I saw the above advice on Instagram the other day and admired its pragmatism. It also made me chuckle.
Can any of my Dear Readers relate to the “exhortation” below that I shared with an artist friend recently?
I very much need to be moved by my own exhortation today. I am on my way to a gallery with some of my stuff to show them and I am donning my armour before I go when I hear:
” No, that sucks, we don’t want shit like that in here”, no matter what shmoozy words they use.
Here is my little self-talk intended to douse any flames of self-pity, shame and discouragement that might threaten to burst out:
” It is especially hard not to sell at all after all the joy you have taken in the work and the dedication to the studio time.
I think there is only one way forward out of the misery of not selling and that is to keep on doing what you love. To decide to do that. To simply choose that. To say NO to the voices that tell you your art life is over or should be since the Bottom Line (or whatever ) does not justify it.
Realize with gratitude that inventory of artwork stacked in your studio is not there to accuse you of having failed to sell. What you look at each day is marvellous proof that you have invested in your gift.
The “harvest” in terms of sales volume is not ours to decide ultimately and is never going to be- even if we have a responsibility to market the art we make. We can only plough, sow the seed, water – then gather, we hope, in due time. Is there any other way to look at an art life that lets you keep creating?
The other thing that lights up these dark passages is to look at all you have done to make your art and to support your art sales, then to celebrate every step very deliberately with a conscious expression of gratitude that you were able to carry out each and every step. Everything is grace. Gratitude builds us up.
It is terribly tempting to look at the same efforts and say to yourself: What a waste of my time, my resources, my hopes, my inspirations.
Say “No” to that response. It is possible to choose another response, that is, one that affirms each and every step you have taken to make the art and to put the art out there. You can look at these as if stacked in the studio alongside each other as proofs of your investment in your gift. Or as a stairway to knowing your own heart.
These are works of grace given and used for good, maybe not just your benefit. Possibly others can “take heart and do the art ” from what you simply Show and Tell, not only the Show and Sell
You can choose to look at your own efforts in gratitude, in appreciation, instead of in condemnation which is almost knee-jerk at times.
Accepting to respond in this self-affirming way brings power to build us up, to bring us life in times when we are down and might feel left for dead in the side of the art road.
We choose life by making our art, by choosing to carry on carrying on
Photos next time, Dear Readers! Will be carrying on with my inks.
24 thoughts on “Carry on carrying on”
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Oh, I hear you! I just had a solo show. I was invited to exhibit my art quilts. How cool is that? I worked really hard preparing for this show. I sold a little bit, thanks to my friends. But barely anyone came to the show. I was disappointed. I can’t remember where I read this but we are not supposed to feel that way. #1. We are very lucky that we get to produce art. Producing art gives us joy. #2. If people come to see our work THAT is a bonus! #3. If people buy our art THAT TOO is a bonus! (I always try to remember that Vincent van Gogh couldn’t give art away when he was alive.) So, my friend, you are a wonderful artist. You are generous as you share your knowledge. You bring people much joy. If you had an exhibit or had your work in a gift shop near me, I would come to see it and I would buy something. So grab that little devil that is sitting on your shoulder whispering all that evil crap in your ear and throw her into the next county. Just don’t throw her my way. I have enough trouble with the one that sits on my shoulder.
O Darcy, so nice of you. Yep, we know…but we carry on for the art
my dear Wendyl you have always been an inspiration to me… have followed your blog seems like forever… keep that creative lite burning!!
Thank you, jamama! You help to build the strong armour we need
Thank you Wendyfe! I just retired from a day job to work on my art, quilting, surface & textile design. People were already asking me when I said I was retiring who & where I was selling. I’ve never felt that I would be able to do that, so just starting to do my own thing is a bit intimidating. I’ve always found your posts wonderful and inspiring, not to mention the textile efforts I can now work on! Persevere!
Thank you, Ruth! What a lovely message. And finally you get to spend time on your art, how wonderful is that. When I remember how GOOD it feels to actually DO the art, that feeling triumphs over all others. I hope that for you!
Wow! I’ve often thought that when I see all the things I’ve made, and realize all the effort, inspiration, and love that went into each piece. How much my skills have improved, and how it is a little easier to let go of the process and just let it take over, and let the work become what it wants to become. If it sells, great…. I also gift my creations to people I know will appreciate them. Either way, I know what I am doing is good/great, and I continue creating, even if my goods aren’t selling. Most people do not realize the value of a creation, they don’t realize all that went into making each unique piece. Keep on, and keep spreading the joy, Wendyfe!!
