A few comments about making art and selling if from someone who is making it and not selling it. What could be better than taking advice from someone who isn’t selling it! haha!
Anyhow… The point is not so much to talk about how precisely to do it, but some musings about motivation for my own improvement. I could cite all sorts of sources but I am writing more off the cuff about the situation that artists are in today. Many artists today struggle to sell art. Art for one has always been a secondary item when it comes to practical matters. I think at time in history and in our country especially it is hard to sell art when you are a lower or middle class artist. I can’t say much about people like Damien Hirst and Banksy and those who make art with an international awareness, because I just don’t run in those circles.
I have had periods when I have had interest in my artwork, and long periods when I have only made art for myself with little input or interest from others. Currently, I am in am in a spell where I have little interaction at all from people interested in buying my art. This is in some ways because of me, and some ways because of the environment.
I have not been regular or consistent and for one thing, potential buyers like the idea of the long-term value that comes from an artists character added to their long-term productivity. Not all of their art needs to be the same, but they need to explore some issues with their artwork and do it in depth enough to say spend six months or a year on a given course of exploration. Also, art doesn’t exist in a sterile and isolated environment after it is created; by this, I mean to say that there is an element of ongoing justification, engagement and performance to the art. That is further, to say that the artist like an actor who dances also and makes music is tasked with making it interesting by talking about it, engaging the audience with participating in the process of questioning and identifying it.
Remember, the artist is supposed to be akin to the shaman or guide who sees with their unique vision what others might not see. This is the work of the artist. To do otherwise and make an attempt at artistry and cast the product of ones efforts off as an orphan for the public to support and engage with without any participation of the artist would be crass commercialism.
If the public is not getting the vision or at least having fun with it, then it is the issue of the artist to figure out. It is there to make us learn and grow every moment.
In the 1960’s and 1970’s we were fed a constant diet of platitudes like “You are free to be whatever you like”. In times of prosperity, this may be the case as we are a bit buffered from harsher realities by our lessened struggles, but in times of non-prosperity and universal scarcity, this attitude can become a crutch. Might he most successful artists in times of struggle be those who can make things that the public audience can identify with? When we come out of times of prosperity, we can be a little free with our artistic play, but in times when everyone is struggling to pay the bills, cavalier efforts at artistry are not enough.
What the people need is clear and assured guidance in the form of quality and well thought out art. Art has to serve a more pragmatic purpose. At least the audience needs to feel a trust in the efforts and sincerity of the artist.
One might question those who are more well afloat as to why they spend money on lattes than erotic artwork for example, and the answer lies in the fact that we all seek comfort in those moments where we find control and the ability to chose how we spend the few extra dollars we have. What is to convince the person with a latte to forgo the immediacy of such comfort and to instead invest in the abstract alternative of supporting an artist who offers little immediate return for their $4?
For one, the artist may pursue erotic or nude art as an outlet for their feelings, but it may not speak in any universal way to others. So, as we are given to our belief that we are free to be who we are, we also feel inclined perhaps perplexingly that those who also lead their very own lives are somehow inclined to the same interests. We are alone, however we presume unity. Who would respond to a person who asks for an apple by giving them a hairpin?
As an artist in an over saturated market where everyone fashions themselves an artist, we must like every other profession seek to understand the desires of others if we are to sell our work in the tight commercial markets. You can’t acquire your share of the kings currency without playing by the kings rules.
Anything else is simply to alienate yourself from the rules of commerce to make purist art with no inclination toward sales. You can’t simply eat your cake and then have it too. To make an attempt at non-commercial art and to presume a buying audience or to presume a greater level of differentiation from the artistic mean than really exists would be to frustrate oneself with counterproductive conceits. If the sales are not happening, it is never the fault of the consumer in pure Darwinian terms. The fittest survivor must wave their feathers “so to speak” in a fashion that the receiving party wants. And in some cases in nature to fail to negotiate the contract is to find death in literal terms.
If your audience is not buying, perhaps the product needs to go back to the drawing board, or some study must be made as to what appeals to enough of the common community to justify enough sales to survive. As with every bit of work, it is a challenge to uncover and put into vision. That is why true artists are regarded with so much awe. They may make it seem so effortless, but it is not at all. That is part of the game of making art.
People love to observe that sprezzatura! It is an expression of confidence and does not question whether it deserves regard. It does. It is united with the art in its self-belief on the surface that belies its self questioning and careful studied progress in the background. The enemy of sales and sprezzatura is asking for the buyer to by directly through supplication and exposing its own self-questioning. The audience does not want to know the secrets of the magic trick, nor does it want to know the torturous path required to get there. All our jobs are difficult, but we want to believe there is real magic and sorcery that can save us from our mundane lives. That is something rarefied. That is what we expect in artwork and artist. It is what we look for a little bit in a flawlessly drawn Japaneze enzo. We want that faith and above all whether the art is the finest, or mediochre, the artist still has to be an example of confident style for anything greater than one-off or short-term sales.