Today's Post is by Lori Woodward, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. She is also a contributing editor for American Artist's Watercolor and Workshop magazines and she writes "The Artist's Life" blog on American Artists' Forum. Lori is a member of The Putney Painters, an invitational group that paints under the direction of Richard Schmid and Nancy Guzik. Find out how you can be a guest author.
I loved the discussion that ensued during the last post
on adding value to our work. It was exciting to hear what tools you all are using to learn and improve. Now, I'll move to the next step: Finding out what kind of art you are motivated to make, and sticking with it long enough to master it.
Sounds kind of frightening doesn't it - sticking with one thing for a time? I understand... you see, I'm an artist who loves variety, but I also understand the business end of art well enough to know that in order to be well known for something, that "something" has to be identifiable by collectors.
Whom Do You Paint For? Yourself, Your Collectors, or Both?
There are many fine artists making a terrific living today who worked previously as graphic artists. These are the ones who learned the basics and foundations of good design and drawing, learned self-discipline in order to make their deadlines, and paid the bills by doing the work for someone else. Many of them later slipped easily into a career in fine arts and today, enjoy painting for love as well as money.
You can make art for the love of it; you can make art for the money. Commercial artists work for the money. Fine artists are supposed to love what they do - and not be bound by the desires of their collectors. But what if you... yes, you... could paint what you love and build a collector base for it?
Build Your Skill Set By Narrowing Your Focus
Artist's skills are built like a structure - first the foundation of knowledge, then the layering of practice - then adding more knowledge, followed by practice and experimentation. Your expertise grows like a building - one brick at a time. For some reason, we don't fully understand what we learn until we put it to use in our work.
Where to focus...? Have you determined your favorite medium, and are you working towards mastering that medium? Do you use the best materials - substrate, brushes... the quality of your tools and materials determine how professional the final product looks. For example, I am not a good watercolor painter when I use less than the best, mould-made watercolor paper and kolinsky sable brush. When I use inferior materials, I paint like an amateur, no matter how hard I try.
This past weekend, Richard Schmid talked with a group of us about painting what we love and learning everything about it. He said we'll naturally be more interested in working with something that excites us than with something we think we "ought to paint". That got me thinking... although I am pretty darned good at painting people and still life, I have to say that landscape trumps the other subject matter when it comes to what my heart adores. But, landscape is more difficult for me... Yeah, I have made a lot of money over the years painting portrait commissions and still life, but what if I got really, really good at painting landscape? Wouldn't I be happier if I were famous for something closer to my heart than something I'm merely good at?
What if I could make just as much, or more money painting the subject matter that truly motivates me? Since it is a given that in order to attract a collector clan, I'll need an easily defined, connected body of work with a unique style, why not make that body of work something that I'll never tire of? It's certainly something to consider... especially since I am a "fine artist" and not a commercial one.