Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Art Blog: Competition

I just can’t get into this. I just can’t. So much of what is going on in art today has to do with art as a “competition”. I don’t know about you, but I am not competing with ANYBODY. At least, not in regards to what I create.
Who sells the most? Who has the most commissions? Whose blog is the most popular? Whose art is the BEST? Huh???? Best what??
I reviewed my resume today. I noticed the majority of my exhibition listings are in noncommercial or academic galleries. This outcome is very intentional. I feel more comfortable in this kind of gallery. It suits my purposes best. However, it seems a lot of the psychic turmoil I have experienced lately is due to the fact that I am not selling art like it is part of the blue light special at Kmarts. I think I started feeling this in a cumulative way during the past few years I have had an internet presence. The seeming mantra of the art marketing cadre is sell, sell, sell. I have debated. Maybe I should chuck it all and paint angels or kitties. Another option is to find a “hook”. Maybe I should become a palm tree painter. Flamingos? Maybe I need something to paint, paint again, and then again. I could start an art factory and sell paintings like syrupy hotcakes on Ebay. Maybe? Don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying artists who chose to do this are wrong. I am saying that is not my chosen destiny. My art is about something else.
Nope. It ain’t gonna happen. I am not in a race. I am not in competition with anyone. In fact, I don’t even like to enter juried shows that boast of big prizes. This isn’t a contest for me.
I am a painter. I make art. My art expresses my view of the world. If my vision reflects my interpretation of this world, how can anyone compete with me? My primary objective is not making a product. Yes, I make art objects, but I don't think in terms of making widgets to sell. It never was and it will never be. If someone wants to buy an art work, that is wonderful. In fact, I am thankful I have sold as much art as I have in my life. However, the truth be told. Many artists in history who I respect most sold very little art in their lifetime. That does not belittle or devalue what they have accomplished.
I will save the competition for other stuff in my life. Yet still, I only compete with myself. My ego doesn’t need to compare myself with others. Nope. I only want to be the best Sheree there ever was and ever will be. Sounds good to me!! LOL

Even my fitness antics are not competitive. I compete against myself.
I am a unique person. I am like no other. I want to be the best ME. That’s it.


Kyra said...

Every time I have given in to painting for the masses, I have been miserable and the paintings didn't sell. My best sellers are the ones I painted for me. I paint because that is who I am. That's it. Nothing more. I've never entered a competition, and I'm not going to. I don't believe paintings should be pitted against each other - I think the people who do that are trying to quantify art into a science, because they just DON'T GET IT.

I'm finishing up college right now, this time with a business degree. I have to write a marketing plan for my "art business", I tried to explain I cannot predict how many paintings I will paint (could be 100, could be zero) how many will sell to any "target" market... eventually my teacher got a little frustrated and I just sort of started spouting off what they want to hear. But it isn't what is going to happen. My art isn't a business, it's me. The moment it becomes a business part of it will die for me, and that would be a horrible thing.

Sheree Rensel said...

First, I have to apologize to you. You commented on a previous post about continued education. Due to some unforeseen interpretations, I deleted the entry. I am sorry for that, but it had to be done.
Second, it is great and wonderful you are doing a business plan for your art. I have to tell you though; I recently went to an entrepreneur class for those wanting to improve business practices. I went there as a citizen, not as an artist. The instructor saw I was an artist from my introduction card. The rest was downhill. During the entire class, he kept using me as an example. He would look at me and point out to the class, "Sheree the artist is an example of the business plan that is unrealistic." Supply and demand. He kept saying that. He would come back to me and relate to other students: "You see, if you are an artist, the time it takes you to make art, the amount of money you spend on supplies, and the amount of art that is out there already to buy is a problem." In other words, "If you are expecting to make YOUR art and make enough money to live (without any other means of support) through art sales, you might want to reassess your business plan." I sat there mortified. However, I know he has a point. If you can prove him wrong. Go for it! In the meantime, I am keeping my day job because it allows me to pay my mortgage.

Sheree Rensel said...

Opps...I forgot to add. You can make money with your art. However, I want to make an amount that is realistic and comfortable to live on. Since I am single, have bills, like being middle class, and having credit cards, I have chosen a life that includes having a "day job". That is an OK thing. In fact, that will be the topic of my next post. :-)

Anonymous said...

