Quality dribble

Dear Artist, Yesterday, Sandra Marucci Weisenhoff of the Merrimack Valley, MA, wrote, “What about keeping one’s best work back until a truly great body of work is built? Good works tend to sell in juried shows, club sales, etc., thereby breaking a collection one might need for later gallery consideration. On the other hand, local shows are a way to get work out there and improve chances of recognition, awards etc. Your advice?” Thanks, Sandra. If your goal is to build a decent stable of galleries, your best move is to avoid dribbling away your better ones. You need to keep your eye on the ball and build a portfolio of quality. On the other hand, it’s popular these days to take part in clubs, sell a few here and there, and have fun. But there are more important reasons you need to think this one through. Apart from a few national and international associations, clubs provide practically no recognition or award benefits that will truly advance your career. This is a tough pill to swallow for many newish artists who might enjoy the glow of sample limelight. Spoilsports like me may be seen as holding you back but, believe me, the real fun happens when you build yourself some invincible art. Fact is, artists who get into their processes and don’t have their heads turned by minor approvals are the ones who get onto the carousel. While there are exceptions, the ones who seldom enter contests are the ones who get the horses. It’s all about your life of private study, maintaining flow, serious contemplation, creative progress and minimal distraction. It’s all about education. For the most part, this means self-education. In our game, particularly, we have to do it ourselves. We now live in the most stimulating and distracting time in history. It’s not just our kids who are paying a price for the current cult of instant gratification. Creeping mediocrity is the result and quality is the victim. For a second opinion you might take a look at the Sir Ken Robinson video below. While it doesn’t have to be an epidemic, it seems entire cultures are being overtaken by Attention Deficit Disorder and the consequent lack of knowledge necessary to do the job. Artists are not excluded. Best regards, Robert PS: “We have to think differently about human capacity.” (Sir Ken Robinson) Esoterica: One way to protect yourself from quality dribble is to set up a private archive of your favoured works. This can be in a closet in your home or somewhere away from the studio. Point is, it’s a self-managed study center of individual progress, accessed primarily by yourself. How long to hide your talent under a bushel? Everybody’s different. I’ve seen folks put away stuff for three years and then deep six the works, only to send another kind of brilliance out into the world. Such is the wisdom of going it alone.     Sell them all! by Alex Nodopaka, Lake Forest, CA, USA  

“Not my best work”
original painting
by Alex Nodopaka

You tackled the subject of ‘keeping back one’s best works’ with great tact. As from myperspective there’s no such thing as one’s best work. For one, it’s for history to tell. I suggest every artist sells whatever they can at whatever price their art sells because the more you sell, the more you’ll be needed to produce and for the sake of creativity every new work is hopefully better and more varied than the last one. In retrospect looking at my own artwork it is rare that I’d want my old ‘chef d’oeuvres’ back on my walls. Besides, there are plenty of leftovers anyway.       There are 3 comments for Sell them all! by Alex Nodopaka
From: Sharon Cory — Dec 10, 2010

I completely agree. My best painting is the one I’m working on now.

From: Jim Oberst — Dec 10, 2010

Absolutely! With the exception of putting one or two paintings aside for a few months for an upcoming major exhibition/contest, you should sell them all. When I began painting, my wife had me hold onto her personal favorites, and that seemed reasonable to me. Eventually I discovered, and she agreed, that there will always be another good painting. In fact, the ones we used to like don’t seem so good any more. My experience is that I need to continually paint, continually evolve my work, and sell as much of it as I can before there’s no more room under the bed.

From: Brian, Upstate NY — Dec 11, 2010

I have no desire to save any of the pieces once I am done with them. Once I complete a piece and see it to its end, I completely become detached to it. Much of what I do is functional work as well so I tend to price it to move because I want more people to be able to enjoy my work in their daily lives.

