

6. How much of the current art-poverty is due to the current recession — or does the current poverty have something to do with sliced cows? I think the recession has definitely cooled the market and maybe “culled” (please forgive herd analogy) the art investors… I do think sliced cows may be more difficult to sell this year.

(RG note) Thanks, Linda. And thanks to everyone who took the trouble to answer those questions. There was a fair degree of unanimity to the answers, and we have archived them all for future reference. Here’s another:



There are 2 comments for Answering the questions by Linda Thoman

From: Susan Kellogg, Austin, TX — Oct 11, 2011

Is it possible that during the sixties, from fear of the rise of political art that a priesthood of curators arose whose purpose was to insert themselves between art and the viewer? Thus: sliced cows. When there was a controversy about that Samaras’ work that featured a crucifix in a urine, I thought it was a tempest in a pee-pot as Jesus was always in hot water! Just sayin’.

From: Janet Blair — Oct 11, 2011

Back in the seventies there was a lot of money around and things showed up in the art market that were referred to as the Emperor new clothing as nobody wanted to admit that much of the stuff was questionable.Times have changed.

More answers
by Pat Spencer, North Bay, ON, Canada

Which is better — feeling good or getting good? Feeling proud of one’s work is more important than selling the something that you will regret, but paying the bills is a problem. Until one can offer for sale an item that makes one proud, earn a living elsewhere.

What is good? I attended a juried show and found that I enjoyed the wide diversity of items on display. Would I buy any one of them? No! I have only so much room on my walls and they are a collection of my art creations and art that I have purchased.

Has everything already been done? No. I keep seeing new ways of looking at scenes and imagining new images that I want to try to create.

Does it matter? An artist wants to paint or create and I like to challenge myself to explore but am finding the time to do so is limited with life’s issues.

What courses should monetarily-challenged artists take? As a retired entrepreneur, I would suggest that each artist read the The EMyth by Michael Gerber. It was one of the most helpful books for deciding where I should spend my energy.

How much of the current art-poverty is due to the current recession — or does the current poverty have something to do with sliced cows? I recently attended a studio tour of local artists. By and large, the work displayed was either shoddy (used glass creations with sharp edges exposed), repetitive themes (multiple flowers or simple landscapes on multiple canvases), lots of clunky rock jewelry etc, the same pottery styles painted with different designs, photos for printing but overall very little that made me go “Wow.” The prices were atmospheric. A small wooden table with a top of crushed glass was uneven on the legs and had multiple sharp edges on the top surface offered for $275. Paintings were not interesting or unique for $400 and more. For me to buy any new art will require that the works of art I have at home be replaced. I have the money but have not seen any art that good. A new purchase will need to help me see some image or thought in a new or fresh way — not repetitions of the same old.

Niche marketing in music
by Carla Ulbrich, Somerset, NJ, USA

The argument is the same amongst musicians. Someone recently made the absurd comment that the inability of an artist to survive financially meant their art wasn’t good enough. Tell it to Van Gogh. And then, they argued further, if that low demand forced people to quit making art, then the smaller remaining pool of artists could raise their prices because supply would be less. That is not how this works. Art, whether it’s music or paintings, is not widgets. But people in the “real” world (corporate world — they think it’s real) often have an even tougher attitude towards artists than we artists do ourselves — and we thought that wasn’t possible!

For musicians, part of the problem is digitizing and the ability to get everything free. It’s so easy to listen to songs on iTunes or satellite radio, or just download them free off some illegal site — why buy it? People like Britney Spears make their money not on their music, but on their perfume line and clothing line. We under-the-radar folks can’t get a perfume deal.

What I have done is choose a niche — a natural, organic-to-me niche. I market myself doing funny medical songs (a subset of my existing work) to medical gatherings — patients, doctors, nurses. I get far more radio interviews and the phone ringing offering me gigs than before. Niche marketing — I believe it is powerful, if it’s authentic. And if I were to tell artists to take one class or read one book on a topic regarding marketing art that would be it.

(RG note) Thanks, Carla. Carla’s book How Can You NOT Laugh at a Time Like This?
can be bought on Amazon.

Comments

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 Featured Workshop: Diamond Willow

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Diamond Willow Workshops

The Workshop Calendar provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order. 

 

 

World of Art Featured artist Bobbi Dunlop, Canada
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Teapot with shallots

oil painting 11 x 20 inches
by Bobbi Dunlop, Canada

You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.

That includes Jeanette Vermeyden-Obbink of Paris, ON, Canada, who wrote, “No fanfare, no great public awareness, but also no interference – but my own struggle to get better at what I do. Does it matter? Not really in the grand scheme of things, but it matters to me to be true to who I am and the gifts given to me.”

And also McKenzie Bass of Merrifield, MN, USA, who wrote, “One of my mentors, who happens to be a multi-millionaire, sat across from me two weeks ago and listened patiently to this poor artist’s woes. Before he left, he said, “I know how you like quotes — part of the reason we enjoy Mr. Genn’s letters. Here is one for you: ‘This above all; to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.’ ” ( Shakespeare)

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for The plight of the undiscovered artist

 

 

From: Lisa Davis — Oct 06, 2011

For me, art is about the creative process. Unfortunately, it takes money to make money. If I could afford an endless flow of paints, brushes and surfaces, I wouldn’t care if I ever sold a painting. I could be satisfied with the process and the flow of creativity. I feel forced to sell in order to feed my addiction to art. People are simply not buying art like they did a few years ago. Most people want to pay with credit or debit cards. That adds to my expense. These things tend to stiffle my creativity rather than inspire it. I have not sold anything in over a year now. I have a few surfaces calling my name…to paint or not to paint? That is the question. Are there others struggling with this? Any solutions?

From: Daniela — Oct 06, 2011

As usual, your letters are food for thought…in the days of Rembrandt when artists partook of an established apprenticeship and then went on to capture what photos can capture now, the egos of concern were the patrons, now we have greater equality and everyone is confused equally.

From: Marvin Humphrey, Napa Valley — Oct 06, 2011

Last night I hosted a reception for my art show at our local library. I sold 19 out of a total of 43 small oil paintings. I’m not getting rich, but the simple, small, affordable pieces are easier to sell, and more people are able to own some original art.

From: Faith — Oct 07, 2011

Your FAQ is simply too tempting!

Which is better — feeling good or getting good? Maybe it’s a question of getting good making [you]feel good. Maybe it depends on what is meant by “good”. In the end it a total mystery what draws a customer to an artwork. Recently I read in an art journal that people are fascinated by the unfinished bits on paintings. Maybe I’ll unfinish some of mine in the hope that…

What is good? – Here we go again. For some schools of thought painting your toaster (or dog) in merry stripes is good. Others want Caravaggio replicas…

Has everything already been done? – No. Human fantasy has no bounds. Why else would an unmade bed, half a something or other (preferably dead, skinned, or otherwise artistically arranged), or Chinese excrements on tables (seen at an expo in Liverpool) have made it to the galleries?

Does it matter? No, but as long as people think it does…

What courses should monetarily [strapped]artists take? – Insert by me. Art related jobs could include hairdressing, gardening, nail beauty, dog trimming, sheep shearing, painting lines on roads…. Art-unrelated almost anything else (open to discussion): Under thirty become a missionary, over thirty it gets harder to fill in the time. From retirement age life gets a pattern of inevitability. That’s why so many artists live to great ages. By then they’ve found out how to do it AND sell it.

How much of the current art-poverty is due to the current recession? – Only artists are candidates for poverty, unless the gallerist thinks of himself/herself as an artist rather than a financial wizzard. At the top end of the scale, artworks have never been so expensive.

[O]r does the current poverty have something to do with sliced cows? – That is probably the hardest one to answer. Buying art has become an art in itself. The truth is, anything goes, but sliced cows need more space.

The unasked questions are:

Why are there 17 million around calling themselves (ourselves) artists?

How many paintings (or artworks in general) must an “artist” sell to earn the title (better look at history to answer this one)?

How many artworks must an “artist” create to earn the title?

If there’s a book in everyone, is there also a painting hidden in there somewhere? That would increase competition considerably.

I have a friend aged 65 and recently retired learning to play the recorder. If everyone frustrated by art would turn to recorder-playing, that would leave room for the rest of us. But don’t forget the earplugs.

From: Eric — Oct 07, 2011

I never offer my paintings for sale. I paint them for myself and couldn’t care less if I ever sell one. The only paintings I’ve ever shown publicly have been in juried exhibits, and they’ve never been for sale. I will never understand why anyone pays $250 or $500 or whatever the going price is for the stuff you see in your average gallery, but more power to any “artist” who can get someone to shell out for the paintings or sculptures or whatever it is that sells so cheaply. I’m happy for anyone who finds gratification from the selling part. I figure they’re not in it to create “art” but to create “product.” The honest ones admit that.

From: Susan Avishai — Oct 07, 2011

I am in Barcelona, happily accompanying my husband on a professional trip. When I was in the Picasso museum, reading how he went off to Paris at the turn of the century and almost immediately hooked in with the major dealers of the day and the circle of artists we all know, I thought, wow — it had to have been easier in 1900. A few days later I visited the Palais where many local artists of the modern era are hung (their work, that is), and although they were reminiscent of Manet or Pisarro or Rodin, they weren’t quite in that category. And these were the ones who were on the walls. Imagine all the artists who never made it that far. So I came to realize that for every Modigliani there were thousands of not-nearly Modiglianis that we don’t know about. Not only that, but many of the stars didn’t begin selling until they were pushing daisies. So, I’ll return home to my studio, inspired, but with a greater sense of the difficulties of artistic pursuit present in every era.

