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.
Has your work become so repetitive that it's become stale? Are there techniques or designs you'd like to try out, but deny yourself the time because you are pressured to make sure sales? Are you afraid that you'll fail if you try something new?
The greatest artists (today and historically) pushed themselves to ever increasing levels of competence. They were not content to endlessly repeat subject matter and style just to make a sale. In fact, it was expected that they'd grow over time - improving and wowing their collectors.
I've been re-reading my collection of Seth Godin Books and listening to his podcasts. His writings have inspired me to not fear risk. Today, the way everything is marketed and sold is changing rapidly. As Clint recently concluded in an email to me, "Risk IS the new safe".
Companies are learning to take on new risks - Record companies, TV and other standard ways of getting media to the masses is dying. Consumers are becoming more independent in their tastes, ordering their music and books directly from artists. They are developing their tastes as individuals. That makes all marketing circles smaller.
This is good news for the artist. When I worked with Calvin Goodman, a guy who teaches galleries and artists how to sell art, he stated that one of a kind, original art cannot be marketed to the masses. I believe this is still true and while that may sound like a bad thing, keep in mind that an artist only needs 100 (maybe even fewer) loyal collectors in this world to make a living. As your prices increase over time, you'll need even fewer collectors (which you'll probably have fewer because some will no longer be able to afford your work).
Every business venture involves risk. For most companies, they invest money in an idea, a book, a show, movie... and then hope they make more than they spent. They defray risk by doing marketing research - understanding who will buy their product and how many of them there are. Then the company finds the best portal to reach those people.
As artists, we risk when we buy supplies and create an original painting. In a way, every work of art we do is a "spec" painting. In the housing industry, this is where a building developer constructs a "speculation" house - and then offers it for sale. He's guessing that it'll be nice enough for someone to want to buy soon after its completion.
As I paint, I'm speculating -- if I create something that I love, someone else will want to live with it. Being a professional artist means more speculation in the beginning years. As our work grows in popularity, the risk of recouping the cost of supplies and our labor decreases.
But here, I'm talking about risking by adding value to your work with something a little different, A LITTLE BETTER.... and all the time. It's great when people say to an artist, "You've outdone yourself". I have found that this type of risk has become an essential part of my artistic growth. It's exciting to see my work improve and change over time. I don't worry about losing my audience because the style I've developed over time stays intact.
This week, I experimented by repainting several older works... works that could have probably sold, but I, personally, was not content with their outcomes. Did I ruin some of them? Probably... Did I learn anything that will ultimately benefit my body of future work? You bet!
It's just canvas and paint! Embracing growth through change and experimentation is an option I choose even though the results are temporarily painful. How does this tie in to the new way of marketing? Remember, collectors are busy defining their individual tastes. If I develop my INDIVIDUAL work - the honest creative "me", something that people can recognize and latch on to, my "tribe" of collectors may be small, but they sure will be loyal. I don't expect or want to try to please all the people all the time. It's OK if some collectors don't like my work. I'm interested in a relationship with those who do.
Risk is painful... it most assuredly means embracing some amount of failure at first. There will be "bugs" to worked out, but that's the way to grow. It will, at times, slow you down and discourage you. You'll have bad painting days. But ultimately, you'll be a better painter. Who has fun following a formula for life? Who has fun looking at one?
Refuse to give in to defeat. Maybe it'll take you months to get really good at this new dimension, so what? Mastering anything difficult takes time. Read the dip (by Seth Godin
) - the deeper the dip, the easier it is to shine once you navigate it. Most people give up in the middle - Few make it to the other side. Some never risk the dip, some stagnate where they are and end up living in a cul-de-sac. Don't be one of them.