  Don’t bank on local shows by Rick Rotante, Tujunga, CA, USA  

“Ties to Heaven”
original painting
by Rick Rotante

The question is which are your best works and for what market? Sandra, I don’t want to burst your balloon but the world isn’t waiting for the next Maxfield Parrish or anyone else for that matter. Don’t get me wrong, your ideals on spot on. You should paint you best every time out. Life is short, especially for an artist today. The local club shows are for ego only and nothing more. Don’t bank on them. After you get a dozen or so good, or better still “excellent” works, check out the galleries you are considering and see what they’re showing. If you see a match, contact them. But, and this is a big But, make sure your work really is tops. Galleries never forget bad work. Or bad artists.     There are 5 comments for Don’t bank on local shows by Rick Rotante
From: nobby — Dec 10, 2010

Really like your piece Rick. But it made me ask the question “Why use cable or rope to represent a tie to Heaven? Without the caption I wouldn’t know that Heaven is part of your conception. Ok, so I said to myself “What kind of mark would instantly make people realize Heaven was part of the piece”? That question is going to haunt me the rest of the day at least. Great concept, I could stare at it for hours.

From: PC — Dec 10, 2010

I don’t want to sound like a negative blogger here, but personally, I find the nobby comment inane… imagination is what art is about… if there was no title, I would make my own decisions on what the rope does or doesn’t mean, and if I didn’t ‘get’ that it was about heaven, it wouldn’t bother me, I’d still look at the art.

From: Rick Rotante — Dec 11, 2010

Call me crazy. Im not religious per say but my idea comes from the white behind her representing wings, my model is an angel and the ropes, which are movable, are used for models to take more challanging positions. As a rule I paint the ropes out. Finally, we’re all tied to heaven. It’s art.

From: Richard Mazzarino — Dec 13, 2010

Im not sure an edplanation was in order. In fact, I believe artists shouldn’t tell too much about there work. It’s misleading and it stifles the viewers options on what it means. Thanks anyway, but no explanation was needed. I love it and make my own choices on the meaning.

From: De De Short — Dec 13, 2010

Nice to see more figure work. Yours is spellbinding. Draws you in even without the title. Maybe this one should be “untitled”. p.s. I didn’t even think the ropes out of place or odd.

  Grabbing them back by Margot Hattingh, South Africa  

mixed media
by Margot Hattingh

I often recognize ‘prime’ work in the studio and try to hold it back. However, painting and printmaking are my sole source of income — my best works normally sell comparatively easily, so I get pressured financially to show and sell them, rather than holding them back. Sometimes I don’t recognize my best work while it’s in my studio, it takes putting it into an exhibition, seeing it in a new environment, for the penny to drop. Some years ago, after putting up a painting for a solo that I thought I was happy selling, I changed my mind on the opening night and withdrew it just as someone prepared to buy it. The gallery owner was pretty furious — completely understandably so — but I held my ground. I managed to get past it by offering to paint something as similar as possible — the buyer aware of the ‘clone,’ was thankfully happy with it. Glad to say that particular painting still in my hands (illustrated) It’s wax encaustic on canvas. Unfortunately there are some that I’ve lost forever which still haunt me. There are 3 comments for Grabbing them back by Margot Hattingh
From: Sheila Minifie — Dec 10, 2010

I really like your work Margot. Haunting. I can see why you love it.

From: Casey Craig — Dec 10, 2010

Me too…love your blue series on your website!

From: Sharon Cory — Dec 10, 2010

The Blue series is spectacular.

  Just keep practicing by Janet Mace, Whanganui, New Zealand   I really appreciated your comments in your latest letter about ‘building a portfolio of quality.’ I’ve often thought that the ‘work/play’ I do in my studio — on my own, hour after hour — is my apprenticeship. And in my experience, it is very like your description of ‘private study, maintaining flow, serious contemplation, creative progress and minimal distraction.’ These words sum up the ongoing work involved in honing our skills and refining our vision. So thank you for reminding me that there are many of us out there serving our apprenticeships and often it is lonely and quiet and seemingly unexciting. And then a piece of magic appears! And as we go on with practicing more and more magic appears. I remember hearing an interview with B.B. King, the legendary musician, who was asked by the interviewer how it was that he was still playing such wonderful music in his 80’s and he replied, “I just keep practicing.” There is 1 comment for Just keep practicing by Janet Mace
From: Debra LePage — Dec 10, 2010

I find this to be very true-just go to your room and keep working (practicing) and before you know it, a series or body of work is at the ready for opportunity. And, yes, magic happens.