From: Gail Caduff-Nash — Oct 07, 2011
From: Dale — Oct 07, 2011

Rarely do you find a good artist and a good salesman in the same person.

From: John — Oct 07, 2011

Two things: Yeah, it is a rotten economy with galleries shut down or consolidating in major (US) markets. Seems that it is a good time to be a maker of art rather than a seller. I’m lucky enough to be able to have art as avocation right now.

I just came back from Paris. Did not do the Louvre. Nope. I’ve been to Uffizi and Rijkmesuem… the Metropolitan. I’ve seen enough old, dark and cracked paintings of long-forgotten local heros and politicians. I didn’t need to see yet another marble statue without all of its nose or the left leg broken off above the knee. I was more compelled by Musee d’Orsay and the turn towards modernism and then the Pompidou. I made it a point to do a gallery crawl on my own to see what is happening now and found that much of it is compelling. I challenge those of us who want to make and sell art to ask what is compelling about our stuff. I make my mediocre art as a break from the grind of my occupation. I feel good during and about the creative process. There is a purpose and a meaning for me. As I have gone through the process of writing the dreaded “artists statement” I have crystallized my thoughts about my own creativity. Those statements are valuable to a viewer helping them to understand my abstractions… making them compelling. We need to give our viewers a good reason to both care and covet if we want to sell our art.

From: Sarah — Oct 07, 2011

Robert, your friend’s motto ‘paintings are sold when they are painted..’ is so absolutely true, but I think many folk choose to misinterpret this… I do get cross when I hear people saying ‘oh, I only paint for myself’ or that it’s all about ‘art for art’s sake’, or ‘creativity is the thing’. They are kidding themselves. Can anyone who has ever put brush to canvas really (honestly) say that they haven’t for a nanosecond during the process wondered what anyone else will think of it, or that they don’t intend anyone but themselves to look at it or make a judgement about it? I seriously doubt that. A true artist is always aware of the viewer to some degree or other as they work, and whether you call them an audience, ‘onlookers’, ‘critics’, or even just family members who might see what you are producing, at the end of the day the are ‘the market’.

Those of us who make a living from our art – actually the only ones amongst those 17 million you mention who really have a right to call ourselves artists – are acutely aware of the market in everything we do. Otherwise we wouldn’t survive. Most of us only barely do that anyway, even when times are good. When times are bad, we have to work twice as hard at it all. We diversify and use our art in other ways (putting it on t-shirts, mugs and mouse-mats), we do a bit of photography on the side, and we put aside those ‘great works’ we were planning and concentrate solely on small commissions. Anything to keep food on the table and the mortgage paid.

I’m tired. I get about 5 hours sleep out of 24 these days, and I’d love the luxury of being able to say ‘I don’t care if no-one ever buys this’, never mind the luxury of having the time to paint something without considering its saleability, but nevertheless I battle on and I’m just about managing to keep my head above water.

Oh, and by the way I don’t put my work in galleries and rarely in mixed exhibitions (why give away 40% of its price if you can sell it yourself?). I do nearly all of my business with an established client/buyer list, I get out and hang my paintings at events, outdoor shows and in private houses whenever I can. And I do a HUGE amount of social networking both online and face to face. It pays to talk.

From: Sabra — Oct 07, 2011

I am retired but continue to work a very part-time, well paying job to support my art habit. It buys all the art supplies I think I need (much of what I buy I don’t need) and it pays for a class now and then. I spent a number of years in another art medium and was fairly successful at selling it but I often felt some anxiety over the “junk” I might be adding to the world so I was careful to really only create works of beauty (which is what I like as I see a lot of the ugly side of life in my profession). I often have a vision of whatever piece I am creating at the time hanging in my great great great granddaughter’s home years from now, or maybe in a museum some 1000 years from now as proof that we were thinking, feeling, capable humans way back in the day. I believe that, for me, selling a work of art rather validates me, though, and I am humble that what I have created is good enough that a complete stranger will actually pay good money to possess it and hopefully they do that because it adds something deeper to their life. Truth is, for me, I would give it to them if I knew it would do that for them. I know we need money to live. I know artists who are a lot better than me who teach art and that is how they pay their bills. Those of us who crave learning to be able to create our vision are the ones who will pay good money for what a good artist imparts in the way of knowledge. You don’t even have to be a good teacher. Sometimes you can just allow others to watch you create and that is worth money to them.

I know I am fortunate to have what I have (not that planning and hard work didn’t help to create what I have). I am allowed to keep the works of art that I love the most. I look at one at a given time and it takes me back to when I created it. I wonder sometimes how in the world I did it. Where was my head at that time? Will my great great great granddaughter look at it someday and tell her husband “my great great great grandmother was an artist” and maybe “she inspires me”.

My artist friends think I’m crazy when I put a piece in a show and it say “NFS”. They say “this is a good show – It will sell here”. But then I’d just spend the money and it would be gone. If I need money I will work at my job, which inspires my art. If I find myself out of a job and in need of money, well, I might have to reconsider. Maybe I would teach.

From: Robert Sesco — Oct 07, 2011

This is a provocative, and long-standing, topic of discussion among artists. Although we cannot resolve it once and for all due to the fact that new artists are being born every day and do not learn from history, and living artists tend to forget valuable lessons they have already learned, to address it, I submit the following: the naive art of Grandma Moses, the blue dogs of George Rodrigue, the squirted paint of Jackson Pollock, ad infinitum. This pantheon of artists sell like crazy. I consider their art childish, simplistic, lacking in formal skills, and yet they sell because enough people connect with the art or the persona. The one thing these artists DO have in common is a voice from which they rarely deviate, and in which any deviation from this voice generates little interest from buyers.

Secondly, Robert is urging us to ‘improve’, or create better art. But I submit that given this selling scenario in which naive art can provide a reasonable standard of living, we are better served to find that which buyers will buy, that which the market will support, rather than the nebulous ‘better art’. What makes me a better artist? When I get better at edges and color mixing and composition, or when I begin to make sales? It is the wonderful thing about art that it can accommodate those trying to make a living and those trying to make a statement. It can accommodate those who want to create that which others will buy and those that want or need a vehicle for self-expression regardless of whether that is for a private or public agenda. Art can be used to heal as well as to inflame. Starving artists typically do not have Buyer’s interests in mind. What is ‘better’ art? I have no idea. How do I improve? There are a host of ways, from adding mastery of new techniques to learning what the buying public wants and giving it to them. Art is a wonderfully large world that has many aspects to it, no single tenet of which applies to every artist in every context.

From: Darla — Oct 07, 2011

There is so much visual art available, to sell your art you need to be either a genious salesman, a genious artist who can make something so beautiful the angels weep, or an artist who can paint something different in a way that connects with the buyer. In this economy the connection should be something intriguing or inspiring; angry scrawls may get into galleries but most people don’t want to hang them on their walls. There’s enough ugliness and anger in the world.

I think it was writer <a target=_blank href=”http://quote.robertgenn.com/auth_search.php?authid=3959″ title=”Resource of Art Quotations – Theodore Sturgeon”>Theodore Sturgeon</a> who said that you should write what you want to read; if you don’t like it, how can you expect anyone else to?

From: Larry Proteau — Oct 07, 2011

If, when you are driving, everyone beeps at you and gives you the finger, maybe its because of your driving. Similarly, if you put your artwork for sale, and nobody buys it, maybe its because of your art, not their uneducated tastes.

From: Janet Badger — Oct 07, 2011

I do not believe that the only true artists are the ones who are actually selling their art. But I do admit that those artists who lack the sales and the exposure are missing the other half of the conversation which is the purpose of art. So we have to emerge from the studio at times and find them, get that public conversation started. Luck, timing, and marketing all have more effect on sales than the perceived “quality” of the work of art. I believe the best art is a combination of talent, technique honed through years of experience, and the inspiration and heart that brings it into being without the cold-eyed calculation of its value in the marketplace.

From: David Gellatly — Oct 07, 2011

I went to a street fair last weekend, and was surprised by the success of a painter selling small oils on cheap canvas boards for $12 each or 2 for $20. Surprised by the prices, surprised by the medium (why oil?) surprised by the quality (amateurish) and surprised that people were buying steadily! Meanwhile, the fine watercolor artists selling for $500 had very quiet booths. To every thing, there is a season ….

From: Fredericks — Oct 07, 2011

When I began painting, sales meant validation and trade. A purchaser was willing to exchange the financial value of his/her time and labour for my art. I have had a couple of gallery experiences and my work wasn’t marketable.

As time passed, I have found myself becoming less interested in sales. When a friend or family member visits I get a great charge out of giving them a painting gift.

I am not motivated to sell to pay my way in the hobby. I don’t need to turn my paintings into bread and boots and I lack motivation to spend my time and energy hustling around to find galleries and sales venues.

For me – its more about spending my time in my studio, listening to the CBC and transcending into a world of colour and magic.

