I am a returning artist struggling to make a sale, I am not sure if it is my paintings, price, subject or my selling techniques. Any help greatly appreciated. Albert
A recent comment from a visitor to this blog, quoted above, struck me as a universal statement for any artist trying to make a go of an art career. When artists get down on themselves it is often verbalised along the lines of "I am not making sales, because my art is not good enough" or "If I can sell ___x___ paintings this weekend I am OK" When the target is not met then there is a convenient exit ready and waiting.
The truth must be faced before we can get into career strategy. In truth an artist needs recognition at a fundamental level. This gets confused with sales as a yardstick, but this is a mistake. Sales alone will not fill the need for recognition. A better way of saying this is that the artist needs to know that his art has meaning. The trap with sales as a yardstick is that the artist becomes attached to numbers and when they do not add up to a certain sum the artist takes this as a rejection. If its numbers you are after then there will never be enough.
I know a few artists (I use the word loosely) who knowingly churn out paint-by-numbers style works for the quick sale. They freely admit to this and laugh it off. The problem is that they are not selling art. There is no true communication. It is a lie and they are caught up in a numbers game that is now their life. If they do not get back to the truth of art they will fade away disillusioned.
Art is firstly a form of communication. The meaning of communicating through art is achieved when the artist's efforts are recognised. Painting sales alone will never fill the artist's soul. So when we are not attached to sales as a yardstick we can accept the ups and downs of business a lot better. It is not the artist's talent that is at fault. If no sales take place then artists must make business decisions to rectify the situation. Not throw their hands up in despair and curse their imagined lack of talent. Let me add that improving skills and quality of art is a business decision too. These are learned qualities through effort not a marker for abundance or lack of talent. Artists have the talent, but must add the sweat.
Attachment to an outcome leads to frustration. Reality and our imagined outcome seldom meet halfway. Instead if we focus our efforts on doing the work as best as we can with a lightness of spirit we will not fall into the trap. Artists will benefit from calmer minds and they will be kinder to themselves. Their work will improve consistently.
This idea of non-attachment is not easy especially over the long haul. Our commercial world has seen to that. Being aware helps to foresee trouble so that we can head it off. If the artist stumbles over a bad habit like feeling sorry for himself then it will also be easier to pull himself out of it and get back to work.
There is no communication if there is no art. Once the art is produced it must be shared and once shared a connection is made, which in turn brings meaning to the artist's efforts. So the goal is to improve the artist's communication through art to a wider audience on a regular basis. This must be the intention. It is not accidental. Collectors seek communication with an artist too so step one is to get the conversation going.
(In Part 2 we will look at strategies for getting ready for the market)