“Art is making something out of nothing and selling it.” Frank Zappa
Selling art is always a pleasure. Yesterday, a fellow artist posted a blog about the tragedy of truly dedicated artists not selling their work. Perhaps rightly, he blamed a society that does not tend to value hand-made original objects nor the efforts of talented artists, pouring their hearts out for a world that just doesn’t get it.
I certainly have written extensively on this subject in my book, Point of Art and in my blogs over the years. It is very easy to complain about our miserable, materialistic society and the terrible economy, which are ever evolving things, over which we have little control.
I have found, however, if we as artists work hard, develop ourselves, market our brand effectively, reaching and touching the right people, our art will sell. Sometimes, I have been more effective at this than others. But I consider myself quite fortunate to be able to have derived my entire living through my artistry over the last 30 odd years. I am delighted to have sold hundreds of commission portraits and gallery artworks over the years.
I found early in my career, however, that diversity, as in any business, is an effective way to keep the financial wheels lubricated, as selling art is not always reliable. It often does depend on the whims of an ever changing public, along with a myriad of other factors over which I have little or no control. I have had good months and bad months. Although I’ve literally made millions of dollars selling art over my long career, it has never been quite enough to retire comfortably or put my kids through school. But I have lived a great life. And I can safety say, my life has never been better than it is at this very moment.
I have always tried to have integrity about my teaching, my writing and the many ways I grease the wheels of my career. I consider myself quite lucky that I have never had to work a “real” job. I can assure you, I never find myself doing something I don’t want to do (except when balancing my checkbook. I’ve never been able to enjoy that task). I get a lot of satisfaction from teaching and have never considered it a fall back. I truly am passionate about sharing my mission and bringing the creative life to everyone.
I also can say I have never painted to please anyone but myself, even in my commission portraits. Perhaps this has cost me over the years but I can say I am proud to stand behind my work. I know there are subjects that might sell better than others but I a only paint what I am drawn to paint.
If this all sounds like a justification, it is because I was moved by my friend, who lamented so passionately about my “plight.” I’m pretty sure he was referring to my recent blog about painting parties, one of a number of creative, diverse ways I’ve found to survive between art sales. Activities such as quick sketching, painting parties, teaching classes/workshops, commission art, or commission portraits, which some may look down upon, I find exciting and challenging.
Perhaps it’s a case of accepting life as it is in order to be happy, which BTW is the secret to happiness. Or it is a case of creatively finding a way to survive in a hostile world. It all depends on your perspective.