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?
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.
This letter was originally published as “The plight of the undiscovered artist” on October 7, 2011.
“I cannot afford to waste my time making money.” (Jean Louis Agassiz)
“It is a sad fact about our culture, that a poet can earn much more money writing or talking about his art than he can by practising it.” (W. H. Auden)
Join Julie Schumer and James Koskinas and take a leap into the unknown in this 2 1/2 day intensive acrylic workshop. Through a series of structured exercises designed to help you loosen up, we will explore various elements of a non-objective painting including color, composition, and eye flow, line, value and texture using acrylic paint and a variety of mark making tools.
Bring your artistic passion and the willingness to try something different and gain a new perspective. This workshop is available to all levels but is perfect for those new to abstract painting. Cost is $595.00. A materials list will be provided or materials can be provided for an additional $100.00