From: Ted — Oct 07, 2011

My opinion: “Art” is whatever an artist points a finger at and says it’s art. An “Artist” is anyone who makes “Art”. Money is not involved in defining “Art”. On the other hand, the economic process of buying and selling paintings has as much to do with “Art” as the process of buying a couch. People buy what they like. It’s their money. “Artists” paint what they like. It’s their time. Occasionally these two totaly independant process converge.

From: Jackie Knott — Oct 07, 2011

I read your letter again because I wasn’t sure what I read; five artists came to you, and you were generous enough with your time to speak with them. The conversation inevitably came to selling – I’m assuming a critique was part of the discussion. After the one artist spoke of all she did and she still wasn’t selling, that is when you offered your comment about a painting being sold when it is painted, which lets us know there was room for improvement.

And there was shouting?! They came to a respected and successful artist for input and this group shouted when you suggested they become better artists? Unbelievable … I predict they will wallow in mediocrity if they are unwilling to learn and not strive to be better artists.

We’ve whipped this poor subject to death. Do whatever you have to do to meet your bills but still be serious enough about your art to do it even if it doesn’t sell. What is so horrific about having to work to support your art? We all have.

Recognize there is an artist glut on the market – that’s a given. Recognize you’re competing in an age when a patron can buy art from across the country or worldwide, via computer. Recognize this is a time when you can’t just be competent, you must be exceptional among your peers.

Even if you do everything “right,” gallery representation, website, shows, etc., you still may not sell. You forgot the luck element.

The only thing we have left is to become a better artist.

From: Anonymous — Oct 07, 2011
From: Dwight — Oct 07, 2011

Short statements get read first, SO, in this environment when the pols and others want to shut down the money supply…DON’T quit your day job, artist!

From: Laura den Hertog — Oct 07, 2011

Is it better to feel good or get good? My contention would be that feeling good follows getting good. And getting good has a great deal to do with acknowledging your muse. Of course you’ll still have to do the hard work involved in making art. Long hours and the willingness to get up every day and do it again till you get it right and even occasionally destroying a failed piece (which can be very satisfying and cleansing), are the backbone to any art career.

But…if you are making art and trying to keep marketing in mind while doing it, you are denying yourself the feel good part of the equation. It’s impossible to follow the muse when you are constantly drowning her out with concerns about selling; how to sell, where to sell, at what price, whom to sell to, what to say, etc.

Developing a ”signature style” and branding (seriously?) are buzz words used in art marketing, but we are not selling a better loaf of bread and the packaging won’t help if the bread doesn’t taste good. Your signature style comes from doing the work and listening to what your heart has to say. Making art not an intellectual exercise, it’s an intuitive process and all the decisions you make while creating should be informed by the muse (who lives in your heart) who will work with what skills you have gathered so far. Keeping your inspiration in sight will develop your signature style. Let’s call it auto-branding. No need to think about it, because it’s you and what you have to “say” through your art.

The gallery system has been much maligned of late in favor of this huge movement towards self-marketing, online sales and finding innovative ways to get you art shown and sold. And while some of these ideas can net you new collectors, in my experience they will still search you out through the gallery system. Very few collectors are willing to take the risk involved in buying art they have not seen first hand. They do exist and I am oh-so-grateful for the people who buy directly from me, but they are the special few.

It seems pretty simple to me, galleries sell art. That’s where people who want to buy art shop. If they want bread they’ll go to the bakery. So finding your market, cultivating collectors and all that can still be achieved through this system. As In any retail system there is a mark up. 50% of the price is going to go into the gallery’s pocket, but they will have earned it. Why? Because art collectors go to their establishment to purchase art. They already have the trust of the buyers. All of their time and energy goes into selling art. However, all those online marketing efforts can still pay off by sending people to your website where they can find out who is selling your art.

There is another major bonus to having an online presence. Collectors can contact you directly before or after a purchase. And that brings me back to feeling good. The best feeling of all, better than money, is the satisfaction and downright honor of having someone tell you why they want to live with your art.

The feedback I get from art collectors makes me truly happy. It is the biggest thrill of all. After all, the money is going to disappear, getting doled out to pay for life’s mundane needs, but the stories will stay with me forever and serve to remind me that the muse knows what she’s doing.

From: Robert Sesco — Oct 07, 2011

Larry Proteau,

I love the elegantly simple analogy! Of course this is true, but your response got me to thinking (miracles DO happen!) Let’s say you are in an art festival under your canopy and your breath smells like a sewage treatment plant on the edge of town. Your art might not be selling because of your breath; however, if your art stuns people with its brilliance, I still think you sell. Robert is right then, to encourage getting better or to build that brilliance. Let’s say you’ve conquered your breath issue, but you have an overly elevated sense of your art’s worth. There are still many people out there who have money, and if they are stunned by your brilliance then I believe they will purchase your art at your price. Again, Robert’s directive to ‘get better’ holds in this instance as well. In fact, I now see why paintings are sold on the easel! But finding/growing/learning the ‘brilliance’ that solves all buyer resistance, ah, there’s the rub. In the meantime, we use Binaca and paint small and keep our prices low and paint subjects that decorate instead of pontificate. I’m good with that as long as it allows me to paint. If I paint something brilliant, how will I know?

From: Raymond M. — Oct 07, 2011

How does one “sell” art? Art isn’t a commodity. I may need to be “sold” on which brand of breakfast cereal to buy but no one can sell me a piece of art if I don’t want to buy art and don’t need it. I get a kick out of artists who say: ” I sold 3 paintings during the fair..” No, you didn’t sell them. Someone bought them because the paintings were there and someone wanted them. That’s not selling, but marketing, like the notorious 1930s bank robber who remarked he robbed banks because that’s where the money was.

Why do so many have the mind set that the only worthwhile effort has to have some financial return to it? If that’s all there is to the creative imperative, get a job at the greeting card factory or maybe learn to be custom furniture maker, hot rod or motorcycle builder, landscaper, or cake decorator.

From: Julie Trail — Oct 07, 2011

My best paintings come from a place where I’m engaged with the challenge of exploring something exciting to me, be it the subject, a new compositional technique, a color combination, anything new to me! Money never enters my mind until much later. When a painting sells, I feel a deep comraderie with the World of Artists and my Collectors, but it is not the selling that creates the art! BTW, I’ve been selling quite a few paintings lately, and it seems if I offer a “studio sale” with a steep discount from my gallery prices, more sell! But still, I sell in the gallery, not because of price, but because something resonates with the buyer. Maybe it’s that engagement I had with the painting process that rings true in the buyer!!!

From: Mikulas Kravjansky — Oct 07, 2011

If you have a creative bone in your body, you have to ask yourself, how to use it and for what purpose. You could use it to make money or to please yourself. If you are addicted to creativity, then you are like a drug addict, and you should realize that this addiction take some sacrifices. It takes money, time, solitude and array of other things to be creative. There is an ill-conceived idea thinking that you are entitled to sell products of your addiction. You have no guaranty that people should depart from their hard earned money to support your addiction or to enjoy products of your dream world.

In the case that you want to make money by selling art, then you have to have a product that sells. If that is not in your field of vision, then do not complain. When you have the urge to communicate with your creative mind and skill, then talk, paint, sculpt or do something, but there is no guaranty that people will understand, stop and listen, or look at your creation. Not even give you money for your “stuff”.

Why people buy art?

They have to fill an empty space on their wall.

They have to complete their space arrangement and your art matches their sofa.

They have to buy some art, since their neighborus are art collectors.

They are buying for investment with expectation to make money later.

They buy art to achieve status.

They hire you to paint what they dream about, or what they want.

This is not what you want. You feel that you are selling your soul for thirty silvers.

They are somewhere some extraorinary souls that understand your expressions, statements, and they like it. They’ll be able to hang it, and look at it every morning, and go with your message all day long. I anticipate that this is what you want. Been there, done that, because many year sago I was selling my art well and made a lot of money, but it felt like wedding piano player. After I realized my situation, I hit the road of downsizing my expectations. Now I paint what I want to share with my soul and people around me. Selling my art is not the point of my work. It is my addiction to art which takes sacrifices.

From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Oct 07, 2011

Dear Fellow Artists-

A: I make art totally 100% FOR ME.

B: I don’t make a single piece of art TO KEEP.

C: My art is INTENDED to go away from me- to find a home somewhere else- with someone who will want it to be a part of their lives.

D: My art work IS WORK. We all work HARD. Hard Work is work WE DESERVE TO GET PAID FOR.

E: It’s OK to GET PAID for our WORK.

F: Any artist who’s head is so far up their whatever that they don’t pursue the sales of their art because they don’t have to for whatever reason does northing to change the social and cultural dynamics of CHANGING the thinking patterns of non-artists. Educating non-artists as to the value of owning ART remains problematic.

From: Suzette Fram — Oct 07, 2011

Making art, and selling art, are 2 very different occupations requiring very different skills. It is the burden of every artist to try and develop the selling skills in order to complete the process of making art, which includes in my opinion, showing (and usually selling) as a validation of the value of your work.

The reality is, as far as selling art is concerned, that it’s a matter of supply and demand, and right now the supply far exceeds the demand, regardless of economy, or quality, or whatever.

In order to be the one artist who will ‘win’ the sale, your art has to:

– be good enough that it doesn’t scream ‘amateur’

– have appeal to the viewers, because let’s face it, people will buy the art that has caught their eye and held them mesmerized by whatever emotion they feel when they see it

– be seen often enough and in the right places by the right people

– and it helps if the artist is personable and able to form a connection with viewers as people are often more inclined to buy from an artist that they know and like.