  The tyranny of ‘the sale’ by Kate Dardine, Fort Collins, CO, USA  

“Overlapping Territories”
oil painting, 11 x 14 inches
by Kate Dardine

Today’s letter raises the bar. I kept hearing my little voice screaming, YES! You are so right. We are so distracted, and the merry-go-round of entering shows, trying to sell online, etc. distracts the serious artist. And yes, making sales before one really knows what he or she is doing is perhaps the biggest distraction of all. I know it has been distracting to me. I’ve found myself bouncing all over the place chasing “the sale.” Just recently I decided to hunker down in my studio bunker and just paint.     Quality is king by Skip Rohde, Asheville, NC, USA  

“The Soccer Game”
oil painting
by Skip Rohde

Unfortunately, some of us have no problem hanging on to our better works! I’ve been building an ever-growing collection of my best works for quite a few years now. But your advice to Sandra is right on. If we’re serious about our work, we’re constantly trying to make it better. With every painting, I try to improve my composition, paint handling, color mixing, subject matter, even such mundane things as canvas preparation. Sometimes it works, more often not, but that’s part of the game. How you exhibit your art should also show steady quality improvement. Club shows and bake sales are fine for beginners, but artists should always aim a bit higher than their current exhibition level, where the competition is tighter and the quality better. Quality is king in this business, all else follows. There is 1 comment for Quality is king by Skip Rohde
From: Anonymous — Dec 10, 2010

Your painting ‘The Soccer Game’ is great; love the action, setting and texture. You’ve captured a fine moment of childhood.

  Dreams of a grand gallery opening by Carole W King, Lake Toxaway, NC, USA   Thank you for validating the path I have chosen, of holding back until I have a sufficient quantity of quality work so I can throw my arms skyward with a giant yawp, “Here I am world.” Yet I find that a little bit of connection is welcome and helpful. I have shown my work in the annual art shows of the two community art guilds I belong to, all of it NFS. This allows me a modest amount of critical feedback, both positive and negative, from fellow artists and from neighbors and community residents — many of whom are sophisticated collectors. I also have my work displayed in my home, and will admit to getting a thrill when a guest stops in front of a painting and says “Wow. You did that?” Then I get back to work, and dream of my grand gallery opening.   Can’t hang onto paintings by Stefanie Graves, Paducah, KY, USA  

watercolour painting
by Stefanie Graves

You’ve confused me with this one. Are you advocating for waiting to develop a series of “masterpieces” before we approach galleries? I hope that’s not your intent because I’d never attempt it then. Not all of my work is of absolute equality, though I think the majority of what I’ve been putting out over the past several years has been at least good. I don’t show the “dogs” or experimental pieces. While I don’t apply to every show or exhibition opportunity that comes along I do try to get my work out there. If I waited to amass a series of only my absolute best work I’d be dead by the time that were accomplished. We improve as we go (hopefully), and that is evident in our work (also hopefully). How can I get my name out there or ever hope for any kind of recognition if I don’t send in my box top? If I sit in my studio hoping that eventually I’ll be “good enough” I’m doomed to failure because I most assuredly will never show anything at that rate, too focused on keeping all my good ones as a whole. Hang onto my paintings? Nah, you must be kidding! There is 1 comment for Can’t hang onto paintings by Stefanie Graves
From: Karen Rand — Dec 10, 2010

I love your ‘Hidden’.

  Keep the inventory coming by Scott Jennings, Sedona, AZ, USA  

oil painting, 36 x 60 inches
by Scott Jennings

While galleries are the crucial sales arena, many are not adept at real artist promotion or willing to spend the money that is necessary to make advertising worthwhile. About a decade and a half ago I was frustrated with this reality. I decided to ‘put myself out there’ more by entering shows outside of the main geographic areas of my galleries… primarily plein air shows, which tended not to use up valuable studio paintings needed to provide a living. These shows broadened my name recognition and I made many new contacts with other artists and collectors. I won a few awards and show posters, adding real weight to my resume. These shows can lead to a snowball effect of recognition and invitations to more and larger events. I won’t debate the issue of sending paintings to shows vs. galleries (many galleries don’t like the idea of an artist withholding quality work from them to give to an annual show). I do, however, have a problem with an artist sitting on his work for some unknown event in the future. My own experience with holding on to my ‘best work’ was that after a year or more, my favorite work when it was produced became a more run of the mill work compared to newer paintings as my abilities grew. And one last point. I am convinced that an artist isn’t necessarily the best judge of what his best work might be… at least not his most likely work to be purchased by art collectors. Invariably, I have said to myself, “This is great, it will sell immediately” and then it doesn’t. Or, I decide to remove a ‘lesser’ work from a gallery only to have it be my next sale before I got around to pulling it. My approach is to try and cover some bases and not rely on your galleries to make your career. Keep your production steady and replace sold paintings as soon as a gallery sells them to keep the sales staff motivated. Enter events that help spread your name around; and be willing to burn the midnight oil to make sure you have the inventory to respond to opportunities. There are 4 comments for Keep the inventory coming by Scott Jennings
From: Marsha Hamby Savage — Dec 10, 2010

