The Business Choice
“Poor artist” you gave away part of your soul when you painted the picture which you are now trying to dispose of.” Paul Gauguin
Geologic Time Acrylic on Textured Surface
I wanted to be an artist! I choose to be an art teacher for the practical reasons. It was much to the disappointment of my mother who wanted me to be a secretary. I loved to draw, paint, and make things. I have always been a “creative”. I wanted others to learn how to express themselves creatively, and experience that experience that made me feel alive.
Being an art teacher did not last all that long, however. When I became a single parent, and art was being cut from the curriculum, I needed to move from the “art room” to the “classroom”. At this point in my life, striking out to build a career as an artist, was not an option for raising a family. And to be honest, I loved what I did and eventually worked on a larger scale to bring all the arts into the classroom integrating them with all subjects.
But because of an unforeseen happening in my life, I had to retire early, which in turn gave me a chance to go back to artwork fulltime and be “that artist”. At first it was just the pure pleasure of creating. But as paintings multiplied and I found people wanted the work I began doing art shows, teaching art again, and eventually sought gallery representation. With this came the reality of the business side of art. And, like any business there are rules and standards that must be met.
In conversation with several students and friends recently who want to start selling their work, they had several questions. They wanted to know why they needed a body of work, why an artist statement, why a consistent selling price, why a website, why a resume, and how to do work that would sell? All good questions related to the business side of art. Selling your art is like any other competitive business, from quality, to pricing, to promotion, to bookkeeping. I thought the answers might be of interest to all readers even if you are not at the point of wanting to sell your work.
A body of work shows you are an “artist, who knows the medium that you are using. Proficiency in a body of work makes your work recognizable. If you are in a gallery setting, they want to know you have inventory.
An artist statement not only defines who you are as an artist and why you create, it attracts buyers, because they want to know what motivated this work that speaks to them. It helps them connect with you as the creator.
Why consistent pricing? It is a good business practice. Just because it took 13 months to finish a creative work does mean you should charge more than one that took an afternoon if it is the same number of square inches. It evens out in the end.
A resume in art is equivalent to a resume in any business. Remember selling art is a competitive business.
Digital media gets you known. The more people who know you, the more likely you are to sell.
As for the last question, how do I create work that people want to buy? Be yourself. Create for the love of creating! People who identify with what you do will buy your work.
You have choices? You can enter the business arena on many levels. But the choice must be one you are comfortable with. If you are not comfortable playing by the rules of one venue, it might not be the right one for you. Move on and choose a different one. But remember once you sell or scope out gallery representation, you are a “business” and businesses have rules.
I have admitted in this space before, the business side of art is hard for me. I do not do all the things available to me. I want to create without pressure and just be me, expressing who I am. It sort of happens to a lot of “creatives”. Right brain activity meets left brain activity.
Choose what is comfortable for you! Stay safe. Carolyn