But we must also be realistic and understand that like actors and singers, etc., there are a lot of very talented and capable painters out there who will not sell a lot of their work, and it’s not because it’s not good enough, but it’s a combination of competition, luck, being at the right place at the right time, and God know what else.

From: J. Bruce Wilcox — Oct 07, 2011

Dear Robert-

Please define ‘undiscovered’ as it relates directly to sales. Yes I know it’s a stupid request…

I recently took down my show at the Jefferson Unitarian Church in Golden, Colorado. I was told up front- months ago- that September was the best month for sales- that it was a highly educated congregation in an affluent community- and that it was completely supportive of both art and creativity. Many people thanked me for sharing my work with them.

Nothing sold.

Why? Because everyone thought the work was too expensive- and nobody could see it as anything but a #*!#$@& ‘quilt’.

Guess the jokes on me- after all.

But here are 3 different comments all suggesting I’m not ‘undiscovered’!:

From Christi Beckmann- current program director for the Front Rnage Contemporary Quilters:

I happened upon a fabulous Art Exhibit yesterday afternoon done by an Artist by the name of J. Bruce Wilcox, who works in the fiber medium. The exhibit is installed at the Jefferson Unitarian Church which is on the edge of Golden/Denver. Some of J. Bruce’s brand new work is featured in this show. His work is extremely innovative and contemporary in its execution of design and he uses a very well thought out architectural approach to its construction. Pay attention to the optimum viewing distance when examining each piece because of the uniqueness of the geometries that come into play. This show is a Must See and is very thought provoking.

From my friend and collector Pat Moore:

Bruce, Janet and I saw your exhibit last Thursday. I am just blown away by the beauty of old and new work. Loved the large Forest piece and the one to the right of the podium in the bright colors. I especially like one in the other room, Fly Away Home. It has everything I like about your work, unworkable weird fabric and style and color. And then I have always like the Rave On pieces.

Glad to know that you are working and surviving and congratulations on such a great exhibit. I was wowed that it was hung in the main Sanctuary and the pieces look so right there.

Beautiful job of hanging which I am sure you worked on diligently. I will put the 25th on my calendar to try and come over for a visit. Glad to get your email. I have been meaning to call you so will try and connect soon. lovpat

From Carol Ann Waugh- current president of the Front Range Contemporary Quilters:

Hi Bruce, I saw your exhibit at the church today and I was very impressed. Loved your unique stitching techniques — haven’t seen anything like it before. I also thought your pricing was appropriate and it made me think I need to value my own work better! I tend to price for the market rather than price by the time/materials effort. But if we are to make a living at this, we need to think about how to make $ in the art world. I guess it doesn’t help to start with the “starving artist” syndrome.

Thanks for sending me that reminder — it made me plan to take the trip to 32nd street! And thanks for being a unique voice in our community! Carol

So Robert- undiscovered or not- sales are a current issue.

But I’m already off onto my next exhibit coming in less than a month!

OF COURSE- MY RENT’S NOT YET PAID FOR LAST MONTH!

From: Mikulas Kravjansky — Oct 07, 2011

If Pontiacs are not selling, they stop the production and start doing something else, that brings bread to the family. Buying art is voluntary action and not dependent on your artistry, skill or coaxing.

From: Amanda — Oct 07, 2011

i enjoyed the questions in the letter and the responses i have read – especially that of Faith’s. I have sold many paintings when i was painting part time (and working full time). i hadn’t painted them to sell but for the process. the joy of it. last year i took time out to paint full time and have been at it for over a year. depleting my savings. the pressure to create work to sell – to put food on the table – is a challenge. how to keep the creative process alive? i certainly have found it very challenging and i experience my work to be not nearly as good as when it was free and spontaneous.

From: Sassafras — Oct 07, 2011

I heard it stated this way…”Stay on purpose, not on outcome.” So, to me this means I need to work on creating more and better artworks because I get great joy out of the creation process itself and why I do it – to commemorate my cultural heritage.

From: Dan Young — Oct 07, 2011
From: Sharon Orella — Oct 07, 2011

Art sells when it sells, you put it out there and many people will admire it, but only one will buy it.

From: Dee Poisson — Oct 07, 2011

It’s a good time to just get good.

From: Cindy Mawle — Oct 07, 2011

I think that in this day and age one needs not to put all his eggs in one basket, but to be creative in ways to pay the rent and the art supply bills. I teach workshops and do commission paintings to pay the bills so that I may do what I truly love, and that is to paint what I want. When news hit that the economy was going to be bad, I thought to myself, “this is a great time to work on my skills” and to not worry about the “almighty selling”. It will come in its own time, that is, when I learn to discipline myself a little better. But that is a work in itself.

From: Judy Sims — Oct 07, 2011

Thank you for these thoughts, as always, I enjoy reading your letters. I have been feeling like perhaps I am painting on another planet as the aspect of painting for outcomes is not flowing naturally. I should consider it lovely if something I did found a way bring an income into my family income pool. It would be more than fair play to pay for some of the materials and time I have been given. After just over half a year in the putting my paintings out into the bigger world I have had some nice recognition, seen some growth in a long path ahead, but always the question that seems to say the bottom line requires a bottom line. does it? would it be enough to just tell a visual story? to share something that I have to offer, or even if not to share simply to release an energy that wants conclusion? I remember reading in a biography on George O’keefe the artist chose to only sell her paintings when she truly needed money and even then felt a certain sense of loss. Today I met with someone opening a small seasonal gallery locally offering to share some of her very small space with me. I have been told I should be flattered and I am indeed grateful for the kind consideration and I did commit three small pieces so we will see what happens. What I am coming to understand is the whole business of selling is that, business. Everyone needs to pay their bills etc. etc. but ultimately it doesn’t have much to do with my own sense of satisfaction in painting, for that matter neither does acceptance / rejection in shows, awards etc. Those things fall back to business. I am an adequate painter, a terrible business person, a decent story teller and my spirit soars when I get it right. I am thinking, that should be enough.

From: Linda Archinal — Oct 07, 2011

My observation is that if I really like it I want it. If you never see it there will never be a reach or interest in purchasing. Therefore the first line is to make the art discoverable so there is a reach for it. Then it’s just logistics. I have found myself pleasantly surprised when I have enquired about and subsequently purchased artwork I have seen online. Both artists have been validated in a prestigious juried show since. (Brooks Towers and Carol Shelkin). I bought at the right time.

From: Angela Treat Lyon — Oct 07, 2011
From: Gera Hasse — Oct 07, 2011

I’ve made my living selling art for the last 25 years. Mostly other peoples art. I sell some of mine but couldn’t maintain my current weight if I depended on it alone. I’ve had 2 galleries and have often been asked “What sells?” I always advise them to follow their juice. I’m convinced that by getting to the best of yourself you get to that place that Rumi referred to.

“Out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing, there is a field; I’ll meet you there.”

Artists who do this mining don’t consider everything they do precious. They rework. They seek out what “bothers” them. They improve. We aren’t all aiming at the same target. At that “center” there are others who get you. They are the only ones who matter.

I believe art is not a business, it is metaphysical. I make a living selling other people’s art while I work on mine.

From: Dean Wilson — Oct 07, 2011
From: Sue Young — Oct 07, 2011

It’s all very well being idealistic but when the paintings build up and up and up, because of artistic flow, it can be a bit demoralizing to have them all stacking up in a cupboard. One wonders how far can we go filling up the cupboard, the attic, the studio with stuff about which people say -‘ ooh aren’t you clever, isn’t it lovely’ but never put their hand in their pocket.

From: Joanna — Oct 07, 2011

If you ask too many questions you will get yourself into a hole (I can see this hole it has dark steep sides, made of solid, slippery mud, and there is no way out) and stop painting or creating anything.. don’t ask- just create! and if someone wants it- that’s a plus- if they give you money for it… even better! The law of ‘market’ applies to everything.

From: TG — Oct 07, 2011

Back in the good old days…. we may not have had the benefit of posting our art on the vast walls of the internet or take advantage of the endless possibilities and opportunities to sell our art today. Everything was smaller. Being a good artist, leg work finding good galleries to show your art and word of mouth were the sales strategy. With the internet the completion is enormous, even overwhelming… but so is the market. I don’t believe the competition is really anymore fierce but it is becoming extremely well armed with technology. Any artist working today best embrace it but don’t depend on it.

With the advent of the digital camera, anyone can capture 1000’s of images on their 10 mega pixal camera and probably find a gem or two before the memory card is even full but yet, among the multi-millions of camera owners, there still are only a few gifted professionals.

Yesterday or today, it doesn’t matter, cream still rises to the top (or in my case cream milk).

From: Janet Bonneau — Oct 07, 2011

After reading your latest letter, I felt vindicated in my latest insight to temporarily back away from my former, naive wish to make a living as an artist. I paint every day, I have sold some paintings, I’m in a few local galleries, BUT I don’t enjoy the pressure of starting out every single painting with the thought, “will this sell?”

I have decided it is time to clean my studio and be a little more careful and thoughtful about each painting and why I’m painting it, and seriously ask myself – ‘what is it I want to say with it?’

