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No Excuse

by Karen Burnette Garner on 5/3/2012 8:45:46 AM

This post is by guest author, Karen Burnette Garner.  This article has been edited and published with the author's permission. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here. We've promoted this post to feature status because it provides great value to the FineArtViews community.  If you want your blog posts listed in the FineArtViews newsletter with the possibility of being republished to our 19,000+ subscribers, consider blogging with FASO Artist Websites.  This author's views are entirely her own and may not always reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc.


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.


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Susan Roux
Kudos to you for being so bold and brave! I don't have a problem with motivation nor with being a full-time artist. It keeps me fueled and inspired to create. I do however recognize the excuses you speak of. I don't know how many times I've been approached by artists who would like to be represented by galleries, but who lack consistency. Good work ethic is primo! Call yourself an artist. See yourself as an artist then BE that artist!

Being a full-time artist means running a business. Certainly in business it's important to show up every day. Applying your best effort usually breeds success. None of this is made up of excuses!

K. Henderson
I hope your next article will be about the gallery's responsibility to the artist that paint for a living. I often wonder why galleries don't call me when they sell a painting. I'm willing and able to replace that sold painting with a new piece but often don't find out about the sale until a check arrives in the mail (thank goodness for that!) I often don't get a response when I send images of new work. When I ask about which paintings the collectors are responding to I get vague or no replies. And it's like pulling teeth trying to get old work back so I can replace it with new work.

David Ralston
Nicely said, truely amazing the lack of motivation for what most want. Passion, vision and motivation is art, it makes art and is a reaction from artwork. Yes life makes it a challenge a times, life happens we are all aware but we gotta push forward if we truely hunger for it. Nobody can do it for ya, we must be creator,seller, motivation and secret to our success. Be blessed and make it happen.

Ann Vaillencourt
I see the enemy-in the mirror every morning. I face a human nature that can humbly get to work [hand to brain to creation work] or vainly try to escape the demands of authentic work. I have discovered satisfying, empowering, endorsing work evolves from authentic work- caloric effort[brain, eye, hand] and persistence[practice]. The hope of that work effort delivering the 'work of art' that defines my day as an artist,is humbling yet this drives the work. Practice, deconstruction, and an endless cycle of correction, discovery, practice and learning are daunting prospects that tempt us with escape. I know that I need to press the start button on my computer to get to work now-so why do they call it the start button Clint???

For some of us it is like eating all your vegies before you are allowed desert (art). It is hard to overcome the training that all "useful" work must be done before you are allowed to play. Yes we sell our work but it is always a maybe. It is not like one is putting in billable hours. Waiting for ones muses really means that the need to do art is stronger then the guilt of making/doing "useless" stuff.

betty pieper
This had more than I expected! A couple of comments...helpful or not?....When low on materials like supports...I repaint old canvas, paint my cotton duck shower curtains, make curtains of muslin and paint them, paint the doors to match or accent the wallpaper in bedrooms, the inside of our old fashioned wall medicine chests. I even painted a couple of free standing cabinets as doll houses with the inside of the doors as rural scenes (or whatever theme fit the outside design), etc. I also use house paint, samples of enamel - whatever - just to paint. NOTHING is safe from my hands and passion.
I loved the comment about the artist police not showing up at your door. By the way, I am an artist, not a craftsperson.

Sharon Weaver
It is a common mistake for an artist to approach a gallery and not have enough work to supply the gallery. Seems so basic but I have been guilty of this too. Make sure that you have some paintings that can go into the gallery immediately. I need to create from 50 to 70 paintings a year. I figure the more brush time, the higher the odds of producing good work. Only artists think every time we try, we need to hit a home run. For me it is a numbers game, 30 percent great, 30 percent not bad and 30 percent practice (not for public consumption).

