Thursday, February 26, 2009

the frustration of the spirit...

Why do you paint? (or draw...collage....make art........) Do you do it because you have to somewhere deep inside of you? Do you do it to relax? Do you do it to figure yourself out? Or do you do it to sell it and make money?

I remember the day I sold my first painting. I knew I was about to head down a slippery slope and it made me rather sad. I was 27 and living in Vail, Colorado and I had been fortunate enough to hang some of my work in a coffee shop there called "The Daily Grind" in a group type show, for the first time. A woman who worked there wanted to buy a piece I had hung. I was all at once thrilled, and sad at the same time. I wasn't sad to see the piece go....I was sad because I knew it marked the beginning of something that I really wasn't sure I wanted to enter into. I was desperately broke, and I really needed the money. (Funny, some things never change...) But, I still had that fancy notion that I think a lot of artist's get...that my art wasn't about selling it, it was about the ART. A few months later I hung some more art up in Vail in a different coffee shop and some lady from Florida bought three pieces I had up. I guess they must've been 25.00 each because I remember making 75.00 off the lot and her telling me that I was selling my work far too cheap. It was that second sale that I realized I needed to start taking photo's of stuff.

Now I know that I've talked about this subject least some of my feelings regarding selling vs. the spirit of art. So either forgive me while I battle some more stuff out of my brain, or just quit reading now. I won't be offended....

The thing is...I'm still broke. I still need to try and sell my art. I can't have it piling up at home as it is, because honestly there becomes too much of it. Because other than my son, I pretty much eat, sleep, and breathe thinking about art. I try to stop. But it doesn't work. I visualize concepts and I want to create them. I often write them down, and hopefully get to them later. So while I still on one hand, want desperately to return to that moment when I first "discovered" that I loved what my hand could produce...that it was the best poetry that I had written, or the best monologue I had given on stage...I am forever mired in the concept that I also need to record it, and put it out there for sale, and hope that someone likes it enough to buy it. Either that...I give it away. (Which mind you, is a wonderful thing to do, and I do it often!) I just believe there must be a balance out there.

So what's an artist to do that is stuck in between the proverbial rock and a hard place? The only thing I can do is to try and put thoughts of selling work out of my head while I am in the act of creating art....and to put thoughts of creating art out of my head while I am in the throes of sitting on this damned computer and finding ways to promote my art. The hard place is the promoting. The endless opinions that one seems to have to ingest in order to move forward, to say hi, to let people know that you exist. And there are some opinions out there that I would dearly love to throw an ever loving pie in the face at....but we are supposed to be "polite" and not go there.

Selling sites like Etsy and 1000markets are such wonderful tools for people like me who can not afford or simply don't have the current technical no how to create their own website. As well as even if I did create my own website, which I probably will one of these days....the traffic driven to it will still never top the traffic that can go through group selling sites such as the above mentioned. So they seem to be a somewhat necessary evil. Etsy isn't so bad, except perhaps it has become so large (and centers mostly on craft...but don't they all?) that it's kind of like shopping through the Penney's catalog when it comes down to it. It's huge. So one is still soley responsible for getting whatever it is that they are selling OUT there. That means lots of socializing on forums, or commenting on blogs, or what not. Pretty soon I am reminded of all that selling of myself I felt I had to do back when I was studying acting in theatre. It's all kind of the same thing. 1000markets is trying to launch a site that is similar to etsy in that it sells stuff too. But, they are trying so hard to be "more exclusive" and at the same compete with etsy, and not do the things that they think etsy did wrong...that I think they are backing themselves into a pretty tight corner of snootyness which is rather off putting. The "snooty" that I am referring to will not be apparent to the buyer...but will definitely affect the merchant that is trying to do all the things that he/she is supposed to once again "get noticed" around there. The thing about these two sites is it's like they are both special little clubs that they have thousands of people standing outside the door banging to get in, pleading to be "accepted" and basically being told by the people inside that they aren't good enough. This can be quite daunting to the spirit. A true lesson in forgiveness in my opinion. There simply isn't enough time in the day or hours on the "front page" to include everyone...and those that have weaker spirit's (I suppose?) or are just creating art in order to sell it, are going to eventually fall off and stop. Stop creating what they love to do in the first place. All because it's high school all over again.