You can’t force people to buy art, no matter how great the art or the marketing, but I do believe that if the artist continues to paint in an honest way, without contrivance or worry about marketability, someone will eventually recognize the essence of the message, beautiful or ugly.

From: Julie Jones — Oct 07, 2011
From: Mark A. Brennan — Oct 07, 2011

If you want to get good, paint paint paint, then paint some more, burn them all and paint again. Until you get good – but when you think your good, your not good. Be restless, don’t waste time.

If you want to be happy, just paint.

From: Fleta Monaghan — Oct 07, 2011

Recently I collected up some inferior products I had purchased to return to a home improvement store. Three keys I had made that did not work, a can of floor paint that was of such bad quality it began to peel immediately, two small torches that did not work properly were all going back. What a waste of my time to deal with products I expected to be of good quality. How many products are sold that end up in the trash because the buyer does not have the time to make returns? It got me to thinking about quality of products and what our collective thinking is all about when it comes to making art and selling art. It seems that many so called “artists” are primarily concerned with selling, and not too interested in struggling to achieve the skills and insights needed to really produce art that has that excellence that makes the work survive the test of time. How many artworks end up in someones attic, to eventually be thrown out by a burdened heir? How much time does one spend really working, learning and struggling to find their voice and communicate visually with skills that are stunning to the viewer? This kind of thinking prompted me to make a few trips to the trash to throw out some of those failed paintings so save someone else the trouble, and to resolve once again to put all thoughts of selling out of my mind when I step up to the easel. We all want to make a living at what we do, but the looming pressure to sell can destroy the purity of creativity.

From: Scott Kahn — Oct 07, 2011

I think one has to keep in mind, regarding this discussion (selling art), that the ‘art world’ is a very broad spectrum, going from A to Z and black to white. There is the ‘high’ end and the ‘schlock’ end, and everything in between, with corresponding prices. I think an artist needs to determine where his or her work ‘fits’ into this broad spectrum, which will help to narrow the task of where and how to sell the work. This requires a certain honesty about one’s work, as well as a knowledge of what’s out there in the big bad ‘art world’. Also, selling one’s art develops over time. It doesn’t happen instantly. And the marketing keeps changing … one needs to keep changing strategy and trying new ideas and new avenues. Selling is not a static activity.

From: Jim Fox — Oct 07, 2011

The joy is in creating and giving the creation to the person the painting represents. Being addicted to painting people I have found there is no finer gift than a portrait and, the additional benefit is that the area under the bed has to be cleaned out less often. It can get crowded under there with all the paintings.

I started painting almost 6 years ago and portrait painting about 1 1/2 years ago and am overjoyed when I am able to “get” the person and capture the tone or quality of that particular face.

From: Heather Assaf — Oct 07, 2011

I paint because it makes me happy. I love my ‘studio’, my ‘room of my own’. I go there to empty my mind and let my subconscious take over and play. I love the excitement of beginning a new painting and the challenge of working out problems that inevitably pop up and it is always a delight when the finished result is satisfying. When I find a cheque in my mailbox from a gallery it is the icing on the cake. I paint for me and money is just an added bonus. I think if I let money be my reason for painting the thrill would soon be gone. That’s my plan and I’m sticking to it.

From: Anitta Trotter — Oct 07, 2011

Marketing of art is something I have often wondered about. While I have not sold anything for a couple of years neither have I been in my studio overmuch owing to the encroachment of other parts of life. Art is something I do because I need to, not because it is a commodity, and meals become a creative outlet when studio time is short. While selling art is a bit like selling part of your soul, selling good art is like sharing your wealth and beautifying someone else’s life.

As to your question – has it all been done already – no, it has not. If it had, people would be born who look like everyone else. The combinations creativity makes in people are limitless; the variety of ideas is phenomenal. We are all created with an inborn desire to create something, just as our Creator made us in His image.

It is human nature to look for the next big thing, the next Cabbage Patch Doll phenomenon, like the guy who has cranked out half a million paintings. But who has one hanging in their front room? He is yesterday’s news. Picasso may still sell, but not because of the art – it has become a “brand name”. Who would want one in their living room? The nuisance value (insurance, security, etc) is not worth it.

Money is the most versatile gift God has given us. That may be why we covet it – also, the hydro company does not accept paintings in exchange for electricity! Aah for the days of bartering …

In summary, people long for beauty. When times are good, they pay to have it. Look no further than the fake faces of Hollywood.

From: Nina Allen Freeman — Oct 07, 2011

I just got an email from a New York Publisher who liked my painting, “Stormy Seas” and promised me the moon. The catch was, I had to pay them almost $2000. Your letter about publicity came just at the right time. I have always felt that if I paint the very best pictures I am capable of, that people will want to buy them. Here, among my family, friends and collectors locally that has been true, but I don’t know how to spread beyond my local area. My instinct tells me that one painting in a sea of other artists’ work in New York City is probably not the way to go, especially when they want money up front.

I have considered looking at galleries in Sarasota and Atlanta, both easy for me to get to. I have been in galleries before and had some bad experiences, so, I am like a girl who is nervous on a first date. What gallery to choose, how do I know they will handle my work well when I am not there to watch? I feel comfortable approaching a gallery, making an appointment, all of that, what stops me is finding the right gallery. It could be that the kind of gallery I enjoy going in is not the kind of gallery my work needs to be in!

I love eclectic junky little places with interesting art placed here and there. The owners are usually fun and interesting people who dropped out from a corporate job. These places have not worked for my paintings in the long run. A few sold, but eventually, I had to remove my work. I don’t like those cold, stuffy galleries where no one is around when you go in until finally some skinny girl dressed in black emerges from the back. I also don’t want to get into one of those that accepts everyone and has their work in stacks on the floor so the customers have to wind their way around piles of art. I don’t want my paintings to end up in the bottom of a pile of art.

I think I need to find a place that is somewhere in the middle of all this and somehow stays in business for more than a nano-second!

From: Gary Cameron — Oct 07, 2011

The best choice is to be true to your inner self –it is better to feel good, but if you are good, and know it, what more could you need to feel good? As far as what has or has not been done, if you haven’t done it and it comes from inside you, it does not matter who else may have been on the same path, you should get to do it, too –if you are truly in your work, it will not be the same as whatever was done similarly. I’d rather be broke and happy than rich and sad.

From: Don Charbonneau — Oct 07, 2011

Marketing? Here is what I do…I rent a mall space (during the Christmas season) fill it up with my paintings and other works and have fun talking to folks and oh yea running the cash register…shallow I know but it pays the bills.

From: Abigail Brown — Oct 07, 2011

I paint to paint. I sing to sing. I dance to dance. The joy is in the journey. In the doing. In following one’s inspiration. In being one with one’s process. A man whistling under a tree does not feel less because he is not performing before an audience. It is good to have creative friends who understand the creative process and the fulfillment that comes from following one’s passion. We were given Gifts so we would have gifts to give. We were not given gifts so we could get.

Earning a living from one’s art is difficult in today’s corporate world and many artists work within that framework: they design cars, furniture, toys, etc. The world today is built around the selling and marketing of multiples. But the solo artist who wants to find his buyer is looking for a needle in a haystack — that one buyer who understands his work, but his work might be in South Carolina and the buyer in Cleveland. We cannot judge our art because it does or does not sell. Most towns in America have some kind of outlet for the artist (craft shows, small galleries, the local museum’s once a year juried show for local artists) and there usually is a community of local artists to socialize with. Being famous or rich is an ambitious goal but it may mean moving, knowing the in’s and out’s of business, putting in a major investment of time away from creating, the ability to mix with the society that buys art, etc. Not everyone can do these things: move to a big city, find a place to live, a part time source of money, rent a big studio, develop professional relationships, write the right kind of letters (emails), have a website, tweet, and easily socialize with the people who spend large sums of money on the purchase of art. To not pursue these things does not make one a lesser artist. One might have a family to support, job responsibilities, children to put through college, mortgage payments. Life is complex.

From: Kim Santini — Oct 07, 2011

I think the emotional connection between a viewer and the art is primary, bigger even then the sales pitch or the space/venue introducing the players. Which means that the artist has to build that connection at the very beginning. But the artist can be handicapped – for instance, it is impossible for me to judge my work in an unbiased fashion. I have an entirely different take because I see what it doesn’t do, or what it could do better. My collectors, though, see it for something else altogether.

And hopefully the architecture behind my actual art (websites/gallery settings/etc) helps the sales process by facilitating and cementing those first impressions into a lifelong relationship.

From: Sarah Smith — Oct 07, 2011

Two thoughts:

One: just because you think your own art is good, doesn’t mean that it is. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t.

Two: Vincent Van Gogh. His sales record during his life was pretty dismal, but these days most folks think he is/was a master.

To me that argues for doing your best, constantly striving to improve, to learn, to be educated by seeing –both your subject and what others are doing. If you can’t earn a living selling your paintings, then get a day job to pay the bills and make art when you can to nourish your soul.

From: Joanna Clark — Oct 07, 2011
From: Ed Pointer — Oct 07, 2011

When I started painting full time I thought I was a talented artist but I hadn’t a clue about what a talented artist was then and even now wonder if I fully understand the criteria.

