Tag Archives: art

Celebrating My First Sale

 

There is a dance party going on right now. Yes, it’s only in my head, but I have good reason to celebrate today. I sold my first painting! I’ve finally been paid for my creativity and hard work. All of my blood, sweat, and tears have finally been recognized monetarily. Ok, so it wasn’t really that miserable. I didn’t actually sweat or bleed, but I must confess, there were a few moments of serious crying. That is all behind me now. Today I have become a REAL artist, much like the day Pinocchio became a real boy. When I tell people that I paint there is always one person in the group that asks, “Have you ever sold anything?” Now, now I can answer quite smugly with one small, yet happy, word: Yes! “Why, yes, I have sold a painting” I’ll say with a sly smile and wait for the applause. I won’t mention that I have only sold one painting. I won’t mention the little voice deep inside me that is quietly announcing, “It may be the only one you ever sell.”

For some reason, actually selling artwork validates you in the eyes of others. It means you have arrived, but arrived where I’m not entirely certain. I am sure it has something to do with something I should have learned in economics class (if I had been able to pay attention for more than five minutes at a time). In short, when someone wants something other people want it too. It’s the only explanation for why cabbage patch kids became such a big money-making machine. If I get lucky one sale will lead to other sales and I will become Little Miss Popularity like the Chihuahua’s were after starring in Taco Bell commercials. If I’m not so lucky I’ll be a one-hit-wonder like Sir Mix-A-Lot with his song, “Baby Got Back.” There seems to be a fine line in the art world between being a sellout, which is described as “painting what sells” and being a fine artist which is described as “painting only what matters to you” or maybe “painting what doesn’t sell.” Being an artist is like being a mom. If you let the baby cry you are a bad mom, but if you don’t let the baby cry you are still a bad mom. If you don’t sell your work you are not a “real” artist, but if you do sell it you are not a “real” artist either because then you are a sellout, which is apparently worse than starving to death.

I think maybe this is why I am happily an art outsider. I’m an outsider artist. I’m not quite formally trained. I don’t belong to any exclusive clubs. I’m not high up on the totem pole so to speak. I don’t have any papers documenting my art pedigree. Maybe that is a blessing in disguise because I also don’t have any preconceived notions about how to make art or how to sell art. I don’t have any rules to follow. I’m not worried about making mistakes and I’m not ruled by the words “should” and supposed to.”

 

However, today I AM a working artist. I’ve been acknowledged.  I have moved up one ladder rung towards my imagined artistic greatness and have arrived somewhere even though I don’t know where exactly. An artist friend recently encouraged me to put more effort and enthusiasm into the process of selling my work. She said I had a good chance of selling my pieces because most people just want something pretty to put on their wall. Most fine artists, no doubt, would have found this comment offensive. Not me though. The lifestyle associated with working artist seems much more enjoyable in comparison to the one associated with starving artist. I took it as a compliment because it meant someday I might make enough money to keep me in art supplies. It meant someday I might not have to starve (metaphorically of course because I’m not actually starving) to do the thing I love to do. I’m content with that. I like to paint pretty things and I am painting what matters to me. I’m a practical person. I have a bit of a business mind that was likely handed down to me genetically and through no scholarship of my own. It’s smart to make money. It’s even smarter to make money doing something you enjoy doing. So, today, I celebrate my success. Today is my proud moment. If my customer had paid in cash I’d staple the first dollar to the wall, but instead I’ll settle for attending the dance party in my mind. It’s free at least because we all know selling one painting doesn’t make you a millionaire or even a hundredaire. That is ok though because today I am so happy I feel like attempting to do the moon walk and that happy feeling is enough for me. I’m going to enjoy it while it lasts!

Painting As Passion

Painting as passion
Painting, after some success, can quickly become an obsession. It sure has for me!
Painting as passion: Tea House in San Francisco
I recently dove back into using watercolors after about a twelve month love affair with acrylics and collage and now I-just-can’t-stop. I’ve been painting flowers and more flowers. I have created an inside garden complete with flowers that probably wouldn’t even grow in my actual, outside garden. This can be dangerous. The laundry, dishes, and floors have completely been neglected. My email goes unanswered. My family can survive on frozen pizzas and other convenience foods for only so long! I have been bitten by the painting bug and have come down with a severe case of painting fever.
watercolor flowers
This seems to happen to creative people. We can go days, months, and even years without succumbing to our creative work, but when the passion and obsession strikes we can become very prolific and completely consumed by our creative work. This can be very difficult to reconcile with the demands of a small child and the obligations and responsibilities that come with being a Stay-At-Home-Mom. I cannot hide in my studio or concentrate on what I am doing for long periods of time like I did before my daughter was born. At this stage, she is usually redecorating my studio while I paint or, trying to stick a paintbrush in the dog’s mouth.
watercolor blanket flower
Watercolors are terrific for this mode of painting because if the paints dry out while I am wrestling my most-loved paintbrush from the dog’s mouth, I can just add water and be back in business in no time. I often paint while my daughter is napping or has gone to bed for the night. I spend quite a bit of my day lost in thought about what to paint next, which color to use, or if my painting would benefit from some pen and ink details.  I can only hope my daughter doesn’t notice my distracted interactions or, even better, I hope she will grow up and find something that she can be just as passionate about.

Responding To Criticism: Out of All of the Art on Exhibit Yours has the Nicest Frames

It wasn’t necessarily an insult, but at the same time I wasn’t sure what it was supposed to mean. I’d just spent hours, days, even months completing five pieces of art work for the library. I matted and framed each one all by myself. What a labor of love! The library had accepted my work and hung it on the wall. There I was, admiring the efforts of the participating local artists, when out of the blue the librarian assistant gushed, “Out of all of the art on exhibit yours has the nicest frames.” Of course, being the polite person that I am, I thanked him for the compliment. I smiled, I laughed, I made small talk, but for the rest of the day I wondered what that statement said about my work. What did it mean to have the nicest frames? What about the paintings inside the frames? What did this say about me as an artist?

Responding to criticism about your art.

Criticism can be difficult to hear directly and also when it is given completely unintentionally. Sometimes, after careful consideration, criticism can be dismissed, but in this situation something about what the librarian assistant said rang true. I needed to reevaluate what I was doing and consciously look at my work with an objective eye. This is such an important skill to master. It’s helpful in so many life areas. It’s the only way to transform from acceptable to excellent. I can be a good mother, wife, friend, painter or citizen but how do I become an exceptional one? We are all works in progress striving for excellence. These brief encounters with people can give us insight into our own human development. We are given the opportunity to ask ourselves what next and then make some goals. I started learning new techniques and purchased better materials to work with. My paintings are making progress and my skills are improving. I am taking some risks and giving myself higher expectations. I haven’t yet  achieved all I hope to achieve in painting or in life, but at this point it looks like I might be on my way to becoming an excellent framer.

Responding to criticism can be difficult in any type of work. Do you have any tips you’d like to share? Please leave a comment below. It doesn’t have to be art related, turning criticism into an opportunity for growth is a universal challenge!