Friday, March 4, 2011

Staying True to Myself and My Vision

I've been having a bit of an internal debate lately over what direction to take in my work. Those of you who've been with me for a while may recall that I moved in a major new direction last spring. I was so happy. I felt that my new work had so much more depth (by which I mean meaning, relevance, and content), and that it was a truer expression of me.

Then I sent a group of new paintings to my gallery... and waited. In a year's time, only one has sold. I started to doubt myself. Why aren't my paintings resonating with anyone?, I wondered. Then I talked to my gallery reps, two of the kindest people in the world, who both said I should go back to my old style. My old paintings were prettier. Oh, and by the way, I should avoid using the color green. Green's a tough sell, apparently. Yup, no more green when I'm painting landscapes of the Midwest, which is covered in forests and carpeted with grasses. Hmmm.

Fortunately, I am blessed to be friends with an extraordinarily talented and wise friend named Sam Adoquei. Sam just sent me a copy of his new book, Origin of Inspiration. He asked me to read it, and of course, I immediately came to the essay I knew he had in mind for me. In this essay, Sam writes about the three essential elements required of all successful artists: skill, style, and vision. Sam says that skill and style evolve naturally with dedicated practice, and that the bigger challenge is to develop your vision—your purpose or message in painting.

What I realized after reading Sam's book and getting a good pep talk directly from him is that I have finally found my vision. After years of working on skill, which in turn allowed me to develop my style, I finally reached the place where I had something to say through my work. Even better, I had arrived at what I feel is a unique way of saying it. Okay, so it's not selling. Not yet, and not in this gallery. But that is not and should not be the foremost principle guiding me in the creation of my work.

I have a vision. I'm sticking to it. And it's going to involve green. Thank you, Sam, thank you!

Monday, February 28, 2011

TV Worth Watching

I'm so happy. Just realized that past episodes of one of my favorite PBS shows -- Art:21 -- are available to watch anytime for free on Yeah! I don't always like the featured artists but I always learn something interesting and get lots of food for thought. Stokes the creative fire!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Let's Brainstorm

Yesterday I had the great pleasure of having lunch with my new friend Ann Jenemann, a plein-air artist from Cincinnati. Ann and I got to talking about the marketing and selling of art, and how it's been changing, especially since the arrival of the Internet. Ann told me about an interesting web-based program in which people subscribe to an online service that sends them a new, inexpensive reproduction once a month to hang in a frame on their walls. When they get a copy of a painting they really like, they can then go back online and purchase the original. That's a really unique concept!

That got me thinking... Whoever thought this up has created a successful innovation in marketing art because they've tapped in to some important trends in our society, like: 1. People are shopping online, even for art. 2. People--even people with money--like to try things out before they make a big financial outlay. 3. People enjoy constant change.

Okay, so let's brainstorm. What do we know about consumer behavior in 2011, and how can we creatively apply that to the sale of art? What lessons can artists glean from the methods other producers are using to market their products? Ideas? Thoughts?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Ethical Dilemma

Here's a true story I heard recently that offers a valuable lesson for all of us artists dealing with galleries.

A woman came in to a gallery and really liked a particular painting by a local artist. But instead of buying it, she went home, googled the artist's name, found her website and contact info, and called the artist to ask if she could purchase the painting directly from the artist. I'm sure she thought she could get the painting for a lower price because they were cutting out the middle man -- the gallery. 

Wisely, the artist very politely thanked the woman for her interest and then equally politely told her that all sales needed to go through the gallery. The potential buyer never returned to the gallery to buy the painting. So in being honest, the artist (and the gallery) lost a sale. But what would the artist have lost if she'd gone the other way?

Obviously, if the gallery had found out about it, she probably would have lost her chances of ever selling in the gallery again. Gallery owners do talk to one another, so she may also have lost her reputation, at least in the general region where she lives. And in gaining the reputation among collectors as someone who is willing to undercut the price of her work, she might have also destroyed the long-term monetary value in her work. That seems like a lot to lose for the price of one painting.

What do you think? Did she make the right call? Have you ever been faced with an ethical dilemma?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

New Year, New Projects

Hey, everybody! It's been ages since I last blogged. The reason I haven't been blogging is that I started doing a little part-time work with the gallery that represents me, Greenwich House Gallery. I'm having such a blast, and I have to say, I'm learning by leaps and bounds. If you ever have a chance to work in a gallery, even just occasionally or for a brief time, do it. I really had no idea how much goes into running a gallery until I went behind the scenes, and it has helped me understand how I can improve my chances of success with art sales.

In my next couple of posts, I'd like to tell you about some of the things I've learned about how artists can build better relationships with their galleries, but for now I just want to ask a question:

If there's one thing you could tell your gallery representatives about what you want or expect out of the gallery relationship, what would it be?

PS These two new paintings are for a group show starting February 11 at Greenwich House called Romantic Landscapes: Now and Then.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Exploring Other Media

Since I didn't have my painting gear with me while I was vacationing in Washington, I got creative with my camera instead. In fact, I became so energized and inspired from my trip that I'm planning to try my hand at mixed media and clay, too. Fun!

Yet, some people have told me that I have to stay focused in order to master painting, which is why I've shied away from other media for many years. So now I want to take a poll: Do you think it's better to focus on one medium or to explore a variety?

Refreshing the Spirit

You know that amazing feeling you get when you're really hot and thirsty and you finally get a long drink of cool, fresh water? That's just how my soul feels after vacationing in Washington and Oregon for 10 days. The reason for that feeling was all the fantastic art I saw everywhere -- in galleries, on the street, in museums. After a tough summer struggling with my painting, I sure needed to feed my creative spirit, and this trip did the trick. 

Coming home, though, I wondered why it took flying 2,000 miles across the country to do it. There is plenty of great art right here in Cincinnati where I live. I think I just haven't been making enough effort to get out and see the shows and exhibits that have been happening all around me. So I've decided to make a commitment to myself to keep fueling that fire with regular trips to see art.

Got any other good ideas? How do you stoke your creative fire and feed your artist's heart?