For example, I discovered there must be a certain look to talent—it must appear mainstream, i.e. look like what everyone else is painting, particularly subject matter as in landscape, cowboys, Indians, horses, etc. If one is a plein aire painter I discovered there are ways to be a plein aire painter—one must be totally committed to the craft, must never paint in the studio (according to some of the purists) but be out there in the landscape come hell or high water, and that’s not to take away from the hearty souls who pursue plein aire as their interest.

I learned also that if I would change my technique to look something like an established painter I would enjoy more gallery representation. If for example I painted like Dan Gerhartz or Richard Schmid my work would be more acceptable to galleries. Of course, that’s just two artists to copy there are many more, depending on what one believes to be his example and to which he can more readily conform. I think now of the many David Leffell still life painters, growing in number by the day.

My conclusion—as is yours notably mentioned in many of your posts; paint what you know, paint every day, and don’t think of yourself as a great painter—enjoy the work while improving your ability.

As to marketing, etc. when the issue is whether one pays his bills or buys a piece of art the bills usually win and the most beautiful painting will not sell if there’s no money left to buy it. It’s a sad plight but artists, to be artists, must learn how to weather the storm. The economy won’t be poor forever, meantime hunker down and work hard, at least until you run out of paint.

From: John Berry — Oct 07, 2011

As a “silent” artist, meaning one who minds his own business and keeps his opinions to himself, meanwhile quietly painting away, I broke character to drop you a note to thank you for your insights into the wonderful world of art. I enjoy your letters, and many are truly inspiring. Oft times I wonder how you do it, how you put up with “pseudo-wannabe-artists” (re; “plight of the undiscovered artist”) I would have told them to find another line of work, but that’s beside the point. Thanks for sharing with those of us who truly try to “see things as the really are”.

From: Nancy Stephenson — Oct 07, 2011

I read your last letter with a mixture of recognition and sadness. In an ideal world good art should sell, hard work should pay off, doing your homework should give you an edge. Like one of the artists, I too have taken a multitude of courses, pretty much to no avail. In the interim I have learned how to market, do my own media writing, present my work professionally, get my work photographed professionally, and spent a fortune in general on learning how to market art. I approached galleries and had numerous discussions about what was selling and what wasn’t. I have been told my work is not contemporary enough, isn’t the right genre, watercolour isn’t selling right now, etc. etc. I’m not sure what the magic formula is but I can say that rarely selling my work has had the predictable effect of making me question what I do and why. I have had the luxury of staying home to raise my daughter and creating artwork but the time to go out and find a “real job” (i.e. make some actual money) is drawing near. I create art because I love it; because it is my passion; because I have been drawing from the time I was old enough to hold a pencil; it is something I will always do regardless of whether it sells or not; but it sure would be nice to at least break even in the process.

From: Denise Stansfield — Oct 07, 2011

Times are hard, it seems these artist spend more time thinking about sales than creating. Interestingly, I have artist friends that who depend solely on selling their art work for income which has limited their creativity by what they feel will sell. We all need to pay our bills, I suggest keep creating and have a side job for income. I am a graphic designer/illustrator, love my work, and it pays for the time I spend painting with no expectations of getting paid for my paintings…its the creative process more than the end result.

From: Jan Werdin — Oct 07, 2011

I’ve seen some awfully mediocre art sell (some of it is in museums) and some really great art languish at the studio. Personally, I think it’s a crap shoot.

From: Bob Maurer — Oct 07, 2011

Sales of both my fine arts and architectural illustrations were growing at a very nice rate thru 2007, then the economy went south and my art sales with it. I have tried to ‘keep on’ over the past 4 years and found that although my painting may be getting better, my motivation keeps backsliding due to the slump in sales at my four galleries around the country.

The pile of unsold ‘better’ paintings in my studio keeps growing, sales keep falling and my enthusiasm has tanked; I haven’t been able to pick up a brush in over a year because I am so bummed.

I have never been a person who is highly motivated by money, but sales and money aren’t the same thing. While money is nice; a sale is a vote of confidence from someone and tells me that I am not wasting my time; that my art is appreciated. Now go paint another one even better.

From: Louise Francke — Oct 07, 2011

I don’t think that people should go into art with the intention of sales. Too many thought that they could do something they liked doing with their own hours and make bundles of green backs.

Well, very few make it that way! If you don’t sell – does that mean you are a looser? To be dependent on the sale of your art works takes all the pleasure out of creating and I believe it can be seen in the work you produce. If you are happy with who you are and what you do it will shine in your art. People will be attracted to that art and some may buy. Today, is the time to dream and produce, live simply within your means, and hopefully you will reap the rewards when the hard times are no more. Some may have to wait a lifetime. The question is did you wake up every morning just waiting to express yourself. If not, then maybe you should burn the bridges and move on. Life is too short to be miserable about sales.

From: Bill Hibberd — Oct 07, 2011

Presently, I have an exhibition of recent work showing at a commercial gallery. Much investment of time, frames, advertising and the usual food and wine for the reception was expended. This collaboration with a consientious gallery owner is the best show I’ve had so far with some examples of my most sophisticated painting to date. We enjoyed large crowds with more than a few deep pockets on opening night.

In spite of all these positives my sales so far are nil. My worst show ever based on sales. What do I take from this? Do sales move to the inverse of the development of my artistic growth? That’s not a very promising business model is it?

In my gut I know my painting is getting better even as sales are declining so I have to choose between hungry growth or formulaic redundancy with predictably moderate sales. Nobody said life was gonna be easy. I’m sure there are others out there with the same experience. It should be interesting to look back on these days from the future and see what happens next.

I’ve got to hold up my end on this deal with art and follow the trail of hungry growth.

From: Linda Hudgins — Oct 07, 2011

The comments in this letter add to my current musings about integrity (that I had always thought to be deeply rooted) in this country.

Knowing ourselves deeply and accepting the Creation in all of its complexity puts these questions into a place to flow and change perspectives….She say glibly.

From: Janice Robertson — Oct 07, 2011

I’ve done a lot of thinking and exploring of the subject of ‘how to sell more art’ and It seems to me it comes down to one thing- paint irresistible paintings…….oh and get them out there where people can see them. I’m still working on that one.

From: Lisa Duncan — Oct 07, 2011

The same conversations are happening here in Georgia with all my art friends. We have decided to change our approach by re-defining our goals. If your goal is “sell art” you are constantly buffeted by “what the market wants” and constrained by size, material, subject, etc. that all goes into “saleability.” I was actually told by a gallery owner that unless I had a tragic personal story, she couldn’t sell me. (Note: ME, not my art.) She said her most successful artist was a rounder who went on drinking sprees. When he came off of them, he would paint clouds for months and she would sell those.

I am not willing to develop bad habits or let someone else dictate what I’m allowed to paint.

So, the large majority of us have or are actively seeking day jobs. Preferably something in the art world, but for some of us, that’s not good – we come home drained and unable to work on our own work. A retail job will pay the bills, leaving my free time FREE to paint whatever I want.

Ironic perversity prevails in the universe, and I’ve found that the things I paint for myself are my best works, AND my best sellers.

The hope, obviously, is to make a living from my art. The GOAL, however, is to pay my bills AND paint the very best of what I want to paint.

From: Sam Liberman — Oct 07, 2011

Most of my trips to the bank are for the purpose of contributing my own money to buy supplies, frames, etc. I am probably not qualified to write about this subject, but as an artist who sells little, but hates selling more, I think a good plan is to get my work and photos of your work out there as best I can, and hope someone likes it enough to buy it. In my case this includes a website, occasional newsletters, blogs, mailings, donations, galleries and exhibits. I have found that it is not so difficult to get my paintings into galleries, but I don’t seem to get them in galleries that can sell many of them.

In following this course, I must accept the fact that I will not sell much, and become comfortable with the idea that some might call me that dread word “hobbyist”. I find that I like painting and that it is one of the few things I seem to generally get better at as I move along, not without a disaster now and then. In our competitive world it is hard to be satisfied with so little, but I think it is possible that if I keep working eventually more people may realize that having some of my paintings around might help their day.

From: Diane Overmyer — Oct 07, 2011

Over the course of my professional art career, I have found that when I know a painting I am doing is hitting the mark, so to speak, it sells and it sells quickly. I have also found that hours in the studio make more of a difference in my bottom line, than all of the hours combined in my marketing efforts. Currently I am spending less time marketing than in the past, yet I am selling more than I have in the past, because I have decided to really concentrate on bringing my painting skills up to the highest level I possibly can. I can’t tell you how appreciative I am of artists such as yourself, who have achieved success and who are willing to share your secrets. I have learned so such from you alone, it is totally mind blowing when I think about it! Thank you from the bottom of my heart and tip of my paint brush!!

From: Rene — Oct 07, 2011

What are the odds that you can make it in the art world or in any profession that requires talent, skill and passion. Of the millions of kids that play sports; Less than .0008 % ever make it to the major leagues in baseball or to the NFL in football. The odds of making it in the art world is just as difficult unless you pursue the profession as a teacher. Not that there is anything wrong with that. My point is that your chance of getting discovered as an artist depends on where you live as how good you are. It would be better to live in New York City than in Happy Camp, California. In order to be discovered you have to be visible by a lot of very influential people.

From: Patty Gebbie (eg.Puce) — Oct 07, 2011

A very wise man told me that he always found that Art From the Heart frequently sold. (Jack Reid) I am not in any large Gallery’s, but do participate in local groups shows, both here and down south (Yuma) area and have sold paintings on a fairly regular basis. What I have found is that it has always been the ones I love and would like to keep. Whatever comes from the heart reaches the heart.