Perfect comment. I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said in your reply. Thank you for your take on this. And having seen your work, I love it and hope you have continued success. I know you will!

From: Sandy Donn — Dec 10, 2010

A great letter. . .and I couldn’t agree more about “best work” turning into “not so best” as time goes by! I personally grow with each new painting experience. Thanks for sharing your approach.

From: Sarah — Dec 10, 2010

Good letter, great painting.

From: Rick Rotante — Dec 11, 2010

Too many feel galleries are going to make their fortunes. This is never the case. An artist must promote him/herself. You can’t always trust your instincts as to what is your best. I’ve suffered the same rejection on what I thought my best. But last years best is not this years best. I continually “cull” my old work. As we grow so too does our ability and our work.

  Revolution in education by Kim Mazzilli, Virginia, USA  

mixed media
by Kim Mazzilli

Off I go into my public elementary school art room. I have been teaching elementary art for 16 years. The RSA video of Sir Ken Robinson has put a bounce in my step today. Education Reform is out there… I can hardly wait until it gets to my neighborhood. I take six, 50 minute blocks of educational reform w/ 120 children each day during their art classes. It’s disheartening to feel that the music teacher and I are the only ones in the building who see our students “alive,” as the video describes; and downright defeating to work with administrators who have no clue at all. High-ho, high-ho, it’s off to the factory I go.    

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Quality dribble

From: Marsha Hamby Savage — Dec 07, 2010

Thank you for this letter. I have read something similar several times in the last few months, but I don’t remember where. It resonates with me because I have been having these thoughts on my own.

I have been telling several of my best artist friends they need to be careful about the shows they enter and only pick those that are really meaningful. I had said when approaching the better galleries, they are going to look at a long list of “accomplishments, awards, etc.” and believe this artist is just a Sunday or hobby painter in it for instant gratification and will probably write them off. That is, unless, they are looking at a piece of that artist’s work and it is wonderful. They will look up and say are there more like this, do you have a web site, etc. So, we do need to be careful where and when we are showing our art. Whom we are showing with is probably one of the most important aspects of those shows we apply to. Keeping back your best work is probably one of the hardest things to do. We so want to share it with as many people as possible. Especially if making enough money to continue what we are doing is part of the problem. I believe what you said in this letter is very important. This era of many more artists, their ability to show every dribble of art they produce on the internet, in the local shows and festivals has lowered the playing field for many. I think if have been guilty myself of doing the same thing. But, I can tell now I am more interested in following the advice you and others have given. Thank you for putting this piece of advice into one of your letters. I wouldn’t miss your thoughts.
From: Thierry — Dec 07, 2010

I have found that one’s strategy depends in part on how productive an artist is. Robert is prolific; he needs several galleries.

Others who may produce only a few quality paintings per month, may find they can sell their work in person and/or on the net. When I asked the salesladies (Robert’s angels) at Canada House in Banff, they said they sold almost half on the internet! And that was three years ago.
From: Kelly — Dec 07, 2010

Nothing is ever dribble — even our very words are real. Keep work moving whether by show or tell. Its important to have some sort of life line outside your studio.

What ever works — works!
From: Rich Homanski — Dec 07, 2010

I’ve been storing my work for years. Every now and again I’ll go back and throw out the oldest work, knowing it to be inferior to the work I’m currently doing. This has become a recurring theme in my evaluation of where I am. Finally I decided that since I couldn’t seem to quit improving, and yet me current work is never what it needs to be, I’m going to be a student to the end of my career as an artist. That’s okay, because I have a day job, and I’m having loads of fun with it.