Ah yes, Marlene! I feel the same about my work when I am doing it. But as a professional artist, I want and need to sell. And when that fails, self doubt makes inroads, and I feel bad especially when I love the work I do.
Here here! There’s a book, perhaps Outliers. It suggests one has to do something, skill, art, music-whatever- for a 1,000 times before one can claim success. But I do understand the dilemma. For me, making art to sell loses heart. Making art because your soul needs to is why I do it. Selling is a bonus
Thank you, Wen. You are so right, you cannot make the art for the money it might bring. It is a constant battle to keep believing in the work when sales are the top goal, and the sales do not happen. So nothing for it but to do it for the love ot it! I am so glad to be in your company!
I do so agree that we have to keep creating for the love of the making, but I am curious how artists deal with the accumulation…I have so many paintings and fiber art pieces I could sell them by the pound (lol) I have so many! I have sold in shows and galleries in the past but find marketing myself isn’t my forte. I have also donated a lot of work to charity auctions. I wish I could figure out the balance of creating and accumulating work so this discussion really interests me.
Ooo yes, Randi! Timely question. I am having this same discussion with art buddies right now…The short answer is: I have no idea what to do with art that has not sold and which is stored all over the house.. at a certain point, it becomes burdensome to even think of it being there…one hates to think “landfill”…My plans? Nothing that I have not tried/considered before… 1. Rework some ( many options) 2. Relaunch some ( better pics, new sizes, other descriptions 3. Donate some 4. Make kits/ artist books/ journals with some you have cut up 5. Make a new series with one or two as the starters ( thereby possibly inflating the hoard…) 6. Swap some 7. Organise a HUGE ” salon de refuses” show with your art community and sell at slashed prices 8. As one tactless frined said to me about a textile wall work that I loved and which had actually sold: I would love it as a cushion cover ..snort…I will mention the idea you raised on my blog and see what happens…maybe there is an INSTA hashtag for #whattodowithunsoldart?
I love your ideas, all ones to consider. I also appreciate the discussion, it is helpful to hear how other artists think about this
Thank you, Randi.
Good luck to you with your show-I love everything I have seen here on your blog-so I think it will be good-hugs
Thank you, Dear Reader Kathyinozarks! I confess that I chickened out of that gallery visit I was dreading and which I wrote about in my post. But you know what, the responses like yours of such support and kindness are helping me to get up my courage to at least make a small step…I truly thank you for that
Thank you so much for this post, I really needed it as I constantly am looking at all I create and asking myself what this is all for except I know I need to create. I do think of selling, but I am so terrible at marketing myself so it’s a battle I have but your post felt so validating, thank you!
Thank you, Randi! I am kindof not surprised that many Dear Readers felt my comments fit their experience re sales…I know we need encouragement from both within and from without in order to keep on making in the face of the obstacles and even rejections. The love of the making is what brings the joy to hold on to. Carry On Carrying On! And thank you for telling us about your experience,
I was feeling rather down. My sales from the last two shows was disappointing, at best. Thanks to your wish words, I will persist!
Thank you, Judy! Truly, I am reluctant to spill my guts on the internet but the times are rough for artists, new and experienced. I kindof cringed at my self-revelation. But the fact that we LOVE what we do is a gift not to overlook or look down on. We would NOT go back to the workbench/easel unless we felt so attracted to the making. That attraction is the sign of grace working in our lives, I do believe. I am so glad you will Carry On Carrying On! And thank you for sharing your heart! The sales are only very very remotely our responsibility…
I have followed you for quite a while and love that you “get” the average working (woman) artist who isn’t famously famous or wealthy but does it because something in her soul demands that creative outlet….and that being creative and being able to sell those creations are two different things. It doesn’t devalue your art to merchandise it, or devalue it because no one or few appreciate your efforts. It’s enough that you value it. We need to build each other up so we all rise to the peaks and work through the dark periods…we’re not so much standing on each others shoulders as giving a boost up. Thank you for yours. Carry on!
Thank you for this, Jan! We are loving what we do, and are grateful for it. Let’s continue keeping each other company!