From: karen cooper — Oct 07, 2011

About that bank trip–ironically, I need to go tomorrow. A nice check from a gallery that shows my work. Somewhere up in the comments was a person who said why give 40% away to a gallery? And here’s the answer: I can’t be at all 4 galleries I have my work in and still paint. And I’m with Diane (Overmyer), the more time I spend in the studio, the better the paintings sell. It costs money AND time to sell your own paintings, and regarding the summer art fair venue — most artists probably spent way more than 40% selling their own paintings there this year. Do the math, with REAL numbers — I did, and the galleries beat out the art fairs this season.

Oh, and the question regarding art-poverty? Take another look, it’s the sliced cow. Or reproductions (giclees!) thereof.

From: Elizabeth — Oct 07, 2011

Here in Tennessee I have had to sell my work cheaper just to keep the art supplies coming. I love painting, so I do what ever it takes to keep me doing this. Plus those canvases aren’t doing me any good if they are stacked in my studio where no one can see them. Also the better the painting, the worse of a sales person I become! Not sure if its bacause I have put so much of myself into it I don’t want to part with it, or I am just not willing to GIVE it away.love your emails!

From: Philip Mix — Oct 08, 2011

I was lamenting the fact that most art resonates with the public based on the colours, a warm palette or bright often awkward combination of clashing primaries. No doubt you have heard it too, “have you got one in Prussian blue and umber”? I guess that is just one of the bizarre angles in the trapezoid of art. Sure sales are nice, but does it say much about an artists unique take on life?

From: Marion — Oct 08, 2011

Being retired I have the luxury of creating art because I want to and I don’t sell very much at all, I am happy to give any piece I have created to anyone who admires it. I have a brother who trained as a sculptor, found it impossible to make a living at it and has branched out into very large abstract paintings which he tries to sell to corporate buyers and interior decorators wanting something large to adorn a lobby etc. He is very contemptuous of anyone who doesn’t like his paintings and I don’t think he has been very successful at this. However, his sculptures are emotionally moving pieces which invite the hand to reach out and touch and stroke and connect with. I feel this is because his sculptures come from the heart and reveal his artistic soul. The paintings are constructed with marketing in mind and I feel they fall flat because the motivation is so different. Maybe I am just naive.

From: Jackie Irvine — Oct 08, 2011

Is art about sales, marketing and money? The fundamental question is “Why do I paint” is it a means to an end? My end is not the Money! At the end of the day I have come to the conclusion that if I didn’t make a dime at my painting for the rest of my life – I would still paint. Why? Because I love it and it makes me happy. I do it because when I don’t, my dreams manifest the images for me and end up waking me up in the middle of the night. I believe there is an archetypal artist that paints because they feel called to do so. It is an intrinsic part of their psyche and regardless of what hardship that is presented they will remain passionate about their process. Do I want to make money from my art? Of course! But this is not the reason I paint.

That’s another story.

From: Monika Dery — Oct 08, 2011

It took me 10 years to build up my business and inventory and to realize that I can take time to relax, to paint, to smell the flowers and garden, read and write (and even help look after my 95 year-old mother) and still make some money and be happy. No matter that I have 500 paintings waiting to be sold…I’m finally receiving enquiries and orders for 3 and 4 of my paintings at a time…and weekly, to boot. I don’t know how that happened….or rather, yes, I do! I worked my butt off – submitting, entering competitions, signing up for art shows and festivals and expos, painting, taking classes, writing and getting articles written, following my passion, marketing and, finally – talking my head off at every possible opportunity to get the word out there that Monika Dery is an excellent artist and worth checking out! I receive requests and donate a lot of artwork to charitable organizations.

The other day a local company emailed to purchase 3 paintings and the lady also said she’d like to choose one of my paintings for her personal collection. Yes! I sent 4 paintings for her to choose three for the business (as I usually do so that there’s a variety to choose from) and she chose all of them…plus one for herself.

The system seems to have worked for me. Hard work does pay off! Fellow artists ask what my secret is and say they want to start marketing, but it takes years of hard work….so if you want to sell yourself – sell yourself every day, everywhere!

From: Andrea Cleall — Oct 08, 2011

I often contribute art to charities like autism research and education. Last month I contributed a pastel of vineyards to a large hospital gala to raise money for emergency care etc. I heard there was a bidding war for my little painting which was won by one of the doctors. Last years painting is in the office of another doctor. Yet I sell very few paintings. I’m a hopeless salesperson and firmly believe art has to be sold. All the galleries I’ve been in have closed. After rent, health care, groceries, auto care, kids shoes and braces I think most people have little money left these days. I know they’re still spending on wine though as we are in the wine business and frankly I’d buy wine before art.

From: Carol Bement — Oct 08, 2011

I am fortunate in that I found a group I can create with and they are the best critics in the world. They are kind and helpful, offering constructive ideas and encouragement.

When we have a show, we each bring what we are considering showing and the group gives feedback. This is of extreme importance…we each know that what is going into the show is the best work being produced by that particular artist. Granted, sales have been slower the last couple of years, but we still consider the show to be successful, primarily because the patrons are always positive about what is on display.

I would encourage those people you met with to find mentors who will be honest and helpful in critiquing their work before they endeavor to put it on the market. Putting you creations and name out there before you are really ready can do much more harm than good. People will begin to associate your name with mediocre work and pass it by.

A while back you had an article about how to get rid of your excess “art.” I thought it was invaluable…and I went through my “stuff” and gessoed over much of it. I now have several blank surfaces to play with…no fires, no giving away poor work…just more spaces with which to have fun.

From: Loraine Wellman — Oct 08, 2011
From: David Martin — Oct 08, 2011

I have been a painter and teacher of painting for over 50 years now and have sold perhaps 200K dollars in paintings over that span of time. Not much, considering the years gone by, but I suppose that it qualifies me to say that no matter the rush I always get when a piece sells, it is vastly overshadowed by the inestimable joy that comes from completing a ‘good’ painting.

From: Joan Chivot — Oct 08, 2011

We just had our annual studio tour. This will be my fourth time in. My first tour was 2005 and I have skipped a year ever since. It was in my newly built home studio this year. This time I sold 9 small paintings with a commission. The person who commissioned the work wanted to buy the small painting that I was offering as a door prize. What was interesting was that I was persuaded to give lessons in beginning oil. I will start next week, and have five students. As I taught high school for my career (not in art), I have been very very reluctant to give any type of instruction since then. Finally that reluctance has worn off and I am actually kind of looking forward to giving instruction. I have learned from the workshops I have taken and my own experimentation to give it my best try. I actually have a waiting list for my next session.

The sales plus the classes coming up give me some impetus, though I am pretty self-motivated. I agree with you, paint well and the sales will come. It is a slow process though, and as long as we can keep our head above water, it is worth the effort.

From: Patricia Neil Lawton — Oct 08, 2011

Sometimes I feel that I’m an ‘undiscovered’ artist; when the months go by and my paintings don’t sell. Then I feel ‘discovered’ again as I did two weeks ago, when two paintings sold and a wonderful commission came in from Calgary…….. A commission from a woman who, on a trip to Campbell River, came across a painting I did of children. She promptly contacted me and send me a cheque along with a beautiful candid photo of children and flowers that she wants me to paint. I am delighted of course as I feel that I’m ‘getting good’ if I’m ‘feeling good’ about my work.

From: Didi Martin — Oct 08, 2011

I believe that one must paint with reckless abandon, love what you are doing and strive to keep your expression flowing, and your heart and mind full of desire and love of the creative process. Seek knowledge from peers, ideas from your environment, and show true interest in those people who show interest in your work. The rest of it will come.

From: Ellen Barnett — Oct 08, 2011

I was always encouraged to make art but advised to have a job- something to fall back on if the work did not sell. Well once in a while I did and do sell my work. I also taught art to support myself and my family. That took the pressure off and I began to really enjoy and have a good time making art. I was also fortunate; my husband was really the bread winner and I was able to teach part time and spend time in my studio. I cannot exist if I do not create something.

An art instructor once told his class that one of the qualities that makes for good art is innovation: doing something that has never been done before but not ignoring the principles of good art. Because art is so subjective, (matching a painting to the living room décor) there are so many variables when you sell a piece. Is it color, subject matter, nostalgia, emotion etc.? We really never know. The best “device” is to be true to yourself, refine your skills and perhaps someone will want to live with your work. If that attitude is not in the forefront, creativity might become a thing of the past.

From: Sharron Middler — Oct 08, 2011
From: Libby Shipman — Oct 08, 2011

A very talented and successful workshop teacher said, and I’m paraphrasing here, at some point you have to stop taking classes and learn to be your own teacher and critic. I took that to heart and have learned how to create what comes from my soul. I have a couple of artist friends that I occasionally call on to do a “sanity check”. My work is selling. I wouldn’t call myself a success in terms of making a lot of money, but I feel like a success.

Recently I have started networking more within the art community in my area, and it seems to be paying off in terms of more opportunities presenting themselves for me to show my work.

I think this marketing business part of art depends on your age and your location and what you need/want/expect to get out of it. I’m a retired person living in Mexico. Someone who is young and just earned a MFA and is living in NYC is going to need an entirely different approach.

