A New Year

January is sort of an in-between month – by that I mean we are still winding up unfinished business from 2013 and at the same time trying to remember we are now beginning a new year. For several months I will have to consciously remind myself to write 2014 on my checks (am I the only person who still writes checks rather than use the bill paying option through the bank?)

After several months of ‘marketing’ art rather than making it, I am looking forward to getting a new supply of rice paper and losing myself in ink for a while. I was in four art show at the end of the year and have some work on exhibition this month at a local gallery. I sold several pieces for which I am grateful. In all cases the works that sold were on the small side and priced under $150; in addition, they tended to be representational rather than abstract – important information to consider for 2014.

At the gallery where I currently have some pieces there is also another artist who is showing ink work. I liked her art which is large: 3 x 5 and 4 x 6 feet – all framed and under glass. The prices ranged from $800 to $2,000.  The framing costs alone probably ran at least $150+, not to mention the 40% commission the gallery will take from any sale.

I heard one man come up to her at the opening and tell her he had curated many shows and her work was outstanding. But he didn’t buy anything. Tonight is Second Saturday in Sacramento when hundreds of people will go from gallery to gallery to see what’s on show this month. These are usually lookers not buyers; the art walk is a free source of entertainment.

When people want to hear music they pay for tickets or have a cover charge. Musicians don’t play for free. But somehow that doesn’t apply to art. Artists create it, pay for supplies, get it ready for exhibition and if a piece sells pay a big commission to the gallery. And if it doesn’t sell, which happens most of the time, have to decide if they want to recycle the art or store it.

I was talking to another young artist the other night who, of course, has a day job in advertising design and paints at night and on the weekends. He has several large (3 x 5) oil paintings on display which I doubt will sell (at least in this market) and I wondered, although I didn’t ask, what he intends to do with all these canvases when the show is over.

I was reading a Call for Artists for another local show that I found interesting and include it here:

Historically, art has been a topic of interest for many diverse groups of people. In order to achieve acclaim, the struggling artist must first satisfy the desires of just one group: those who will pay for and exhibit art. Overcoming this hurdle is certainly one of the most formative experiences of any new artist’s career. For this reason, artists who operate outside of this paradigm rarely, if ever, receive the opportunity to exhibit their art in a museum. Even when a museum chooses to do an exhibition highlighting the art of an unheard voice, it is still a voice picked by the museum for the entertainment of its donors.

The message goes on to say this show will be different in that the public will be asked to vote on the best picture of the show and the artist will then have a two week private exhibition later in the year.

If you’ve ever watched any of the art documentaries on PBS or similar channels you see stories about artists who have made it to the big time. These are artists with warehouse-sized studios, exhibitions in Paris, London, Rome, NYC and Tokyo, and whose work sells for five and six figures. But these are the exceptions, not the rule. Just as there are only so many superstars in music or movies, there are just so many artists who move in those rarified circles. For every star who gets discovered, there are probably hundreds (if not more) of equally talented ones whose names will remain unknown. I guess that’s why art always has it patrons – whether it is a Renaissance Pope, wealthy burgermeister, or Wall Street financier.

So in looking to the new year, I am thinking I will focus on one line of small, representational pieces that might sell, and on a second line of large formats that probably won’t find a buyer but which I will enjoy doing. In both cases, I will put my emphasis on making/doing/being and let the marketing take care of itself – or not.

Check out another post on Creativity and Spirituality at http://sacredgate.wordpress.com.


2 thoughts on “A New Year

  1. Thanks for this. I paint and do so for the love of it without needing to worry about sales. Recently I have begun painting over canvasses, recognizing that our basement is finite. There is a kind of freedom in this, although it is also a little sad. I think I am slowly learning about the joy of the process, and finding that to be enough. But I completely agree with your comments about the unfairness of it all. “Buy original art!” has been, and will continue to be my mantra.


  2. I think that as a culture we do not really value/appreciate original art. Also, there is the safety factor of buying a print of a famous work – you have the security of knowing it is respected by others – something which is not guaranteed when you buy an original piece by an unknown artist. Plus, our educational system does not really teach the value and joy of any of the arts – unlike they do sports. Sorry, I feel like I’m ranting now. Thanks for the comment. 🙂


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