Sheree, My sympathies on being singled out in that class! I wonder if this teacher could see that your inventory might be valuable someday? But, it's true, I don't see how anybody makes it without a day job which I've had most of my life. My business "plan" was no good. I have sold many paintings but I don't sell regularly enough to support this work. I am as happy in the studio as I have ever been, maybe more in the past few weeks. And yet, I start to think about all these paintings stacked up, not sold. I didn't do the job exactly right. I was happy that I hadn't lost my desire to keep going and that I felt more involved than ever even though I was a bit psycho from all that start job, stop job, start painting, back to job, etc. Here is one piece of advice I got from a gallery owner: you need to know other artists. They are the ones who give referrals to galleries. I think that makes sense if you think the galleries will help you. The other thing is, that for years I've entered all the juried shows I could in my area. Why? It's just fun to go to the opening and meet the other artists. I even got a show out of that when one curator kept seeing my work. Prizes were not the goal and if I didn't get in, well, so what. These aren't famous juried shows but they are good shows. Even these have fallen off because there isn't enough money to support them. I have wonderful people around who have bought my work but we have to get more work out to more people! Do I still have time to make a plan?
Cheers! Nikole

Sheree Rensel said...

Thank you for your comment. I am very well aware of what to do and how to make art contacts. I have been doing this a long time. I am so glad you have had success with the advice you have gotten.
One thing that struck me was your statement:

"My sympathies on being singled out in that class! I wonder if this teacher could see that your inventory might be valuable someday."

First, I don't think the instructor meant anything bad by singling me out during business class. You see these classes are for anyone who wants to create or enhance their own business. There were hair dressers, landscape people, and many other typical occupations looking to increase their business standing. I think the instructor who was a former corporate CEO has had "artsy" types in his classes before. He latched onto to me because my art career was a handy example. I didn't take offense. Actually, he had a lot of good points. He was being honest.
Second, saying

"your inventory might be valuable someday"

is exactly the mindset that I was dismissing in this post. My work is valuable NOW. I know what you mean. However, I don't think that way. To say it will gain value only later when someone wants to buy it is not the way I think. Things that exist don't always need a price tag or a "SOLD" stamp to have value. That was and is my point.
Thanks for your thoughts!

Anonymous said...

Sheree -- of course your inventory is valuable NOW. You don't need validation in that way. I'm coming from somewhere else though. I am sorry to say this, but in 1993 and 1994 I helped close the estates of two dear artist friends. One had been doing her best to sell her work and was making a meagre living at it. We gave away a lot to people who had cared for her. Right now, all the work (hundreds of ptgs) is in storage thanks to a sister. The other artist's work is with me and I have tried everything to find a home for it including writing an article and having it photographed. I don't know what's going to happen to it. I am doing my best to keep it out of Salvation Army.

By the way, the advice of the dealer was good but that isn't the way it's gone for me. I am past the stage of having artist friends with galleries because I dropped out of a certain artist scene, to my pleasure. I am just getting along.

I more than agree and am aware that it does us no good to work for the future. If I had done that I would not be able to work with the joy I have.
Warm wishes, Nikole

Sheree Rensel said...

I am not worried about my estate. I told my daughter I want to be cremated with ALL my art. I am arranging to have "cocktail money" for her, so she can sit there and get drunk after the bonfire. Then she can spread my ashes all over the backyard turning me into "artful kitty litter". I figure it will save her a lot of headaches the long run. LOL LOL LOL

Kyra said...

Just checked back, interesting conversation about the stacked up remaining art of an artist's estate. Hadn't really thought about it. I figured some would end up in a bonfire, some would be kept. My grandmother (not an artist, but always wish she was - made lots of "paintings") had her stuff dispersed. A couple things were kept by family, but most ended up in the trash.

I suppose I never really cared all that much. Some will be valuable to someone, but I can't possibly expect that all (or even most) will be. There is just too much art out there floating around, and that is a valid point. People find value in different things. I find value in the simple act of creating my art. If someone else finds value in the finished product that is between them and the painting - in a way it's their own act of creation, if you think about it.

I'm literally working on a presentation of that silly business plan I referenced above. It's hard, because I don't believe most of it... but you have to do what you can, I suppose. It's just a class. I understand the value as it applies to normal businesses, but most art is like the weather - unpredictable. I think I'm procrastinating on it because I don't like feeling as though I am lying. Ugh.

Sheree Rensel said...

Actually, I don't care about estate stuff either. However, I have a daughter and I had to make a will so if I drop dead, she won't have legal hassles.

In regard to business plans, I don't think that is a bad idea at all. I think what you write can be helpful and guide you. I have a real hard time getting into this mode of thinking. Sometimes I wish I thought more like a mogul. Maybe in another life? :-)

JafaBrit's Art said...

excellent post and I so agree. I do like my work to sell, but I don't create to sell. If I did I would be very very depressed as I am not very appealing to the general public. I have found more and more I am doing public art such as knit graffiti, or free art fridays, because I just LOVE to create, I need to. I am lucky that that gallery that represents me knows that when I am moved to paint it was worth waiting for.