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Familiarity is Overrated

by Clint Watson on 1/5/2010 4:03:47 PM

This article is by Clint Watson,  former art gallery owner/director/salesperson and founder of FineArtViews. You should follow Clint on Twitter here.

At the grocery store, some people stand in line to purchase one or two small items...even if they have to wait behind someone with a cart full of groceries.

The part I don't understand is why.

The store has convenient self-checkout lanes.  They're dead simple to use, especially if you only have a couple of small items.  You're not allowed to use them if you have more than 10 items though, so usually, I'm out of luck (as I tend to purchase more, especially after perusing the wine aisle).

But when I run in for one or two things...heck yeah...I'll zip through the self-checkout.

So why don't the people I noticed?

Most likely, they're afraid of the unfamiliar.  People will go to great lengths to do things "the way they've always done them."

I'm guilty of it too.  And I'm always amazed when I take the time to learn something new that saves me time, saves me money, or makes something simpler.  I'm always left feeling sheepish that I didn't learn the new skill sooner.

Don't do this in your art career.  Learn the skills you need to learn.  They may be technical skills at the easel, marketing skills that involve new media or computer skills such as updating a website, learning photoshop, or improving your digital photography skills.  

And remember, when someone asks you why you don't do something in the new and improved way, if your only reason is "This is the way I've always done it", then you are standing in a long line while the self-checkout lanes are empty.


Clint Watson
Software Craftsman and Art Fanatic

FASO: Want Your Art Career to Grow?  Set up an Artist Website with FASO.
FineArtViews: Straight talk about art marketing, inspiration - daily to your inbox.

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Backstory: About Clint. Email EditorTwitter. Republish. ]

Related Posts:

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Choose Your Rut Carefully

Is Your Art Making a Difference?

Topics: Art Business | art marketing | Productivity 

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Walter Hawn
Well, Clint,

I don't use self-checkout because it steals work from people.

It puts money in the owner's pocket by taking it from the worker.

I'm against that.

Clint Watson
via with facebook
hmmm, I use the self-checkout system, because the cashiers take money and jobs away from the people who sell, build and maintain self-checkout equipment.

Clint Watson
via with facebook
That previous comment was tongue-in-cheek by the way, my tags dropped from the comment.

Marsha Savage
I believe this post is an excellent one! I am doing just what you said -- trying new stuff, or doing old stuff in a new way. No longer am I just producing work for my gallery (just one now because of the economy).

This year is being spent on doing the miles of canvas or paper (oil or pastel). Experimenting instead of producing. I always talk about "it's the journey, not the destination" . . . so now I am planning to practice what I preach.

Thanks for your blog and thought provoking posts. Marsha

I know your post wasn't actually about the self-checkout aisle, but I've gotta agree with the first, I just really like dealing with a real, live person. And, 3 out of the 5 times that I've been in a big enough hurry to use the self-checkout lane, it hasn't worked properly, someone's had to come check it out and it's been a bigger hassle than if I'd just went through the normal line!

But, I do agree with the sentiment of your post - every new internet or marketing skill I've developed, from FaceBook to blogging to approaching galleries to writing grants has left me thinking, "WHY did it take me till now to check this out?!" It's never been worth the apprehension I've felt and used to procrastinate.

Monte Wilson
Hi Clint- great analogy. Good or bad you hardly ever learn something new unless you try something new. You can always discard or simply not use what doesn't work for you. As for the self check out? Depends on how much of a hurry I'm in...

Kate Gwizdak Dardine
via with facebook
I liked your second comment, Clint! LOL! But seriously, I agree that it is usually always worth the time to try or learn something new. You may decide it is not for you, but you'll always gain something. I've heard artists grumble when they take a class or workshop that they instructor made them do things a different way...I always have to ask, well, if you didn't want to learn something new, why'd you take the class?

Celeste Vaught
I recently received an EMAIL from a 94 year old retired business owner regarding a painting I had done. We've now become friends - an unexpected blessing. It was her youthful spirit, her vibrant mind and her willingness to email, which requires that she USE a computer, (something some people decades younger won't even attempt) that has been quite an inspiration to me. I brag about her all the time. I think that sometimes fear and sometimes pride prevents us from risking the "humiliation" of failure. Learning new things is good for the mind. Nice post.

kathy marie
Standing in line is something we learn as a child in school.. Kindergarten is all about how to line up ... so it is part of our DNA you might say and YES... hard to break the habit..

Now.. I am always trying to force myself to do new things and learn new ways to promote my art.. What I find hard it doing it in small amounts. I get overwhelmed with new learning like most people I think, so then try to find a line to stand it to feel safe again.. Balance.. is the key... keep yourself growing but do not lose the value in your style and time for creating in your art... Knowing when to add a new skill or technique is a skill in itself... Can you tell I am a retired teacher??? Love this method if sharing.. km...