Cathy de Lorimier
"...get off your excuse couch..." ~ my favorite line to take away from your article Karen. What it all comes down to is discipline, of course, the human way to plan, organize, and actualize a goal. I know I need more discipline myself, and on my well-planned days, I can eat my veggies and get dessert too!

jack white
K. Henderson,
I want to help you with your galleries. It's up to us to train them to call when something sells. We impress on them the need to know so we can keep them supplied.
The first time they sell something and don't let us know, we phone and explain the importance of them letting us know immediately so we can work them in the loop for new pieces.
Many galleries don't know, so it's up to us to train them. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Keep on them until they know to contact you when a sale is made.

jack white
Loved your article. I help a lot of artist and trust me, they are profession excuse makers. I don't think any profession makes more excuses than artists. They even have an excuse for their excuses.

Carolyn Henderson
Until an artist reconciles that he/she is a hard-headed businessperson as well as a thoughtful, sensitive creator, these issues will crop up.

An unusual profession -- the artist. We don't expect the stock trader or financier to show his/her gentle side, but we do demand that the artist show his/her teeth!

Sean McCann
Karen what you say about artists with regard to galleries and their work is true for many cases. You raise a lot of good points. I think it all stems from FEAR! Artists are sensitive beings and after making an artwork, what frightens them most is a fear of their work being rejected, either by their peers or the public or galleries. For this reason alone some will never succeed in getting it out there. This is unfortunate for them and others, but ultimately it is their dilemma and their problem. They alone have to deal with it. Gone are the days of the patrons knocking on the studio door.
The other reason is a lack of confidence in what they are creating and hence a reluctance to be judged on it. This is fair enough and every artist goes through these periods of doubt from time to time, but eventually it is good to let people see what you do; otherwise it is a selfish exercise. Getting work seen when you are ready to show it is essential, not only for a wider audience, but for yourself, to see the work in a different context and make judgements that move it forward. When you see work in a different context, a new dialogue opens up. This is part of the creative process. Until the artist is happy to let the work leave the comfort of the studio, there is no way that they can convey their message to any gallery. Group shows are good because the artist has the comfort of having distractions provided by other artists, until that time when they can trust a wider conversation between their own lonely artworks.

Donald Fox
Everyone is challenged in some way or other by time. Regardless, we get to choose how we utilize time. Not doing something is as much a choice as doing. If we find ourselves not doing what we most desire to do, it is certainly time to re-evaluate the choices. Good article.


An excellent article. We all know that person who says they are an artist, but never has anything to show for it. Hopefully we don't see them in the mirror every morning, eh?!


George De Chiara
Nice article Karen. I remember a few years ago reading an article by Jack White and he talked about art being a job. Something you get up in the morning and do, just like a regular job. (Sorry Jack if I'm paraphrasing you too much here). Ever since I've adapted that same type of attitude I've had very little problem producing work when I can get to my easel. It's hard with 2 kids under the age of 3, but thinking of it as a job makes it a lot easier to get the work done.

Donna Robillard
The other day I introduced myself as an artist, and it felt really natural - just rolled off my tongue. I started off the year doing really good with goals I had set for myself, but a couple of pretty big bumps came in the road and am now trying to get back on the art track. I will try to stay focused and not use excuses, as I am sometimes prone to do. Hope you all have great success with your art and in creating it.

David Ralston
Lol Karen C. Both are always in the mirror its which one we chose to be is the question. True things can be challenging at times, we just gotta push forward and do our best to stay productive one way or another. This has been a good year mostly productive wise for me and lots of new territory adventures, really pleased as far as I have come and look forward to much more.

Sharon Weaver
Isn't everyone sensitive, thin skinned and easily offended? Artists are not unique in this but the difference is we are putting ourselves out there in front of total strangers every time we show our art. I think we are really brave to do this.

Carol Schmauder
Great article, Karen. I love the statement "Someone once said the most important aspect of becoming successful was to show up. How true that is!" In today's busy world it is easy to make excuses not to paint or create.


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