I recently re-posted this meme to my Instagram account. It’s true for many artists. I know this is funny, but it’s that deep, cutting kind of humor, in that it’s deeply rooted in the emotional pain an artist can feel regarding their work, their efficacy as an artist and their abilities to make a living at being a practicing artist. This type of humor can also be even more emotionally devastating when, like me, the artist creates artwork as a form of therapy, which I know is not unique at all, it simply complicates my relationship to the artwork I create, my personal sense of self-worth and how each of those relate to making money with art.
At various times in my past, I’ve been confronted by someone who didn’t understand why I would make art, a lot of art, and not sell it. The implication being, that if I was putting so much time, thought at energy into creating art, that I most certainly would be selling it. What other reason could there be to spend so much time creating art? I feel like this is a very American, culture of consumption manner of thinking. Everything is transactional, and amassing the greatest amount of money is the only end goal of any expenditure of time, thought and energy.
Yes. I have created artwork for myself alone, in the past, with no intentions of ever attempting to make money. That was not the reason the artwork was created. I was creating the art to get through the day, or the week, or the month. The creating of the artwork was what was keeping me mentally and emotionally intact. The art is my anchor to keep me from disintegrating into everything and everyone around me.
Do some people think that because I’ve already been ‘paid‘ for the artwork with my own sanity, that I should give my artwork away or at a cost so low that I cannot make a decent living at it?
It’s an odd situation to contemplate. It’s weird and complicated. The artwork created keeps me mentally and emotionally intact. The created artwork accumulates, and accumulates. The artwork is now physically getting in the way. The artwork is now staring at me and I’m staring at it (quite literally. I make dolls). I need to do something with it, so, the artwork is offered for sale.
Now, here’s where it all gets even weirder. All of the artwork I created for myself, to help keep me sane, doesn’t sell. When it doesn’t sell, it’s mentally and emotionally painful, not devastatingly painful, more of the ‘death by a thousand cuts’ kind of painful. Remember, my artwork is who and what I am on the inside. My thoughts and emotions, how I see and understand the world around me, etc., etc., and so forth. I came to art because I’ve never felt accepted. I was too weird, too loud, too obnoxious, etc., etc., yadda, yadda. So for me, when my artwork doesn’t sell, my knee-jerk reaction is to think, “Oh. I’m being excluded again. I’m being rejected again. My insides and my outsides are hideous. Lack of sales proves that. I’m worthless.” Then, off to make more art!
This is so messed-up.
I know this.
The meme is right. I do stare at my work until I hate it, but I’m not just hating my artwork. I’m hating myself.
I don’t know if there is any way of necessarily fixing any of this. I know that my artwork isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, especially the Creative Experiment doll series. I know that what I create and offer for sale is very niche and that the niche I’m in isn’t populated with an over-abundance of people with lots and lots of extra cash on hand to buy artwork with. I’m not boo-hooing and belly-aching about it. It’s just how things are for right now. For me, it’s more important to know where my feelings are coming from and how they affect my current and future actions.
Situations are always fluid and change is a constant. The way that I feel today will change, and I will adapt to whatever new circumstances I encounter in the future. Remember, art keeps me sane.
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you again next week.
Henri Rollins has helped to keep me grounded and not feel so alone as an artist for many, many years. L.A. Money Train is one of my favorite cuts off of Get Some, Go Again.