Amy Tuso
This is so true! Doing something the same way just because of your comfort zone goes along with the confidence factor. Stepping outside of your box and having the confidence to do so in front of the masses takes guts...but usually achieves amazing results. Swallow the "pride factor" and go for the results you are aiming for.

R Yvonne Colclasure
Thanks Clint. I was just engaged in an email conversation with an artist friend about this very topic. I have had to learn new technologies for financial reasons, but that was a plus. If I could have afforded it, I would have gladly passed off the photographing of my artwork to someone else. There are several good books on the subject, and it is relatively easy and inexpensive to set up. The most expensive item is the camera, and I don't know any artists without one. My husband used to call me a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none, but as an artist I have found it a great asset.

Tom Weinkle
Clint, this is a wonderful lesson we can all take to heart. As someone said in another blog post, trying the unfamiliar is when we have the opportunity to learn the most.

Carol McIntyre
I love it! Stretching ourselves beyond our comfort zones is really important. Recently I ventured from the representational to the abstract and fellow artists are dumb founded. Common statement, "I never thought YOU would do that." It's been great getting into the "shorter line" and I know my skills will improve as a result. Thanks Clint!

Sharon Weaver
Mixing it up can be beneficial. Sometimes you need a push to do it. Other times it seems like the most natural thing in the world.

Tuva Stephens
I also am trying out new ways of marketing because several art galleries in a nearby larger city have all gone out of business due the economy. I am now on a mission encouraging all artists in which I come in contact in local art organizations to get a website. As I will be President 2010-2012 of the TnWS, hopefully one of our goals will be to get our membership to pursue more interaction on the web. People are resistance to change, but artists must be willing to try and learn a bit at a time. I can not believe how far I have come in my tech skills in the last 2 months. Thanks to FASO Art Competition in November;I reached one of my personal goals to get my art out there to many people than a gallery ever could.

Charlotte Herczfeld
Clint, great article, great reminder. It has been said that the word that causes most fear in any language is "change".

I only wanted to learn to paint. I didn't envision the daunting task of learning computer skills, html programming (I know all of two bits of code!), advanced photography, PSE virtousity, carpentry, framing, gilding, marketing, newsletters (for which the famed html is needed), curating shows, book-keeping, taxation expertise, shipping, etc etc. I find I have to learn all those things, at least to a passable level -- and it takes time to learn! Had I known before... I might still have chosen to do it, as it is necessary.

So glad I didn't have to learn how to code a site, and instead have access through FASO to this easily manageable site with integrated blog, and a super support. And the fantastic newsletter with all the excellent advice from the team. I may fail in all the other things, but keeping an up-to-date site with sharp images is one thing that is very easy to do.

Because, the fear of changing and learning might have kept me from it, if I'd let it. And I'm sure I'd've come up with some really great and innovative and utterly logical and morally right reasons for not having to change. So I drag myself kicking and screaming into learning what I need to learn. And if I'm lax and lazy, why, then somehow Clint will know, and he will issue the perfect newsletter, kicking me started.

Thank you Clint, you help us to help ourselves.

Anne Watson
Hey Clint, good point, to not get stuck in a rut or be afraid to change. Although I realize it's just an analogy, I just HAD to comment on the one you used---I refuse to go through self-serve checkouts on principle! I don't want to live in a world run by machines and robots. By standing in line to interact with a human being, I'm casting my vote. I don't mind sacrificing a few moments of my time to stand up for something I believe in, however trivial. Haha, I'm sure there's an art connection there somewhere. :)

Carol McIntyre
To follow up on the comments about the self-checking. I don't use it because I bring my own bags - plastic bags are so very bad for the environment - and the machines are not flexible to handle my cloth bags!

I occasionally will wait in line just to slow down. To force myself to take a moment and reflect while waiting. However, you are correct in noting, that fear is what will hold you back in almost any new endevor.

Carole Rodrigue
I was one that was afraid of the self-check out, but after having used it once, I love them! Why suffer needlessly from the fear of not knowing how?

I've always said too that when the day comes where I think I've nothing left to learn, or don't want to learn more and try new things with art, then that's the day I should put down my brushes.

Linda Wilder
When I decided to be an artist, I didn't realize I had to be proficient enough to be a marketer,speaker,photographer etc...and all the technologies that go along with it.But, yes, you have to do what you need to do in order to grow. ( and thanks Clint for making the webpage easy for us) but I don't think I'll ever get the hang of these new fancy phones etc...too much technology for me.

Bruce Ulrich
I'm with Walter, self check like self pump gas is about business cutting cost and service while the customer pays to do the work. It is the Tom Sawyer fence painting episode applied to retail. Ya gotta love American ingenuity and gullibility.

Maureen Sharkey
I always love your articles, Clint--and they are always so helpful.

