Every, single artist wrestles with their art. One of the largest of these struggles for me has been discovering a balance between how create original artwork that is deeply meaningful to me, and making an income by selling my original artwork. When I was actively teaching art in public school, there was an agreement between the two sides. My bills were paid through my teaching, and I was free to create any type of original artwork that I wished. It was not crucial for the artwork I created to find a place in the marketplace or for that matter, within the art world as a whole. Teaching art handled that. Any of my original artwork that was sold was extra income.
Due to world-side events, selling my original artwork has taken precedence over teaching art. At least for the foreseeable future. My entrepreneurial plans required some adjustments. A larger part of my business plan is now devoted to the selling of my original artwork. I find it much easier to ‘sell’ myself as a teacher or art workshops, than to market my own artwork.
Being successful at marketing my own original artwork depends upon so many different things that I don’t have any control over. Success also depends upon my going into the selling of my work with a degree of personal and creative confidence that fluctuates between ‘nonexistent’ and ‘okay’. Some days are better than others. As a result of my maladjusted sense of confidence, I tend to delve deeper into the how’s and the why’s in an effort to understand myself. Through this understanding, I can make the necessary adjustments that will hopefully increase my chances of being as successful a working artist as I possibly can be.
Why my artwork must be original:
I have a memory from childhood. My father found me either actively drawing a copy of a picture, or he saw a drawing I made that was a copy of another picture. The memory is a little hazy, but I think it was around the time I was 7 or 8 years old. That is the only time that I concretely remember copying a drawing. It was a Precious Moments bulletin board decoration from my classroom. It might have been Holly Hobbie. Actually, I kind of hope it was Holly Hobbie…but what artwork I was copying is beside the point.
The gist of what my father told me was that it was perfectly okay for me to copy another artists work. Plenty of artists throughout history learned how to create by copying other artists as practice. However, my father was vehement that I not copy a piece of artwork, made by another artist, and then sign my name to it, claiming it as my own. I was never, ever to attempt to pass-off someone else’s creative artwork as my own. That was just wrong. Very wrong.
How this Idea Effects My Artistic Processes:
I’m constantly running the ideas I have for my own artwork through the aforementioned memory filter. Sometimes it is less a ‘filter’, and more like a series of sieves. Each idea is pushed through a finer and finer mesh sieve with the hope of as original a piece of artwork I can create being mashed through that last and finest sieve. This process has it’s Pros and it’s Cons.
One of the cons is that this process requires me to almost constantly second-guess my own creativity. This can be annoying to say the least. What ideas have not made it through all of these mental machinations that were perhaps more original than I thought they were? What designs have I placed by the wayside simply because I didn’t want to be perceived as an artist following a trend or style? Have I actively turned away from materials or techniques that are ‘all the rage’ right now?
Another con is that when an artist is actively trying to be as original as they can, the artwork that they create doesn’t always automatically find a niche within the larger arts community. My artwork is difficult to categorize in a traditional fine arts sense. My artwork is not an easy fit into the world of fine art, nor is it completely an ‘arts and crafts’ kind of thing. Perhaps my age, and the length of time that I have been creating my artwork makes artisan feel a bit more accepting a categorization for myself and what I create, but it’s still not a perfect fit. The thing is, this categorization isn’t so much for me, but for those who see and purchase my work. The person buying my work wants to know what they’re getting. Are they a patron of ‘the arts’, or a devote of a particular form or technique? Do they want to pass the work to their children, or will it be used up and tossed out when it loses its’ allure?
A con of my pursuit of being an original creator is that there is absolutely no guarantee of a reliable amount of sales in any arts marketplace, whether it be fine art, arts and crafts or artisan. This requires me as an artist to either bend to the the expectations of reliable marketplaces, or to take an active roll in creating my own place, no matter how small, within those established frameworks. To do either of these things requires me to ask myself, ‘What problem am I solving for?’ or perhaps, ‘What am I willing to compromise on, so my problem is solved in a way that doesn’t mentally and emotionally chap my keister to the point I can no longer stand the pain?‘
The really big and slightly addictive pro:
While the concept of creating my own original artwork was placed into my head at a very young age, I cannot deny that I revel in creating my own artwork. The sheer, unadulterated bliss of thinking an idea in my brain and then sitting down and making it so that it exists in the physical world, is just the most amazing experience for me. This kind of happiness, is something that I’ve grown so accustomed to, so dependent upon as a means by which I attempt to understand myself and the world around me, that I don’t think I can not make art in some way, shape or form. Copying another artists work by comparison feels as though it would be a hollow experience for me. I find no satisfaction in it, and the resulting artwork shows that.
It appears as though my endless pursuit of creating original artwork is not something that I’m willing to compromise on. This leaves me with the task of creating my own little place within the larger, established arts related marketplaces. What I need to make sure that I do is be honest with myself regarding this endeavor. I know that I’m free to create whatever types of artwork that I want, whenever I want to. What I am not guaranteed that anyone is ever going to want to buy my artwork. This, even after I work to create my own little niche in the marketplace. I can do everything that I can to sell my work, and still never sell a single piece. The marketplace, like old age, isn’t apparently for sissies.
So, I will continue to create my own original artwork, while at the same time carefully carving out my own small niche in which to place it. Those people who like my artwork, who ‘get’ my artwork…they are out there in the world. There may not be a lot of them, but I would like to think that the numbers are on my side. These people just haven’t found me and my artwork yet. I need to make sure they do.
Thank you for reading, and I will see you again this Friday,
What is an artisan? I usually start my lateral reading online with Wikipedia and move on from there.
Precious Moments: Honestly, my flirtation with them is contained to the year 1978.
Holly Hobbie: Holly Hobbie was the creation of watercolorist Denise Holly Ulinskas. Way cooler in my opinion. Kinda hippy-esque. She was the forerunner to my love of the Gingham Girls paper doll sets.
I also remember having a small, stuffed Holly Hobbie doll, like the one in the picture below: