I went for a short walk in my neighborhood this morning and came across a lonely thistle sitting at the side of the road. But, it wasn't lonely for long. A beautiful butterfly came by to keep it company and to give me an opportunity to get this gorgeous shot. Luckily, I had my camera.
As artists, we are sometimes stumped for inspiration and don't see all the possiblities around us. I know that's how I am, and lately with all the distractions and interruptions, I have hit a bit of a dry spell. Thanks to my painter friends, Judy Mackey and Nancy Medina, I'm thinking of trying my hand at an oil painting of this little scene from Mother Nature.
I get a daily email newsletter from FineArtStudioOnline. Today's article really hit the nail on the head for me. When art sales are good, I'm always in the mood to paint, it seems. When sales are flat, as they are for everything right now, I seem to avoid the studio. Somehow, I equate having no sales with no one liking my work. I think we artists all feel the same. Here is Trent Gudmensen's article on Making the Most of Down Time. Read it and let me know if you don't agree.
This has been an interesting year, hasn't it!? It's been scary at times, and uncertain to say the least. But lately we've been catching little glimpses of light at the end of the tunnel. People are starting to build again, we've found out that consumer spending is up, and the housing market isn't as bad as we thought it would be this quarter...most importantly, people have begun to buy art again. Suddenly we find ourselves more at ease with our own work. Nothing has changed per se...it's just that with our better outlooks on the future, we suddenly start to work harder.
Silly, isn't it, that when we truly have the time to paint, we instead wallow just a little bit in self-pity at our lack of business (or "busy-ness)? This frame of mind was first brought to my attention several years ago by a gallery owner. He mentioned that, in fact, most artists do this; when business is down, they fail to take full advantage of the time to both improve their talent and build up a nice inventory for the next busy season...and when business is booming (ie.: lots of sales!) the artists suddenly kick it into high gear, yet struggle to fill the immediate demand due to lack of inventory and poor working habits.
I think this "syndrome" might simply be due to the fact that we, as human beings, naturally seek praise for our work. If, like a child, we get immediately rewarded for our good works, we will be more likely to repeat that action. In other words, if this week we sell that great painting that we worked so hard on all last week, we naturally get excited by the "reward" and want to do that again (ie.: paint more great paintings). We also naturally believe that the painting that just sold must have been a good painting. After all, someone out there saw our good work and was willing to reward us for it (with their hard-earned money).
But, on the flipside, if that same painting were to hang on the gallery wall untouched for several months, we might begin to wonder if what we did was good. I admit, this is a difficult dilemma. After all, we have to face the fact that perhaps the painting (or sculpture, or whatever it may be) truly isn't up-to-par (which is actually a healthy consideration, since it ultimately encourages us to raise the standard and improve our work); but then again, if we're confident with a painting, and especially if others whose opinions we trust agree with us, then we can probably safely assume that it was a good painting, in which case it will likely be purchased and given a loving home...if it doesn't sell, that won't change the fact that it was a good painting, if indeed it was.
Vincent Van Gogh is now one of the best-known artists ever, but barely sold anything during his lifetime. It's tragic that such a good artist wasn't recognized during his lifetime, but I also guarantee that Van Gogh never sent out an email newsletter to those who showed interest in his work...if he had even scratched out an occasional quill-and-ink letter to neighbors advertising a show of his new works on display in his bedroom, his story might have been profoundly different.
Bad timing can prove to be good timing, if we use the time well by either working on our art or working on marketing it.
Some artists today have been selling just fine during these hard times because they've developed relationships over the years with people who continue to collect their art, and they've also consistently proven to those people that their art is worth collecting (they turn out better and better art each year). These artists who do well even in the hard times have proven that years and years of consistent improvement and marketing do in fact pay off. They've earned the rewards of their good works and patience.
With a little bit of patience and persistence, we, too, shall be rewarded for our good works. The patience part is the hard part, and there's no secret to it except to use our time well by always being anxiously engaged in a good cause. That "good cause" could rightly be our efforts to build relationships with potential clients, or it could also simply be the time we spend in the studio practicing our talent and improving it...there are so many ways to engage ourselves in worthwhile things; just choose something good and do it. Action is the prescription for impatience, and is also the way that we continue to persistently further our artistic careers. With persistence in our marketing efforts and our work habits, we will certainly improve our chances of making that next sale sooner than later.
Build relationships, improve your work, send out your newsletter, be creative in your marketing, spend more time in the studio...in essence, use the down-time effectively, and the "up-time" will be "upper" than ever. :)
Remember, we are artists, which is a truly noble calling!
Happy painting!-Trent Gudmundsen
Well, gotta go dig out those oil paints...hope they haven't dried out!