From: Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki — Dec 07, 2010

You are describing ambition. One who doesn’t have it can hardly decide to start being ambitious. If needed, many self-help programs (and some web sites for artists) can help with that. I think that ambition is usually grown into us through our upbringing. It can become overwhelming, always driving us to do more and better, but it is a necessary ingredient in planning a career or progress in anything. If you have it, you can’t help but always plan ahead. If you don’t have it, don’t want it and don’t need it, just enjoy flying from flower to flower without being bothered with thoughts of honey in the hive.

As you say, it is a bitter pill having to assign your dear art a job of fulfilling your ambition. But, bottom line, the best paintings will do their job in the gallery and make someone happy, including yourself. We are lucky to have many available ways to keep showing them to a wider public via internet, blogs, marketing materials, portfolios, and print cards for friends and relatives.
From: Sheri Farabaugh — Dec 07, 2010

Thanks for those words of wisdom! It was a question that has been on my mind a lot lately, and I think the answer was a good one. I love the recognition I get in the smaller shows, but I have nothing left to take to galleries. Time for a change.

From: Theresa Bayer — Dec 07, 2010

Good article! Your point about delaying gratification when building a career in art was quite a wake up call. You’re right, modern society has forgotten how to take the long term approach. Staying focused certainly has been a lifelong struggle for me. It really made me stop and think about what I want to do next with my paintings, and it brought forth a some questions of my own:

While building a body of work for gallery consideration, is it a good idea to show one’s best quality works on the web, say on Facebook, or on a blog– something not put up for sale, just shown? Or should one keep one’s best work out of public view entirely, thereby reserving it only for gallery consideration when the time comes? What about the really big contests, such as ones sponsored by The Artist’s Magazine? How does published work, such as an original painting used as an illustration, fit into the strategy of building a portfolio for gallery consideration?
From: Catherine Stock — Dec 07, 2010

I am in the happy position, after 35 years of working as an art director and illustrator, of having enough money stashed away to do what I want with my time (as long as I live simply.) I am definitely working towards building up a body of work I am satisfied with, and although I exhibit my work, sales are not my priority.

From: Linda Blondheim — Dec 07, 2010

Your advice is spot on. About five years ago, I decided I was tired of the ladder climbing toward an art career of recognition. I dropped out of all of the clubs, the competitions, and anything to do with the politics of art. It was the best thing I ever did for myself as an artist. I invested my time and money into my painting and began to focus diligently at my easel. My work improved dramatically and in turn, my status as an artist. I continue to focus on my work and the patrons who admire it, and I couldn’t be happier.

From: Rene — Dec 07, 2010

It seems to me that in order to be successful in any form of art you have to establish your credentials. Enter large State and National competitions. Put on workshops and teach. You have to promote yourself as an accomplished artist. These are just a few things to think about. Myself I will remain an amateur. Art should just be fun, not work.

From: John F. Burk — Dec 07, 2010

For what it’s worth, I have been working in ‘campaigns’ of work, spending 9-12 months building a specific body based on a locale for which I will pursue a gallery in large market nearby. That keeps me occupied and focused, and provides me with a body of work in reserve once a gallery is secured, freeing me for the next campaign. It seems to be working out pretty well, and it does keep the really good ones from getting away.

From: Kim Lum — Dec 07, 2010

When you’re starting out and you have the idea of living off your art, you need the money mighty badly so you must sell anything you can and you must exhibit anywhere you can. Successful painters like Robert have little or no financial pressure and can be a bit more fussy about what they send out, and also not take part in shows in lesser places.

From: N. D. Daniel — Dec 07, 2010

At this time of year I get calls from friends who want to buy gifts from me. I offer them my very best because you always want your best work out there and especially if our mutual friends might see the work. What people think is very important to me.

From: Nicholas Brinkert — Dec 08, 2010

Picasso carefully rehearsed the interplay that was to take place when a dealer arrived in his studio to look over work. He let the dealer, often Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, the pre-eminent Paris dealer, decide what he wanted to take, but Picasso made sure, that no matter what he took, he paid higher prices each time. No holding back there.

From: Sheri Farabaugh — Dec 08, 2010

I love the recognition I get in the smaller shows, but I have nothing left to take to galleries. Time for a change.

