Friday, June 5, 2009

Art Blog: The TAFFY Pull

I saw a tweet the other day about an artist who is intentionally reducing the size and price of her work to make it more marketable. I guess the logic follows tiny art = tiny price (?) I made some smart ass tweet back saying I would be selling 1” X 1” paintings soon for pennies a piece. I was being facetious. However, there was a bit of biting truth and pain in that remark.

I have been thinking about this a lot lately. Just yesterday as I sat for the umpteenth time in the dentist’s office, I stared at his atrocious collection of Kmartesque (China assembly line made?) turquoise and coral sunset paintings and fading albeit whimsical prints of ocean life. I imagined his office walls filled with my own work. It just wouldn’t fly. I think it would look great, but I am sure it would be puzzling to many of his patients. The average Joe and Jane don’t seem to appreciate my art. They curl their noses and think it is weird.

I saw a Robert Genn letter about artist’s incomes and it made me think about this more. Read these quotes from the letter:

“Maranda's study finds artists as a group to be older and better educated than they were a few years ago, having an average of six years of post-secondary education. The real shocker comes with the revelation that the higher their education level, the less artists earn from their art.”

“Highly educated artists may make art that is too sophisticated or esoteric for people to buy.”
The art income shock

I think this is partially my problem. I am not being pretentious or anything like that. I just know for a fact, MOST people don’t understand or appreciate my art. Generally, average people don’t seem to relate to it at all. I know this to be true from comments and impressions from non-artists who have seen my work in person or online. Many are puzzled or make comments like “I don’t get it.” I think even my own daughter secretly wishes I would just make “normal” art.

In the past few years, I have intentionally made smaller work in an effort to make my art more affordable. Shoot! I have even made gewgaws (like my art signs) in hopes of appealing to the masses. Did I make any money? NOPE!

I am not sure what the answer is. I realize I have the option to paint pretty Florida seascapes or palm tree laden landscapes. Those might sell. However, that is not what I want to create. So I guess I have to be true to myself and just keep creating what I want to create.

Sometimes being an artist can feel like being pulled like taffy. I am not going to let this happen to me anymore. I am not letting the art market, public opinion, or lack of acceptance pull me in any direction. As I embark on my yearly art marathon during these summer months, I am just going to make my own, true art. If that means suffering financial consequences, so be it. At least, I will be a happy artist. Also, I don’t have to worry that much. This is exactly why I choose to keep my day job! LOL


namastenancy said...

You are ahead of me on this - as in so many matters. What's selling here in SF is what I call cartoon art - scribbled drawings or "art" on skateboards or really crude, simplistic work, mostly done by the young male graduates of our various high priced art schools I don't like it that I don't sell my larger, better pieces and I don't like it that nine out of ten people who come to my Open Studios shuffle in and shuffle out, looking for food and wine. I resent it that my "clients" expect a lot of accommodation for a $50 piece and I'm increasingly refusing to play that game with them. I certainly don't like it that the bland, shiny work done by a couple of artists in our studio space gets about 90 percent of the sales and positive comments and my work - which is not very revolutionary - gets blank stares. But, like you, I have the equivalent of a day job and thank heavens, don't have to depend on my art to survive financially. Frankly, I don't know anybody who does. If artists are suffering, you can bet that women artists are suffering even more because we've never made it to the inner circle where our work is prized. I often look at my pieces and think that if I were male, I would be a lot more successful - somebody would have given me a "art speak tag" like Bay Area Primitive and I'd be in a gallery, making the five or six figures. But that's never going to happen and so, I paint for myself and am thankful that I can afford to do this. In fact, I found that I was unwilling to be haggled down at our last show by the cheap and the trendy. I flee that if the buyer wants it, pay full price - which is still rock bottom. If the buyer (who is usually pretty well off here in SF) wants something cheap, go to Target. I am DONE with accommodation. But it really is a shame that so many good artists have to do this - it's not that we don't make art out of love but that we love so much and get so ittle back outside of our own souls.
But then, that's no little thing.

meika said...

I actually moved from writing to sculpture because my interests in writing are such that people don't get it (see this for some reaction, the pdf. People seem to get what I do in 3D and not in text. Also writers and readers are yet to use writer's statement at all. Artist's still have more freedom, so there are worse places. A different medium rather than theme may do the trick.

namastenancy said...

I went and read all the comments. His article really touched a raw nerve in a lot of people. I thought his estimate of how many hours you have to work to be good was rather unrealistic; making art is not like a production line where you just steadily turn out widgets hour after hour. A lot of artists, myself included, spend a lot of time just wandering around, thinking things through before we ever pick up a brush. Still, I like reading articles like this even when I disagree with them - it's always food for thought about why I paint and what are my expectations, hopes, fears and dreams.

Anonymous said...

Its amazing how like minds think alike. I had a show opening last night and if the positive comments turn into actual sales it will be a sell out. I will continue to create what I feel.

Sheree Rensel said...

Nancy, As I read your comments, I am literally nodding my head and saying "I know, I know!". One running thread in your first comment that struck me is the feeling of just being TIRED of playing the game. This is why I have shunned being in a gallery for so many years. I just don't want to be the one who seems to make all the sacrifices and jumps through the most hoops just to make a sale. Also, my work is WORTH more to me than the pennies people seem to want to pay. I totally understand what your are saying here.

Sheree Rensel said...

Well Meika, I am glad changing your media worked for you. I will NEVER do that. Besides, I have been an artist for more than 30+ years. In my career, I have worked as a painter, sculptor, installation artist, digital artist, writer, and videographer. This diversity has never made much of difference. I have always been seen as an "odd duck" regardless of my media. As far as artist statements are concerned, I will write one if it is required. I am not really interested in explaining my work. Maybe that is my problem. Ordinarily, I write something vague or glib. Like:

"I detest artist statements.
A writer does not stand behind you to explain as you read each line. Nor does a composer tell you why she chose each note.
I put the work forth for you to ponder. I try to express myself in a way that is important to me.
I hope you will find something to consider as you look at my work.
If not, create your own."

This is my story and I am sticking to it! LOL LOL

Sheree Rensel said...

I have been meaning to write about the "Widget" mentality for a while. In our society right now, I see this as a major issue in the arts. This is one thing that has changed before my eyes over the years. With all these "SELL YOUR ART" websites, I see artists cranking out so much crap just so they can say they sold something. Consequently, I find the mindset of so many of these "art MARKETEERS" concerned more with their "art biz" than the so called ART they are making.

Sheree Rensel said...

I HEAR YOU! Oh, comments are nice, but you can't buy a cup of coffee with words. People make comments, but don't follow through. This might sound brutal, but I would like to say to them



meika said...

and since I stopped writing I'm getting published

deb said...

You know most days I feel like you... people mostly don't get what I do, but then at my (poorly attended) opening last night I talked to some people who have been following my work for a while unbeknownst to me and there was a lot of love in the venue, the staff liked my stuff, the owners liked my stuff, but even so. I like many others am glad I have my day job so I don't have to make widget art! I think we have to just do what we have to do in the studio...

namastenancy said...

Joanne Mattera just put up an interesting post on defining success. I think that the continuing recession is causing her, along with a lot of other artists, to look at alternate venues.