This breaks my heart a bit. And first let me state that occasionally I feel I have broken through the doors, and sometimes I feel I'm still pounding. I have definitley had moments where someone that I don't even know that lives across the country from me, has made me feel like my art was bad and has made me have doubt. But I seem to have the power to shake that off fairly quickly because I truly see the beauty in all art...and am very aware that art is very subjective. You either like roses or you don't. You like daisies, or you don't. Or you like both. The same with art. You either appreciate the effort or you don't. It doesn't mean that you are going to go out and buy stuff from every person out will always have their favorites. (personally, I like dahlia's) But it breaks my heart that there are people out there that will give up simply because someone told them they weren't good enough. I am not the most religious person in the world, but I truly believe that "God" gave people the want to create because "he" wanted them to be able to make the world a beautiful place.

So to the people that I sense want to "give up" because they aren't selling their work, or they can't get the people on the other side of the door to open it up...I want to tell them "don't give up". Or I want to ask them if they are selling their art because they truly love to create, or because they are trying to make some money. Because if it's the latter....then yeah, you should probably just stop. I realize I'm not including people in here who create stuff simply to sell it and who actually sell oodles of stuff. I don't really know what to say to people like that... I'm glad you're making some much needed money, but my guess is I can't see any soul in your work. Maybe that doesn't matter.... Maybe it only matters to me.

Maybe this is kind of a tirade? I don't know....but I've found recently that I feel stuck as to what to "blog" about on my "art" blog...and have decided to just write about whatever I feel like regarding art. You don't have to agree with me. Just like you don't have to like dahlia's. ;)

"In art, there are no rules" is what my husband said to me the other night....and today another friend added to that "...except those that we invent." Amen to that.


daisies said...

i like dahlias ... course i adore your art, adore ... the marketing of ourselves and our art is so frustratingly hard. i know so many talented people who get lost in the sea of it all ... sigh

tc said...

I recently subscribed to ArtNews because my Goddaughter was selling magazines for school and that was the only 'art' related pub. I have been saddened to see that it is mostly a nasty bashing of other artists and pompous talk amongst those who are currently the 'in' crowd. I've mostly found in life that I am happiest when I create for myself. I don't expect that I will ever receive any sort of critical acclaim for anything that I do and I'm not really seeking it.

Alissa said...

Hugs to you, lovey. I used to make art to figure myself out. Now, I've realized recently, art making is a spiritual process for me. I've decided to honor that, and if I end up with enough meditations on wholeness to have a show someday, great. But my goal is not that. However, I have wearables I can sell -- if I can figure that situation out.

I've decided to have my own website and hire a pr person (Rebecca) to keep me on top of google. I just get buried on Etsy, and I don't have time to be out there promoting myself by chatting at Etsy, joining more groups, etc.

Have you considered hiring someone to promote your work online?

I've joined a few art groups on Facebook, too. I'm not really sure how to tap into that resource yet, though.

buddhacat said...

OK, I figured out how to do comments... I think. I have to sign in to my Google account just before I come here looking for trouble, and other things.

I wish I felt a sense of calmness and creativity when I sit down to make art, rather than angst. I have had wonderfully emptying and clarifying moments, but they give way to feelings that I have so many other things I need to finish first. So, I do other things. Not that I'd ever be selling art, of course. I once had similar considerations developing software, but couldn't deal with the marketing part. I was lucky that word-of-mouth carried me along.

artbylmr said...

Very thoughtful post. I find myself thinking that I should paint this or that because it may sell well. I run the gamut of subjects and never settle on a particular theme - that may also be hurting me sales wise.
So be it!
There is just so much I want to try and so little time:)