From: Georgette Sinclair — Dec 08, 2010

Thank you Robert. What an education I am getting through you. I have sent the video on education to all parents I know. I got a very dry education and my parents were not involved in it. BUT I am grateful for what I received from them – good genes, remembering the 10 commandments and I am almost positive that my parents passed along to me their creation aptitude. As far as my thirst to learn all the time? It came from me..just kidding..but my children have it and their children also..

From: Jessie Rasche — Dec 08, 2010

Thank you Robert, this article came at just the right time.

From: Roger Poirier — Dec 09, 2010

With more artists living today than at all other times in history, there is altogether too much poor quality stuff out there trying to find a home. The problem is that taste is declining to meet the supply.

From: Dyan Law — Dec 09, 2010

When it comes to getting ahead, or in some cases falling behind, I believe that timing is nearly everything! I’ve been painting for many years and teaching art to adults as well. Six years ago I made a difficult decision to curb my teaching hours in my full-program private school, enabling me to teach only semi-private and private lessons in my studio, conduct local intensive workshops, plein air workshops in France and devote more quality time to my portrait painting and studing. Two years ago, it became apparent that the economy was affecting art sales, so once again I assessed the situation and went full throttle into my own studies and teaching even less hours and smaller classes. Two years have passed and my portrait studies have evolved and improved. The time has come for me to storm the portrait agents and galleries with all I’ve GOT! I had only participated in local juried exhibitions and did so just to remain “active” in the minds of those who have been following my journey and those faithful collectors who look for my newer work. I’ll admit that I have “stashed-away” paintings so as to accumulate a good body of work. Commissions are now welcome!! It’s been a great two years of self-improvement and I highly recommend it to my fellow artists. It’s helped to keep my teaching fresh and more interesting as well! I’m happy that I didn’t spread out my art among galleries and am now building my future selectively! Hopefully the galleries that have been requesting new work will appreciate my choosing a steady two-year focus on study as well.

From: Judy Wray — Dec 09, 2010

On target..your words always hit the mark.

An insidious thing is evolving here around me..begun with a really simple flower mural at the entrance to the property 3 years ago..now,walls everywhere and upper terraces and the neighbors see and wonder and speculate and it spills over and is met by smiles of welcome..things pop up across town..an orphanage got lucky and then another orphanage slips in and this one world famous, and a Spanish school (without walls) up in the hills..and my life is a cornucopia each morning to paw through..what will it be today? Tepoztlan, Mexico
From: Donald Fisk — Dec 09, 2010

Valuable, wide ranging informed blog this. Heartening to hear you read the Brilliant British Knight Sir Ken Robinson who now lives in LA. Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative (2001) should be required reading for all intelligently creative people. Thanks, all.

From: Clare Aaron — Dec 09, 2010

It seems to me that if we are truly working at our art, then each successive piece that we do should be better than the previous piece. And I find that this is very true of my work. Thus if we keep doing better and better work, we have no need to worry about “dribbling away” our work.

My problem is that I do seriously have to make a living. I’ve never been able to afford to paint as a hobby, so each piece of work that I do needs to go on the market immediately. And as each one sells, I cringe because I’m still not building to get into the galleries that I want to be in. I hate to go to a new gallery with only 3 or 4 pieces, but can’t get farther ahead than that because my paintings do all keep selling in the little galleries in which I am currently showing. They are usually sold within a couple of weeks of when I put them on display. But while increasingly better and better paintings, I’m not finding the time to paint the larger sizes of paintings that I want to be working on. Am mostly doing smallish things that people can pick up easily for only few hundred, when I want to be doing larger pieces that the public can pick up for a few thousand. Am praying and hoping that over the Christmas holidays, I can get a larger piece completed, a composition that is already ear-marked for the 2011 International Salon. But that need to pay my electric bill now and support my children now keeps me painting the smallish ones that I can sell right now. Each painting better than the last and each bringing in just a little bit more money than the last, but not getting done the larger paintings that I want for the larger galleries.
From: Ben Seymour — Dec 09, 2010


So how can one tell when a work is good enough “to keep back”? This idea is intriguing, but seems to be problematic, mostly due to buyer’s individual tastes. And then there’s my own sense of satisfaction too… I’ve sold lots of paintings that I thought were less than spectacular to raving buyers, and what I think of as some of my best work doesn’t always meet the approval of others. Any thoughts about what makes a “keeper” ? How can one evaluate their own work to figure out the best course for it?
From: Sharon Cory — Dec 10, 2010

This is for Clare. I’ve been where you are and it gets better. Do the important things first, i.e. tend to the children and the bills. Year by year your paintings will get bigger and more profound. It might take 10 years but your work will be richer for it.

