Love and money


Dear Artist,

A subscriber who wishes to remain anonymous wrote, “Making art is something I do for me — I can’t see my creations being very interesting to anyone else — nevertheless people tell me I should make a book or try to sell my work. It seems that the world has forgotten about the pleasure of hobby. Am I lazy for not going pro?”


“Portrait of Gertrude Stein”
1906 oil painting
by Pablo Picasso

Thanks, Anonymous. Your well-meaning friends might be suffering from a syndrome called, “Valuable Only If Money is Made” (VOIMM). It can get bad — I recently noticed my neighbour selling the dust-bunnies geo-located by his robotic vacuum cleaner. “The superior man understands what is right,” said Confucius, “the inferior man understands what will sell.”

VOIMM is spreading. We’re living in a time when people who make art are also expected to market it. Gone are the days of the glorified garret and the myth of starvation being a quiet badge of purity. Also gone is an organized apprenticeship and patronage system for the chosen genius willing to die on the chisel. Amateurism is deemed unbearable, though we were once all amateurs. Even the well-off are opting for golf tournaments over diary-keeping and novel-writing. Now artists are often their own art dealers, and art dealers sometimes make art to have something to sell. And somewhere along this spectrum is a tightrope called “a calling.”


Gertrude Stein (1874–1946) on right and Alice B. Toklas (1877–1967) in their art-filled apartment Paris 1922

Modern encouragers believe commerce applies worth to creative output. Being paid for your creation is an achievement, but it’s only one motivation, existing as a medium for the real prize. You needn’t feel unfinished about indulging in the doing, in your own private magic, whether you’ve got noodles in your cupboard or not.

In the realm of art, love and money don’t always intersect intuitively. But most artists who thrive on completing the economic cycle keep their wheels oiled and palettes wet. “Never underestimate the power of a little pressure,” said Dad. This is where dealers and the gallery system perform their invaluable function within an ecosystem of skill sets. If doing it just for love, there’s no need to mistake proclivity for weakness. “Rose is a rose,” wrote Gertrude Stein, “is a rose is a rose.”


American expatriate writer, Gertrude Stein, at home in Paris.



PS: “Love who you are — and who you are not.” (Anonymous)

“To be free of fear is to be full of Love.” (Adyashanti)

Esoterica: While visiting an artist recently, I noticed a title on her desk: Creative, Inc.: The Ultimate Guide to Running a Successful Freelance Business. At 23 and in the embryonic phase of her artistic voice, she’s burning to build a portfolio of quality and uniqueness. I took note of her creative efforts and business studies. Life in the arts isn’t an entitlement. Our meritocracy is shifting like a dune. ​As part of the new guard, she may thrive in both the business of art and the art of business. I went home to pet my new bunny.



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Featured Workshop: Carolyn Caldwell
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Copper and Glass by Christine Hanlon, San Francisco, California, USA

Copper and Glass

oil on panel 14 x 20 inches
Christine Hanlon, San Francisco, California, USA


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