The Artist – Sell or Show?

I think I’ve mentioned before that, as an artist, your job is to see the world, react to it through art, and then sell the dang thing.  Maybe you’re one of those artists who envisions filling their home with beautiful pieces of their own work, but for me…..I can’t stand the stuff.  I get maybe 3 days of delight out of a finished piece and it needs to go.
Because of this drive to produce and sell art, I’ve been pretty focused on moving things as quickly as possible.

Then, for some reason, I decided to do a one-man show at a local art gallery.

Now, in my opinion, an art show serves two purposes:

  1. To back up your claim of being an artist, and
  2. To sell art.
Okay, okay, it could ALSO be to enrich the local community by having cool art up for display.  That encourages other artists and creative activities, but if you focus on the two reasons I listed above, it creates a bit of a problem for the artists.
Namely, if you’re selling all of your art as quickly as you can make it, you don’t HAVE any art to put up for a show…or, you’ve sold all of your best pieces and all you have left is crap.  Who wants to see that?  
The only alternative that I can see is to create a bunch of awesome pieces and sit on them for months until the show comes around.  Ugh.  So, let me see….I’m not selling a bunch of work in the hopes that I CAN sell the work later….after the percentage the gallery takes and the framing, and the expense of food and drink at the opening day.
Seems like a bit of a loss every way around, doesn’t it?  I mean, if I could sell a piece online, and just have the cost of shipping to cover….isn’t that better?  Wouldn’t I have that money NOW to buy more art supplies so that I can keep doing art instead of investing in framing?
Well…yes.  If money was the only thing you were going for.
You see, I spend my days working with a group of people doing one thing, and spend my nights making art. In most cases, the people I work with have NO IDEA that I am an artist.  They may not CARE, but they don’t see the stuff I put online to sell.  I’m just that nice guy who can help them with their online class.
But, being an artist matters to ME.  And nothing says “I’m an artist” like standing somewhere and being surrounded by your art.
I suppose it is a bit like being gay and in the closet.  Being in the closet is just fine, but there must be times when you just want to stop pretending to be something and show the world what is most true about you.  People may not like you, or they may not care, but at least you’re being HONEST.
So, after debating about it, I’ve decided to go ahead and have the show this October.  I’ve also kind of found a way to keep my art AND make enough money for art supplies and framing.
It’s called illustration.
See, there are tons of folks out there who would really love to have a piece of cool artwork for book covers, magazines and so forth, and they are willing to PAY…just a little…for it.  Fortunately, I have a nice day job that covers expenses like rent, food and utilities, so I can afford to be picky about who I choose to do illustrations for.  That’s the joy that the day job brings…the power to say “NO”.
You saw the “Black Monk” book cover I did recently (if you didn’t, scroll down a bit..I’ll wait), and maybe the “Dene Hollow” book cover I did way before that?  Well, I get paid to do those AND I still have the original art.  Imagine going to a show, seeing the framed, original art with a note that says “If you buy this painting, you get a signed copy of the book FREE!”  Ooo…that’s added value!
So, doing illustration work gets you paid up front, with a nice piece of art you can sell later WITH an added incentive to buy.  Not too shabby.
Of course, it’s not too shabby IN THEORY.  I’ll let you know how it works out when the actual show comes around.
So, I consider an art show to be my “coming out” party for all of my friends and coworkers.  I’ll stand in the gallery with a brave face on and inflict my art on whoever comes through the door.
Maybe they’ll turn up their noses.  Maybe I’ll sell a few pieces.
But, at the end of the day, I will have been HONEST about who I am.  I will have had the guts to say I AM AN ARTIST.
And if I never do another show, maybe that will be worth it all.


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