From: Steve Amsden — Dec 10, 2010

Paint continuously and when a show arises put in your best works.

Holding back your “great pieces” is foolish. People will buy your better paintings and that will inspire you to paint. Always have lots of pictures to choose from for the next exhibition and show the good ones.
From: Nancy Bell Scott — Dec 10, 2010

Well said, Steve. That is how your work gets noticed, and invitations start coming your way — not only from other fine artists involved in varieties of exhibitions but by gallery owners themselves.

From: Liz Reday — Dec 10, 2010

Making and selling small commercial paintings is good to do if you need to pay the rent, etc., but sooner or later an artist gets the urge to create something big and intense. The large ambitious canvas may not be in a popular style; it may be exploratory, experimental, abstract, thought-provoking or of a “difficult” subject. When an artist gets to this point, all thoughts of commercial success are less important than the need to paint their masterpiece. This is fun, exciting stuff, utterly addictive – but if you can sell them, go for it! You will be compelled to paint more and some will be better than others, but I do know that the work will get better and better. The hope is that your work will find a gallery and a market, which is gratifying, but not the reason for doing it. Watch the movie “Seraphine of Senlis” and you’ll see what I mean by this intense need to paint regardless of the circumstances.

From: Susan A. Warner — Dec 10, 2010

Very interesting comments as always. I believe that we always should put forth our BEST work, and be ready to sell it. This is recognition and appreciation that may get us to our goal, whatever that may be. And ask yourself what that goal is!

Establishing credentials and building a resume worthy of a prestigious Gallery’s attention is an accomplishment in itself. Acceptance in larger;State and National competitions is an incentive to improve. Where are you if you don’t grow and change? What would be the point? Of course we all know of artists who are making money by NEVER changing and by just repeating what sells. Your BEST work today may not be your best work tomorrow!
From: James P Albert — Dec 11, 2010

Just a comment on dribble issues. I found that one of my hesitations in selling a work was that it might best be viewed in sequence with those before and after. Once sold and gone, that sequence is lost.

So I am considering a process of placing the works sequentially on a web viewing as one of the better approaches to the matter. A sort of archiving prior to being “discovered.” My comments can certainly be incorporated in your forum, and certainly without attribution, but my use of the language is limited, so I am reluctant to do bloggy stuff. Quality dribble, however, does sound a little like either Michael Jordan or Jackson Pollack.
From: mars — Dec 11, 2010

RE– who is best judge of our paintings—–nobody -really. Have asked other artists & other peoples–out of several– which is the best piece of work? Well- they all disagreed!!! so I asked why– boats etc.– so that’s how they judged the art work– not by how well it was done? so one can’t rely on what others say!!! Just me!!!

From: Arnold Williams — Dec 11, 2010

I wish Robert’s book of the thousand of his letters (which I have) included all these responses as well because they are often fantastic if you sift through them. A world of art ideas and opinions. But that would take up more volumes than an encyclopaedia and nobody would have the room. Thank you Painter’s Keys staff for leaving all the past letters and responses on line.

From: HR — Dec 14, 2010

Ha, those lazy grammar CVs come often to me and my colleagues – they all go to the garbage bin, 21st century indeed…

    Featured Workshop: Julie Gilbert Pollard
112310_robert-genn4 Julie Gilbert Pollard Workshops   The Workshop Calendar provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order.

Summer Harbor

oil painting by David Lussier, USA

  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, 2009. That includes Bill Grace who wrote, “I always enjoy your thoughts and respect the accumulation and organization that grows into an excellent resource. For the first time there is something unclear. What exactly is ‘deep six’?” (RG note) Thanks Bill. It’s an idiom which means to discard or to completely put an end to something. It comes from the nautical term to throw something overboard — six fathoms or more — and have it really, truly down there and outa sight. Forever.    

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