I thought this article was going to be about how the artist shouldn't be afraid of the competition of the established artists whose names are so familiar. Maybe you could write an article about that. I, for one, would love to hear how an artist needs not fear this kind of competition when they bombard the market with their finally finished series they've been working on. Or maybe just give us the reality--coming from someone who knows the inside of the gallery world.

Maureen Sharkey
PS Could you post an article on how to take great pictures of artwork. Art is the hardest thing to photograph, I've always heard. If I don't have great photos of my work, I will never be a success.

Lauren Nash
A very good point, i like the way you compared it. I know I've always had to itch to try something new that could benefit my art, and I've learned lots of things along the way. Web design is one of them and I find myself venturing in that direction for small jobs alongside making art. you never know where your art will lead you!

Esther J. Williams
This is what I learned from a book 25 years ago. It`s called challenging yourself, if you face something new and intimidating, it makes you want to back off and just go with the things you are used to. If you say, I accept this as a challenge, your competitiveness rises to the surface and you want to tackle it. It`s all in the adventure to me, I take different roads home, try more complicated scenery sometimes. Looking at many other artists works can spark a new interest into trying something new. Like they say, if you don`t try it, how would you know if you liked it or not?

Sue Martin
I'm thankful for my computer skills because if I didn't already have this much I'd probably shy away from the new technology. Even so, while I love experimenting, learning new media and techniques in art, I will procrastinate learning new technology for FEAR that it will take too much time/effort and distract me from things I'd prefer doing, like painting. But at the rate of technological change, we artists would be well advised not to get too far behind.

Jeff Allen
Yeah, sometimes we are running so fast that we stay on "auto pilot" and don't realize it. Be it painting or anything else.. By the way, the self checkout lanes here only take credit cards. And only one store has them, one I don't go to...

Joanne Benson
Hi Clint,
You are indeed right about not being afraid to try new things. As many people have said, you need to be willing to learn many new skills to pursue an art career. And technology can't be avoided!

I do agree with the "no self check out crowd" though. I've usually had to enlist aid for whatever reason when I've done them so I avoid them....

Another reason I think people avoid trying new things is the learning curve and just not having enough time to figure out the new method...I know that has hampered me at times.

On an unrelated note, I chuckled when you said about using the long line when you went down the wine isle! I too enjoy a nice glass of wine! Which sometimes works to my detriment as it makes me sleepy....

Stede Barber
I recently helped babysit for a 7-month old child who reminded me of the fun of learning. Who-hoo, everything was interesting to him! He already knows how to compliment too...his favorite toy of the evening was one of my greeting cards! 2nd favorite thing to do: look at his Dad's beautiful paintings. He spent time looking, touching, experimenting, taking things in and figuring them out. Those things just never go out of style.

Michael Cardosa
People are creatures of habit. That's just the way we are. We part our hair the same way year after year until it's no longer there, shave by starting on the same spot day after day at least the guys. :) If you give it some thought you probably have a routine when you come home. Drop your keys somewhere, switch on a certain light first, glance to see if there are messages and probably in the exact same order 99 percent of the time.

The hardest thing for me as a new artist is to paint new things that I've never tried before. Not because I don't know how but because I might have just figured something out in my last painting and now I'm forcing myself to go through that whole "learning" process again! But this is how we learn and while new techniques might be difficult to figure out we feel pretty damn good (OK, I do anyway) when we get it right (or close enough to think we got it right).

My biggest fear is not continuing to learn something new, I learn something new every time I watch another artist at work, its that there are so many new things to try to paint I might never have that "body of work" that I need to be recognized. I'll just have lots of paintings be they good or bad...

Fay Terry
Amen to that! I find myself braver and braver about learning new things with technology. The more you step into the unknown, the easier it gets.
The other day I wanted to archive some paintings on my web site and couldn't figure it out-I contacted tech support and had my answer in just a few minutes. We need to remember there is always
someone who can help us if we are willing to ask for help! This is true for the simple easy things like my question about archiving as well as the more complex problems.

Lillian Kennedy
Here in tek smitten Boulder. CO, there is often a line at self check out while cashiers stand waiting! Keep your eyes open, yur client might be at your elbow while you are busy with the computer. At last - thanks to the great help from FASO - I can choose the line with the most immediate benefits.

Diane Tasselmyer
Familiarity is not only overated, but it can become boring and stale. Once you get into the "habit" of going beyond the familiar it becomes easier and easier.
When it comes to technology, just bite the bullet and learn it. Yes, it's work..brain busting work for those who are not geeks by nature. But, it all builds on habit, repetition and discipline.
You can do it if you are driven enough or want more control over things.

Lee McVey
One of my goals for this year is to push out of my comfort zone in many areas, both in my art career/painting and personally. The view of the world becomes too narrow if you keep the same viewpoint and familiarity.

BTW to Carol: It must be self checkout machines are different here and there because I always use my cloth bags when I self checkout. I was surprised to read you couldn't.


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