Five Lessons I've Learned as an Artist

In the last few years that I’ve been a full-time artist, I’ve learned a lot about art, art as business, my customers and myself. Here are my top five “learnings” that speak realistically about creating good art for real people.

  1. Your family is not your target audience. Most of your friends aren’t either. Perfection would be having a built-in buying crowd that loved and wanted everything piece of art I made. (That’s also called wishful thinking. And probably laziness). But those days ended in the second grade. My family and friends have grown up with their own specific tastes — and those tastes don’t always match my artistic style (not even my daughter with a new home that needs lots of art <sigh>). But that’s okay. It’s my job to find people who want my art. IMO, my family and friends need to know what I do, but not hounded to purchase it. (FYI, I rarely even give it as gifts — that’s awkward).
  2. ExhibitionYour “best” work depends on who’s looking at it. How many times have I sent my “best” art and two secondary pieces to a juried exhibition, and the lesser piece (IMO) was selected? Almost every time — more surprising when it wins. There’s no telling what a juror likes or needs for that show. This same insight is true for customers — what inspires a purchase is personal. It could be the color, the composition, a triggered memory, the mood… it’s a mystery. I’m just happy a painting attracts a new owner and I was able to help that person #findart2love.
  3. Paint what inspires you. If you want to sell your art, consider what inspires others, too. Okay, I have strong feelings about this and they wiggle back and forth. (That’s for another blog). I’ve come to terms with the fact that I need to do both — paint what inspires me but create paintings that real people can live with and enjoy in their homes or offices (or in a hotel or office building. That would be totally fine. I can make fine art prints. Call me!)
  4. Paint boldly. Anyone can live with audacious art in 18x24-inch increments. While this seems to be the opposite of #3, I’ve found that some of my more bold paintings (think solid red) have been snapped up. Curious. But bold things in small doses satisfy the secret quirkiness in all of us. When that happens, we just need to own it — the art, that is.
  5. No matter how good you get as an artist, you’re going to need a lot of storage space. I have about 200 canvases (and that doesn’t include polyptychs — paintings with multiple panels). I’m not against recycling some of my older paintings that I don’t include in my portfolio. This is good for me storage- and cost-wise, and good for the environment, too.

So those are my big-picture learnings — ha! Big picture. Bigger is often better — no wait. That’s for another list…