Robert Genn Writes Today, you may read my reply to Mr. Genn at the bottom of his letter:
Yesterday, Cherie Hanson of Kelowna, B.C., Canada, wrote, "My work explores several directions at once. For me it is not a linear path, not a clearly designated roundabout with branches shooting off at well defined distances to clearly marked destinations, it is a dance. Consistent work that is the same year to year is what galleries seem to need in order to sell.
How do I sell my art and still stay true to my need to experiment and explore? Most artists do not want to dance to anyone else's tune. How do we market and still remain true?
What percentage of time would you recommend that an artist should create, and what percentage ought to be dedicated to marketing?"
Thanks, Cherie. Unfortunately, our world is so constituted that it seldom pays individuals who merely dance. This goes for most professions. A dentist who fixes only the teeth he feels like fixing, or wanders off to look into other mouths before he finishes the ones he has started, is soon looking for other employment. Even a full suite of dental equipment and expensive courses in dental marketing would not help him make a go of it.
He might even set up a marketing department to try to snag people on their way to other dentists, but this too would not save him.
Now, I never said there was something wrong with dancing. It's the life blood of the creative spirit. Dancing to an inner voice builds joy, personal satisfaction and unlocks human potential. But in order to get paid for your dancing, you also need to have workmanlike habits.
In relatively normal and un-hyped situations, it's been my observation that dedication to workmanlike habits need not mean the selling out of the creative spirit. Persistently reinforced and steady habits may actually be an instrument for quality and imaginative solutions. Habits make better products shine. It's not someone else's tune--it's the steady evolution of your own.
To answer your question--one that is being legitimately asked by countless thousands of would-be artists--spend little time on marketing and lots on developing habits and skills. If you end up not getting the habits and skills, you won't need to take the marketing course because you're not suited for the job. Then you might consider the noble art of dentistry. People line up for dentists who know how.
PS: "Now then, you of noble mind, who love this profession, come at once to art and accept these precepts: enthusiasm (love), reverence, obedience, and perseverance." (Cennino Cennini, 1370-1440)
Esoterica: A liberal arts education indulges dancing. But many students who choose to stay in the ballroom may miss taking part in the greater dance of life. Learn the steps, yes, but the real skills come after, and they are just as hard won. Unless you get a miraculous lifelong grant, or a legacy from Uncle Harry, you're going to have to roll up your sleeves.
Staying true is all about falling in love. Fall in love and be loyal to your own steadily developing processes, and you can minimize other courses.
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Amen! I've written about this subject myself in the past. Habits are the key to everything.
Read "Chasing the Sweet Embrace of Success by Developing Habits:"http://www.clintwatson.net/dataviewer.asp?page=fineartviews&keyvalue=126&subkeyvalue=346
I would add to your advice that successful marketing ALSO requires the development of habits. Artists should, as you point out, always "start with the art." Development of proper ARTISTIC habits is essential to being an artist. That seems a self-evident statement, but I am surprised at how many non-developed artists attempt to move too quickly into marketing. The simple fact of life is that artists must, firt and foremost, develop their artistic "chops", just as musicians must develop their musical "chops", or as I, being a software craftsman, must develop my programming abilities. However, AFTER reaching a certain level of proficiency on the artistic side, artists should not pursue a hapahzard, unplanned, or shotgun approach to marketing. But being in business, should learn the proper habits of MARKETING. After all, BUSINESS really is nearly ALL marketing, otherwise enjoy your hobby.
Software Craftsman and Art Fanatic