How do you work with the pull between selling and ignoring the art market entirely?
This is an interesting question posed last week by one of my readers. I used to spend a great deal of time struggling with this issue. I know how supremely wonderful it feels to sell a piece of art you have made. Even if you are having the worst day, it can be made wonderful, instantly, by a sale. The problem arises because we like it so much and we want more. And we need more, especially if we are relying on sales to fund the making of our Art.
But that is where it gets trickier. Once the sale of a painting or sculpture is made, that particular piece somehow feels significantly stronger than the remaining unsold ones. The gallery might even lament its loss, exclaiming they could sell 5 more like it if they only had more.
But you only made one. In fact, when you created it you were not even that sure it was any good. Who knew it would be anointed with such grandeur? So you can easily set about to do more like this painting. However, while you are making the additional work it is hard not to compare and wonder if it is as strong as the piece that sold so effortlessly. That one painting that everyone seemed to love. The more you think about it, the more you realize how much you love it too. It seems the whole world loves this one painting and now you do too.
If only you could make more one or two more like it. Surely you can.
Well, I am sorry to say, from my experience, you can’t. And in trying, you end up wasting precious time and energy focused on something very, very different than making Art. You are now focused on the marketing of Art.
It is fine to pay attention to what sells and what doesn’t. It is just not helpful to be thinking about it while you are making your Art.
At first this seems counterintuitive. In most businesses that produce a product you thrive by paying attention to what your customers are buying. And when they buy you just make more. Lots and lots more.
But Fine Art is different. This doesn’t mean it is necessarily harder to sell your Art – in fact I believe that working without regard for the market actually produces stronger work, which to no surprise, sells. And it is easier, much easier to make Art when you are focused solely on what is happening right now in your studio, in the present, in front of you.
It is important and comforting to remember that you, the artist, is utterly in the drivers seat of your own creative process. The more you can safeguard spilling your mental energy on what might sell or might not, the better. Instead, focus on making your art practice about what feels aligned with you. What is so wonderful about this task is that you are already perfectly ready to take this on. Today.
Making your work more and more like you is also the most powerful business strategy for marketing your work. Thank Goodness.
There is only one you, one distinct creative journey you get to walk in your lifetime. If your Art can demonstrate this difference, your uniqueness, then the likelihood for people wanting to buy a small part of your courageous, utterly authentic journey is very high. Your Art, if it can inspire you, will inspire others and that is something that is, without even trying, very, very marketable indeed.
What do each of you focus on when making art? Do you think about what has sold previously, or is it more about the painting itself? Or is your experience something else entirely?
A special thanks to Sara (last name not listed) and all of those in our creative community who are commenting and contributing in response to the ArtLife Blog. It is a benefit to many. -nw