But number one is always to love what you do and to spend the time necessary to get good at it.

From: Suzanne Frazier — Oct 08, 2011

Selling art begins with the first brush stroke. But I believe, you don’t paint for your buyers. You paint from the center of your being and stay true to yourself. People will see this in your art and will want to “adopt” your piece to live with them.

From: Claudio Ghirardo — Oct 08, 2011

The best way I found to answer this question was during a difficult part of my life when I asked myself, “What reason am I doing this for?'” The best answer doesn’t come from answering it quickly but by spending time meditating on it over a long while. If your answer is quick and easy, then you don’t know the real reason why you do art.

From: Gwen Fox — Oct 08, 2011

The selling of art has reached a low period. However, this low period is a gold mind for Artists. Now is the time to go into the studio and paint those new ideas we haven’t had time to develop. There is a huge key in doing this….. WHAT WE FOCUS ON IS WHAT WE GET. Let go of the fear in your gut and focus on creating as never before, loving as never before and sharing as never before. When our paintings cause an emotion response within the viewer they will sell. Never settle for good…..always strive for great. Our greatest painting is always our next painting or the next.

Letting go of our fears allows us the opportunity to find that place within us where our best and deepest creativity lives.

From: Rick Rotante — Oct 08, 2011

“When everyone is an artist, no one is an artist”. There are too many people out there painting who want only to make money, not art.

They have little talent or skill and surely haven’t studied or even read much about art. You see this when you go to shows regularly. Many art schools and colleges are giving degree, BFA’s and MFA’s; to many who upon graduation still can’t paint much less create “art”. They are making pictures. They can give you theories and methods but haven’t spend the time to create a body of serious work.

It’s no wonder that there isn’t a definition of what art really is. The word ART has lost it’s meaning. The world today believes if someone puts paint to canvas, they art artists. It’s as simple as that, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. Partly, this stems from lack of knowledge and understanding generally as to what art is and what it takes to make a work of art. The word “ART” is so overused, it means very little; similar to words like ‘Super”, “Great” or “Master”. We bandy these word around in regular speech with little regard as to the significance of what they really mean. The word is also synonymous with most professions — “the race car driver is an artist,” The chef is an artist”, the high wire act are artists, the broker on wall street is an artist and on and on,

The other issue is art has become a past time, a weekend thing — to get your mind off of the real world; forget your problems for awhile. Most of those doing it are Dilettantes and don’t know the first thing about what it takes to be an artist. And I don’t just mean marketing.

You can market until the cows come home and never sell what is passing for art today. Sure someone may buy it, but it will never rise to a level say of a traditional masterpiece and quickly end up in the attic or the trash. If we took ART seriously, we would know better than attempt it with the cavalier attitude we do today.

The other problem is what subject matter constitutes a work of art? Is a painting of your dog art? How about a work with flowers? Or a bucolic scene from your back yard? Is a painting of a cement brick a work of true art? How about a painting of you wife or daughter, is that a work of art?

For me, the subject is irrelevant. I’ve seen works that qualify as wonders and the work was of a bathroom sink. I’ve seen paintings of derelicts and again the work should be elevated to high art. So the question remains, what is art?

It was easier when we look back at the Renaissance or Greek or Italian Classical art. Most can say with some surety, this is ART. Today it’s not so easy because we’ve moved away from the the spirit of what it takes to make “great” art. We’ve lowered the bar and made art making accessible to everyone to the point that many believes they too can make it.

From: Patsy, Antrim — Oct 09, 2011

Oh dear. Hard sell makes me feel so tired and non-creative! ;-)

From: Marcus Silverton — Oct 09, 2011
From: Howard Burton — Oct 09, 2011

Before I started painting again (post retirement because i didn’t want to engage or compromise due to competitive pressure and my seeming lack of genius talent) i read that one ‘should’ collect art because you like it not because it’s in style, popular and a good investment. Isn’t that true for the creation of it also. And if one is comfortable with mixing the mundane with the inspired, the ordinary with the extraordinary (genius or not) then go for it, do the work and quit complaining or feeling victimized. Everyone’s motivated by different things but i for one am all for art for art’s sake.

From: Clara Dodd Blalock — Oct 09, 2011

My thought on this is, a piece of art is bought and should never be sold. I want someone to fall in love with what I paint and want to own it, not be given a ‘hard sell’ to buy it. Exposure is important and I seek as much as I can get. My work is done in my studio, period. Atlanta, GA

From: Colin Low — Oct 09, 2011

I have long felt that, simplistically, art exists in relation to its market. In the Renaissance the Church and Princes dominated patronage and art was produced on a scale commensurate with requirements they defined (and their purse). Today the big patrons have changed: now it is large businesses, millionaire collectors and corporate museums (even National Museums are corporate ones now) and the art produced by Koons, Emin and Hirst are targeted at such a market.

A different strata of art is produced for the general public (a strata well above the mass produced prints – including the ‘value added’ ‘hand finished’ ones, masquerading as ‘art’ and sold to an ill-informed or easily persuaded public.

Art produced by the vast majority of artists is not destined to hang in art galleries, but is made to hang in buildings of more human and personal dimensions. As to what that work is or what it should look like, well that’s a whole different question, to which I suspect there is no single answer.

From: Trebot Barry — Oct 09, 2011

My name is Trebot Barry and for five years or more I have read your letters with great anticipation and admiration. I practice medicine and paint, sculpt and play the accordion as hobbies. If you have never been to South Africa, please consider a visit with a group to come and paint the Baobabs and visit some of the game parks. Namaqualand in bloom is another artistic challenge when in August and September the veld is transformed into sheets of colours to inspire the spirit. Your references to cerebral research and the meticulous observations and sound advice and philosophy you so often include in your letters are a marvelous example.

From: Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki — Oct 09, 2011

Someone must have left the asylum unlocked – please alert the authorities. You were lucky that you only got shouters.

From: Liz King-Sangster — Oct 10, 2011

Like Terry Gay Pucket, I too sell moderately well. My view is that I prefer people to buy my paintings because they like them and not as an investment were I well known! So…I don’t want to be famous-JUST RICH! Good for Tatjana her comment made me laugh!

From: Roger Cummiskey — Oct 11, 2011

Stop trying to sell your artworks!

Forget all the so called Marketing Gurus that are falling out of the heavens like rain because like rain they will go away.

Worldwide people have stopped buying art. OK, so maybe that is too sweeping a statement but you can bet your bottom dollar hat every artist has been experiencing a huge downturn in sales over the last few years.

So what should we as artists do?

My suggestion is that if you are a real artist then you must continue to create and forget selling. There are 30 days in each month. Why not work flat out and produce 10 drawings/paintings/large/small in all media – not what you have been doing but be creative. Dont bother framing or trying to sell.

Work for yourself. In a year you will have 120 new images that you do not have at the moment. Call it work in progress or stock or whatever you want.

I know, I know, you got to eat. I bet you will eat every day for the next year whether yo do those 120 images or not.

You are an artist get creative and forget the Gurus. They are trying to make money by selling you their Guruism! You do not need it.

Give yourself a break from the internet and particularly Facebook where I hear there are now over 750,000,000 users. Ever seel anything to any of those 750 million people? Forget them for 12 months at lease.

Be an artist, draw, paint, collage, create, be innovative. work alone. If nothing else you sure will feel better and you will feel like an artist!

rogercummiskey.com

From: Gins V. O. Doolittle — Oct 12, 2011

This report you made Robert, is a teaser that tests us all.

A writer writes every day as an exercise to lubricate and drive towards their next publication. Paper stacks up after a month and takes little space in our place.

Musicians rise early, starve until hours of scales and practice is complete with no creative joy expressed except a discipline of their art. The sound evaporates each day not consuming any space in our place.

Theatre arts are a similar workout of lungs, breathing, speaking, muscle control and toning to keep the human FORM in shape.

Painters are exceptional? Compare the end goals of artists in other fields of discipline. Is a painters’ plight the space that the finished and unfinished work takes in our place? Are paintings stacked, haunting us as a measurement of success or a bother to friends even more for their lack of results and hours taken away from them? Are paintings space occupants, drains for our ego and the face of reality?

From: Liz Reday — Oct 17, 2011

In the midst of all the sturm

From: Delilah — Oct 22, 2011

My sales have slowed the same as everyone else. I felt it was a great time to expand, learn more ,and figure out a few more ways to make money from my art and the skills I currently have.

From: Susan Tremaine — Oct 24, 2011
From: Stephen Logan — Dec 22, 2011

There are none more alone or lonely

Than those who strike out to be different

Those wandering souls obsessed with

chasing rainbows and dreaming dreams.

Going against the odds because of faith and belief

Faith in their talent-

Belief that they have something to offer

Accepting criticism, ridicule and often laughter

Only to continue to try to be

One of the few who succeed.

They are forever told to “give up, “grow up”

as they wait for even one

To give encouragement and understanding

Someone to holler “stick with it!”

They long for a reason that they have existed

Proof that they left a mark

No matter how small

On even a few lives that their lives have touched.

They are truly a different breed to society

During their struggle, they are “fools”

Once successful, they are “praised” and “accepted”.

Never will there be a greater frustration

Nor a stronger need to be recognized

Than that of the life —

of the Artist

Found inscribed in the heart and soul of an Artist

Logan Clarke 1978 copyright

 

 

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