“I am not interested in art as a way
of making a living, but a way of living a life.”
–Robert Henri, “The Art Spirit”
Remember the book about doing what you love and the money following? A lot of people took it to heart and began doing all kinds of things they love, anticipating all the money that would follow.
You see a lot of them at craft fairs with fancy aprons and potholders and tie-dyed whatever or jars of honey…I recall at the time a snarky acquaintance asking, “What if I wanted to make lampshades out of matchbook covers?”
Every artist I know is interested in making some money, at least a little money, from his or her art. But almost every artist I know is also more interested in the doing than the selling. This is not unique to painters and other visual artists.
Musicians would rather play than sell. Dancers would rather dance than sell. Writers…well, don’t even ask.
There are a lot of places online now that promise to help us sell our art. Some of them offer their services as a kind of “award” if we will only enter their “competitions” (for a fee). Others promise to feature you on their website if you’ll only answer a lot of questions about your work and, of course, send pictures.
It’s the Google/Facebook method of selling our art. We give these places a lot of free material and information about ourselves and our work which they compile somewhere for their own reasons and we still haven’t sold one single piece through them.
I’m in the Robert Henri School of Making a Life. For one thing I’ve done enough marketing already in widely varied areas to know how hard it is to sell anything in today’s overloaded-with-every-kind-of-stuff world.
For another thing, artists need to know what kind of sales they want to make. It’s like choosing a life partner. There are a lot of good people out there, but not all of them are for us. We know what we want and we look for that. I know what kind of sales I want to make with my art and I look for opportunities to do that.
So I do my work, painting most days, building my body of work limb by limb. I have gallery shows whenever possible, including the upcoming show at La Playa Gallery in La Jolla, CA, and am grateful for every chance I get. I like to know that people are seeing my work “in the flesh” and that I might even be there to talk with them about the paintings.
Lest you think I don’t know this, I’m well aware of the limitations I’m putting on myself and my art. But they’re my limitations, it’s my art, and it’s my life. I love living it.