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I had a conversation with a gallery owner who has shown my work for years and we shared a common observation on the work ethics of artists. Being an artist myself, I was interested to hear his "side of the story" when it came to dealing with artists in general.
He shared that few days went by when an area artist did not come in and after much dancing around the issue, they mustered up the courage to ask about representation. They might even have samples of their work. But when they were asked how many paintings they had available, or even the more telling question of "how many paintings do you create in a specific amount of time?" the answer was invariably evasive. Some replied "when the muse speaks", or "when I have time after my day job" or even "well, I've been working on this one painting for some time now -- I want to get it 'right'". While this might be the way that one finds self-expression, it seldom translates into opportunities to show in today's marketplace. Unless a gallery has a dependable, quality supply of paintings to offer the public, an artist lacks a marketability that must be a critical element of success for the gallery.
One might equate this attitude to any other realm of life. If today my work was to open a shop, or answer an office phone, or pilot a plane commercially, or teach a classroom of students, it would not occur to any of us that we should use any of those shopworn excuses mentioned earlier. Someone once said the most important aspect of becoming successful was to show up. How true that is!
An artist is a skilled craftsman, sharing a vision that only the artist sees and feels. The job is to create a desire in others to want to share that vision and ultimately to possess it. As artists we chose to create a product that is essentially nonessential and convince our public that they can't exist without it if they desire "an enriched life." A tall order for those who do not take their creative craft seriously.
So maybe you aren't wanting to "show", but simply to create. I have observed that many of my artist acquaintances find all kinds of excuses NOT to paint. The studio is untidy, the preliminary sketched haven't been done, the children are in town this weekend, the supplies needed are critically low or unavailable, the energy level required is too much after working at a harrowing job away from art. The skill level is not high enough (though the "art police" have yet to show up at any inept artist's door). What is lacking is a source of motivation.
What is it that you desire so much that you are willing to put aside excuses and simply do what it is that you do? What is it that fuels that inner fire and makes creating a passion? Is it a desire to make money? Diligence is certainly required for that -- you can't sell what you don't create. Is it the desire to be admired and known? The last time I checked, collectors weren't going around peering into brain matter for that great vision and idea, and the art remains unseen and unappreciated. Is it simply for personal satisfaction? If the works are not created, it simply is another dream, an abstraction of thought, and remains unrealized. So many visions and creative expressions die within the artist's soul, like children in the womb. They are conceived and gestate until they are ready to meet the world, but for whatever reason, they are not born, but simply wither and fade away. What a loss to the world that that artist's unique voice was silenced by excuse.
My call to artists is to get off your excuse couch and create what you are skilled to do. Feel unsure of your skills? Actively search for instruction - it is all around you no matter where you live. If you are reading this, you are already on the internet and it is full of instruction and example. Make this year the one that changes you from someone who claims to be an artist into someone who IS an artist. Create boldly. Fail fabulously if you must, but at least say to yourself that you DID something to fulfill your destiny and create.
Editor's Note: You can view Karen's original post here.